Posts Tagged ‘Chiefs’

AFC West: Preseason Grades and Analysis

DENVER BRONCOS

Key Acquisitions: QB Case Keenum, OLB Bradley Chubb, OT Jared Veldheer, S Su’a Cravens, RB Royce Freeman, CB Tramaine Brock, P Marquette King, DT Clinton McDonald, WR Courtland Sutton, WR Dae’Sean Hamilton

Key Losses: CB Aqib Talib, RB C.J. Anderson, QB Trevor Siemian, TE Virgil Green, OG Allen Barbre,

DENVER BRONCOS

Key Acquisitions: QB Case Keenum, OLB Bradley Chubb, OT Jared Veldheer, S Su’a Cravens, RB Royce Freeman, CB Tramaine Brock, P Marquette King, DT Clinton McDonald, WR Courtland Sutton, WR Dae’Sean Hamilton

Key Losses: CB Aqib Talib, RB C.J. Anderson, QB Trevor Siemian, TE Virgil Green, OG Allen Barbre, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Cody Latimer, WR Bennie Fowler, OT Donald Stephenson

You can argue the Broncos should have reset and drafted a top quarterback prospect, but if you think the team’s Super Bowl window remains open, GM John Elway did an excellent job trying to maximize it.

Rather than breaking the bank for Kirk Cousins ($84 million guaranteed), the Broncos bet far less on Case Keenum ($25 million), who proved last season he can steer a team that relies on its running game and defense. Keenum’s short-term deal also buys more development time for Paxton Lynch, although the 2016 first-rounder has shown no indication of being a long-term answer.

C.J. Anderson was released and Virgil Green left in free agency, but the offense should be better at several spots. Helping protect Keenum will be Jared Veldheer, who arrived via trade to plug Denver’s gaping hole at right tackle. The draft brought three weapons who could contribute early, with Royce Freeman looking like the starting running back and Courtland Sutton and Dae’Sean Hamilton impressing during spring practices.

The defense has a void to fill after the release of cornerback Aqib Talib, which put pressure on Bradley Roby and Tramaine Brock, but the pass rush might be good enough to compensate after Bradley Chubb fell in Denver’s lap at No. 5 overall in the draft. The rest of the unit remains intact, keeping hopes of a 2015 repeat alive.

FLM Take: Denver might have regrets if Josh Rosen becomes a star in Arizona, but it’s hard to quibble with much else. — B+

 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Key Acquisitions: WR Sammy Watkins, CB Kendall Fuller, LB Anthony Hitchens, CB David Amerson, DT Xavier Williams, DE/LB Breeland Speaks, RB Damien Williams, DT Derrick Nnadi

Key Losses: QB Alex Smith, CB Marcus Peters, LB Derrick Johnson, OG Zach Fulton, WR Albert Wilson, OLB Tamba Hali, CB Darrelle Revis, DT Bennie Logan, S Ron Parker, CB Phillip Gaines

The Chiefs made no bones about it this offseason: They are all in on 2017 first-round pick Patrick Mahomes. The team’s faith is a promising sign for the youngster, but betting so heavily on a signal-caller with one career start is risky.

Not only did Kansas City ship off Alex Smith, but it gave a monster contract (three years, $48 million) to Sammy Watkins, who has the talent to thrive in an aggressive, downfield attack but has struggled with durability and consistency throughout his career. The rest of the offense returns intact, but it’s fair to expect growing pains as Mahomes settles in as the starter.

On defense, the Chiefs turned their cornerback depth chart upside down, most prominently with the trade of Marcus Peters due to personality concerns. Kendall Fuller (part of the return for Smith) and David Amerson (signed after he was released by the Raiders) have flashed ability, but they’ll have a hard time replacing Peters, who might have been the team’s best player. The position then went unaddressed until Round 6 in the draft, although GM Brett Veach did find help for a shaky run defense in Breeland Speaks and Derrick Nnadi. That duo, along with pricey signee Anthony Hitchens (five years, $45 million), will be counted on early with Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Bennie Logan gone.

