By:Ryan Dooley (@ffguy301)
Last Season: 2-14, Last in AFC West
2012 was a year plagued by poor coaching, poor quarterback play and atrocious turnovers for the Kansas City Chiefs. A team with so much talent just couldn’t get it done week in and week out. It was an utter disappointment for a team who many experts actually picked to win the division before the year began. Oh, how wrong were they! The offense had no chemistry, and turned the ball over at an alarming rate, mostly due to frightful quarterback play. The defense was overworked and spent too much time on the field to have any sort of success. The coach couldn’t fix anything and used the team’s talent poorly.
I’ll give you the story of two games last year that summed up exactly how Kansas City’s 2012 season went. First, after a week 8 loss to the Oakland Raiders, this happened!Then, in a week 16 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Chiefs posted 507 yards on offense, but managed only 13 points. 352 of those 507 yards were on the ground, leaving 155 to Brady Quinn, who only completed 10 passes out of 22. The Colts, on the other hand, managed to score 20 points on 288 total yards. The only touchdown Kansas City managed was a 91-yard rush from Jamaal Charles, the only offense the Chiefs had in 2012. It was an embarrassing day to be a Chiefs fan, let me tell you. Your team played an incredible game stat-wise on both sides of the field, yet still managed to lose. The Chiefs got dominated that game. Needless to say that it was an incredibly frustrating year for Kansas City.
After the season, the Chiefs began planning for what would turn out to be a very busy off-season. The front office cleaned house, firing general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel. They spent very little time deciding on who would take over the team, hiring head coach Andy Reid, former long-time head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, and general manager John Dorsey, formerly of the Green Bay Packers. The Chiefs made moves this offseason to not only start fresh, but also to put themselves in contention right away. We’ll review the roster moves in the positional breakdown coming up. With all of this said, the whole organization has a different feel to it this year. Reid brings years of experience (successful experience, I should add), while Dorsey has been very active in bringing together a roster built for a better year. Players are focused, hungry, and ready to work. Everyone involved has bought into the new regime. Let’s see what it brings in 2013.
I’m going to talk about the quarterbacks for a while, get comfortable. Perhaps the biggest move the Chiefs made this offseason was trading for former 1st overall draft selection and 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Smith has always been a favorite of Reid’s, and represents a major upgrade from the likes of Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel. Andy Reid is a coach who likes to throw, so Alex Smith is going to be put in the offensive spotlight this season. Reid brings the west coast offensive system, a system that uses shorter passes and more horizontal routes to stretch a defense and open up the field for the running game and deep throws. It’s a good fit for Alex Smith, who has been labeled a “game manager” in the past. Honestly, he had a problem making the plays necessary for his team to win. However, I believe something inside Alex Smith seemed to awaken during the end of the 2011 season into the 2011 playoffs. He looked crisp on his passes and really opened up the offense in a way it hadn’t really seen with Smith running it before. He looked like the general of the offense and was in total command of his team. His success carried over into the 2012 season, and it looked like Smith had finally found his groove in the league. An unfortunate concussion sidelined him and let the light shine on Colin Kaepernick, which ultimately lost Smith his job. How he played in that stretch is what enticed the Chiefs front office, and they really believe he can play that well again and engineer the offense in Kansas City. Part of what drew the front office to Smith was that he is smart with the ball and doesn’t turn it over very often, something that the Chiefs’ quarterbacks last season struggled to accomplish. I hate to make this point, but what the Chiefs need out of Smith is a season like Matt Cassel had in 2010 when Kansas City last won the division. Cassel posted 3116 yards, 27 touchdowns and a mere 9 turnovers that year. Nothing flashy, he just had a quietly proficient season. The story of the offense that year was the run game, but Cassel was more than a game manager, he was efficient when he needed to be. That was huge. Alex Smith can be that kind of player and more in Kansas City. He has all the tools to succeed. He’s motivated by the fresh start and it looks like he has taken the role as leader of the team. Alex Smith’s time to shine is now, and he will have to embrace it in 2013. Other than Smith, Kansas City also added Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray to back up Smith, while getting rid of any QB on the roster in 2012. Both looked solid in preseason and it seems like a much more comfortable quarterback situation than what the Chiefs had in 2012. If Smith goes down, Daniel, who backed up Drew Brees for a number of seasons and is second on the depth chart, looks capable of stepping in for Smith. Bray, a physical specimen plagued by attitude problems, showed out in his final preseason game versus the Green Bay Packers, and proved he has a lot of promise. I feel like both backups are viable parts of the team. Overall, the front office did an excellent job fixing the horrendous quarterback situation from last year.
