1) The defense really, really needs Tamba Hali, Eric Berry and Phillip Gaines back in action ASAP, along with (later on, in all likelihood) Justin Houston.
2) The offense, even without Jamaal Charles, looks ... good. And not just, you know, pretty good or kinda good. But actually, genuinely tough to stop.
As far as issue No. 1 goes, everyone knows the first team defense has looked rough the last couple of weeks. Against the Rams in particular, it was bad enough that plenty of fans were looking for a high place to jump from.
I'm not going to lie to you and say I'm not the tiniest bit concerned about the defense. I absolutely am. But you need to keep in mind a few things. First, you had multiple very young, very green players out there against the Rams, and it absolutely showed with a number of bad angles and missed assignments. That is going to improve as the year moves along (unless it doesn't, which... let's not talk about that right now, mmmkay?), and probably at a fairly rapid pace.
Second, unless Berry decides to actually sit out the year and Gaines / Hali never come back (unlikely), you're going to see much more seasoned players out there than the guys who have been taking the snaps.
Third, and most obviously, the defense is barely blitzing or using any action (stunts, etc.), and we all know Bob Sutton loves mixing things up once the snaps start to matter.
So overall, especially given the young players and the guys who are in the process of getting healthy, the defensive worries aren't looming that large in my mind yet. I'm not going to genuinely worry about a defense that has performed well for several years in a row until the season starts and things continue to go badly (and / or if the guys we're waiting to return from injury fail to do so).
You know what side of the ball ISN'T currently racked with injuries? The offense. And hey, speaking of the offense, what in the world is going on over there? They've looked more than solid against a pair of tough, tough defenses (albeit with the Seahawks missing Michael Bennett, but they're still an exceptional group).
So I started wondering to myself ... what if the offense has to carry the defense early in the season as important players heal up and young players learn how to contribute? Is that even possible? How long has it been since we've seen a team that was offensively oriented? Like, over a decade?
With regards to whether it's even possible, well, what do you think, Jeremy Maclin?
Dang, that's pretty. Especially considering the pressure right in Smith's face. pic.twitter.com/zVzZGK3tAj— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 21, 2016
That's an interesting point of view, Jeremy. You make a good point.
Let's do some stat digging. Now, before any of ya'll yell at me for delving into stats (I've got something of a reputation as a film snob that I'd like to protect), keep in mind that we want to see how the TEAM has been performing, not any one individual player. Stats are more useful at a team level than individual level.
So the Chiefs first team unit (when you include Alex Smith) has, by my count, run 33 offensive plays (not including penalties) on five offensive drives. During that time, the offense has racked up 217 yards, three touchdowns, one field goal and one punt.
In other words, the offense is averaging 6.58 yards per play. According to the site teamrankings.com (which has in the past provided some OK information, though I can't vouch for its accuracy beyond that rather lukewarm statement), the league leader in yards per play last season was the Pittsburgh Steelers at 6.2 yards per play. The Chiefs? 16th, at 5.4 yards per play.
In other words, the Chiefs (in a REALLY small sample size of preseason play, so take that for what it's worth) are average 1.18 more yards per play than they did last season. That is a MASSIVE difference in that particular stat, the difference between first and 30th. That's ridiculous.
Additionally, the Chiefs are averaging 4.8 points per drive. Again, keep in mind the tiny sample size... but last season, per Football Outsiders, the best team in the league on a points per drive basis was the Carolina Panthers, who averaged... 2.57 yards per drive.
The Chiefs are outpacing the most efficient offense in 2015 that it's obvious they can't sustain that kind of success (at least, not without breaking a BUNCH of records, which seems unlikely). But while these numbers aren't necessarily a huge deal, they're also not to be discarded completely. Not when the opponents have been a pair of teams that, last season, were top 10 in DVOA (a Football Outsiders stat that measures efficiency). Seattle and Los Angeles have good, solid defenses (and different types of solid defenses, making different kinds of matchup issues), and the Chiefs have moved the ball at will the majority of the time.
And, uh, this is all without Jamaal Charles, who is a life-altering force of nature (in case you've forgotten).
Juke defender out of soul, set up block perfectly, break tackle while sprint/cutting... all in a day's work for JC. pic.twitter.com/1TMUHPkEIf— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) July 29, 2016
Now, again (I'm going to keep saying this), this is just preseason action. We don't know how things will look when real football begins. That said, there are a few reasons to believe that the offense will continue to roll moving forward.
1) The offensive line, even with Parker Ehinger suffering some rookie troubles, looks to be far and away the best the Chiefs have had in the Andy Reid era.
2) Alex Smith, so far, seems to be picking up where he left off last year, taking command at the line of scrimmage and testing intermediate-to-deep routes more often.
3) Spencer Ware is the most talented running back Jamaal Charles has ever been paired with.
That No. 3 might be controversial to some people. it shouldn't be, in my opinion. When you watch Spencer Ware run the ball, you see a guy with good vision, patience, lateral agility, burst, and (of course) tons of power. Ware already has a short yardage conversion and a touchdown where he powered through initial contact at the line of scrimmage. The man is just really, really tough to bring down, and brings an element the Chiefs have lacked (hard nosed power runner who can do more than JUST run up the gut) since... um... well, basically ever. In other words, he's what we thought Peyton Hillis would be.
Those three things alone would lead to the offense being the best it's been in the Andy Reid era. However, against the Rams we saw what may have been the beginning of something that could make things go from "good" to "holy crap I can't believe this is happening." I'm still very, very skeptical about this development, so I'm going to whisper it in your ear.
I think there's an outside shot the Chiefs found a No. 2 wide receiver.
That is some QUICK separation Conley gets here. Definitely has the speed to get vertical. pic.twitter.com/LPGP5NfFGw— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 21, 2016
A couple of nice plays in one preseason game doth not an NFL wide receiver make. But the skillset Conley flashed in his limited action against the Rams is... well, it's worth keeping an eye on. Because with if THAT happens along with all the other things falling into place, the Chiefs are going to be a tough offense to defend.
The defense is worrisome, for sure. But for the first time in years, I think (and again, I could be wrong here) the offense might just be up for the challenge of carrying things for a while.