FLM Take: The Chiefs traded two of their best players, gave out a pair eyebrow-raising contracts and still have major holes on defense. Some decline should be expected, even if Mahomes impresses. — D+

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Key Acquisitions: C Mike Pouncey, S Derwin James, TE Virgil Green, K Caleb Sturgis, OLB/DE Uchenna Nwosu, DT Justin Jones, QB Geno Smith

Key Losses: S Tre Boston, TE Antonio Gates, OG Matt Slauson, OG Kenny Wiggins, DE Jeremiah Attaochu K Nick Novak, DE Chris McCain

Considering upheaval elsewhere in the division, the Chargers might have claimed AFC West pole position despite doing little this offseason. After missing the playoffs with a plus-83 point differential (ninth in NFL), the Bolts again tried to solve the kicking woes that have haunted them for years, signing Caleb Sturgis and taking a flier on 2016 second-rounder Roberto Aguayo. If one can be merely average, Los Angeles will be in much better shape.

The Chargers let a few offensive linemen walk in favor of 2017 draftees Forrest Lamp — returning from an ACL tear after missing his rookie campaign — and Dan Feeney. Centering those two will be three-time Pro Bowler Mike Pouncey, who joined on a reasonable deal (two years, $15 million). Toss in the signing of Virgil Green, and the team’s blocking could be excellent. Unfortunately for L.A., the injury bug already bit Hunter Henry (torn ACL), perhaps paving the way for Antonio Gates’ return.

The defense didn’t need much work, but the few moves GM Tom Telesco made were excellent, starting with a very reasonable extension (three years, $33.3 million) for stalwart corner Casey Hayward. He pounced when Derwin James slid to No. 17 in the draft, giving defensive coordinator Gus Bradley an ideal roving safety. The biggest remaining concern is a leaky run defense, putting pressure on third-rounder Justin Jones after the team failed to upgrade at linebacker this spring.

FLM Take: The Chargers’ deep and talented roster didn’t need much, but the group clearly got better. — B+

 

OAKLAND RAIDERS

Key Acquisitions: WR Jordy Nelson, WR Martavis Bryant, LB Tahir Whitehead, CB Rashaan Melvin, S Marcus Gilchrist, RB Doug Martin, OT Breno Giacomini, OT Kolton Miller, LB Derrick Johnson, DT Maurice Hurst, CB Shareece Wright, WR Ryan Switzer, DT P.J. Hall, DE Arden Key, DE Tank Carradine; DT Ahtyba Rubin, DT Frostee Rucker

Key Losses: WR Michael Crabtree, DT Denico Autry, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, LB NaVorro Bowman, CB Sean Smith, CB David Amerson, P Marquette King, K Sebastian Janikowski, OT Marshall Newhouse, CB T.J. Carrie, DT Jihad Ward

Oakland’s offseason was an absolute blur. It started with Jon Gruden’s (re)hiring — just 11 months after Jack Del Rio signed an extension — on a decade-long, $100 million deal, which led to a remarkable roster churn. With several players walking out the door, the Raiders added about two dozen from other teams, the vast majority being veterans on one-year deals worth $4 million or less.

The effects were relatively muted on offense. Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant — if he can stay on the field — might provide an upgrade over released wideout Michael Crabtree, but both had down 2017 seasons. Doug Martin is a complete wild card, and Breno Giacomini doesn’t move the needle much at right tackle.

More change came on defense, where Tahir Whitehead and Derrick Johnson were tabbed to steady a shaky linebacker group, but plenty of questions remain at cornerback. Rashaan Melvin (one year, $5.5 million) was a nice bargain, but the rest of the group is filled with questions, even if 2017 first-rounder Gareon Conley steps up. A Khalil Mack sized cloud still hangs over the defense as the star defensive end still doesn’t have a contract on the table.

The Raiders’ draft was one of the league’s strangest, as they repeatedly took boom-or-bust prospects, including athletic-but-raw types (Kolton Miller, P.J. Hill, Brandon Parker) and players with character (Arden Key, Azeem Victor) and health (Nick Nelson, Maurice Hurst) concerns. When the dust settled, the linebacker and cornerback depth charts still looked shaky.

FLM Take: Few tried harder to upgrade than Oakland, but is this team much better? Remember: Those who play with fire eventually get burned. — D

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Mahomes throws three more INTs at Chiefs practice

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes continued to show inconsistency in Wednesday's practice, tossing a trio of interceptions to bring his total to seven through six sessions at training camp.

