The Chiefs had a fairly uneventful offseason, which historically bodes well for a team. There were no major coaching changes, but some minor re-shuffling. One of the things that have gone somewhat unnoticed is the KC coordinators being mostly older men that were head coaches before (and not likely to be again) or men that have never expressed any interest in being head coaches. Reid and his coordinators all seem to have embraced the idea that this is their last job. Effective coaches that focused on their current job and provide system continuity can be one of those things that sound trivial, but is not.
There was not major turnover on the roster. Two defensive players retired (H. Abdullah (S) and M. DeVito (DL)). Ben Grubbs (G), Jason Avant (WR), and Jimmy Wilson (S) were not re-signed. The team did add Mitchell Schwartz, a decent RT that fled from Cleveland to Missouri, in the process getting some tasty BBQ and an even tastier $30MM over five years. They also signed Rod Streater, whom the Raiders let walk.
Their draft did not include a 1st rounder but was mostly solid once they got started in the 2nd round, with the exception of taking Stanford QB Kevin Hogan in the 5th round. 2nd round pick Chris Jones (DL) out of Mississippi State is already working into the DL rotation, and 4th round pick Demarcus Robinson, a WR out of Florida may force his way onto the field in his rookie year.
Knees and Tags
The only real concern in the offseason with this team centers around three sets of knees. There is also a franchise tag situation that still needs to be resolved.
The first of the worrisome knees belongs to RB Jamal Charles, who tore the ACL in game 5 of 2015. Word out of the Chiefs OTA's is that he put in two good days of practice and is on schedule to be a full participant in training camp and back on the field Week 1.
Justin Houston will probably not be doing too much in training camp, as he got his ACL repaired in January. The Chiefs do expect that he will be playing at some point this season, but they are not certain when. There is a real chance he may not be ready to go for Week 1.
Tamba Hali also got some knee work in the offseason, though that was described more as "clean-up work" than a procedure to repair real damage. He did not do too much in OTAs other than showing up and participate in a few drills, but the KC coaching staff has not put too much on him in camp or pre-season over the last couple of years in deference to his age.
Eric Berry was slapped with the franchise tag in March. His people and the KC front office are quietly working on an extension. The main sticking point is health concerns by the front office at odds with the contract length and guaranteed money. This has been handled by both parties away from the press and by all accounts cordially and professionally by both team and player. That suggests that there is a deal to be done and that both parties are aware of the valid concerns the other has.
The Chiefs will have one, possibly two new starters on the Offensive line and a new WR to join Maclin and Kelce. They will have Jamal Charles back and are not concerned with his age and health; after all, they did win a lot of games last season with West and Ware running the ball. Reid will probably feel comfortable enough with West and Ware (based on what he saw last year) to have more of a committee situation. And Alex Smith, playing in a system and for a coach that gets every bit of game managing ability out of him, will return as the team's QB. Often derided for his average ability, Smith has posted a 30-15 record in his starts since becoming a Chief. There are a lot of teams that would take that over the last three years.
The defense will return its key starters. Three starting positions (one DL, one LB, and one DB) are up for grabs on the defensive side of the ball. This unit has been one of the better ones in the NFL for a while and shows no sign of slowing down yet. Tamba Hali's age is a concern, as is the health of Justin Houston. They may not be the #2 unit in scoring defense again this season, but there is not much to suggest a fall out of the top 10 will happen this year. Returning your coaches and key contributors on a successful unit has a way of paying off in the NFL.
This team has quietly become one of the best run franchises in the league after some major dysfunction in 2011 and 2012. Offensively, they run a system that will not produce many big plays and in some ways looks antiquated but manages to be solidly in the middle of the pack in league scoring. Defensively, they have been elite.
It all makes for a lot of low excitement, and some might even say dull football...
Except for the 31-17 record the team has posted since 2013. That isn't dull at all.
Outlook Against The Chargers
The Chiefs will bookend that Bolts' season. Opening against them on the road September 11 will give us a good gauge for how well the health of the O-line and a new center to take on Dontari Poe will affect the offense. The Chiefs defense allowed the Chargers a total of SIX points in 2015.
While the test of the offense will certainly be worth watching, the hoped for improvement (or not) in the Bolt's rush defense will be shown in the opener, too. Reid's system is classic West Coast concept. The running game features traps, counters, misdirections, wide pitches, and delays. Pulls and overloads at the point of attack are frequent blocking techniques. The team has mixed in some inside zone looks to compliment the often intricate blocking schemes the West Coast offense style running game. It will be a good test of the Chargers' front 7.
The back-end of the defense will be tested by Maclin deep and Kelce on shorter patterns, with Smith being patient enough to not force deep throws. The West Coast passing game often tries to draw a defense to the short sidelines and flats early in the game to open up the middle and deeper routes later in the game (or uses short middle early to open up deep wide later). Travis Kelce, in particular, is used to run a variety of patterns. He has developed into Smith's favorite and most consistent receiver. This will make for a good test of the Chargers ability to contain other teams Tight Ends.
What either team looks like or is playing for in the Week 17 finale in San Diego, which may be sad game depending on how things go in November, is anyone's guess at this point.
Prediction: The Chiefs have had the Bolts number for the last three years. Until I am shown otherwise, I am working under the assumption that the ownage Reid has had over McCoy will continue. With what has been going on in Denver, some are predicting that KC will win the AFC West outright (and I'm one of them). Conversely, the Bolts may be improved, but by how much? 2 wins? Four wins? Until the season happens, we don't know if this team is still the worst in the AFC West.
I expect the Chiefs to sweep the Bolts 2-0, but not by a combined score of 43-6 this season.