The week started with John Dixon’s thoughts about Adam Rank’s offseason look at the Kansas City Chiefs on ESPN.com.
Head coach: Andy Reid. I’m not sure if Andy is the best coach in the NFL, but is he the coach you’d want to play for most? All right, not you, Le’Veon Bell. But who else would you pick? Bill Belichick? I mean, think of Andy and Bill as fathers of straight-A students. Belichick mans the house where video games are off by 6 p.m. Lights out by 7:30. Andy is up playing Madden with the kids at midnight. Beastie Boys blaring at unacceptable levels. Two different ways to go about it. Both successful.
This is a pretty cool way to look at it. Right now, Reid and Belichick are the league’s two most successful coaches — and are among the most successful of all time. But even though they are good friends, their styles couldn’t be any more different. Reid is among the most well-liked coaches. Belichick is... not.
Then we took a look at Jared Dubin’s argument on CBSSports.com: that the changes the Chiefs made on their offensive line will be the most impactful move of the 2021 offseason.
Considering that the performance of the Kansas City offensive line has essentially become the main narrative surrounding Super Bowl LV, it’s hard to imagine a larger, more visible group of new players anywhere in the league — and since the Chiefs are almost universally expected to be the AFC’s top contender for the next Super Bowl, the math isn’t very hard. These offensive linemen will be protecting the league’s top quarterback as he (and his teammates) try to reach their third consecutive league championship.
That said... we can quibble a little bit about the players he put in the group. Duvernay-Tardif isn’t exactly a new face — but he did elect to opt out of the 2020 season. Lucas Niang — whose second season will now be his rookie season — and sixth-round draft pick Trey Smith could end up playing significant roles at the expense of players like Blythe and Long; no one really knows exactly what the line will look like when the season begins.
As his excellent Review to Preview series continued on Tuesday, Ron Kopp Jr. shifted our attention to the Kansas City defensive line — specifically to the contributions that second-year players like Mike Danna and Tershawn Wharton could make this season.
After unexpectedly making the 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent rookie in 2020, Wharton quickly became an impactful rotational piece for the defensive line — especially after second-year lineman Khalen Saunders was injured in the season opener.
As the season went along, it became clear that Wharton should primarily be used in pass-rushing situations. He wasn’t able to plug gaps as effectively as you’d like against the run on the inside, but the coaching staff utilized his burst and ability to bend around the edge of a block.
On third downs later in the season, the interior duo was mainly Jones and Wharton. The attention that centers paid to Jones — combined with the tackles having their hands full on the edge — resulted in one-on-one opportunities for Wharton against guards. He took advantage of those open spaces with a very effective jab step.
On Wednesday, John wondered if the Chiefs had made a mistake by bringing back so many players from their 2019 championship team — and noted that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are doing the same thing.
For the coming season, Tampa Bay has retained every single one of the starters on its championship roster — even though the Buccaneers were in a much worse position than the Chiefs after Super Bowl LIV. Kansas City started just three players aged 30 or older against San Francisco — but a year later, Tampa Bay fielded five 30-plus starters in the championship game. To make it worse, one more of their returning starters — and another starter who was injured for the championship — will turn 30 in 2021.
According to an analysis conducted by Football Outsiders, Tampa Bay had the league’s lowest number of 2020 games missed due to injury or COVID. With an older starting roster, that luck isn’t likely to last.
This doesn’t mean that the Buccaneers won’t contend for the championship this season. In fact, many of their older players are among the league’s best. But as the Chiefs demonstrated in 2020, too much reliance on older players increases the probability that injuries will become a significant factor — and running it back will make it more difficult for Tampa Bay to compete beyond 2021.
On Hump Day, we dug into a controversy that had suddenly brewed up: is Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce’s last name pronounced “KEL-see” or “Kelss”?
Digging into how this could have possibly happened, we got as far back as 2007, when Philadelphia Eagles center and Travis’ brother, Jason Kelce, was a member of the University of Cincinnati football team as a walk-on.
The wild Kel-see/Kelse mixup roots back to 2007. Here is the University of Cincinnati pronunciation guide from that season, when a walk-on named Jason Kelce saw action in nine games along the offensive line in his redshirt freshman season. pic.twitter.com/hKaZWW2lfm— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) July 14, 2021
The guide reads, “KEL-see,” so when Travis came along in 2008, so too stuck the (very-possibly) incorrect pronunciation — and it made it all the way to 2013, when he was drafted by the Chiefs now nine years ago.
On Thursday, Kelce addressed the matter directly, saying that the rest of his family pronounces it “Kelss” — but that he and his brother Jason have always followed the example set by their father, who used “KEL-see.” And either pronunciation is fine with him.
Earlier in the week, the football world learned that Pro Football Reference had finally released the results of decades of research, allowing them to add sacks to their statistics from 1960 through 1981. On Thursday, we examined how the new data changed Kansas City’s (unofficial) record books.
Since so many of its greatest defensive players had careers ending before 1982, this change also drastically alters the Chiefs’ all-time list of pass rushers. A total of five Kansas City defensive stars who played in their first two Super Bowl appearances are now among the team’s top-20 sack producers: Buck Buchanan (now sixth), Jerry Mays (seventh), Aaron Brown (ninth), Bobby Bell (13th) and Curley Culp (16th). And another of the team’s greatest pass rushers — Art Still — moves from seventh to fifth.
This also represents bad news for several other Kansas City pass rushers who were displaced by these changes. Eric Hicks, Jared Allen and Chris Jones all fell from the top 10, while Dan Williams, Allen Bailey and four other Chiefs (including Donnie Edwards) dropped out of the top 20.
Then we covered a new interview from the former Chiefs quarterback, in which he talked about his 14-year NFL career — and the changes Kansas City has made this offseason.
“I love that,” said Cassel, “with Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz at the end of the year, being out, moving on from them — but they go out and get an Orlando Brown Jr. from the Baltimore Ravens. That was huge. Bringing in Joe Thuney from the Patriots? I mean, that’s what they needed to do: is to fortify the line.
“Because if they protect Patrick Mahomes, we all know what a special player he is. Not only that, but he’s surrounded by guys like Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman — and they were able to get Demarcus Robinson re-signed as well. They will have all of the weapons they had at their disposal last year — and as long as the offensive line stays healthy, they’ll be just as explosive and exciting of a team to watch as they have been in the past.”
On Friday, we brought you the first article from Jared Sapp, who is one of seven new Arrowhead Pride contributors.
After safety Armani Watts missed all of the voluntary offseason program — and mandatory minicamp — it‘s been surprising there hasn’t been more speculation about him.
Watts has been a significant part of special teams in the last two seasons, ending 2020 with an 81% snap count. He was also a complete afterthought on defense, with just 175 defensive snaps in two years under Spagnuolo. 72 of those came with starters resting during last season’s Week 17 — and 48 more came in 2019’s Week 17 after Juan Thornhill’s ACL injury.
After seeing what was then his most extensive action, the staff decided that the best way to replace Thornhill for an eventual Super Bowl run was not with Watts. Instead, they gave Kendall Fuller a two-week crash course in how to play safety.
Like O’Daniel, Watts is not getting any cheaper in the last year of his rookie deal — and the defensive back competition is much stiffer. His snap counts, however, indicate that Watts likely has Toub in his corner. Making the roster is likely to be an uphill battle for him — but it would be silly to count out Watts sticking around in his usual role.