by Greg Gabriel
May 23, 02014
In 2012, the Kansas City Chiefs won only two games, giving them the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Head Coach Romeo Crennel and General Manager Scott Pioli were let go. Brought in were Head Coach Andy Reid and General Manager John Dorsey. The team improved to 11-5 and earned a wild card playoff spot.
During the off season, the Chiefs lost some key players but also gained some. On top of that, they had a successful draft. With that in mind, did they do enough to challenge Denver for the AFC West title?
First let’s look at who they lost. One of the biggest losses was left tackle Brandon Albert. Last year’s first round pick Eric Fisher, who played on the right side in 2013, was moved over to his more natural left tackle spot. Replacing Fisher on the right side will most likely be third-year player Donald Stephenson.
Also lost were on the offensive line were guards Jon Asamoah (Atlanta) and Geoff Schwartz (Giants). They will be replaced by third-year players Jeff Allen and Rishaw Johnson.
To provide depth, the Chiefs signed Jeff Linkenbach, who can play guard and tackle, guard Ricky Henry, and tackle J’Marcus Webb. An interesting guy to watch for the future is sixth-round pick Laurent Duvernay-Tardif from McGill University in Canada. Duvernay-Tardif has all the physical tools. He is just raw and needs development.
The tight ends and wide receivers pretty much remained in place form 2013. The biggest addition will be second year tight end Travis Kelce, who was injured much of 2013. He gives the Chiefs a big, athletic tight end they haven’t had in the past.
With this being Quarterback Alex Smith’s second year in Andy Reid’s system, it should make him that much more comfortable. Draft choice Aaron Murray from Georgia is the QB of the future.
Jamaal Charles is back at running back and the Chiefs expect more from second-year man Knile Davis from Arkansas. Like most rookies, Davis went through growing pains in 2013. The big addition to the running back group is draft choice De’Anthony Thomas from Oregon. Thomas lacks size but will be a more than adequate replacement to departed Dexter McCluster. Thomas has more speed and is a big play waiting to happen when he gets into the open field.
For the first two-thirds of the season, the Chiefs played excellent defense. Then, injuries struck and the Chiefs just didn’t have the depth to replace injured starters. Things should be different in 2014.
The defense lost some good players to free agency, but they feel that some young players are ready to step up in their new roles as front-line players. Lost on the defensive line were end Tyson Jackson (Atlanta) and backup Jerrell Powe (Houston). Listening to General Manager John Dorsey, the Chiefs feel that last year’s seventh round pick Mike Catapano from Princeton is ready to play a bigger role. All-Pro Dontari Poe is back at nose tackle and guys like Allen Bailey, Mike DeVito, Jay Howard, and Vance Walker are all ready to play in the defensive line rotation. Even with the losses, the line will be strong.
The main addition to the linebacker group is top draft choice Dee Ford from Auburn. Ford is an excellent pass rusher and he will make his mark early as a defensive end in nickel situations. On base downs, he will backup starters Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.
The inside linebacker positions are manned by Derrick Johnson and Joe Mays. The Chiefs expect second- year man Nico Johnson to come on and James-Michael Johnson is an able reserve.
The secondary is, of course, led by safety Eric Berry. Going into his fifth year, he is just hitting his prime. It remains to be seen who will be the other starting safety. Last year’s starter, Kendrick Lewis, left during free agency for the Houston Texans. Penciled in right now is second man Sanders Commings from Georgia. He has size and range. Also in the mix is sixth-year vet Husain Abdullah. He had 22 total tackles a year ago.
The corners are manned by veterans Brandon Flowers and Sean Smith. Some weren’t happy with Flowers play last year, but he has played steady football since his arrival in Kansas City seven years ago. Smith is a tall, physical corner who matches up well against the bigger receivers in the league. Rookie Phillip Gaines from Rice may very well become the third corner. He has the size, speed, and ball skills. He needs to become a bit more physical. Also in the mix are Marcus Cooper and Ron Parker. Cooper had 44 tackles and three interceptions as a rookie a year ago.
While the Chiefs lost some key players, I think they are a stronger team than a year ago. Being in the second year of both Andy Reid’s and Bob Sutton’s offensive and defensive schemes will only help. Obviously some younger players need to step up, but I feel that will happen, and the Chiefs will challenge Denver for the AFC West title.
Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe