NFL Training Camp Snapshot 2013: Kansas City Chiefs
With the 2013 NFL season rapidly approaching, we’re taking a spin around the league for a closer look at all 32 teams. Track all of our Snapshots here.
The 2012 Kansas City Chiefs took the adage about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts and turned it on its head. The Chiefs became the first team in NFL history to have six Pro Bowl players with fewer than six wins. They actually had three times more Pro Bowlers (6) than they had wins (2).
But truly, the most telling part of the Pro Bowl roster was that Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt was on it. Kansas City’s offense was putrid, despite having one of the best position players in football, running back Jamaal Charles, as its focal point. Nearly 40 total points separated Kansas City’s last-place scoring offense with second-to-last — that’s about two games worth of league average scoring.
The main issue was the atrocious play at quarterback. Not only were the Chiefs last in passing offense, but also Kansas City quarterbacks combined to throw just eight touchdown passes to go with 20 interceptions (Tom Brady has thrown 20 interceptions in the last two seasons combined).
It’s not hard to see then why there’s a new administrative regime, new head coach and new quarterback in KC.
• Biggest Storyline: Can Alex Smith be the answer at quarterback?
It was no secret why the Chiefs couldn’t win games: they didn’t have an adequate quarterback. Enter Smith, the much-maligned former No. 1 overall pick who nearly led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2011, and was on his way to achieving that feat last season.
In fact, for as well as Colin Kaepernick played last season and the dynamic jolt he brought the 49ers, Smith was having a Pro Bowl season before he went down with a concussion. He was completing 70 percent of his passes at 8.1 yards per attempt, which would have put him second behind, coincidentally, Kaepernick for tops in the league.
New head coach Andy Reid got the most out of a big, athletic top-5 pick with accuracy issues twice in Philadelphia and has a way of molding his offense to fit the skills of his players — although he faced well-deserved criticism for not getting LeSean McCoy involved enough in the Eagles’ offense last year.
• Most intriguing positional battle: Tight end.
For most teams, it would be hard to get excited about a fight for snaps at tight end, but on a roster as bereft of receiving talent as the Chiefs, we could be talking about the team’s second-leading receiver.
In a curious move, Kansas City eschewed a deep class of wide receivers in the draft, preferring instead to select tight end Travis Kelce in the third round. Kelce will battle free agent signee Anthony Fasano and incumbent Tony Moeaki for reps at tight end, although it would not be at all surprising to see the Chiefs line up with two tight ends on a regular basis.
Fasano was an underrated cog for the Dolphins who caught seemingly everything thrown his way. He’s not particularly explosive, but he caught five touchdown passes last year on just 41 grabs.
The oft-injured Moeaki has excellent size and skill but for whatever reason hasn’t been able to put together consistent production. It’s clear the Chiefs view his play as insufficient, otherwise they wouldn’t have signed a starting tight end in free agency and then drafted a tight end.
Kelce remains the most intriguing player. He’s a physically imposing player who will get after it as a blocker but also uses his body well to catch the ball wherever its thrown. The former Cincinnati Bearcat is a good enough athlete to stretch the middle of the field and get down the seam; he could even be flexed out in the slot in the same way the 49ers use Vernon Davis.
• New face, new place: Andy Reid, head coach.
Reid’s departure from Philadelphia and eventual arrival in Kansas City is as important a move as we saw this offseason. It was clear Romeo Crennel was overmatched as a head coach — apparently his previous failures hadn’t already convinced the Kansas City leadership of this fact — and Reid’s track record as an offensive coach could be the difference between a top draft pick and fighting for a playoff spot.
Given the talent on this team, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, along with the addition of a more-than-competent quarterback, it’s not unreasonable to believe the Chiefs could be a playoff team in 2012.
There’s still no denying Reid’s occasional missteps when it comes to calls during games, but he remains one of the best offensive minds in football and prepares as well as any head coach out there.
Reid knows how to get the most out of his offenses — you’ll remember he took a team with Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and a bunch of guys to a Super Bowl. Reid was smart enough to understand during those years to put the pressure on Westbrook to do it all, something he’ll likely try again with Charles. If he does, this offense could make a significant jump forward in 2013.
• Impact rookie: Eric Fisher, offensive tackle.
This may seem like a cop out because Fisher was, after all, the first overall pick in April. But while many believed the offensive line was not a key need for the Chiefs, Kansas City actually finished 27th in adjusted sack rate last year.
Fisher steps in immediately as the starter at right tackle, where he brings tenacity, elite athleticism and quick feet, along with a high IQ for the position. You want a guy who can handle the best edge rushers in the game? Fisher has the talent to do it. You want a guy who can get out on a screen play and open up a lane for Charles in space? Fisher can do that too, and his ability to move and seal defenders is a big reason the Chiefs took him over Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel.
You can imagine Reid having nightmares of watching his right tackles in Philly consistently getting Michael Vick and Nick Foles blasted by oncoming rushers. Fisher is the perfect guy to slide in right away and be a cornerstone for that group up front.
• Looking at the schedule: Life’s good against the AFC West.
Kansas City’s quest to vastly improve this season will be aided by a favorable schedule. The AFC West is wide open behind the Denver Broncos, which means four games against the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers. The Chiefs also get the AFC South, which means Jacksonville (Week 1) and Tennessee (Week 5), neither of whom look to be that much better than last season.
Furthermore, the Chiefs, by virtue of being abjectly awful last year, will likewise get two cellar-dwelling teams on their 2013 schedule. Unfortunately for KC, the Browns (Week 8) and the Bills (Week 9) both look much-improved compared to last season.
All that being said, there are enough winnable games on the schedule for the Chiefs to make playoff contention a real possibility.