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How I Spent My Offseason - Kansas City Chiefs Edition

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A round up of the offseason moves involving the other teams in the AFC West concludes with the Chiefs. A brutal schedule and some losses may make 2015 interesting for Coach Reid and company.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Summary

Along with the Bolts, the Chiefs stood pat with their coaching.   This means that most of the 53 players on the roster September 13 should be able to just play football and not have to think about what they are supposed to be doing while playing football.

The 2015 Chiefs should look a lot like the 2013 and 2014 versions of the team.  Andy Reid and Offensive Coordinator Doug Pederson run about the purest form of the West Coach offense in the league.  This offense features short passing routes with mostly 3 and 5 step drops, with a 7 step drop mixed in to keep a defense honest.  A high percentage of passes are thrown to backs and tight ends behind or within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.  Deep passes are thrown occasionally and a lot of play action passes are used in this system.

Deep passes are supposed to be thrown occasionally to stretch defenses and if they work fine, but this offense is OK with long throws not working.  The object of the deep passes is to ensure there are gaps in short and intermediate zones.  Big plays from YAC are sought.  The West Coast running game wants quick athletes on the offensive line to get blockers on the edge for quick off-tackle type runs or overloads at the point of attack on interior runs.  Counter plays and trap blocking are a staple in the running game of a west coast offense.

This passing offense reached its inevitable and statistically improbable conclusion in 2014 by failing to produce even one TD reception by a Wide Receiver.  That may not ever happen again in the NFL.  This is somewhat equivalent to a flipped coin landing on its edge during a pre-game coin toss.  The offense was perfectly average for scoring last year; 16th in the league.

Enabling the Chiefs to win many of their games in 2014 was an elite defense that was 2nd in points allowed.  They run a 3-4 in Kansas City, with superb pass rushers and solid contributors at all levels of the defense.  There was some erosion in the team's personnel during the offseason, though.  Plus, while recent reports about Eric Berry's treatment for Hodgkin's disease have been positive, his status for 2015 has to be considered uncertain.  (We at BFTB are rooting for Berry to fully recover and enjoy a long-cancer free life once he beats this opponent.)

Free Agency

Free Agency was not kind to the Chiefs, but they were able to get Jeremy Maclin while losing Dwayne Bowe.  That addition does not seem to make up for what they lost:

Position: Lost: Added: Verdict:
CB Chris Owens (-)
ILB Joe Mays (-)
DL Kevin Vickerson (-)
Vance Walker (-)
WR Dwayne Bowe Jeremy Maclin (+)
S Kurt Coleman Tyvon Branch (Neutral)
TE Anthony Fasano
G Paul Fanaika Ben Grubbs (Neutral)
C Rodney Hudson (-)

The loss of 2014's best lineman to Oakland was huge and certainly not helpful on an overall poor unit in 2014. Together with the loss of Owens, Mays, Walker, and Vickerson made it critical for the team to have an excellent draft to return to the playoffs.

The Draft

Round Player Position
1 Marcus Peters CB
2 Mitch Morse OL
3 Chris Conley WR
Steven Nelson DB
4 Ramik Wilson ILB
5 DJ Alexander LB
James O'Shaughnessy TE
6 Rakeem Nunez-Roches DT
7 Da'Ron Brown WR

The first 3 picks of this draft was widely questioned and criticized.  First round pick Marcus Peters, who will be expected to start, has had some off-field stuff.  Morse and Conley were widely considered reaches.  The rest of the draft was looked upon with more favor, but it is difficult to see a Game 1 starter in the selections other than Peters.  Morse might start in 2015, but if he does, that would be more of a testament to the weakness of the Chief's offensive line than to his ability.

Projected Starters

Position Player
QB Smith
RB Charles
WR Maclin
WR Avant
TE Kelce
OL Fisher
(L to R) Grubbs
Kush
Allen
Stephenson
Slot/Flex Thomas
DL Howard
(L to R) Poe
DeVito
LB Houston
(L to R) Johnson
Mauga
Hali
CB’s Peters*
Smith
S Abdullah
Branch(1)

*-Rookie

(1) Pending Eric Berry's medical situation and conditioning.

Schedule

Week Date Opponnent Time (ET) TV
1 9/13 @Houston 1:00 PM CBS
2 9/17 DENVER 8:25 PM CBS
3 9/28 @Green Bay 8:30 PM ESPN
4 10/4 @Cincinnati 1:00 PM CBS
5 10/11 CHICAGO 1:00 PM FOX
6 10/18 @Minnesota 1:00 PM CBS
7 10/25 PITTSBURGH 1:00 PM CBS
8 11/1 DETROIT 9:30 AM FOX*
BYE
10 11/15 @Denver 4:25 PM CBS
11 11/22 @San Diego 8:30 PM NBC
12 11/29 BUFFALO 1:00 PM CBS
13 12/6 @Oakland 4:05 PM CBS
14 12/13 San Diego 1:00 PM CBS
15 12/20 @Baltimore 1:00 PM CBS
16 12/27 CLEVELAND 1:00 PM CBS
17 1/3 OAKLAND 1:00 PM CBS

*-Played in London, UK

The opener at Houston has all the makings of 9-6 FG fest, so take the over, since this league rarely produces an expected result.  If the Chiefs are still in playoff contention at Christmas, their last two games suggest a good chance of closing the deal.  There are a lot of tough games, road games, and a trip to England early in the season.  The Chiefs playoff destiny may be known by Thanksgiving.

A brutal November, with a trip to London to play the Lions, their bye week and then back to back road games against the Broncos and the Bolts make for a tough 3 game stretch.  That stretch follows playing 5 quality opponents in the first 7 weeks of the season.  If the Chiefs are 8-6 or better going into their last two games, a playoff berth should happen.  I'm not seeing that out of this schedule though.

Conclusion

The question for the Chiefs will be if any improvement among the offensive skill players will offset some of the losses on defensive and the offensive lines.  With the addition of Maclin and development of Thomas, the Chiefs should not have another season with 0 TD catches by wide receivers.   Still, I suspect that in 2015, the Chiefs will see a lot of 8, 9, and maybe even 10 man boxes to stop Jamal Charles unless Smith can show that he is able to complete throws downfield.

A lot of pundits are buying the Chiefs stock right now.  Personally, I'm not seeing it.  What I see is a team with a predictable, low-scoring offense and a defense that should be stout, but not elite in 2015.   The West Coast offense run by Reid is about as dated as the Zampese-Turner evolution of Air Coryell.  Defenses know what to expect when they play KC.  Defensive coaches have been working on how stop this type of offense since 1980 and it is no longer much of a challenge for even an average NFL defense.  With a more capable offensive line and QB, Reid would be able to make things a little more unpredictable, but he does not have that option.

On the defensive side, any erosion in that unit's performance will make the difference in or two wins last year becoming losses in 2015.  The defensive line lost a big part of their quality rotation and secondary has lost key performers.  Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali are not getting any younger, but there is not too much behind them right now. Finally, can the Chiefs really expect that Justin Houston will be the same sack machine in 2015 that he was last season?  I'm sure he will be good, but leading the league again is not likely.

This looks a lot like a team that could grind its way to 9 wins and not be too much fun to watch while it does it.  I see the Chiefs as a franchise treading water from last season to 2015 and getting an identical 9-7 record.  Similar to the Bolts situation in 2014, I do not think 9-7 is going to get it done for a wild card slot in the AFC in 2015.