The Chiefs have a star in Jamaal Charles, and Andy Reid’s offense figures to use Charles in the best way possible by putting the former University of Texas track star in open space as much as possible with an assortment of screens, dump-off passes, stretch runs, etc. Once he gets in open space, he’s near impossible to reach. You can bet there won’t be any more games where he only sees the ball 5 times. Charles should be the focus of the offense, as he is clearly the best player. However, Charles is only 5’11 and about 200 pounds. That being said, the Chiefs made a nice pick in the draft by selecting Knile Davis, a physical freak at 5’10 227 pounds. He’s a guy who can bulldoze as opposed to Charles. Don’t be fooled by his size and strength alone however, he has some speed on him as too. He runs a 4.37 and proved in the preseason that he’s elusive and a gifted return man. He’s going to be a guy the Chiefs can use as a nice change of pace back for Charles to run in between the tackles or at the goal line, something Charles will benefit from. The Chiefs also kept Cyrus Gray on the roster, who they drafted in 2012. They also traded Javier Arenas to the Cardinals for veteran fullback Anthony Sherman. Andy Reid likes to pass a lot, but don’t expect production from the running backs to drop off at all. Kansas City is usually at the top of the league for rushing, and don’t expect that to change in 2013.
Dwayne Bowe is back, and he’s got a nice, fat new contract. That means he also has new motivation to play for, something that seemed absent last season from the former pro-bowler. He also has a new coach who is excellent at developing wide receivers and loves to throw the ball. Here’s an interesting comparison I heard earlier this year. Remember when Terrell Owens played for Reid in Philadelphia and tore apart defenses? He was 6’3 and 226 pounds. Bowe? 6’2 and 221 pounds. They seem to have similar frames and type of skill set, so you can believe that Reid wants to use Bowe like he did Owens in the past. Not saying that Bowe is of the same caliber as the great T.O., but he is a similar type of receiver playing for the same coach. Something else to consider about Bowe is that he is going to be playing with the best quarterback he’s ever had in his tenure with Kansas City. That opens a huge door for Dwayne Bowe to breakout. You’ve got to buy into him. We’ve seen the talent before, he just needs someone to exploit it. Lining up across from Bowe will be free agent addition Donnie Avery, who is slightly injury prone and more of a slot receiver. However, he is speedy and wound up with 60 catches and nearly 800 yards last season for the Colts in an offense amidst Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton. He could be a nice fit in the slot if someone could take over the outside position, like A.J. Jenkins, a 2012 1st round pick who didn’t have a single catch last season for the 49ers. The Chiefs gave up Jon Baldwin, their 2011 first round draft choice, to acquire Jenkins. I have some hope for Jenkins this season, simply because Andy Reid is good at developing receivers and using them to the best of their talent. He is only 6’0 and 192 pounds, but Reid will find a way to use him effectively. Dexter McCluster returns to work as an offensive weapon, and will likely continue to be involved a lot on 3rd down. He’s a guy who will contribute a good amount due to the west coast system. The last receiver on the 53 man roster is Junior Hemingway, who really made a push for his roster spot in the final games of the preseason. He actually caught a touchdown pass from Alex Smith against the Steeler’s first teamers. He could be a decent addition. The Chiefs also only kept 2 tight ends this offseason, after releasing injury-prone Tony Moeaki. Veteran Anthony Fasano will take the starting role and be involved in the short passing game a lot. Rookie Travis Kelce, a little bit quicker and more athletic, will come in at points to change it up and be a vertical threat. With how much he’s going to throw, I expect Alex Smith to spread the ball all around the field, so all of these guys are bound to see a good chunk of action this year.
