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Chiefs mailbag: WR depth chart, Justin Houston's comeback, high expectations

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I don't have a good introduction off the top of my head. In my defense, I just finished watching roughly 25 hours of film (not all at once, I'm not a savage) for the Alex Smith review.

That'll get to you soon. Very soon. In the meantime, let's mailbag one more time before I drop an invitation for you all to yell at me and each other.

I don't think the Royals winning it all has an effect on what people expect from the Chiefs. I think the high expectations have more to do with a team that won a playoff game a year ago didn't lose much (Sean Smith and Jeff Allen matter, but hopefully aren't the end of the world) and addressed some weaknesses while gaining another precious year of continuity together.

The Chiefs showed they belonged in the playoffs when they beat the Texans like they owed them child support, then managed to make the Patriots sweat at New England without their three best players. That's something. Not enough, but something.

So now we've got a team that has shored up the always-troublesome RT spot (believe me when I tell you, it had a huge negative impact on the passing game last year) and has some promising pieces in place to keep the defense solid and improve on last year's inconsistent offense.

That's why expectations are high. The roster really is that talented.

I like Sherman a whole lot, both as a player and (from what I can see) as a person. The problem with keeping it is one of personnel and usage.

The Chiefs are absolutely stacked at running back. Jamaal Charles is all-universe, Spencer Ware has shown he has some really, really high-end skills, and Charcandrick West is a guy who can do everything you want in an Andy Reid offense.

Ideally, for me, the Chiefs find a way to use all three guys to keep everyone fresh. Additionally, I want them to find a way to use some 2-RB packages to add some flavor to the option plays Reid grew fond of last season.

I'm just not sure there's a place for Sherman in all that. So then it comes down to his special team contributions. I think there's a lot of value in that (especially for a team that wins the way the Chiefs do), but at a certain point it's a cost-benefit analysis.

I think Sherman hangs around, but when you've got a guy whose snap count keeps decreasing while he's getting paid a decent amount of money, letting him go is always going to be a consideration.

Based on everything I've heard from camp, and assuming everyone stays healthy, I think we're going to see Maclin / Wilson / Conley / Streater / Hill / everyone else.

Now here's the thing, you can't assume everyone stays healthy. Wilson is nicked up again, and all reports are that Conley, Streater, and Hill are all doing really well out there. Hill in particular is making plays on a daily basis and SEEMS to be smashing the idea that he'll just be another gadget guy.

Wilson is more proven than anyone on that list (including Streater when you factor in the fact that he's "post-injury Streater"), and he has some really valuable skills as a YAC guy and aggressive blocker (that matters for this team with all the screens and packaged plays they run), but he needs to get on the field if he doesn't want to see his chances shrink. Conley is a highly impressive physical specimen who can run like a deer and seems to use his hands well. You don't want to let a guy like that start taking snaps in your place.

Hill is the wild card. Nobody can cover him in camp. Will it be the same in preseason? At what point do you start to talk about the guy as more of a full-time receiver than a gadget player? Remember, while Hill isn't a big player, he's not tiny the way DAT or Dexter McCluster are. Hill is actually the exact same size as Antonio Brown. If he continues to impress he'll be on the field.

I'm very curious how things go with Houston. It wasn't more than a couple months ago we were marveling at how well he seemed to be coming back as he posted videos of himself training. From all accounts, he's an incredibly hard worker and is one of the most gifted human beings on the planet physically. The Chiefs have an exceptional physical therapy group from what I've heard.

I think Houston makes it back relatively early in the season but takes until about midseason to round into shape. And yes, I think it'll be enough. The strength of the defense seems to be shifting to the line rather than the linebackers, and I think the rest of the defense has the horses to keep things together without him.

Tyler Bray is the one you marry. He's held onto second team snaps despite the arrival of Nick Foles, moves well in the pocket, and has a great arm. You combine those last two traits with a coach who can scheme the rest, and you've got a guy who can do some things. He had a world of improvement to make to even be a viable backup when he came into the league, and by all accounts he's done it.

You date Nick Foles. I like Foles a lot, though I haven't reviewed his film in years. I wanted the Chiefs to make a move for him when they obtained Andy. He played as a rookie for Reid, and while he wasn't that good, he showed a very particular skillset that I look for in a QB. He moved well around the pocket, kept his eyes down the field, and showed workable accuracy (even when on the move). Now, word is he looked less good (now THAT'S some constipated writing there, folks) for the Rams and Eagles thereafter, so we'll see. But even if he does fine this year, he costs WAY too much to keep as a backup. Barring a Smith meltdown and Foles taking over and being awesome, he's a rental as the Chiefs eye a playoff run.

I like Murray. I really do. But I'm not hearing much about him from camp, he's the least physically able of the three, and someone had to take the ax. Sorry, Aaron.

