Smith really grew this season. In training camp he had trouble throwing the deep ball within the pocket. Typically he had to rollout or run a bootleg to feel comfortable with the throws over 25 yards. His 79-yard throw to Donnie Avery in the playoff game showed how far he has come.
The Chiefs needed a veteran who could implement this system. He had experienced enough NFL games to have a calm demeanor in the pocket, and he wouldn't attempt risky throws and turn the ball over. Smith accomplished all those things in 2013. Smith also had a shaky offensive line for the first nine games. He was able to use his scrambling ability to avoid serious injury this season. A majority of the time, Smith put the ball in front of his receiver and threw to spots where his receiver wouldn't take a serious hit. He has exceeded expectations in year one.
Daniel provided the Chiefs a veteran who could digest the complex playbook. He had enough experience in the film room and on the practice field that the game wasn't too big for him if called upon. The Chargers game in Week 17 showed growth in his ability with the deep ball to AJ Jenkins along with the fourth quarter drive. Daniel is a player you typically need to utilize on rollouts and bootlegs, which allows him to see downfield and seems to be a more relaxing approach for his throws. Daniel has earned another opportunity with the Chiefs next season. If a team wanted to invest a fourth or fifth round pick on him, I would listen given his performance in the Chargers game.
Bray showed off his big arm in training camp and the preseason. The ball came out with great velocity, the spin was quick and it got to the receiver quickly. When Bray rifles the ball, a secondary doesn't have long to make a break on the throw.
Where Bray needs to improve is he must learn to read an NFL defense. He won't be able to rifle every throw into a spot. He will need to set the secondary up from time to time with his pump fake and his eyes.
Bray also has some things to fine tune in his mechanics. I want to see him be able to throw at multiple launch points with the same result. I want to see clean footwork in his throws and steps into a throw and if he can get the ball up a little quicker in his release. Bray provides a team a project with all the tools to succeed. At training camp I was reminded of Joe Flacco on some of his throws. I need to see him put it all together though. That will take time in this offense. Luckily, he has two veterans in front of him.
The QB position is not a team need at this time. If the Chiefs feel Bray is ready for the second spot in the depth chart, I would attempt to move Daniel and draft a project for the third spot. But, I'm very comfortable with the roster they have at this moment. I anticipate another quarterback for training camp though. You don't want to wear out the arm of your starter in drills.
It's been a staple of Andy Reid's offense: Running backs who can catch out in the flat and pick up positive yardage. A receiving back with speed is crucial in this system. So let's look at the current crop.
As Bill Maas put it, Jamaal Charles is a modern day Marcus Allen. When you think about it, that is 100 percent accurate. Allen could burst through a hole as soon as he found it, contort his body to avoid a hit and still get positive yardage. Allen could take a five-yard loss for most backs and turn it into a 25-yard gain. Charles is that same type of running back.
He is the best wide receiver on this team. He can catch a ball in space, make defenders miss and get a huge gain. He is a mismatch for any defender on the field and he can take it the distance on every play. He can beat a corner, safety or linebacker with his speed out wide. Charles has the right mindset, too. He is capable of carrying this team on his back and he doesn't complain about it. He just keeps pushing to win the game.
That desire from Charles is what makes him such a special player. With the right offensive line and speedy receiver threats, Charles can smash NFL records, and the nightmare would just begin for some teams.
Davis came into the season with fumbling issues and a lot to learn about running in the NFL. He needed to learn how to pass protect in the NFL and he needed to learn just how quickly holes close in the NFL. Davis learned some of those things as the season went on.
He learned how to rise up into a defender after contact, which allowed him the ability to punish a defender with his shoulder but also run him over and break free on contact. He is still learning how to see the hole in the NFL and protect the ball. Davis still needs to learn how to set up his blockers but that will take time in the league.
He did a better job in his final two games of protecting the ball. It seemed like he was thinking so hard about that that he didn't have the same authority in his run. That will balance out with time as well.
Davis is a rare breed returning the football. Not many returners in the league can make a sharp cut, without losing any speed and continue to run forward. Davis is able to do it without hesitation. The big concern going into 2014 is how he returns from his broken leg. Can he be the same running back?
Gray got a chance to showcase himself in the final two games and he was a big contributor on special teams. When his number was called though, he seemed to struggle. You didn't see that burst Charles or Davis had. The offense sputtered in its ability to churn yardage. The drop off between Davis and Gray was significant. Gray needs to work on enhancing his speed in the off-season and continue to be a big contributor on special teams.
