2021 ranking: 29 | 2020 ranking: 10
Blue-chip players: Creed Humphrey, C; Trey Smith, G; Nick Bolton, LB
Notable graduated players: L’Jarius Sneed, CB; JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR; Ronald Jones, RB; Mike Hughes, CB; Rashad Fenton, CB; Justin Reid, S; Tommy Townsend, P
The Chiefs have made two notable efforts to inject some youth into their perennial final four roster the past two offseasons. First, they drafted Humphrey and Smith with their second- and sixth-round 2021 draft picks. And it’s difficult to imagine that going any better. As rookie starters, Humphrey and Smith finished second and 18th among full-season centers and right guards, respectively, with their 0.5% and 3.1% blown pass block rates. With Humphrey and Smith next to veterans Orlando Brown Jr. and Joe Thuney, the Chiefs are unlikely to see their star quarterback taking the volume of hits he did in the team’s 2020 Super Bowl loss to the Bucs. Too bad their first-round running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire failed to benefit. He averaged the same pedestrian 2.2 yards after contact in 2021 that he did in 2020, barely half of the 3.7 yards after contact Edwards-Helaire averaged in his junior season for the national champion LSU Tigers.
The news of Hunt’s trade demand was first reported by Cleveland.com.
Hunt’s situation adds more turmoil for the Browns, who are waiting to see how long quarterback Deshaun Watson will be suspended for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Watson was suspended for six games by disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson on Monday, but the NFL appealed the ruling Wednesday, seeking a tougher penalty.
Hunt, 27, has been productive during his three seasons for Cleveland, but he missed nine games last season with calf and ankle injuries and finished with 386 yards and five touchdowns, finishing third on the team in rushing behind Nick Chubb (1,259 yards) and D’Ernest Johnson (534). Hunt led the Browns with 11 touchdowns (six rushing, five receiving) in 2020.
Hunt, who led the NFL in rushing as a rookie with the Chiefs in 2017, when he had 1,327 yards, was released by Kansas City a year later after video surfaced of him shoving and kicking a woman. He signed with the Browns in 2019 and was suspended for the first eight games of that season for violating the personal conduct policy.
After running through the many people who had an impact on his career and life leading up to his time with the Chiefs, Vermeil spoke of the Hunt family and some visitors he received at the famed Gold Jacket dinner on Friday night.
“Thank you, Lamar Hunt and Norma (Hunt) — the finest couple, I think, I’ve ever met in pro football. Unbelievable. Clark Hunt and Tavia (Hunt), son and daughter-in-law, came here to see me last night and this morning. Thank you for making that effort.
“Along with them came Andy Reid and Tammy (Reid). A head coach, in training camp, left training camp and flew here to say congratulations to me personally last night. I have never had, in my coaching career, a better display of respect for someone else in the profession that you are in than what Andy Reid did for me last night. It will always, always touch me. Thank you, Andy and Tammy. That was unbelievable.”
Possible modern-day inductees
**CB Darrelle Revis (2007-17): ”Revis Island” was anything but a vacation spot for NFL wideouts during his 10-year career. The seven-time Pro Bowler routinely locked down the leagues best receivers while making life miserable for quarterbacks. He helped New England snap its 10-year Super Bowl drought in 2014 after leading the Jets to consecutive AFC title games in 2009-10.
But the Vikings were more intriguing. They had Adrian Peterson in the backfield and Pat Williams, Ray Edwards, and Kevin Williams on the defensive line. Ben Leber and Chad Greenway stood behind them, and Antoine Winfield kept opposing receivers occupied.
“This is where I wanted to be,” Allen said at the Vikings practice facility last weekend. “First of all, I never had any plans of leaving Kansas City, right? When you come into the league, you’re naive to what the league is actually about on the business side.”
The ’08 Chiefs weren’t quite the Chiefs of today. They had Tyler Thigpen under center; Dwayne Bowe was their leading receiver. In 2006, the Indianapolis Colts beat them in the wild-card round, 23-8. They won four games in ’07 and would win two in ’08.
The Vikings traded a first- and two third-round picks, plus a pick-swap in 2008, for Allen. They immediately signed him to a six-year, $73,260,069 contract. At the time, it was the richest in NFL history for a defensive player. Allen delivered on it. He made 96 starts and recorded 85.5 sacks in six seasons, and his calf-herding sack dance and cowboy persona endeared him to the Purple faithful.
“I remember, like any trade, there’s nerves and anxiousness,” said Vikings owner Mark Wilf after a practice at US Bank Stadium two weeks ago.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
The last time the Chiefs did not have Tyrann Mathieu, QBs regularly torched their secondary. That kept Patrick Mahomes’ historic breakout from ending in a Super Bowl. The team did not make an offer to Mathieu this year and will go with the younger and more expensive Justin Reid. The Chiefs also let top outside corner Charvarius Ward walk, which will send first-rounder Trent McDuffie — Kansas City’s top corner add since it took Marcus Peters out of Washington in 2015 — into the fray early. Rashad Fenton is a nice slot option, and the Chiefs generally coax decent CB play. But Mathieu no longer being there to clean up messes is concerning.
Around the NFL
It’s a change from previous years that said a player had to initiate contact in order for it to be a violation, while the new version also added the word “forcible.”
According to Florio, the change came after being a “sticking point” in disputes over fines from the league. A player could argue they didn’t initiate the contact on a certain play, therefore negating any penalty.
The new wording could become even more subjective, with players arguing what constitutes as “forcible.” The league might still be able to use discretion when it comes to helmet-to-helmet contact.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Part of Pacheco’s impatience when carrying the ball may stem from playing behind a terrible offensive line in college.
In his senior season at Rutgers, Pacheco averaged a meager 3.9 yards per carry — primarily because of the offensive line’s poor play. In 2021 Football Outsiders ranked the Scarlet Knights 103rd in line yards per carry at 2.43.
This means that on his own, Pacheco averaged an extra 1.5 yards per attempt.
But on the other hand, one area where it can be to a player’s advantage to immediately run as hard as possible is in the return game. This is probably why special teams coordinator Dave Toub revealed last week that the rookie is getting the first shot at returning kicks in 2022.
“We’re going to start him off as the guy and see if he can handle it,” said Toub. “See how he does in the preseason. In a few games, we’ll be able to know right away. He’s promising. He’s a big guy — 215 plus. Ran [a] 4:37 [40-yard dash]. That’s kind of scary back there if we can get that thing going. We used Pringle that way. We think we can do that with Pacheco.”
If Pacheco can win the starting job at kick returner, that will guarantee him a roster spot — and could lead to increased offensive opportunities, too.
Like most late-round selections, Pacheco is still a work in progress. But Reid said that he likes the package the team received upon drafting him in April.
“He’s is a good catcher,” noted the head coach, “so he can catch the football. The rest of all that we can work with — and he’s doing that now. He’s learning the feel of it.”