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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 21: Kansas City Chiefs

Former Eagles coach Reid poses with Chiefs owner Hunt after a news conference introducing Reid as the Chiefs new coach in Kansas City, Missouri Reuters

The instinct is to treat the Chiefs’ awful 2012 season as an aberration, and that’s probably the right call.

Even just a cursory glance at the club’s depth chart suggests that last season’s 2-14 mark won’t be repeated this year. After all, Kansas City had six Pro Bowlers in 2012, and the roster was strengthened this spring via free agency and the draft.

For new Chiefs coach Andy Reid, Kansas City represents a fresh start after two sour seasons to finish a Philadelphia tenure filled with more good moments than bad. The Chiefs’ new starting quarterback, Alex Smith, also gets to the turn the page after being forced out by Colin Kaepernick’s emergence in San Francisco.

There’s little doubt Reid and Smith will help lead a turnaround of some sort relative to 2012. If nothing else, the Chiefs are likely to move out of the AFC West basement. But are the Chiefs capable of quintupling their win total from a season ago? That’s probably what it will take to contend for a playoff spot.

Strengths.

The Chiefs’ defense does not lack for talent. Outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston combined for 19 sacks in 2012 and joined inside linebacker Derrick Johnson and strong safety Eric Berry as Pro Bowlers. Cornerbacks Sean Smith, Brandon Flowers and Dunta Robinson are skilled and experienced.

The offense has some top-end players, too, with running back Jamaal Charles (1,509 rushing yards in 2012) a premier game-breaking threat and wideout Dwayne Bowe a legit go-to target. At quarterback, Smith should be an upgrade over Matt Cassel, and the addition of No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher at left tackle strengthens the offensive line. The Fisher-Brandon Albert tackle tandem should be a real asset for the Chiefs.

With the additions of Reid and Smith, the NFL’s worst passing offense from a season ago has new life. That, in turn, should help a running game that thrived even without defenses having to worry much about the Chiefs’ passing attack.

Finally, Reid’s presence should be a major asset both on the sidelines and in the organization. The Eagles won 10 playoff games and registered nine winning seasons in his 14-season tenure. In that same span, the Chiefs didn’t register a single playoff win and had nine losing seasons.

Weaknesses.

While the Chiefs have some very skilled performers on defense, opponents nonetheless had success attacking Kansas City with the run and pass in 2012. To wit: the Chiefs finished 30th in yards per pass and 25th in yards per rush surrendered a season ago. The secondary should be better with Smith and Robinson joining the cornerback corps, but the run defense — especially right up the heart of the front seven — needs to be monitored. Per NFL statistics, opponents gained 4.78 yards per rush up the middle vs. the Chiefs in 2012.

On offense, the concern is the next wave of players beyond the starters. Kansas City is a little thin at the skill positions, especially at running back, where there is no clear-cut backup to count upon if Charles were to exit the lineup. Swift rookie Knile Davis has the talent to be a key contributor in the backfield, but he struggled with injuries and fumbles at Arkansas.

The depth at wide receiver is somewhat shaky until proven otherwise, too. Beyond Bowe, the top options are Donnie Avery, Jon Baldwin and Dexter McCluster. Avery is fast but comes durability concerns. Baldwin, the Chiefs’ 2011 first-round pick, hasn’t delivered on his potential. McCluster is quick but undersized.

On defense, the primary depth concerns are at outside linebacker, safety and along the defensive line.

Changes

Reid, renowned his work with quarterbacks and a proponent of the West Coast offense, is charged with reshaping the offense. Smith, who’s still not even 30 years old, could benefit form Reid’s tutelage and not having to worry about job security. There is no real threat to replace him on the roster.

In addition to Fisher, new faces on offense include Avery, tight end Anthony Fasano and quarterback Chase Daniel. Avery and Fasano project as regulars, while Daniel, formerly Drew Brees‘ understudy, will be the top backup to Alex Smith.

Rangy Sean Smith, signed from Miami, will start opposite of Flowers at cornerback, with Robinson expected to be the third corner. Robinson should be effective in this role; his experience and physicality ought to serve him well in the latter stages of his career.

The Chiefs will continue to use the 3-4 as their base defense, but Bob Sutton has taken over at coordinator, and some new wrinkles are to be expected.

Camp battles.

For a 2-14 club with a new head coach, the Chiefs don’t figure to have much camp-competition drama. Most starting spots are ably filled.

The offensive line could be the most unsettled position on the team. At center, third-year pro Rodney Hudson would seem to have the edge at center; he began 2012 as the starter before suffering a broken leg that ended his season. However, second-year left guard Jeff Allen got some work in the middle in the offseason, per the Kansas City Star. Allen started 13 games a season ago but graded out as the second-worst run-blocker among qualifying guards in Pro Football Focus’ rankings. Geoff Schwartz and Donald Stephenson are other potential options at guard.

Inside linebacker is another position that could have some intrigue if rookie Nico Johnson can push ex-Eagle Akeem Jordan.

Finally, Davis will get a look at kickoff returner, a position where the club could use more playmaking ability. However, he needs to hold onto the ball.

Prospects.

If Kansas City is playoff-caliber, it will show early. The Chiefs face one 2012 playoff team (Houston) in their first nine games. Five of their first six AFC games before their Week 10 bye are against the Jaguars, Titans, Raiders, Browns and Bills — teams Kansas City should be able to beat.