Per ESPN's Adam Teicher, one of Mahomes' interceptions on Wednesday came in the end zone, after he had an open lane to score with his

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes continued to show inconsistency in Wednesday’s practice, tossing a trio of interceptions to bring his total to seven through six sessions at training camp.

Per ESPN’s Adam Teicher, one of Mahomes’ interceptions on Wednesday came in the end zone, after he had an open lane to score with his feet but opted to throw late instead.

“That’s the first thing I said when I came to the sideline: I could have run it,” Mahomes told reporters. “[The coaches] said, ‘Then just do it. Don’t train bad habits.’ … That was the play that needed to be made on that one.”

Another interception was the result of the young quarterback calling the wrong play in the huddle.

“Being able to get in and out of the huddle, calling the right plays and then not making a bad play worse is something I’ve got to keep getting better at,” Mahomes said. “I have to eliminate those mistakes. It’s something that can be described as a learning process.

“Hopefully I make those mistakes now and don’t make them in the game.”

Known for his strong arm and aggressive approach, Mahomes has made plenty of big plays in camp as well, including a long touchdown to Tyreek Hill on Wednesday. But there have been growing pains as he settles into the starting job that was vacated with the trade of careful-but-steady veteran Alex Smith. 

“He had a few hiccups today,” offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy told reporters of Mahomes. “But that’s a part of the process. When you’re young you need those hiccups because they become valuable lessons.

“…Would we like for him to be perfect? Yes. We’d like for him to have the highest quarterback rating ever. … He just needs to be poised under pressure.”

Mahomes, 22, played in just one game as a rookie, a Week 17 start when the Chiefs sat their starters against the Denver Broncos. He went 22-for-35 for 284 yards and an interception, but led a drive in the closing seconds for a game-winning field goal. Despite only starting one game, Mahomes has better odds for the MVP than proven players like Smith and Julio Jones. 

The Chiefs moved up 17 spots in the 2017 draft to take Mahomes 10th overall out of Texas Tech. He threw 29 interceptions in 32 career games with the Red Raiders, including 25 in 25 games over his final two seasons.

Smith, who was dealt to the Washington Redskins in February, threw five picks and led the NFL in interception percentage (1.0) last season for the second time in his career. He hasn’t thrown more than eight interceptions in a season since 2010.

–Field Level Media

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DeAngelo Hall Officially Retires

Defensive back DeAngelo Hall formally announced his retirement Wednesday after 14 NFL seasons.

Hall intercepted 43 passes and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection while playing for the Atlanta Falcons (2004-07), Oakland Raiders (2008) and Washington Redskins (2009-17).

Hall told reporters in mid-May he was retiring, but spoke at length Wednesday, and touched on how

Defensive back DeAngelo Hall formally announced his retirement Wednesday after 14 NFL seasons.

Hall intercepted 43 passes and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection while playing for the Atlanta Falcons (2004-07), Oakland Raiders (2008) and Washington Redskins (2009-17).

Hall told reporters in mid-May he was retiring, but spoke at length Wednesday, and touched on how he knew it was time to move on.

“When I felt like I couldn’t make plays or be the same player that I always thought I was, I knew it was time to go,” Hall said. “You know last season, it was a lot of ups and downs for myself personally. … I can make a lot of excuses but at the end of the day, you know Father Time catches up with us all.”

Hall tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Week 3 of the 2016 season and did not return to the field until last November, finishing the season with 14 tackles and two passes defensed while starting two of five games.

Hall, 34, was the eighth overall pick by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2004 NFL Draft.

–Field Level Media

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Justin Houston: Demystifying the Franchise Tag

Justin Houston

When Justin Houston signs his franchise tender, he will be due 13.3 million. The compensation figure comes from an average of the top five players salary at that position. Houston led the NFL last season with a total of 22 sacks. He broke the club record once established by the late Derrick Thomas. One more

When Justin Houston signs his franchise tender, he will be due 13.3 million. The compensation figure comes from an average of the top five players salary at that position. Houston led the NFL last season with a total of 22 sacks. He broke the club record once established by the late Derrick Thomas. One more and he would have matched or maybe broken the record of Michael Strahan. There has been some confusion on exactly what Justin’s status is. The goal here is to bring awareness and just the facts without the acrimony. Some fans are calling Houston lazy, that he only cares about money, and should be at every practice and OTAs, regardless of his contract status. I do not share the opinion of fans who think he owes them 24/7.