Little did we know how big the trade would be for this team. Sherman was a quick fullback who could lay a block. He helped clear the way for Charles and did a great job at it. He could catch the ball out of the flats and contribute on special teams. Sherman understands his responsibilities in the routes he runs and was a great pickup for the Chiefs last offseason.
With the injury of Knile Davis, the Chiefs would be smart to look at investing in a couple of running backs with speed. If Charles were to sustain a serious injury in 2014, the team would lack speed at the position. The team needs to find a speed back, who can catch out of the flats and pick up a blitz.
Andy Reid has had a wide variety of receivers in his career. What the successful receivers did well was gain separation, understand the weak spots in a zone and get the big yards after catch. So we look at the receiving corp.
The No. 1 receiver on this team didn't have the best year in his career. Bowe did a great job of blocking this season and he wasn't a problem publicly. But the intensity wasn't the same this season. At times I wondered if he was hurt this season because he didn't have the same burst as he did last year. It took Alex Smith time to get comfortable throwing him the ball in a tight window and at times Bowe seemed to round off his routes.
When it comes to route running, the two routes you can count on him to run well are the slant and the fade. Unfortunately on 4th-and-11, the fade was an issue with the season on the line.
How Bowe responds in 2014 will be interesting. He has his money. He had a down year in production and effort. When he is 100 percent healthy, do we see the 2010 Bowe or the 2013 Bowe? Right now, Bowe is a possession slot receiver. You can successfully work him over the middle, let him break a couple of tackles and move the chains. Bowe has all the ability; he just needs to consistently put it together.
We will get our answer next season; otherwise the writing will be on the wall.
He has all the speed to succeed in Andy Reid's offense. Typically, the only time that speed was showcased was when the cornerback was playing soft. When given a free release off the line of scrimmage, Avery can make a play and he can eat up a cushion and give that much needed explosion on the offense. The problem is when a corner jams him at the line of scrimmage. He struggles winning the battle. And when he does get open, Avery has a habit of catching the ball into his body. He doesn't attack the ball with his hands and wall off the defender. He lets the ball come into his body and potential bounce off or allow the corner to make a play.
With each drop in a game, he seemed to lose confidence and get down on himself. He needs to fix those things in the off-season or maybe it's his end in Kansas City.>
McCluster has finally found a coaching staff that understood how to utilize his ability. He provided the team with another option in the flat and a short yardage receiver who could keep the chains moving. McCluster still had issues with some of his route running but he was dynamic when allowed in open space.
He was also a big contributor on special teams and helped change field position on a regular basis. My biggest knock on him is his dancing. On returns, he always wanted to dance through traffic rather than head north or south. He needs to utilize his speed, make the cut and go from there.
I would like to see him back in 2014 but I wouldn't be surprised if he got another opportunity elsewhere in free agency. At the right price, I would like to see him return. His production can be duplicated in both areas if needed.
Hemingway really improved this season. He ran better routes and did a better job of attacking the ball. The game seemed to slow down for him. He wasn't as hesitant on the field. He provides the Chiefs with a great gunner on special teams.
He deserves more playing time in 2014. During the off-season he needs to continue working on his route running, accelerating out of his breaks and getting a free release at the line of scrimmage.
Jenkins came up with four big catches this season; most of them were in the second half of the season. He seemed to gain some comfort in the offense. He deserves another opportunity in 2014 when he has a full off-season. It's tough to come in a couple weeks before the regular season, learn a playbook and get comfortable with the quarterback.
Jenkins flashed the speed and big play ability once the ball is in his hands. I believe we saw enough flashes from Jenkins that he can build on it.
At this moment, the Chiefs need to find 2-3 receivers. Bowe and Hemingway provide you with possession receivers. They now must find speed to complement them. The Chiefs need to find receivers who can gain separation and consistently beat press coverage. The receivers need to be explosive. They also must be able to run after the catch.
This offense lacked explosion at the wide receiver position last season. The coaches had to create formations just to get their current crew space off the line of scrimmage. An upgrade at the receiver position will help the offense open up. Charles will have more room to work in space and Bowe won't see consistent double teams.
The Broncos are a key illustration of what the Chiefs must become. If you can create that, the offense would be lethal and Charles could run and catch with plenty of room. The Chiefs will face some daunting defenses in 2014. The team needs to get wide receivers who can get open quickly so Alex Smith isn't take so many hits.
The tight end position is one of the most important positions in Andy Reid's system. They need to be good run blockers, understand the holes in coverage and be able to get open quickly for the quarterback. The offense runs through the tight end position. They are the safety blankets for any QB in this system.
