Here's how the Kansas City Chiefs can get better on offense

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs face a tough Denver Broncos squad. While the focus will be on the Chiefs defense against Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense, the Chiefs offense is under the microscope as well. Read on to see how the Chiefs offense can improve in the second half of the season.

On the (short) list of deficiencies for the 2013 Chiefs, offensive production stands alone at the top. Let's face it: Kansas City has not been very good on that side of the ball this season.

For example: if you subtract defensive and special teams scores, the Chiefs are averaging about 18.5 points per game ... by comparison, Denver is at 38 points per game of pure offense. To be fair, the Broncos are far and away the gold standard on offense in the NFL - the Saints stand in second place at 29.5 offensive points per game.

Normally, this is the part where I'd start telling you about why the Chiefs don't have to be very good offensively because they play with the best defense in the NFL ... naw man, not this time.

First, let's go over a few reasons why the Chiefs haven't been lighting up the scoreboard.

Kansas City's offensive line is the second youngest in the NFL at an average age of about 26 years. Additionally, three of their five starters (Jeff Allen, Rodney Hudson and Eric Fisher) began the season at less than 100 percent health and only had a combined 17 starts between them. Continuity in the trenches is remarkably important and something the Chiefs have been lacking for a few years now. There's reason to believe their level of play will at least mildly increase over the final seven games if for no other reason than improved health and familiarity with one another. You've already started to see some perpetuity from rookie Eric Fisher, receiving his highest grades of the season from PFF in each of his last two games.

There's reason to believe the level of play from the o-line will at least mildly increase over the final seven games if for no other reason than improved health and familiarity with one another.

In addition to an inexperienced offensive line, the Chiefs are also in the first year of an entirely new offensive system under head coach Andy Reid. While some changes are more noticeable than others, one undeniable fact has been the muted concepts being utilized as the season has worn on.

Pardon the confusing vernacular. Allow me to explain what I meant by "muted concepts":

Rewind to the preseason. One of the buzzwords we heard repeatedly was pace. Hurry-up principles were prevalent but seemed to fade after the first few regular season games. There are a few possible explanations as to why the offense slowed down a bit, one of which is their 36 percent conversion rate on third down. When an offense stalls on third down so often, it's hard to get into the kind of rhythm necessary to embrace an up-tempo system.

Regardless of the reasons behind it, the shift in philosophy while installing this new system has steered the offense off-track a bit. Initially, using no-huddle and hurry-up with such regularity was a way to keep opposing defenses off-balance. As the season has worn on, Andy Reid has come to realize that field position and time of possession are major strengths of this team.

Perhaps most telling are the outstanding performances the Chiefs are getting from Dustin Colquitt, now second in the league in total punts with 55 on the season. His 26 punts inside the 20 lead the league and if you add in his five touchbacks, more than half of his punts leave opponents at the 20 yard line or less. Yes, I just used punting statistics as a major positive for offensive efficiency. Laugh all you like, the numbers are undeniable.

Moving forward, there a number of ways the Chiefs can take a step forward offensively, most of which are an extension of improved offensive line play.

Jamaal Charles is the clear focal-point for Kansas City evidenced by having only six fewer touches than league-leader LeSean McCoy despite playing one game less than Philadelphia. For his career, Charles averages a gaudy 5.5 yards per carry, more than a full yard better than his 2013 average of 4.3 yards per carry.

The hardest stat to ignore at this juncture is Charles' lack of explosive plays -- just six touches (five receptions, one carry) over 20 yards on the season with his longest play going for just 31 yards. In his previous three seasons as a starter, Jamaal has had 41 touches of 20-plus yards, 15 of which went for 40-plus.

Also worth noting is Jamaal's lack of high-carry totals to this point in the season. His 170 carries average out to less than 20 per game and his largest load so far has been just 22 in a game. The age-old adage about wearing-down opposing defenses hasn't really come into play thus far, yet somehow Charles has still found a way to do the lion's share of his damage on the ground in the fourth quarter of games.

Just look at the totals:


ATT

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

REC

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

Q1

40

148

3.7

19

1

15

173

11.5

31

1

Q2

33

146

4.4

17

2

15

121

8.1

21

0

Q3

30

121

4.0

18

1

8

47

5.9

21

0

Q4

67

310

4.6

24

2

9

48

5.3

13

1

Is it safe to assume Jamaal's "explosion" numbers will improve right along with the offensive line?

Survey says ... absolutely. Better blocking = better running lanes = better opportunities for long runs.

You know what else improved offensive line play can do for the Chiefs? Give Alex Smith more time to throw, which also means the receivers have more time to get open. Sure, we love quick passes in Kansas City ... some of that is simply a matter of convenience though.

Andy Reid's West Coast Offense is predicated upon timing, and time to throw plays a starring role. Of Alex Smith's 53 carries this year, how many do you think were designed runs? How many were a direct result of poor pass protection? What about inaccurate and / or purposeful throw-aways?

These things add up quicker than you might imagine.

May I also remind you that three of the Chiefs final seven games come against Denver and Washington, two of the worst defenses in the NFL?

How about the fact that Dwayne Bowe is seeing more targets and starting to round into form? Did you know he caught seven passes against Buffalo, amounting to more than 20 percent of his season total?

Being undefeated at the midway point and suffering no major injuries was quite an achievement ... but the Chiefs have a lot of work left to do.

For more than a decade, Andy Reid's bread and butter was the two-tight set. After losing Travis Kelce (and Tony Moeaki) for the season and Anthony Fasano for several weeks, Sean McGrath was able to earn Alex Smith's trust as a solid pass catcher. Now that Fasano is back to 100 percent, Kansas City has two reliable tight ends for the first time this season. An added bonus: both Fasano and McGrath are well above average run blockers, which should further aid Jamaal Charles in the second half of the season.

To say the Chiefs squeaked-out their last few games before the bye is probably a bit generous ... hell, they somehow managed to beat Buffalo without scoring an offensive touchdown. That's plumb crazy.

Real talk: being undefeated at the midway point and suffering no major injuries was quite an achievement ... but the Chiefs have a lot of work left to do. The week off couldn't have come at a better time. I may be in the minority, but I firmly believe this offense will take major steps forward in the final seven regular season games.

What say you?

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