The old adage says, "If it's not broken..." but this year's version of the Kansas City Chiefs is winning despite looking at times like a roster with serious issues. Health is a serious concern. Roster changes and youth development were a part of the story early on as well. But the overall offensive performance remains a problem despite the team's 8-3 overall record.
An interesting trend for the offense is that they've drifted away from what most of us might assume. After another offseason spent solidifying the offensive line — extending Eric Fisher's contract, signing Mitchell Schwartz to a five-year deal, drafting Parker Ehinger — the Chiefs are as solid up front as they've been in years. That sort of front should work well to allow the running game to flourish. Alas, that's been the case... and it's not the case.
This year's Chiefs are running the ball fairly well. While the team is once again without their most dangerous offensive weapon in Jamaal Charles, his replacement, Spencer Ware, is running the ball at a 4.7 yards/carry clip — good enough for No. 7 among running backs in the NFL (and above others like Le'Veon Bell and DeMarco Murray). It's a step down from last year's 5.6 yards/carry by Ware, but of course, he only had 72 carries all of last season. Ware has been a force this year since Week 1.
Yet if Ware runs the ball so well and if the team has bolstered the line in front of him, why aren't the Chiefs running the ball more? In 2015, the Chiefs averaged 27.2 running plays per game — good for 48% of the team's offensive snaps. It was a much more balanced attack compared with this year's version. Despite the o-line improvement and Ware's overall effectiveness, the Chiefs are averaging only 24.2 running plays per game. If that doesn't sound too far off last year, note that the Chiefs are averaging 36.5 passes per game. In summary, the Chiefs went from running the ball 48% of the time last year to only 40% this year.
What makes this even more difficult to understand is that the loss of Jeremy Maclin has only emboldened the passing game. In the last three games, the Chiefs have ran the ball 37% of the time. Ware's average is down in that time to 4.13 yards/carry but that's healthy enough to still move the chains.
If you've wondered something like "Why aren't they running the ball more?" this year, the numbers ask the same question. Certainly much of this is Alex Smith's newfound hesitation to run the football — a significant component from last year's offense, indeed. But Ware has proven himself capable as a feature back if the Chiefs would only feed him the ball more. Maybe there are other reasons, but it's at least curious enough to ask about the shift in offensive philosophy since Doug Pederson left the team.