Fasano is an incredible pass catcher. He can track down a ball with the best of them. Ball tracking skills are very underrated for a tight end with speed. Fasano knows how to adjust to a pass, make the acrobatic catch and tap both feet down. He is a smart player who can find the holes in coverage. He is also a solid run blocker who can seal an edge very well.
I don't believe he was healthy a majority of the 2013 season. His injury from the Cowboys game lingered. I believe he fought through the injury but never got back to 100 percent of what he was in training camp.
Fasano provides you a veteran on the roster. He can be relied upon to make the tough catch. He knows how to work in the NFL and the technique it takes to succeed. I anticipate seeing the same tight end in camp that was very productive in the offense.
What the Chiefs were able to get out of McGrath was impressive. He is one of those blue-collar guys, going to work hard and give you everything.
He has a lot to work on this off-season. He needs to work on his route running, attempting to increase his speed and his run blocking. McGrath struggled sealing the edge and with his run blocking in general. The offense was noticeably different when Fasano went down. McGrath did the best he could with how little he knew of the playbook and the team designed formations to get him open. McGrath never really beat single coverage and I think that will be a problem in 2014. He deserves an opportunity to prove himself next season but I would look for an upgrade.
Kelce is a mismatch. An athletic tight end, Kelce can beat a linebacker in single coverage while corners and safeties will have trouble with him. He is an aggressive run blocker and relentless once he gets his hands on a defender. He showed a wow ability catching the ball in training camp.
His knee injury stunted his growth his rookie year but he will be a nice addition for the offense in 2014. I would still bring in another tight end in case he needs time in his development.
In mini-camp and OTAs, Harris showcased some impressive athletic ability for his size. He had better burst in and out of his cuts compared to Kevin Brock, who was in camp last year. The big question was how he would respond when the pads and helmet came on because he hadn't played football since high school. So the learning curve for him was going to take time. How to properly step on a reach block, how to properly place your hands so it's not called holding. It will be interesting to see where his development is come OTAs.
Again, I wouldn't put all my eggs in the basket. He may need another year on the practice squad to develop.
The Chiefs are in need of another tight end. They may already have that player on the roster in Harris, Kelce or McGrath. I would still attempt to go find an athletic tight end. I want a mismatch that can threaten a defense down field. When he is matched up in single coverage, he can beat that man.
When Fasano, Kelce and Moeaki were all on the field during training camp, it was a thing of beauty. They could switch the position in and out like a NASCAR pit crew. Nobody got tired because they had a capable backup. There wasn't a drop off because you had three athletic tight ends. The Chiefs need to find that again.
We saw how quickly a position of strength turned into a weakness. Moeaki got hurt, Kelce got hurt, and then Fasano got hurt. In almost three weeks time, the position was running on fumes. The Chiefs must find an athletic tight end to add another dimension over the middle. Worst case, it gives you more depth in case of injury.
Andy Reid likes big offensive tackles with great arm length. He likes big guards who can maul you and he likes an athletic center that is strong at the point of attack. Above all else, they need to be able to pass protect and pick up stunts.
Albert proved every doubter wrong this season. He never showed issue with his supposedly injured back on the field. He was healthy a majority of the games this season. He rarely had issues in pass protection and was good in space on screens and pulls. Albert had the best pass pro set on the team with good bend, good form and a good punch to neutralize his defender. Albert also understands how to ride his defender past the spot to give a clean pocket.
Lastly, he was a leader on the Chiefs offense as the oldest offensive lineman. You always saw him working with the young guys and he was very vocal on the sidelines. He would be a welcome return next season but I expect him to get some very good offers on the open market.
Allen really improved from his first to second year with a much better season in terms of his strength. He didn't get bull rushed to the quarterback or running back like he did the prior season. He got better at re-anchoring himself to regain leverage on a block and he was better at his pulls and reaches this season. His bend got better and his punch improved.
The only issue that stuck out was his turn. Early on in the season, he would turn his back. He would help his teammate by engaging in a double team and allow for a rush lane. In year three, I want to see him drop some weight and gain some strength. That will help his bend and help his punch improve.
I was impressed with the growth I saw from him. This is a big off-season for him to make that next jump.
Asamoah is a smart player, who understands the blocking angles and the steps he needs to take to get there. He was able to identify and pickup the stunts when the season rolled around. The problem he had this season was the ability to execute it. Asamoah lost a lot of his lateral quickness this season. The team asked him to pull and reach a lot this season. He struggled with both.
Another big struggle of Asamoah's over the years has been the bull rush. He has trouble re-anchoring when a defender gets underneath him. He needs to hop and reset his hips and reposition his hands to get a stalemate.
