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2013 NFL Team Previews, AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs - 2nd

by Shasky Clarke on Aug. 19, 2013

 

2013 NFL Team Previews, AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs - 2nd

 

OFFENSE

 

Quarterback:

The Chiefs passing game struggled to both move and protect the ball, finishing the season with less than 3000 yards, a ridiculous 8 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. In comes offensive guru Andy Reid. And replacing starters Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn is former first pick Alex Smith. Smith brings 6'4” height, accuracy and decision-making to an offense desperate for more passing efficiency to compliment its terrific run game. Smith has steadily improved over the past three years, culminating in a 2012 that saw him complete 70% of his passes for a whopping 8 yards per pass attempt and a 104.1 passer rating. Smith's arm is pretty good, his footwork has become more and more consistent and he is tough in the pocket. He is also an athlete capable of picking up good yards on the ground. Behind him, the Chiefs added undersized but accurate Chase Daniel and brought in  monster-armed rookie Tyler Bray.

 

Running Back:

Jamaal Charles is a star. A premier running back. In 2012, like Adrian Peterson, returning from a torn ACL, Charles put up over 1500 rushing yards on less than 300 carries. A track star with terrific vision and explosiveness, he has averaged nearly six yards per carry for his career. He is also an ultra dangerous pass catcher out of the backfield. At 26 years old, he still has at least a few years of elite production left if he can limit the wear and tear. What the Chiefs needed was to improve their ability to effectively spell Charles. The Peyton Hillis experiment failed. This year, rookie Knile Davis brings a little more pop as an explosive athlete who struggled in his last collegiate year to come back from a bad leg injury.

 

Wide Receiver:

One of the biggest limitations the Chiefs' passing game faced last year was the lack of depth and talent at receiver behind Dwayne Bowe. Bowe received double the targets of any other pass catcher on the roster in 2012. It is fascinating to fantasize about what Bowe's career numbers would look like if he had played with a great quarterback. Alex Smith will be the best he's had and Bowe has the size, body control and playmaking ability to come up with a career year in 2013. Opposite Bowe should be ultra-talented but disappointing Jonathan Baldwin, a 6'4” 230-pound long-striding speedster. If Baldwin can limit his bone-headed inconsistencies, the sky is the limit. Donnie Avery enters the group as a smaller but speedy weapon who has suffered bad luck injury-wise in his career. Dexter McCluster is another small guy with excellent open-field dynamic ability. He will see the ball in special teams and in a variety of ways.

 

Tight End:

Fortunately, Kansas City is home to one of the deepest tight end situations in the league. Tony Moeaki is a talented and athletic pure pass catcher from the position. The Chiefs signed Anthony Fasano, a bigger player capable of being a decent blocker and polished receiver in the short and intermediate areas. Finally, the team drafted Travis Kelce, a guy that has the upside to be one of the best tight ends in the league. Kelce combines great size and length with very good athleticism and hands.

 

Offensive Line:

The Chiefs offensive line continues to look to improve after the passing game suffered too many sacks last year. The team drafted tackle Eric Fisher number one overall and he will be an excellent anchor for them in the longterm. This year, the largely effective Branden Albert will start at left tackle while Eric Fisher spends at least a year acclimating himself to the NFL game at right tackle. On the interior, Jeff Allen and Jon Asamoah, two nice athletes and pass protectors for the guard position, will work at left and right guard, respectively. The question mark will be at center where the team loses reliable veteran Ryan Lilja. Rodney Hudson was a highly decorated interior lineman in college but may lack the size and athleticism to consistently succeed in the NFL. The good news is the team has depth in the long and athletic Donald Stephenson at tackle, Geoff Schwartz and Matt Reynolds at guard and underrated small-school rookie Eric Kush.

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Best Offensive Rookie – OT Eric Fisher

Best Offensive Second-Year Player – LG Jeff Allen

2014 Draft Offensive Position of NeedRunning Back

2014 Draft Offensive Suggestion – RB Kenny Hilliard, LSU

 

DEFENSE

 

Defensive Line:

The Chiefs return a talented and deep defensive unit. Upfront, the Chiefs signed stout veteran end Mike DeVito to replace Glenn Dorsey. Opposite him will be the physical Tyson Jackson who finally showed some pass rushing upside, notching three sacks last year. Athletically gifted Allen Bailey should provide a pass rushing presence in sub-packages. On the inside, the massive 6'3” 340-pound Dontari Poe will surprise some with his disruptiveness at nose tackle. Jerrelle Powe is a more prototypical run stopping clogger behind him.

 

Outside Linebacker:

The strength of the starting defense, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are Pro Bowl-caliber rushers with the size to remain stout versus the run game. The two have differing styles, Hali as a physical and relentless athlete and Houston as a freakishly fast and explosive player. But the duo combined for 19 sacks in 2012 and should continue to terrorize from the outside. Behind them, new addition Frank Zombo has flashed in camp and preseason and provides capable depth.

 

Inside Linebacker:

Inside, the Chiefs may quietly have the best true linebacker in the NFL. Derrick Johnson has no weakness, both as a prototypically-sized, fast and explosive athlete and as an instinctive, aggressive and technically sound inside 'backer. The question is who his partner will be. The undersized Akeem Jordan was brought in as an athletic veteran, best suited for coverage. The guy to watch here is rookie Nico Johnson, a 6'2” 260-pound physical missile who may struggle versus the passing game. 

 

Cornerback:

Cornerback was the site of the most major defensive overhaul. Brandon Flowers remains at one spot, where he combines elite quickness with excellent instincts and playmaking ability. In comes free agents Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson to shore up the second and third spots. Smith is a massive press cover guy who hasn't always shown the ability to make big plays in coverage. Robinson is a physical and scrappy player who may not be elite, but has displayed strong skills in the nickel position. Jalil Brown also brings press man skills as a fourth guy. 

 

Safety:

Consistent with the theme of Pro Bowl-caliber players on the Chiefs' defense, Eric Berry returns at safety. Berry has all the athleticism and versatile skills to be the best safety in the NFL, and 2013 may just be the time he becomes that. He had 92 tackles and four interceptions as a rookie, tore his ACL in his second year and then took a step back in 2012 (if you can call being the second leading tackler on the team a step back). Early in the season, Berry didn't display the tight cover skills he previously did. But he improved as the season went on, played all 16 games and returns this year as possibly the best player on the team. Defenses will have to account for his whereabouts. Next to him will likely be Kendrick Lewis who, before 2012, showcased his playmaking ability in the deep end. Not an elite athlete, Lewis succeeds on instincts and ball skills. The team has some depth behind them in athletic Quintin Demps, precocious Tysyn Hartman and veteran Husain Abdullah.

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Best Defensive Rookie – ILB Nico Johnson

Best Defensive Second-Year Player – NT Dontari Poe

2014 Draft Defensive Position of NeedInside Linebacker

2014 Draft Defensive Suggestion – ILB Shawn Jackson, Tulsa