Biggest strength: By his standards, Patrick Mahomes had a “down” season in 2021. But the Chiefs’ passing offense still ranked second in the NFL in expected points added (EPA) per play, behind only the Rams over the course of the regular season. Mahomes’ ability to pull off the unbelievable outside of structure while also limiting negative plays and excelling within structure will keep him at the top of the league’s quarterback hierarchy regardless of what is in place around him. The only QB to finish higher in PFF’s wins above replacement metric than Mahomes since 2018 is Tom Brady.
Biggest weakness: The Chiefs’ defensive front — outside of Chris Jones — struggled in 2021. It ended the regular season ranked 20th in team pressure rate (32%), with Jones and Frank Clark standing out as the only two players to clear 30 pressures on the year. Kansas City also ended the 2021 season ranked 28th in EPA allowed per run play. The Chiefs addressed their need for a starting-caliber edge defender opposite Clark by drafting Purdue’s George Karlaftis, but there’s no guarantee that he’s going to be able to make the same kind of impact as a rookie that Melvin Ingram III did after his midseason trade last year.
X factor for 2022: The biggest question surrounding the Chiefs this season will be how the Tyreek Hill loss impacts their offense. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster will be asked to replicate various elements of what Hill added, but the most intriguing offseason addition at wide receiver might be Skyy Moore. The second-round pick out of Western Michigan led the FBS in missed tackles forced after the catch (26) in 2021, and he could operate both in the slot and outside in Kansas City’s offense this season.
3. Harrison Butker, Chiefs
Despite the fact that he’s only been in the league since 2017, Butker has already proven himself to be one of the best kickers. And if he keeps playing the way he’s playing, he might soon be at the top of this list. In five seasons with the Chiefs, Butker has hit 90.1% of his field goals (146 of 162), which makes him the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history behind only Justin Tucker.
Not only is Butker accurate, but he’s shown that he can be clutch from long range, which isn’t something you can say about every kicker in the NFL. In 2020, he hit a 58-yard game-winning field goal against the Chargers that still stands as the second-longest overtime field goal in NFL history. Butker actually hit two different 58-yard field goals in that game, making him one of only two kickers in NFL history to hit multiple kicks from 58 yards or longer in a game.
The Chiefs kicker also showed off his booming leg in Kansas City’s Super Bowl LV loss to the Buccaneers. In that game, he became the first and only kicker in NFL history to hit multiple field goals of 49 yards or more in a Super Bowl.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: SIGN EDGE CARLOS DUNLAP
The Chiefs lost Melvin Ingram III to the Dolphins in free agency and are currently set to start Frank Clark and rookie George Karlaftis on the edge. They could use another rotational rusher, and Dunlap, 33, was efficient for Seattle last season with a 72.1 overall defensive grade, 15.3 percent pass-rush win rate. He’s received interest on the open market and is deciding on the best fit, per a source.
4. George Karlaftis, Chiefs
Typically I shy away from rookie edge rushers who will be tasked with being the “alpha outside rusher” in Year 1. But Karlaftis’ film screamed “NFL ready.” He’s big, powerful, a smooth, very capable athlete, Karlaftis rarely looks awkward or uncomfortable bending the corner or out in space.
And while he does enter a rather barren outside rusher room in Kansas City, the intimidating presence of interior disruptor Chris Jones can’t be ignored, and certainly is not ignored by offenses during their gameplan install. That attention will help Karlaftis get advantage matchups at least early in his rookie season on a defense that will be playing with plenty of leads thanks to Patrick Mahomes and Co.
Reid left the rebuilding Texans for the win-now Chiefs, and he has big shoes to fill. He arrives as the replacement for Tyrann Mathieu in a defense that has seen considerable turnover on the back end, but if his past performance on a competitive team is proof, he should elevate his play to match the expectations of the Chiefs. If Steve Spagnuolo can use Reid as he did Mathieu, it’s fair to expect Reid to be a standout for Kansas City and perhaps even earn that first Pro Bowl invite. The team certainly showed confidence in him by offering a three-year, $31.5 million deal.
Around the NFL
In Justin Herbert’s second season, the Los Angeles Chargers came out of the gate hot with a 4-1 record but stumbled down the stretch, losing three of their final four games, including the overtime thriller in Las Vegas, to miss the postseason.
On SiriusXM NFL Radio, Herbert told Alex Marvez and Ryan Leaf that the Chargers need to be steadier in 2022 to get through a tough AFC West and reach the playoffs.
“It’s all about consistency,” the QB said. “We have to put together a full season for us to play the football that we want to.”
The Chargers bolstered their defense this offseason, trading for star edge rusher Khalil Mack, signing stud corner J.C. Jackson, and adding veterans like linebacker Kyle Van Noy. L.A. also drafted rookie first-round guard Zion Johnson to help the offensive line in front of Herbert.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Here is a sample of what we learned about Cook:
If you could tell us one thing Chiefs fans need to know about Cook before they can see him take the field, what would that be?
Hitschler: “One, I’d say he’s a great person before you even talk about football. He’s a leader, a well-rounded young man. He’s been successful on and off the field. He’s an academic all-American and was voted captain by his teammates even though he had never truly been a starter until this year... He’s someone who was considered a leader even though he had less playing time than guys that were returning… He’s outworked everybody his whole life, and he’ll continue to put in the work on and off the field to be successful.”