Another issue Asamoah had this season was his hand placement. He needed to get a strong punch inside, from time to time he would grab his hands on the shoulders of the defender allowing his chest to be exposed.
I don't expect Asamoah to return this season. I think his benching had a lot to do with the bull rushes he was sustaining in pass protection and his issues on reach steps. He typically needed a defender to perform a combo block with him so he could wall off his angle.
The unfortunate injury last year set Hudson back because he lost a year of experience and had to spend that time recovering. So essentially this became his second season on the field.
He has the toughest job on the field because he needs to know every protection and he must be able to communicate that to the entire line, which can be an overwhelming job. You must be a smart player who can handle making a call, identifying the blitz, snapping the ball and making your step to the correct spot.
Hudson is another player who needs to work on improving his punch. He would also benefit from losing some weight in his stomach because it would allow him to bend a little bit more. Coming out of Florida State, Hudson was one of the better pulling guards in the draft. Since his injury, I haven't seen that same player. I hope this off-season can help him regain some of that form. He had trouble dealing with nose tackles, so the weight room is going to be crucial in helping him gain that strength to stop the tackle.
When you pop on the tape, you see a run mauler. Schwartz is relentless as a run blocker. He is going to block until the whistle. Right guard is a natural position for Schwartz. You can tell he is at home on that side of the ball. Schwartz had solid pass pro sets and he is another veteran who understands how to re-anchor. He can neutralize a defender when they start getting some push.
Schwartz is a great combo blocker. If you allow him to combo block, he has a good reach step and can get his hips in front of the defender quickly to give that running lane. He was a great addition to the offensive line and is a crucial re-sign for 2014.
The growth for Stephenson from year one to year two was fantastic. He had a much better pass set. He had a good punch and he could throw a defender like a rag doll if given the chance. Stephenson has a mean streak in him. He will not stop playing until the whistle has blown. He wants to pancake you and put you in the dirt. It seems like every single play he wants to dominate his opponent.
He was hands down was the best combo blocker on the team. He gets really good drive to turn a defenders shoulders, allow his teammate to get his reach step and get in position to wall off the defender. Then Stephenson gets to the second level and takes away any pursuit angle the backers may have. When you get to watch Stephenson combo block, it is a thing of beauty.
Stephenson also showed his versatility. Not many linemen can switch from right to left in a game or change positions from right tackle to left guard. The amount of muscle memory needed and ability to execute each position is tough, but somehow he makes it look easy. If he can continue to work on his strength, his punch can be vicious in 2014.
Fisher had a rough rookie season. The injuries mounted up and he went through a lot of growing pains. He seemed uncomfortable on the right side of the ball and took long strides in his pass sets. He didn't have the punch you want to have to stone wall a defender. He dropped his head on some pass sets and he angled himself too far towards the sidelines at times.
In run blocking, he had a habit of leaning on his defender. Unfortunately those are the growing pains that you see from a rookie. What Fisher did show, though, was his athleticism. He is able to pull and get into space quickly. He can get to the second level quicker than most on the team. He shows that mean streak he had on tape at times and he will give you the effort on the field. He also improved his re-anchor as the season went along.
There are plenty of things to fix in his technique but the talent is definitely there. You saw those flashes during the games.
Kush is without a doubt the quickest lineman on the team. Nobody has a quicker reach step and ability to get to the second level. If you pop on the San Diego tape, you see it very quickly. He needs to work on his strength this off-season but the talent is there. He was a more technically sound lineman from camp to Week 17. The future is bright for him if he is given the time to develop.
I know a couple of linemen were not evaluated on the roster. I just didn't see enough tape on them. I expect Albert to get an offer if he hits the open market and if he leaves, I could see Fisher going to left tackle with Stephenson staying at right tackle.
Schwartz is a player who needs to be re-signed. He and Stephenson have great chemistry on the right side of the line. Their combo blocks together are a thing of beauty. If Kush can get his strength up, I see him pushing Hudson for starting time. I could also see the Chiefs going after a center if an elite guy hits the open market. The Chiefs would also be wise to look at potential backup offensive tackles in case of an injury. The Chiefs are in a good position depth wise at guard.
Chiefs 2014 free agents
LT Branden Albert
G Geoff Schwartz
G Jon Asamoah
WR Dexter McCluster
WR Kyle Williams
DE Tyson Jackson
LB Akeem Jordan
LB Frank Zombo
S Kendrick Lewis
DB Husain Abdullah
DB Quintin Demps
LS Thomas Gafford
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