The Chiefs have a young, developing line that will look to take a huge step forward this year. They used their 1st overall draft pick on left tackle Eric Fisher out of Central Michigan. They also brought back left tackle Brandon Albert, thus leaving them to release right tackle Eric Winston. Fisher, now the offensive tackle of the Chiefs future, moved to the right side, seeing as though Albert is the experienced veteran. Both are incredibly talented and skilled in run and pass blocking. Not to mention huge. Fisher is 6’7 306 lbs. and Albert is 6’5 316 lbs. Fisher has been dinged up this offseason, but don’t expect it to sideline him at all. The Chiefs brought in Geoff Schwartz in free agency as a flexible guy who can play anywhere. He is currently backing up Fisher as the right tackle, but if one of the younger guys in the middle goes down or needs a break, he’s capable of moving inside. I expect to see a lot of him anyways in situational running plays.
Speaking of the young guys inside, the starters go as follows: left guard Jeff Allen (2 years exp.), center Rodney Hudson(3 years exp.) and right guard John Asamoah(4 years exp.). These guys are young, but seasoned. Expect a huge leap forward for the offensive line in Kansas City.
The Chiefs 3-4 scheme will bring a lot of blitzes from the linebackers to help the defensive line get pressure, something it had almost no luck doing last season. The Chiefs bring back nose tackle Dontari Poe and defensive end Tyson Jackson, both of whom have yet to play up to their 1st round draft pick potential. They also added defensive end Mike DeVito, formerly of the New York Jets, to take over one of the defensive end spots, and will use third year veteran DE Allen Bailey in a situational role. None of these guys are stellar, but we’ll see how the development of Dontari Poe will affect their play. Poe was always raved about as a physical specimen, but scouts worried about if his play in college would translate to the NFL. So far, it hasn’t really seemed like it. But if he works at being more dominant, he can really open up the line for blitzes and the other defensive lineman.
The Chiefs have one of the best linebacking corps in the league. They return 3 pro bowlers last season in Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson. All of them earned those honors last season, it was just not apparent because Kansas City did not perform very well as a team. Akeem Jordan followed Andy Reid to Kansas City this offeseason. They also spent a draft pick on Nico Johnson from Alabama and added Frank Zombo to the group to give some depth. I expect all 3 of those guys to be worked in to the rotation during every game. This is a fairly young and talented group of linebackers who will excel again this season.
Kansas City signed Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith in the offseason to give former pro-bowler Brandon Flowers some help. And trust me, they’ll need it to handle Denver’s receiving core. Smith and Robinson are seasoned veterans,which was exactly what this team needed opposite to Flowers. They bring poise as well, which they thought Stanford Routt could last season. Turns out he was cut mid-season. I have hope in these two guys though, and they will be counted on to produce. At safety, Eric Berry is once again relevant after tearing his ACL in 2011. He played as well as he could have last season, but at times got beat because the opposing quarterback had so much time to throw. Berry is very skilled, but lacks a strong safety beside him. Kendrick Lewis is sub-par as he gets burned frequently and fails to make plays. The Chiefs signed Husain Abdullah to create some competition and give a safety net in case Lewis continues to struggle. Overall though, the Chiefs upgraded their secondary enough to where they should comfortably and effectively compete with their opponents this season.
Ryan Succop is very average. However, he has a knack for being streaky. Dustin Colquitt on the other hand was nominated to the pro-bowl last season. Kansas City is in decent shape here.
Knile Davis looks to be the kickoff return man, but Quintin Demps looks like he can be an electric returner too. Both scored kickoff return TD’s of over 100 yards this preseason. Kansas City looks to be in good shape there. I still believe Dexter McCluster is the best punt return man, but the Chiefs have a number of guys who could step in at this position.
Big Games This Year
Week 3- @Philadelphia, Thursday September 19th 8:25 pm- Andy Reid vs. his former team
Week 7- Vs. Houston, Sunday October 20th 1:00 pm
Week 11- @Denver, Sunday November 17th 4:05 pm- Andy Reid has a knack for winning after the bye. Late in the year, could have playoff implications
Week 13- Vs. Denver, Sunday December 1st 1:00 pm- divisional game late in the year at home. Could have playoff implications. They play each other 2 weeks before this match-up
Week 14- @Washington, Sunday December 8th 1:00pm- Two teams possibly vying for a playoff spot. Added bonus: I might be at this game
Week 16- Vs. Indianapolis, Sunday December 22nd 1:00pm- A consecutive week 16 matchup vs. the Colts at home. Both teams could be fighting for a wild card spot.
8-8, just miss the playoffs. A season of ups and downs, but definitely an improvement from last year.