Kansas City Chiefs Season Preview

Football is back in Kansas City. After just missing the playoffs in 2014 with a nine win and seven loss campaign, the Kansas City Chiefs came back with vengeance. They started the 2015 season by winning 27-20 against the Houston Texans.   

“The Chiefs are good enough to win 10 or more games and play in the postseason,” Adam Teicher of ESPN said.

In their game against Houston, this past sunday, the Chiefs did not disappoint. They were strong offensively and defensively, scoring 27 points and gaining nearly 350 yards of total offense They also forced two turnovers and had 5 sacks on Houston’s quarterback. The Chiefs look like a different team than last year’s product; most of the key players from last year’s team are returning,  a few more key players are returning from injuries they suffered in 2014, and the Chiefs made some key offseason acquisitions.

The Chiefs made many changes to their roster in the offseason. First, they upgraded their receiver spot by releasing Dwayne Bowe and replacing him with pro-bowler, Jeremy Maclin. The Chiefs also signed offensive lineman Paul Fanaika, safety Tyvon Branch, and safety Ron Parker.  To finish out the month of March, the chiefs traded for offensive lineman Ben Grubbs from the New Orleans Saints, in exchange for a future 5th round pick. In the 2015 NFL Draft, the Chiefs drafted cornerback Marcus Peters, offensive lineman Mitch Morse, and wide receiver Chris Conley, among others. Ending their offseason, the Chiefs signed their all-pro linebacker Justin Houston to a long-term contract.

Quarterback Alex Smith is now entering his third year at the helm of the Chiefs offense.

Since the Chiefs acquired Alex Smith in 2013, Smith has played the best football of his career… While he may not be elite, he is a quality NFL quarterback a team can win with,”  Greg Gabriel of NFPost.com reported.

People believe Smith to be a good quarterback because of his ability to protect the football and lack of turnovers.

One of the smarter and most accurate passers in the game, Smith has, on paper, as many toys to play with as he’s ever had in Kansas City,” Athlon Sports reported.

Chiefs running back, Jamaal Charles, is regarded as one of the top running backs in the league. Charles, one of Smith’s better offensive toys,  led the Chiefs last year in rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns, and was tied for receiving touchdowns.

“Jamaal Charles is a special talent, and arguably THE best all-around back in the NFL,” SB Nation reported.

By his own standards Jamaal compares himself to the best basketball player in the world, LeBron James.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m the Lebron of football, because I can do so much,” Charles said.  

What makes Jamaal special as a running back is he is very unique. “[Charles] has rare 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,”  Gabriel said.

Smith’s newest weapon, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, brings new life to an underwhelming position for the Chiefs last year. “[Maclin] not only provides the legitimate deep threat the [Chiefs]lacked the past season, but also is a wide receiver who runs well after the catch,”  Teicher said.

The other Chiefs receivers include nine-year NFL veteran, Jason Avant, who “brings a steadying veteran presence and is a reliable third down target that knows how to get open”  SB Nation. reported

To round out the receivers, the Chiefs have Albert Wilson and Chris Conley. Wilson really showed improvement towards the end of last season (three games with 50 or more receiving yards in the last four games), and Conley, a rookie, might be one of the best athletes in the league.

The one “pass-catching” bright spot the Chiefs had last season was second year tight end, Travis Kelce, who is primed for an even bigger breakout season this year now that he has taken the starting tight end spot.

“[Kelce] is big, fast, strong, athletic and is just beginning to come into his own,” Greg Gabriel of NFPost.com said.

One of the biggest question marks for the Chiefs entering the season was how well would the offensive line play and protect Alex Smith.

“I tend to believe this group will be improved over last year’s version, because of the addition of Grubbs, and the improvement of Fisher and Stephenson,”  SB Nation reported.

The offensive line did show signs of improvement on Sunday in limiting one of the league’s best pass rushers, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, to only two sacks.

On the defensive side of the ball, and like the Chiefs we begin with the pass rush. Two time pro-bowler and Chiefs star nose tackle, Dontari Poe, was able to play and contribute against the Texans in week one, despite having surgery for a herniated disk in late July.

“Poe is a giant amongst giants. He’s the biggest and arguably most important cog in the machine,” Craig Stout of SB Nation said.

The Chiefs also returned arguably the best pass rushing tandem in the league in outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Hali is three sacks away from being second place on the Chiefs list of all-time sack leaders, while Justin Houston — already fourth on that list — was a half sack shy last season of tying the NFL single season record for sacks. In 2014, Hali and Houston combined for 28 sacks. 

Veteran leader and three time pro-bowler, Derrick Johnson, returned for the 2015 season after suffering a torn achilles in the first game of 2014. The year prior to his injury, Johnson led the Chiefs with 107 tackles, caught two interceptions, and recovered two fumbles.

The most surprising position of strength for the Chiefs last year was the secondary, and it looks to be still improving in 2015.

“Cornerback Sean Smith had the best season of his career last year and looks to repeat it,”  Craig Stout of SB Nation said.

With their first selection in the 2015 NFL Draft the Chiefs found a potential star in Marcus Peters, who had the first interception of 2015 for the Chiefs on sunday. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller had Peters ranked as the best cornerback in the draft and a top-15 overall player.

“Peters looks like a pro, moves like a pro and plays like a pro… He’s going to be an impact player early as a pro,”  Miller said.

Much is expected from the cornerback position this season, even from the players themselves. “I hate to say that I’m picking up where I left off because as a team, as a unit, we didn’t make it to where we needed to be, we didn’t finish number one, we were number two in pass defense but we weren’t number one,” Sean Smith said.

At safety the Chiefs signed Tyvon Branch, and return starters Ron Parker and Husain Abdullah. The Chiefs also return Eric Berry after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma last season. Berry wasn’t expected to return to football for the next couple of years, so even though he is back with the team not much should be expected from him this year in terms of production, but Berry will serve as the spiritual leader and rallying point of the team.

On special teams the Chiefs have a couple of exciting return men in speedster Knile Davis, former Oregon track-star, De’anthony Thomas, and the athletic freak that is Chris Conley.

The Chiefs are entering their third season under Head Coach Andy Reid. In the past two seasons they have a combined record of 20 wins and 12 losses. “They’re a well-coached team that will play well on defense and special teams and should run the ball effectively when Jamaal Charles is in the lineup. The Chiefs also won’t throw many interceptions as long as Alex Smith is their quarterback” Teicher said.