I'm guessing Hogan is the "broken pinky toenail" IR guy this year.

So far, it's gotta be Dee Ford. With his elite first step and athleticism, I really thought he would be more than he's been over his first several years. His lack of "bend" (ability to turn the corner and take the shortest route to the QB) results in tackles setting up wide and sending him past the QB over and over. He gets a little pressure, but it's always too late. And that's leaving out some of his struggles against the run (which have not been minor struggles).

With him, it's more what he COULD be rather than the fact that I think he's a bad player. I think he's a decent backup pass rusher (or rather, that's what he was last year). But with that truly remarkable first step, you hope for more.

Here's the deal, though, I wouldn't count him out. Here's an exceptional film review from Inside The Pylon that discusses some of the ways Ford became a more nuanced player last season. The overall point if you're a TL;DR kinda person? Ford was bad his rookie year and improved a great deal to be a passable player last year, and he seemed to be starting to flash some of the handfighting skills he'll need to be a rusher since he lacks the bend to get around the edge quickly.

So we'll see on Dee. But right now, he's the guy who has disappointed me the most.

Given his history, I think we see Charles nicked up a time or two. That said, I think he plays the vast majority of the season, with no other reason than I like to believe that there's some good in this world.

Charles is the most productive RB per touch in the history of the NFL, and one of the greatest players I have ever watched. The only thing that'll keep him from the Hall Of Fame is lack of longevity. He lost a full year and a half to coaches refusing to play him (personally, in my opinion anyone who saw him run against Tampa Bay his rookie year should've known he was the best option on the team, fumbles or no), and now nearly two full years to injury.  That's going to kill is total yards and total touchdowns stats, which is what a lot of wrongheaded people look at when it comes to running backs.

Again, I believe Charles will stay healthy because I have to believe it. My psyche depends on it.

And of COURSE they make the Super Bowl. It's August, man. Everyone is making the Super Bowl.

Oh man, there are so many directions I could go here! But I'm gonna let Mrs. MNchiefsfan take a crack first. Take it away, Scoreboard!

(if you don't get the "Scoreboard" reference, sorry)

I once heard a quote that a good marriage starts with good forgivers. I think that's really true.

But first of all, you (as in, the man) should probably be funny. Humor solves a lot of things in a marriage. I laugh a lot, and that's a big part of what keeps us both happy! I like being entertained, and my husband is a great entertainer. So it works out pretty well!

Really, it's the usual stuff you hear though. Having the same values is a big deal. For us, our faith is a big part of who we both are as a couple and as individuals. Try and say "yes" to each other as often as possible. Tell the truth even when it's going to get you in trouble (seriously guys, be men and face the music. It's not that hard). Look to people older than you with successful marriages and spend time with them, figuring out what they're doing. Then, you know, copy that!

But mostly, try to laugh together. Seriously, that's a big deal.

So I'm a little nervous that my wife references forgiveness when talking about marriage. Makes you think...

I'll second all her advice, and add a couple more pieces. First, understand that marriage is really hard, and it's not for people who can't successfully adult. Don't be dramatic. Work really hard to see where the other person is coming from during fights. Adjust to the idea of not getting your way. Remember what your job is in the marriage, and don't obsess over their job. You take care of your end and the rest should fall into place.

Diversified, absolutely. The Chiefs need to build on what they found down the stretch last season when they gave Alex Smith more control at the line of scrimmage and stopped being so reliant on their backs to "make" plays happen.

Charles should be added into the mix, of course, as he's an electrifying god among men. But you need to take advantage of the fact that you've also got Jeremy Maclin, Travis Kelce, Spencer Ware, and a host of athletic young WR's looking to help out.

The offense should be predicated on Smith's (yes, that Smith) ability to read defenses presnap and diagnose what will work best out of multiple play options. Smith is very good at figuring out what coverage he's facing and what routes will do the job. They've got to utilize that as much as possible in determining where the ball is going (or whether a run would do the job better).

Charles should be a great option among several, not the basis on which the whole offense revolves. To paraphrase one AP user, when your offense revolves around your RB, you're likely in trouble.

Now ya'll just TRYING to get me in trouble...

I don't know enough about medical marijuana to have an educated opinion on it one way or another. Here's my one thought... tons and tons of pain killers jack with your mind. Even been on Percocet? That stuff will straight-up JACK with your mind. I was on that once (only once) and woke up literally screaming from nightmares, convinced that there was something evil in my house. Seriously, that stuff is crazy.

Considering we use stuff like that (and morphine, and other stuff that's even stronger), I'm not sure why marijuana should be the one taboo painkiller out there. I'm sure it's a more nuanced issue than that, but if you want nuance you're in the wrong place.

Whoa, we're at almost 2500 words. Let's let Smith and Maclin play us out...