Despite a second consecutive winning season and outscoring opponents by 72 points, the Kansas City Chiefs just missed the playoffs. The team will likely return the majority of their core players, and after losing several players to injury in 2014, they will look to bounce back health-wise. Below are some things to look for in 2015:
- QB: Alex Smith was drafted into the NFL in 2005 and just finished his 10th year in the league. Despite his wealth of experience he has never played in the same offense 3 years in a row thanks to a rotating carnival of coaches and offensive schemes in San Francisco. Smith gets his first chance to show his growth in a system that seems designed around him as he begins his third season under Andy Reid. So far under Reid, Smith has posted career highs in touchdown passes, passing yards in a season, average pass yards per game, and passing attempts and completions (all of which were set in 2013). He was on pace for a new career high in passing yards in a season until injury kept him out of the final game of the season. And the best thing about Smith? He is only 30 years old, which is younger than Peyton and Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer, Phillip Rivers and the same age as Joe Flacco. Smith’s best years may still be ahead of him!
- WR: You cannot get much worse than the Chiefs’ wide receivers in 2014, with zero touchdowns and only 1,588 receiving yards as a group. Their yardage total only represents 46% of the Chiefs’ total passing yards, and although Andy Reid likes to spread the ball around and create matchup nightmares for defenses, that number still seems small. The Chiefs have 11 picks in the upcoming NFL draft and there are several free agent WR’s the Chiefs may take a look at to bolster their offense, so look for this position to improve its production in 2015.
- Interceptions: The Chiefs tied for last in the NFL with only 6 interceptions in 2014, despite having the league’s second best passing defense. In 2013, Kansas City had 21 interceptions (3rd best in the NFL) but only had 7 in 2012. This yearly variation is likely due to a rotating crop of defensive backs, not to mention the fact that Eric Berry only played in 6 games in 2014. Having more consistency at the position (and hopefully getting Berry back healthy and cancer-free) should help the number of interceptions rise. The Chiefs may target defensive backs in the draft that fit Bob Sutton’s scheme.
- Rushing defense: Speaking of injuries, the Chiefs can get back a healthy Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito, both known for being good at stopping the run. The 2014 Chiefs allowed the 5th most rushing yards and 3rd most yards per attempt. They only allowed 4 rushing touchdowns (fewest in the NFL), but that number is likely the result of a lot of luck and probably is not repeatable in 2015. Assuming the Chiefs bring back Johnson and DeVito, they should be more stout against the run in 2015.
Finally, free agents:
- The Chiefs’ biggest free agent is Justin Houston, whom the Chiefs have said will be back in 2015. If a contract cannot be worked out in time, Houston may be given the franchise player tag. Other notable free agents include Center Rodney Hudson, the most consistent offensive lineman for the Chiefs, and Ron Parker, who had a breakout year in 2014. The Chiefs rank #29 in salary cap room, and they do not have much money for signing free agents, so they may elect to fill their holes in the NFL draft. The Chiefs also will need to make decisions on whether to keep, release, or restructure the contracts of Dwayne Bowe and Tamba Hali.
Kansas City will likely make several moves in the upcoming months and it will be exciting to see what is in store. Go Chiefs!