The Chiefs rebounded from a dismal 2012 in style, becoming the first team in history to pick first in the draft and end up the last undefeated team in the season. That they eventually finished with an 11-5 record is testament to coaching and motivational skills of Andy Reid in his first season with Kansas City, although the run of five defeats in seven games to end the campaign was not so impressive. Added to the mix is the fact that, for all their good work, the Chiefs managed to beat just a single team with a winning record all year (Philadelphia in week 3) and recorded four losses within their division to San Diego and Denver. Their (admittedly injury aided) implosion against the Colts in the Wild card game, in which they threw away a huge 38-10 lead to lose 45-44, saw the team extend their playoff losing streak to eight games. Reid will look to break that in 2014.
The addition of Alex Smith from San Francisco gave the offensive unit consistency and poise at the most important position and was arguably one of the most important pieces of business made by any team during the off season. Smith had a solid first year, with 3313 yards and 23 scores leading to a rating of 89.1. The star of the show was, however, undoubtedly running back Jamaal Charles, who accounted for 1287 yards and 12 scores on the ground whilst also leading the team with 70 catches for 693 yards and 7 more trips to the End Zone. His injury in the playoff loss was a big factor in that game. Dwayne Bowe (57 catches for 673 yards and 5 scores) and Dexter McCluster (53 grabs for 511 yards and 2 scores) were the only receivers to offer consistent targets for Smith, although Bowe’s receptions came off being targeted a huge 105 times. The Chiefs and Smith clearly need an enormous amount of help in the passing game to add balance and take some of the pressure off the talented Charles for 2014. On the line, Branden Albert, Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah all saw significant action and will need to be replaced, whilst much will be expected of 2013’s number 1 pick Eric Fisher. With Albert’s departure he will now get the chance to start in his preferred left tackle position. The time has come for him to step up to the plate.
Much of the Chiefs’ success can be put down to their defence which, for the first part of the season at least, was an incredibly effective unit. In the first nine games of the year, every opponent was held to 17 points or less, with the Redskins added to that total in week 14. Five totals of 27 or more were given up down the stretch, however, before the shootout in Indianapolis. Overall the unit ranked 24th in yardage allowed (367.8 yards per game) but fared much better in terms of points allowed in finishing tied fifth (19.1 per game). Tamba Hali and Justin Houston both racked up 11 sacks as the team combined for 47 in total and linebacker Derrick Johnson again lead by example with 107 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 2 picks. In the secondary Quintin Demps topped the charts with four picks and Marcus Cooper defended and impressive 18 passes to add to three interceptions of his own.
Returning was a successful part of the Chiefs’ 2013 blueprint. Demps and Knile Davis both returned kick-offs for touchdowns and McCluster excelled on punt returns, with two scores and an average of 11.8 yards per return. Kicker Ryan Succop will need to improve on his conversion rate of just 78.6% next time around.
Andy Reid had a great first year in Kansas City after his long tenure with the Eagles. To turn around a franchise in such a short space of time was a great effort and deserves a significant amount of praise. He will be all too well aware, however, that the tough work starts this season. With a harder schedule, a very tough division, a weaker offensive line and a expectation level that has raised following last year’s successes the pressure in on the Chiefs to repeat last seasons’ postseason appearance. Reid will do well to ensure that 2014 is not a ‘yo-yo’ performance that sees his team drop out of the reckoning early. 2014 promises to be a tough campaign for the team.
DRAFT/FREE AGENCY NEEDS
The 2013 off season has not been pretty for fans in Kansas City as plenty of players have left the team and will be plying their trade elsewhere next season.
With the losses on the offensive line, reinforcements in that area are a priority. Jeff Linkenbach’s arrival from the Colts adds numbers, but more quality is needed too. With Demps and Kendrick Lewis also off to pastures new in New York and Houston respectively there is a need to reinforce at safety too.
Wide receiver is another area that badly needs addressing, but with the pressing concerns elsewhere it may not be able to be addressed until later in the draft, if at all.
The Chiefs enter the draft with a great number of positional needs. The challenge will be to ensure that they do not reach for players when they are on the clock and continue to get the best value available whilst filling the gaps on their roster. A tough ask, but it holds the key to their chances of success next time around.