First, we shall define the franchise tag and the different types of tag used by teams. The NFL introduced the franchise tag in 1993. There are two types of franchise tag designations: the exclusive rights franchise tag, and non-exclusive rights franchise tag:

From the Wikipedia definition: “An “exclusive” franchise player must be offered a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position as of a date in April of the current year in which the tag will apply, or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. Exclusive franchise players cannot negotiate with other teams. The player’s team has all the negotiating rights to the exclusive player.”

“A “non-exclusive” franchise player must be offered a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five cap hits at the player’s position for the previous five years applied to the current salary cap, or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. A non-exclusive franchise player may negotiate with other NFL teams, but if the player signs an offer sheet from another team, the original team has a right to match the terms of that offer, or if it does not match the offer and thus loses the player, is entitled to receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.”

The Chiefs have used the non-exclusive franchise tag on Justin Houston. This means that he is entitled to receive offers and, again, sign an offer sheet as listed; the Chiefs have a right to match the offer or receive the two first round draft choices as compensation. Few teams attempt to sign such a player because of the high price. Is Justin Houston worth the high price? I would say yes; however, the cost is steep. Moreover, whatever the cost, that team would have to negotiate a contract with him very quickly. As a Chiefs fan, I would sincerely hope the team does not decide that he is expendable. Houston is entering the prime of his career. There are teams out there that dream of having one pass rusher half as good as Houston. If the team decides they cannot keep him, they had better get something worthwhile in return.

“Under the Capped years, a team can designate one additional player only as a transitional tag. A transition player must be offered a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of the prior season at the player’s position or 120 percent of the player’s prior year’s salary, whichever is greater. A transition player designation gives the club a first-refusal right to match within seven days an offer sheet given to the player by another club after his contract expires. If the club matches, it retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no compensation.”

Right now, Justin is not under contract, but the Chiefs hold his rights. Houston shouldn’t be criticized for wanting a raise. Some fans forget the expectations for Houston when he entered the league. A first round talent from Georgia, he slipped to the third because of drug charge for having marijuana. Since then, he hasn’t had a single red flag against him. He does not have a contract and will continue to be without the contract until he signs the franchise tag they used to retain his services back in March. Justin is a consummate pro and is staying in shape, regardless of the perception of fans.

He has until the tenth week of the season to sign and receive credit for a full season, a requirement to get to the goal of free agency in 2016. Does this mean he will sit out of practices and games until the tenth week? Maybe. He could sit out, but it might also send a signal to teams considering signing him next year. I doubt his agent would advise him to do so. Nevertheless, he is free to make the choice and the Chiefs can only wait until he signs the tender.

The tag situation is complex. By exploring the meanings of the various tags and how they apply in this situation, perhaps you will have less anxiety, and Chiefs’ fans can begin looking forward to the start of the season.

Millissa Beaton is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. Follow her on Twitter @SportsWizard28

Millissa Beaton

I Love My Kansas City Chiefs. I enjoy talking sports and am also writing about them too. Everyday I want to improve. I value my friends, family, working out. Batman, Star Wars & X-Files fan. I want to work in the field. I am forming my own radio show with my good friend @tweaked74 . Give us a listen to learn about what your favorite team is doing. We will have great guests and would love to hear from you! Go to Blogtalkradio.com

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Turnaround: Why Alex Smith will succeed in 2015

Alex Smith

I know many a Chiefs' fan got tired of hearing about the Chiefs being the only team since 1940 to go without a touchdown from a wide receiver. Injuries and an inability to get open downfield were the primary causes. It might surprise you that in 2012 Alex Smith completed 70.1% of his passes. (65.3%

I know many a Chiefs’ fan got tired of hearing about the Chiefs being the only team since 1940 to go without a touchdown from a wide receiver. Injuries and an inability to get open downfield were the primary causes. It might surprise you that in 2012 Alex Smith completed 70.1% of his passes. (65.3% in 2013) He was very good in 2012 before his injury. This season, more speed down the field, the game opening up due to the team signing Jeremy Maclin, and an improved offensive line should allow Smith to survey through his reads rather than running for dear life and open up the field for playmakers like Maclin, Travis Kelce, Jamaal Charles, and DeAnthony Thomas.

