One of the more interesting moves made by the Chiefs was the decision to re-sign special teams ace and CB Chris Lammons. An exclusive rights free agent this past offseason, Lammons was not tendered by the team because he was charged in connection to the assault that took place around the Pro Bowl involving New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara. A recent hearing for that case was postponed until August 1.
Lammons has been a solid special teamer over the past few seasons in Kansas City. He joined the practice squad in 2019 and went on to appear in 14 games since, recording six tackles on special teams plus a fumble recovery. He finished the 2021 NFL season on injured reserve after suffering an ankle injury. With the injuries the team is currently dealing with at the cornerback position, it could be beneficial to have someone on hand who knows the system.
Kansas City Chiefs
Defensive coordinator: Steve Spagnuolo
Scheme: Even front, multiple in pressures and coverages
Boom-or-bust question: Can the young/new players be dependable enough to cover for the loss of some versatility?
Steve Spagnuolo cut his teeth in the NFL under the tutelage of the late Jim Johnson, and it shows in his play calling. If a blitz has been drawn up at any point in his lifetime, you can bet the mortgage that Spagnuolo has called it. And for the past three seasons, Tyrann Mathieu served as the perfect skeleton key to unlock any pressure or coverage rotation on Spagnuolo’s call sheet.
With Mathieu gone to New Orleans, Charvarius Ward in San Francisco and Melvin Ingram in Miami, this defense has much less versatility in skill sets than it had from 2019-2021. But the cupboards aren’t bare. The Chiefs drafted George Karlaftis and Trent McDuffie to take up large shares of snaps at their respective positions, and the team signed Justin Reid to fill in for Mathieu.
In Karlaftis, not only does Kansas City have a powerful player who can develop into a solid run defender and secondary pass rusher across from Frank Clark, but his presence guarantees Chris Jones won’t have to play out on the edge, as he did in 2021 until Ingram was acquired mid-season. McDuffie will have to play inside and out to cover for the losses in the defensive backfield, but he’s a talented player who’s comfortable in man coverage, a major piece of playing for Spagnuolo. And though Reid’s skill set doesn’t exactly match Mathieu’s, his ability to toggle between playing near the line of scrimmage or deep pairs well with Juan Thornhill.
Though I believe Karlaftis and McDuffie can be reliably productive as rookies, I did not envision during the pre-draft process that they would take on serious starter roles so early in their careers — and certainly not for a contending team such as the Chiefs.
With the AFC West as loaded as it is, the new defenders in Kansas City will experience a trial by fire like no other.
During the pre-draft process, many of the Kansas City Chiefs coaches — including defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, defensive line coach Joe Cullen and assistant defensive line coach Terry Bradden — had a Zoom meeting with defensive end prospect George Karlaftis.
Cullen asked many of the questions, but Spagnuolo carefully observed Karlaftis’ body language.
“There was something about him that I said, ‘Boy, if we could get this kind of person in here,’” Spagnuolo said. “This guy was just so into what we were talking about. He didn’t want to get off the Zoom call. He wanted more questions.”
The Chiefs coaches tested Karlaftis’ football knowledge and watched a lot of film with him.
“I felt like we had a great connection,” Karlaftis said.
When you paired how Karlaftis aced the virtual interview with his production at Purdue, where he recorded 99 tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, one interception and four forced fumbles, he was the perfect person for the Chiefs to select with the 30th overall — and second of their first-round picks — choice.
“It was a no-brainer,” Cullen said. “Thankfully, he fell to that spot.”
Reid has been a remarkably consistent winner throughout his head coaching career that spans 23 years. He has averaged roughly 10 wins per season since 1999, and 11.5 a year since coming to Kansas City in 2013. If the Chiefs predicted wins for the 2022 season are to come to fruition, the gap between Reid and Stram would shrink from 17 to 4 at the conclusion of the regular season.
Additionally, since joining the Chiefs, Andy has averaged one playoff win per season. While a singular playoff win in ‘22 would surely be disappointing, the frequency of playoff success was lesser prior to Patrick Mahomes’ arrival in 2018. For prediction’s sake, we will account for that average and put the upcoming season’s win total at 14—including the playoffs. That would leave only three wins between Andy Reid and a tie with Hank Stram’s record for the most wins in Chiefs history.
With Kansas City starting the season 4-0 in three of the four years of the Mahomes era, it’s not crazy to think that history could be made by week four of 2023. However, with the recent and booming emergence of heightened talent and competition in the AFC, the Chiefs will face more increasingly challenging schedules in the coming years than ever before.
Conservatively, Andy Reid will become the most winningest coach in Kansas City Chiefs history by Week 7 of the 2023 season. Accomplishing the feat on that timeline would require a .720 winning percentage between now and then, just a tic ahead of the .696 clip that Reid has won at thus far in his time coaching the Chiefs.
The league received two legal opinions from outside law firms that the transfer abided by data privacy rules and regulations, Ballew said, declining to name the firms.
“Privacy is something we take very seriously. We’re investing a lot of time in privacy and consent management right now at the league level,” he said.
Some teams were hesitant too, unsure about sharing their hard-earned databases with the league to exploit and then milk out to the rest of the clubs.
