Much like our last NFL Training Camp preview (Jacksonville Jaguars) here at The Quarterback, the next team we will take a look at does not have a ton to build off of from last season heading into 2013. The Kansas City Chiefs finished with a record of 2-14 a year ago and went through some big changes in the offseason.
General manager John Dorsey brought in long time Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid to run the sideline and traded for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith to be their new signal caller.
What this all means exactly, I don’t know. The Chiefs are a tough team to peg this season. Reid enjoyed a lot of success in Philadelphia but never won the big one and Alex Smith lost his starting job in 2012 despite completing 70% of his passes and leading the 49ers to a 6-2-1 record before an injury put him on the sidelines (for the season) and Colin Kaepernick led the team to the Super Bowl.
If there is one thing the Chiefs did well offensively in 2012, it was running the ball. Kansas City averaged 149 rushing yards per game which was good for 5th in the league. Every opposing defense knew that Jamaal Charles was the key to the offense and yet he still managed to rush for over 1,500 yards on his way to the Pro Bowl. He has battled an early foot injury in training camp but he is back on the practice field and should be ready to go opening day. Rookie 3rd-rounder Knile Davis (Arkansas) will have a chance to earn the back up running back spot battling 2nd-year backs Shaun Draughn and Cyrus Gray.
Depending on how well Alex Smith plays, Dwayne Bowe and new addition Donnie Avery have the potential to form a nice 1-2 option at the wide receiver position. Kansas City was last in the league last season in passing offense but that stat should be taken with a grain of salt because the backs and receivers were being thrown the ball by the likes of Matt Cassell and Brady Quinn. WR/RB Dexter McCluster has improved in each of his first three seasons as a pass catcher and will see a lot of snaps in the slot. The Chiefs also recently traded one disappointing receiver (Jon Baldwin) for another (A.J. Jenkins). Jenkins, a first round pick in 2012 by the 49ers, struggled to standout and only appeared in three games his rookie year. The Chiefs are hoping that a change of scenery will be a spark for a player with his talent level. At tight end, veteran Anthony Fasano was brought over from the Miami Dolphins to compete with Tony Moeaki and rookie Travis Kelce (3rd Round-Cincinnati) for the starting job. Fasano caught a career-high 41 passes in 2012. Moeaki returned from missing all of 2011 and caught 33 passes last season.
Kansas City used the 1st overall selection in the 2013 Draft to select Eric Fisher, a 6’8″, 305 pound tackle, from Central Michigan. He will step right in and be the starter at right tackle. Starting opposite Fisher at left tackle is returning veteran Brandan Albert. LG Jeff Allen and RG Jon Asamoah will be counted on to fortify the interior as the Chiefs have a relatively inexperienced Rodney Hudson starting at center. The improvement of the offense rests on the arm of Smith. It shouldn’t be hard to see an improvement from the Chiefs offensively because they ranked last in the league in scoring in 2012 (13.2 points per game) while scoring 10 points or less seven times. They really have no where to go but up.
Defensively, the Chiefs had two bright spots in 2012 with outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. The two combined for 19 sacks and will no doubt be counted on heavily to spark the pass rush. Hali (9 sacks) earned a trip to the Pro Bowl along with inside linebacker Derrick Johnson. Johnson led the team with 125 tackles and four forced fumbles. Six year veteran Akeem Jordan will join Johnson at ILB this season.
While the Chiefs excelled in running the ball offensively, stopping the opponents’ running game was a different story. The defense allowed 135.7 yards per game on the ground which was 27th in the NFL. This inefficiency begins up front in the 3-4 defense. Nose tackle Dontari Poe (Memphis) started every game as a rookie but struggled with quickness and stamina so he shed 20 pounds this offseason. He enters camp at a “slim” 335 pounds. He will be joined on the defensive front by veteran defensive ends Mike DeVito, who spent the last six seasons with the New York Jets, and former first round pick Tyson Jackson. Jackson has played well in stretches but has had to adjust to three different defensive schemes in four seasons.
Against the pass, the defense was 12th in the league, which isn’t as great as it sounds when you consider that the Chiefs were thrown on the least of any team in 2012. The secondary faced just 464 pass attempts but still allowed 29 touchdowns and intercepted just seven passes.
CB Brandon Flowers led the team with three INT’s and 13 passes defended. Starting opposite of Flowers is free agent acquisition Sean Smith, who spent the last four seasons in Miami. Smith had 12 passes defended and two INT’s in 2012. Veteran Dunta Robinson was signed from Atlanta to compete and provide depth at CB as well. Third-year strong safety Eric Berry has gone to the Pro Bowl twice in two healthy seasons (out of three). He’ll be counted on heavily to mentor first-year starting free safety Kendrick Lewis. The Chiefs were a minus-24 in turnover differential in 2012 and improved play in the secondary is needed to help close that gap.
On special teams, the Chiefs return two of the more reliable players at their positions. Ryan Succop is back as the kicker and has converted 82% of his field goals in his first four seasons while Dustin Colquitt, and his 46.8 yard average, is back at punter.