As the Chiefs wrap up training camp in St. Joseph, we asked some of the Arrowhead Pride contributors to weigh in on a few questions.
What makes you optimistic about the Chiefs right now?
MNChiefsfan (Seth Keysor): I'm most optimistic, oddly enough, because of the offense. I think the offensive line may be significantly better than it's been in years past, and while the WR group still has question marks it seems (on the surface) to be upgraded from last season. Combine that with the return of Jamaal Charles and the reality that Spencer Ware is (in my opinion) an absolute stud of a second RB option, and the offense seems poised to perform at a pretty high level.
Matt Conner: Depth. Even when the Chiefs were losers, they still sent 5-6 guys to the Pro Bowl. The impact talent has always been there, but John Dorsey has filled in every hole on this roster. Now there are difficult decisions at every position, with layers of developing players all over the roster. This is the best kind of problem to have. The Chiefs can withstand injury, regression and age as well as any team, and those are the teams who play well into the postseason.
Super_G: Mitch Schwartz will be the key that unlocks the Chiefs offense. So many times before Alex Smith scrambled out of the pocket because he saw a defender coming at him from his right. Schwartz will keep defenders at bay and Smith will be more comfortable in the pocket, which will result in a career year for Smith.
The Blogfather (Joel Thorman): The offensive line. We haven't seen Alex Smith behind a really good offensive line since he was in San Francisco so I want to see what he can do with a good line while throwing to Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce. If the offense is ever going to take another step under Alex Smith, this is the year.
Stagdsp (Matt Stagner): I’m officially the eternal optimist around here, so I could give you about 20 reasons (offensive line, Rod Streater, Spencer Ware, youth, QB play, etc) I’ll go with the defensive line for this discussion. We already know that Dontari Poe and Allen Bailey were absolute monsters that would be anchoring the Chiefs defense in 2016. We thought Jaye Howard would get big money elsewhere, but his return was a welcome surprise. Add Chris Jones to the mix, and you have four guys who are legitimate freaks of nature that can stop the run and rush the passer. Just as a good offensive line makes the entire offensive more effective (as I believe they will this year), the front three (or one, two or four) sets the table for the entire defense and allows the playmakers to make plays.
What concerns you about the Chiefs?
MNChiefsfan: I'm very, very concerned about the corner situation. I keep hearing whispers that Phillip Gaines doesn't look completely healthy because he hasn’t played in the preseason yet. That would be ... rough. As far as I know, no one is ready to step up at that No. 2 CB spot. I'm quite concerned with the OLB situation as well. I keep waiting to hear, Just kidding, Justin Houston is fine but the more time that goes by the more worried I get. It would be a real shame if the defense took a step back this season, but I could see it happening.
Matt Conner: We're three years from regularly using the phrase "Who's your Dadi?" We're two years from seeing Dee Ford trying to make the Philadelphia Eagles as a camp invite. We're one year from Tamba Hali retiring a season earlier than expected. The Chiefs need Justin Houston and they need him badly. Bob Sutton will figure out how to generate a pass rush from all over, but not having one of the NFL's elite on the edge will hurt a unit that could be among the NFL's best when healthy.
Super_G: My biggest concern is that Andy Reid will still try to control every play on offense. Alex Smith should have the ability to make calls at the line of scrimmage as well as run the two minute offense. I am not concerned about the Chiefs pass rush with Houston out because over the past three seasons the Chiefs have averaged the same amount of sacks in games where Justin Houston started, as games where he did not (2.6).
The Blogfather: The pass rush. By far the biggest question in my mind, even bigger than the youth in the secondary. How well can the Chiefs get along without Justin Houston? How long can they last? I'm also low-key concerned about Tamba Hali. He hasn't practiced at all in camp. He’ll probably pick it back up quickly, right? Probably? He was already talking about being a part time player this offseason so I’d like to see him at some point before the season.
Stagdsp: Injuries. Four of the team’s best players are in various stages of returning from injury (Houston, Charles, Poe, Hali) and another very important young player is coming off an ACL surgery (Gaines). The team has shown they can overcome injuries in the past, and depth is improved this year ... but injuries mount as the season goes on. You’d hope the team at least starts the season healthy. If they go into the season without Houston and with the others less than 100% and THEN have the normal injuries that hit every team, they could be in trouble. It would be very challenging for this team to get back to the playoffs if (God forbid) something happens to guys like Eric Fisher, Mitch Schwartz, Travis Kelce, Jeremy Maclin and/or Alex Smith.
What is your biggest hot take right now?
MNChiefsfan: Jaye Howard will be officially recognized as the best defensive lineman on the team by midseason.
Matt Conner: Eric Murray will replace Eric Berry in 2017. After an offseason of fans freaking out, not a single person will care after the first week of the season.
Super_G: Albert Wilson will have over 750 yards receiving. If you look at Wilson's college career and Combine numbers, he has nearly everything you'd want from a WR except for size. I think the Chiefs will utilize him in the slot more and he will become one of the main offensive contributors for Alex Smith's first season throwing for over 4,000 yards.... which one is hotter?
The Blogfather: Russell Wilson is a poor man's Alex Smith. (Put this in the headline and call me JT Pageviews. )
Stagdsp: Dee Ford will change hearts and minds this season. He will have his ups-and-downs, but once he’s playing with Tamba Hali on the opposite side and gets consistent snaps, he’ll be a disruptive pass rusher.