Tony Moeaki Must Step Up as Kansas City Chiefs Lose Kevin Boss for Season

Derek Estes@NotacowCorrespondent IOctober 3, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 23:  Roman Harper #41 and Curtis Lofton #50 of the New Orleans Saints break up a pass intended for Tony Moeaki #81 during a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 23, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs placed Kevin Boss on injured reserve Wednesday afternoon, signaling the end of Tony Moeaki's convalescence.

Whether he's ready or not.

Moeaki shined for the Chiefs his rookie year, as he played with an athleticism that reminded fans of another Tony who played tight end for Kansas City. The Chiefs looked like they'd landed a bargain drafting Moeaki in the third round.

But then Moeaki tore his ACL at the end of preseason last year and hasn't been the same since. His blocks don't carry the same punch, his hands aren't as sure and his route-running looks more like a Sunday stroll.

No two injuries are exactly alike, so Moeaki can't necessarily be expected to chalk up 233 yards in a game next week just because Jamaal Charles did.

But Moeaki's performance on the field is uninspiring and borders on appearing lazy. Other players run off the field faster than Moeaki runs his routes. What's more is opposing defenses are as likely to catch passes thrown Moeaki's way as he is. Three of the Chiefs' interceptions were intended for Moeaki, only one less than his four receptions on the season.

The Chiefs could mask Moeaki's deficiencies at the start of the season while he readjusted to the speed of the NFL game. In part, that's why Kansas City signed Boss. Boss helps the Chiefs get the jump on the "two tight end" formation, but more importantly he represented an insurance policy against another Moeaki injury.

But the safety net disappears with Boss out for the season. Neither Kansas City nor Moeaki has the luxury of a gradual return to his playing form now. The Chiefs' season is already in jeopardy only four games in and the Kansas City press is clamoring for Scott Pioli's head on a silver platter.

The burden of the Chiefs' failings don't fall on Moeaki's shoulders alone, far from it, in fact. Matt Cassel can't look past his primary receivers, the offensive line can't consistently block without being called for holding and the defense plays five to 10 yards off opposing receivers.

If Moeaki can elevate his game to the level fans came to expect after 2010, though, he can help seal the edge or open lanes as a primary blocker. He can pull Cassel's attention by being a more reliable receiver and protecting the ball against interceptions. And keeping the ball moving on offense will help the defense stay fresh and ready to use blitzes and press coverage to stop their opponents cold.

With Boss out, the Chiefs need Moeaki to help make all that happen now if they hope to save their season and perhaps a few of their jobs.