“Any time you talk about ownership and control of assets — in this case, data — that’s going to create some pretty strong opinions on all sides,” said Chiefs president Mark Donovan, who presented to owners in support of the sharing. “Think about it from the perspective of: ‘We work really hard to gather this data; we don’t want someone or some entity taking that data from us and not allowing us to use it.’”
“A few of the teams disagreed with me,” Donovan said, chuckling. “Some are going to be really focused on: ‘It’s my data; I don’t want anyone else to have it.’”
But Donovan makes a few arguments. First, the league has its own database, aggregated from events like the Super Bowl and NFL Draft, information from Electronic Arts’ Madden games, retail sales from Fanatics and apps. That is useful information for teams, the Chiefs president said.
Donovan used the example of Packers fans who attend an away game at Arrowhead Stadium. Because fans use a mobile ticket, the Chiefs know they are there. But the many messages for Chiefs events they will receive are useless.
Not only can the league direct these contacts to the Packers (presuming it’s clear from an address or other data point capture), but the league also might find, Donovan explained, that a fan bought a Patrick Mahomes jersey on Fanatics for their kid who loves the quarterback.
“That’s really valuable to us,” he said.
As the first team to go with all-mobile ticketing in 2018, the Chiefs have long been at the forefront of capturing customer data. The Giants only went all-mobile last year, when the league required it, so they are under an avalanche of customer data. As a result, the Giants have embraced the new paradigm like the Chiefs, recognizing they needed help parsing all the information they gather.
Around the NFL
2021 record: 7-10
Denver’s a proud franchise, and this six-year drought is the Broncos’ longest playoff-free stretch since the 1970s. But Russell Wilson changes everything. The nine-time Pro Bowler gives this team credence, juice, hope and a totally new culture. Quarterback play in Denver has been flat-out inept since Peyton Manning retired. That’s a long time ago. But it’s a new day in the Mile High City — and not just at the game’s most important position.
Nathaniel Hackett was a fine choice as Denver’s new head coach. While he didn’t call plays in Green Bay, Hackett showed his capability in that role during previous stops in Jacksonville and Buffalo. This is the guy who helped Blake Bortles get a three-year, $54 million extension, after all. Hackett and Wilson are poised to take this young offensive core to the next level. I’m especially enamored with Javonte Williams at running back. This tackle-breaking machine is about to break out in a major way in Year 2.
Defense wasn’t the problem under former coach Vic Fangio. In fact, last year’s unit ranked third in points allowed and eighth in yards allowed. The Broncos accumulated more edge-rushing juice in free agency (Randy Gregory) and the draft (Nik Bonitto). Also, I’m already on record predicting Patrick Surtain II will become a first-team All-Pro cornerback in the near future.
This feels like a 10-win team — at minimum.
On the final day of mandatory minicamp, all 90 Chicago Bears players wore No. 41 jerseys at practice to honor Brian Piccolo, who died 52 years ago Thursday from cancer.
Piccolo, who played for the Bears from 1966 to ‘69, was 26 years old at the time of his death in 1970. His close relationship with Bears Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers was the subject of the movie “Brian’s Song,” which chronicled their friendship as the first interracial roommates in the NFL.
The Bears initially planned to honor Piccolo on the 50th anniversary of his death, but the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated offseason practices in 2020.
“Just to honor the legacy and his family of Brian Piccolo, that to me was really the main message,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “Sometimes it’s hard for people or anybody, you go back so far, and it’s hard sometimes for them to see the impact of Brian Piccolo that he had, late ‘60s there. I just think honoring his life. And I read the award to the players today and what that meant.
“He was a really good teammate and he liked to have fun with his teammates, he liked to play practical jokes on them and stuff like that. Just a real man and a real person and a Chicago Bear. So, I wanted to make sure they got that message.”
The team honors the former Bears running back yearly with the Brian Piccolo Award, which is given to one rookie and one veteran player who “best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor” of Piccolo. This year’s recipients were running back Khalil Herbert and linebacker Robert Quinn.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Up until now, Mahomes has been silent on the issue, but that all changed on Thursday afternoon. He spoke on the matter for the first time at the podium following mandatory minicamp.
“I’m a little surprised,” said Mahomes. “We love Tyreek here. We’ve always loved him, and we still love him.”
Mahomes went on to say that Hill had never mentioned any of his frustrations to him — including when the two spoke face to face last month.
“I talked to him at Formula 1 in Miami in May and everything seemed fine,” claimed Mahomes.
Doing his best to keep it classy, Mahomes said that Hill was making these declarations to generate buzz around his podcast.
“I’m sure it had some to do with trying to get his podcast rolling,” he said.
When he was asked whether he thought Hill’s stats were suppressed, Mahomes defended head coach Andy Reid’s offense, saying that the way the Chiefs play football isn’t centered around any one specific player.
“Tyreek is a one-of-a-kind player,” admitted Mahomes. “But as you know, in coach Reid’s offense, it takes the whole team. This offense was rolling before I got here. This offense was rolling when I was a young Dallas Cowboys fan watching the Philidelphia Eagles beat up on the Cowboys. It’s an offense that’s more than one player, and that includes myself.