Jeremy Maclin may be the number one reason I expect a turnaround in Smith’s play. Last year, no Chiefs’ WR caught a TD, which allowed defenses to focus on their other weapons like Kelce and Charles. Maclin, who was coming off from ACL surgery the year before, and was playing on a 1-year contract in Philadelphia, had the best year of his career. He was the #1 WR on the team for the first time in his career and caught 85 balls for 1,318 yards and 10 TDs. That is an average of 15.5 yards per catch, and he did it multiple ways. Maclin is a complete receiver, who can play all three WR positions. He is a very good route runner who knows how to take advantage of less experienced or talented corners and safeties. He can catch a screen pass or a 5-yard slant and take it 80 yards for the score, or he can burn his man deep with a double move, catching a deep pass over his shoulder. Maclin is a consummate professional and a good teammate. His presence should open up, not only the other receivers as he draws double teams, but the middle of the field to free up Kelce more often. Jamaal Charles catching the ball out of the backfield will have less attention on him as well as the secondary will have to account for Maclin.

Travis Kelce is one of those rare players who raise the stakes for Smith. Kelce is 6’6 and has many referring to him as Zeus. He did not start the nickname; but he likes it. Over the middle or at the sideline, he can do it all. He had sixty-seven catches with five touchdowns and 862 yards receiving and an average of 12.9 yards per catch. Kelce has good speed to go along with good blocking downfield as well. He has been watching Tony Gonzalez footage of 1997-2008 in the offseason. This does it for me. For Chiefs’ fans (and many football fans), Gonzalez is the gold standard for Tight Ends. Kelce has such high football character with natural instincts, ideal size, and large hands. He will continue to provide Alex Smith with an option rather than just a check-down back or a wide receiver comeback pass. Travis often turns two-yard gains into 5 or 6 yards. That adds up and makes it easier for the team to convert third downs.

I expect Jamaal Charles, healthy once again, will be used much as Andy Reid used Brian Westbrook late in his career. He will still carry the ball, however, catching the ball out of the backfield on flares and swing passes, Charles still has the speed and agility to take a short pass the distance. With Maclin drawing attention from the secondary, and Kelce establishing himself as one of the top TE weapons in the league, defenses can no longer focus solely on Charles, and that should make him more effective than ever.

Andy Reid is critical to this as well. This will be the third season in Reid’s version of the west coast offense. Reid is one of the best coaches in the game and turned around a 2012 Chiefs’ team that had two wins to 11-5 in 2013 and a playoff game against the Colts. They lost that game but not by any fault of Smith’s, who apart from a fumble, played a great game. Andy Reid is the man and author of his own slant on the west coast offense, and that leads to wins. Wins usually equal more fans in the seats of Arrowhead again. That is the stuff of magic. Reid found 137.7 decibels created a home team advantage few other stadiums could match. Arrowhead established in the 90’s that loud was really loud. Andy is a player’s coach. Players want to give more and truly be team players. He will tell you what is expected. He will tell you to be yourself and have fun. We have seen more of that in the last two seasons than ever.

Finally, great special teams can go a long way. In 2013, Special Teams coach Dave Toub did a lot with very little. He used Dexter McCluster and Knile Davis returning punts and kicks. Toub did so well the Tennessee Titans paid Dexter big money to do the same for them. Toub is a mad scientist of special teams coaching. Last season, general manager John Dorsey treated Dave Toub to DeAnthony Thomas from Oregon in the fourth round of the draft. Toub and Reid are building the team with players built for Reid’s offense. While McCluster was decent, Thomas has more game speed, and he can run through tackles. From his first preseason game, when he ran back a punt for a touchdown to his ability to take passes in space and create huge mismatches, he regularly gave the offense great starting position. Smith will be the biggest benefactor of this in 2015.

The Chiefs have a chance to be special in 2015, and I feel confident that Smith is primed for a very big year.

Millissa Beaton is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. Follow her on Twitter @SportsWizard28

This piece was co-written by Lijah Spencer – @tweaked74 on Twitter

Millissa Beaton

I Love My Kansas City Chiefs. I enjoy talking sports and am also writing about them too. Everyday I want to improve. I value my friends, family, working out. Batman, Star Wars & X-Files fan. I want to work in the field. I am forming my own radio show with my good friend @tweaked74 . Give us a listen to learn about what your favorite team is doing. We will have great guests and would love to hear from you! Go to Blogtalkradio.com

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