I believe the Kansas City Chiefs have both short term and long term needs. Today we look at four short-term needs they must address in free agency or the NFL Draft before the start of the 2014 NFL season.
1. Speedy wide receivers
The glaring need on the Chiefs offense is wide receivers who can get open and who can get off the line of scrimmage. They need to be able to create separation immediately and the receivers must force safeties to honor them deep with their speed. There will be times next season where an all out blitz may come and the Chiefs will need receivers who can make them pay. The Chiefs need receivers who can run the route tree in a speedy manner.
This off-season is the year to have your crew in place because they can grow in a tough schedule together. As you saw in Denver, you give the same group a year to build that timing and precision and it can pay off in a big way. The Chiefs must find at least two receivers who can take the top off a defense in four seconds. The other aspect is guys who have good open field vision because the YAC can be a huge advantage in this offense. Find guys who can get off the line, catch the ball in stride and turn it up field on a consistent basis.
What to look for: How quick their feet are getting off the line of scrimmage -- basically the first 10 yards of a 40-yard dash. How they react when going against press coverage -- whether they have the moves to beat it and get back on top of their route. How well they run the route tree -- if their route is fluid and doesn't get rounded off on the cuts. If they can create separation with their speed or body and if they have good vision in the open field. How they react after getting hit. When the ball isn't coming to them, how they run their route and if they are willing to run block. When they drop a pass, how they respond. The catch radius when throwing the ball in their area. If they attack the ball or wait for it to come to them. How many times they extend for the ball or try to catch it in their body.
The Chiefs showed a glaring weakness in the second half of the season because their safeties lacked range and the ability to track the deep ball. The safeties also struggled at turning their hips in time to take the proper pursuit angle. At times the safeties looked lost in coverage. They weren't sure of when to drop into their zones or when to pick up a receiver or when to turn their hips and run.
The team needs safeties who have a 40 time of 4.5 or better. This defense is about creating pressure, disrupting timing, forcing turnovers and not getting beat over top. A 4.5 or better speed gives you range in the back. It allows versatility in the coverages you can call and how you attack a team.
The next part is ball-tracking skills. A defensive back must be able to know where the ball is located and where it will be when they arrive. Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are two of the best in the league because they are able to let a receiver or tight end look open but close on the route and intercept the pass or knock it away at the moment of truth.
Lastly, they need to be comfortable in playing zone coverages. A big problem for the Chiefs safeties last season was being in the right spot. Teams attacked their zones with multiple routes and the Chiefs safeties had trouble recognizing what the offense was trying to do and recognizing the alignments and the tendencies of the opposing offense.
What to look for: 4.5 or better speed is becoming crucial in the NFL. Ball-tracking in another key component. If the safety can identify the ball and run to the spot before it gets there, he is disciplined in not getting beat deep. They know when to turn their hips in transition and get to the spot. They have good range from sideline to sideline. They are capable of covering a TE or WR if needed. They understand pursuit angles and have good football instincts.
3. Athletic tight end
I would like to see the Chiefs bring in another athletic tight end because it can do so much for your offense. Teams are able to force a safety or an athletic linebacker to the tight end, which can help create a mismatch which teams must address.
If you look in the playoffs, you find a common theme. Teams with athletic tight ends: Gates, Green (Chargers), Davis (49ers), Fleener (Colts), Graham (Saints) and Thomas (Broncos). They were all able to isolate the safeties and tight ends. If you have a tight end who can lineup in the slot position, you can create a favorable one-on-one match-up. It also can force defenders out of the box. Can you imagine Jamaal Charles and the offensive line having a 5- or 6-man front? No more 8-10 men in the box. They would have to honor the speed at receiver and the mismatch at tight end. You thought Jamaal Charles shattered records before, watch out with those options.
The tight end position is very important in Andy Reid's system. The offense runs through the tight end. The tight end is typically the first read on most plays and they understand how to adjust to the blitzes in either blocking or hot routes. They can find the hole in a zone coverage. And they need to be able to run block to help seal an edge. The offense showed it's promise in camp with a three tight end set.
What to look for: The speed to beat a linebacker or safety in one-on-one coverage. The understanding of how to use their body to create separation and box out a defender. A smart player that can digest the playbook. The ability to reach and drive on run blocks.
The Chiefs need corners who can turn and run. They need to be comfortable in zone and press coverage. Above all else, they must be able to close from the trail position and track the ball. Quick feet is a huge help as a corner. There are going to be ups and down in a game and the scheme will get you beat on some plays, but a corner on this team must always remain physical, relentless and do it with a short memory. The corners must destroy the timing of the routes and deny any route that comes in their zone.
Another crucial part is being able to flip the hips into transition. The Chiefs need corners who have the speed to stay in the hip pocket of the receiver. If they can do that, they will always have the ability to play successful man coverage.
What to look for: If they are students of the game, they know how the read a receivers hips. His feet and shoulder will try to get you to bite, but his hips will tell you where he is going. If they pay attention to small details like alignments on the hash, formations with down and distance and if they are comfortable in press or zone. Ball tracking skills are crucial. They must know where the ball is at and the best angle to get there as well as the speed to close and beat the receiver to his spot. The ability to understand how to position themselves to eliminate the routes. If they have fluid hip rotation and react well to change of direction.
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