2015 Season Preview: Kansas City Chiefs

In 2013, Andy Reid’s and John Dorsey’s first season in Kansas City, the Chiefs were the surprise team in the AFC West winning 11 games before losing in the playoffs to Indianapolis. Last year, the Chiefs slipped some, finishing 9-7, with injuries playing a huge role. 2015 should prove interesting, and I am convinced that the Chiefs will challenge for the AFC West championship. As far as I’m concerned, Andy Reid and John Dorsey will be the difference. They work very well together and will be tough to beat. Quarterback Since the Chiefs acquired Alex Smith in 2013, Smith has played the best football of his career. This may be the first time he has been in the same system for three consecutive years. In only his 11th year, Smith still has a lot of good football in him, and he will keep improving as he grows in the system. While he may not be elite, he is a quality NFL quarterback a team can win with. Behind Smith is veteran Chase Daniel. Daniel is the ideal backup in that he is very smart and can come in and win games without having had the practice reps that a starter gets. I look for second year player Aaron Murray to take a step in 2015 and begin to challenge Daniel. Running Back When Jamaal Charles is healthy, he is a difference maker. He has rare play speed and is a true big play threat. His receiving skills make him even more of a threat, and he can be utilized in a variety of ways. Knile Davis has to be considered one of the better backup backs in the league. He is easily capable of being a number one back for many NFL teams. De’Anthony Thomas is a specialty player and he gives the Chiefs an asset that few have. As good as he was as a rookie (more than 1000 all-purpose yards), he will be even better in 2015. Wide Receiver and Tight End The Chiefs wanted to upgrade their receiver unit and did so with the acquisition of Jeremy Maclin. Maclin will be the best receiver Alex Smith has had since he came to Kansas City. Opposite Maclin going into camp will be second year man Albert Wilson. By the end of the 2014 season, Wilson was the Chiefs second best receiver. While Wilson looks to improve, rookie Chris Conley will also be in the equation. Conley is raw, but he has the physical traits that no receiver on the roster has. Jason Avant gives the Chiefs a veteran backup who plays well in Reid’s system. At tight end, Travis Kelce is on the verge of becoming one of the better receiving tight ends in the league. He is big, fast, strong, and athletic and is just beginning to come into his own. Offensive Line If the Chiefs are to be successful, they have to get better play from their offensive line. That won’t be easy after the Chiefs lost starting center Rodney Hudson in free agency. There is talent on the line, but they have to play more consistently as a unit. Left tackle Eric Fisher has not played up to his potential. Going into his third year, he has to improve his play. The talent is there. Ben Grubbs will be the left guard. The former Pro Bowler was acquired from New Orleans during the offseason. The right guard should be Paul Fanaika, who came over from Arizona. He is a big, powerful player and should help the run game. Going into camp, the right tackle position may not be settled. Jeff Allen is back from a bicep injury after only playing one game a year ago. The other player fighting for the job will be Donald Stephenson. Both players have the talent to be solid starters. The loser of the battle will be the primary backup along the line. Look for rookie Mitch Morse to be a factor. He was the Chiefs second round pick and has the ability to play guard or tackle. He will most likely be a starter by mid-season. Defensive Line Other than All Pro nose tackle Dontari Poe, the Chiefs don’t have many stars on the defensive line. They do have several solid NFL players. The two starting ends should be Mike DeVito, returning from a ruptured Achilles, and Allen Bailey, who had his best year as a pro in 2014. In today’s NFL, you need to have five to six solid linemen who can play in the rotation. The Chiefs have that. Jaye Howard started 10 games last year and will be relied upon to backup at end, as will Mike Catapano, who missed most of last year. The backup at nose should be rookie Rakeem Nunez-Roches, who showed well in OTA’s. Linebacker The Chiefs are strong at linebacker led by Justin Houston, one of the best edge rushers in football. Houston had 22 sacks a year ago. The other outside linebacker is veteran Tamba Hali, entering his 10th season. The Chiefs are hoping last year’s top draft choice Dee Ford has a breakout year in 2015. He struggled some early last year but played much better the latter part of the season. Inside, the hope is that Derrick Johnson can come back strong off an Achilles injury. Next to Johnson is Joshua Mauga, who led the Chiefs in tackles last year after being signed off the street at the beginning of camp. Kansas City drafted two linebackers this year to provide depth. They are Ramik Wilson from Georgia, taken in the fourth round, and D.J. Alexander, drafted in the fifth. The hope is for the two of them to play well on special teams while they learn the NFL game. Secondary Kansas City needs to get better secondary play this year. With that in mind, they drafted Washington corner Marcus Peters in the first round. Many felt Peters was the best cover corner in the draft, but he had some character issues. He should step in right away and start. The other corner will be Sean Smith, a tall corner who matches up well against the bigger receivers in the league. Another rookie who is sure to see play time is Steven Nelson from Oregon State. He could be an ideal nickel back. The fourth corner should be second year man Phillip Gaines who has the traits and just needs experience and confidence. At one safety will be Husain Abdullah who played very well a year ago. Who lines up in Eric Berry’s place is a question mark. My guess is that it will be Ron Parker, who the Chiefs had a hard time holding on to during free agency. He was wanted by several teams and has corner cover skills. Outlook Like with every team, the Chiefs have question marks going into camp, but on paper, they have a club that should challenge for the AFC West championship. The West is a tough division, but if the Chiefs stay healthy they have just as good a chance as any of their rivals. With a new coaching staff in Denver and Peyton Manning nearing the end of the line, Denver is ripe to be overtaken. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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