The regular season is now on the horizon with the Kansas City Chiefs facing the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in Week 1. The Titans game can be looked at as a must win for the Chiefs given the rest of their schedule. Before the Week 6 bye, the Chiefs will face the Titans, Broncos, Dolphins, Patriots and 49ers. You're hoping for 2-3 or 3-2 there.
What can Andy Reid do with the playcalling?
Andy Reid will throw out a ton of formations, including some new stuff -- three tight ends, multiple running backs on the field and more. There will likely be a ton of crosses and quick three step drops with screens blended in to account for the Chiefs offensive line. For that reason, the play calling will be fun to watch in this first game. The deep shots will likely be taken after the run game is set up for play action with the Chiefs in max protect. Like last year's opener, this game can set a great tempo for the season.
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Can the offensive line gel?
The line struggled with passing off assignments in stunts and shuffling down on blitz pickups. QB Alex Smith and C Rodney Hudson will be crucial in making the correct calls. The rest of the line needs to execute to perfection. Tight ends and running backs will likely be helping in pass protection by chipping pass rushers.
"It takes a little while. It's not an overnight thing," Chiefs OC Doug Pederson said. "It's not an overnight fix by any means. It starts with Rodney (Hudson); it starts with Alex (Smith) in the middle. The biggest thing with protection is communication and making sure the guys are ID-ing the right guys and then listening to the calls and just executing your job. You do that and the protection is solid."
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Who steps up if they take Jamaal Charles away?
The mission of every Chiefs opponent this season will be to take Charles away. The Chiefs will face talented defenses who have the ability to do that. Dwayne Bowe, Anthony Fasano, Travis Kelce, Albert Wilson and Knile Davis will need to be those players who step up for the Chiefs. Teams are going to spy Charles. They will stack eight and nine in the box at times to force the Chiefs to throw. Teams will challenge Alex Smith and the offensive line to beat them with the deep ball. The aforementioned Chiefs players need to come up with explosive plays (20-plus yards) to force defenses to back off.
Andy Reid and Doug Pederson can scheme players open but the players need to execute and rise to the occasion. Chiefs OC Doug Pederson talked about players willing the Chiefs to victory, which Pederson touched on this week: "I think it's very important because when you get into crunch time of the game, you get late in the fourth quarter and you want those guys to rise to the occasion and sort of inspire your football team. Again, the situation dictates itself. You shouldn't need a leader at that time, but if you need it it's a good time to have it."
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Can the front seven protect the secondary?
The front seven will need to disrupt the offensive passing games by collapsing the pocket and getting quarterbacks off their spot in three to five step drops. The defense needs to buy time for the secondary and keep them from getting exposed.
The corners have an aggressive and physical style of coverage and defensive penalties have become an epidemic in the preseason. The increase in penalties comes with playing this brand of defense. Bob Sutton elaborated this week: "Well, we want to be an all-out aggressive team. Again, I want to put the emphasis, I'm not talking about number of people rushing the quarterback, I'm just saying the way we play the game. We want to play like that and we want to play with a passion you can feel on film. When we watch film sometimes you can feel that and you're watching somebody else play. I'll say, ‘that team plays it the way we'd like to play the game.' That's how the game is supposed to be played. To me that's playing like a Chief, the way we want it done."
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What kind of statement will the Chiefs make?
The greatest opportunity in the Chiefs schedule this season is the adversity they will face. In other words, the schedule is much tougher. There will be momentum swings and times when they are forced to rise to the occasion. Fans will get the chance to find out about their team's mental toughness throughout the season. Players will be forced to step up in positions to make plays and lead this team. 2013 was about learning the scheme and how to win. 2014 is about staring adversity in the face and rising above it for that next level of excellence.
Here are a couple of quotes from Doug Pederson, Bob Sutton and Alex Smith on what kind of statements can be made on Sunday.
Offensive Coordinator Doug Pederson: "I want them to come out and be aggressive. I want them to play hard, play fast, be an aggressive, physical group and limit some of the mistakes, but mistakes are going to happen in this game and keeping five guys in a cohesive group is a tough thing to do. But Rodney's a great leader, Alex is a great leader, and they'll do a great job."
Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton: "The great thing about the opening game is you really never know about your team until this team takes that field and plays. And I've always felt that you really won't even know that until something goes bad. Then you're going to find out what kind of team you have, and in our case what kind of defense you are going to have. That's a big part of this thing. You guys have watched enough NFL football to know there's swings in this game that happen. The teams that can handle them and come right back and not lose a step and not be back on their heels - to me, they are the ones ultimately that over the course of 16 games are going to be successful."
QB Alex Smith: "I mean, the statement is the win. That's all that we're worried about is just trying to find a way to win and every team, all 32 teams in the NFL are trying to do the exact same thing and Tennessee is trying to do the same thing. You just hope you've done all the little things preparing and those little things on game day that will give you the edge. I don't think there's a statement we're trying to make other than get to 1-0."
Sunday will be the first step in finding out what kind of statement the Chiefs plan to make in 2014.