The Chiefs are going to need to take care of business in the first two months. Their post-bye schedule includes two games against Denver in three weeks. Kansas City also draws Washington and Indianapolis down the stretch. The season finale at San Diego won’t be easy, either.

Overall, though, it’s a manageable schedule for the Chiefs. And it’s probably safe to assume the bottom doesn’t fall out again this year – though we wouldn’t blame Kansas City fans for knocking on wood, given how last season went.

Really, though, the Chiefs’ 2012 form was so bad it cannot be taken at face value. Clearly, they are capable of more.

How much more is the question.

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36 Responses to “PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 21: Kansas City Chiefs”
  1. ozymandias121 says: Jul 14, 2013 3:05 PM

    This is absurd. The Chiefs finished 10-6 what 2-3 years ago with the exact same team? Alex Smith is head over heels better than Cassell. If Charles stays healthy Alex Smith will be even better. The defense has a ton of talented players also. They might not have the depth of some teams but they are still pretty good. I think they finish 9-7 or 10-6 with a wild card spot or maybe a division win if they can beat the Broncos once.

  2. maxkingpin says: Jul 14, 2013 3:06 PM

    They had 6 Pro-Bowlers and finished with the worst record.
    The other 47 players must have really stunk.

  3. raidadon says: Jul 14, 2013 3:15 PM

    Weren’t they picked to win the division last year. All these additions were run outta their old teams. Chefs are just a bunch of dumpster divers

  4. oldhuskerfan says: Jul 14, 2013 3:23 PM

    Two things: Eric Fischer is at right tackle. #2. The reason the Chief ‘s defense looked so bad last year was because of the Three and Out offense. The defense spent so much time on the field, they were wore out by halftime.

  5. glazerh8er says: Jul 14, 2013 3:24 PM

    Sorry, still bitter about the Bucs ranking because there is nothing else to do this time of the season. We beat them 38-10 last year. They get Alex Smith (IMO just as much of a question mark as us getting Revis as far as upgrades go), Alex was a great QB in San Fran, I hope he does well in KC, but we added more talent relatively on defense. I just don’t see this team as being better than mine, not even close really. I even pull for the Chiefs in that division.

  6. pc1976 says: Jul 14, 2013 3:24 PM

    Excellent analysis. Kansas City last year had
    1. bad coaching,
    2. bad QB
    3. Massive negative turnover differential.

    None of these are long-term issues, such as a weak roster is (see Cleveland, Oakland), and that makes a quick turnaround possible.

    I still think Alex Smith is a makeshift option but he’s still an improvement. 9-10 wins and 2nd in the AFC East is a real possibility

  7. bucsfan5000 says: Jul 14, 2013 3:25 PM

    Romeo Crennel’s not exactly sure.

  8. youarejealousof6rings says: Jul 14, 2013 3:26 PM

    We win SBs. You should try it.

  9. worsttoofirst says: Jul 14, 2013 3:30 PM

    Worst team last year and the Bucs are 2 spots below them.Ha…what a joke

  10. olhoss1884 says: Jul 14, 2013 3:57 PM

    They still need help up the middle on defense, but the biggest thing will be the improvement of the offense with a new coach and a QB who isn’t a turnover machine.

  11. lovefootball4life says: Jul 14, 2013 4:00 PM

    So except for the Broncos the AFC West is ranked in the bottom third? Shees they’ll have that division locked by week 10.

  12. dennisatunity says: Jul 14, 2013 4:44 PM

    What I think is sad, hilarious and ironic all at the same time is the statement:

    “For a 2-14 club with a new head coach, the Chiefs don’t figure to have much camp-competition drama. Most starting spots are ably filled.”

    They had a 2-14 season. That’s the definition of a club whose starting spots are not ably filled.

  13. brainsmasher says: Jul 14, 2013 5:09 PM

    Romeo did not have a quarterback in Cleveland and he didn’t have one last year in Kansas City. The year before he had Kyle Orton; but cheapskate Pioli let him go to Dallas. Romeo did not have a chance; but he is a bad coach?

  14. sidk1121 says: Jul 14, 2013 5:10 PM

    With such a stacked defensive roster and a pretty potent offense that resolved its glaring problem at QB, the Chiefs are capable of making the same turnaround that the Colts made between 2011 and 2012. I can honestly see the Chiefs being potent playoff contenders this year. Excited to see what they’ll make of the potential that they have.

  15. shayeezy says: Jul 14, 2013 5:42 PM

    the QB and head coach are the two most influential positions in determining a team’s success, and the chiefs were historically bad at both spots last year. with the addition of smith and reid, and improvements throughout the roster, they will be better than the chiefs team that went 10-6 in 2010.

  16. dallascowboysdishingthereal says: Jul 14, 2013 6:37 PM

    Being Reid’s first season to try to fix the Chiefs, I think a finish around 7-9 and 21 in the NFL would be considered a surprising success. Expecting more than that Reid’s first year, is probably unrealistic.

  17. wolff111 says: Jul 14, 2013 7:31 PM

    They’ll still have Alex Smith.

  18. ganzeenie says: Jul 14, 2013 7:52 PM

    This is a joke, the person that wrote the article is a joke the chiefs were cellar dwellers for the past 6 years traded a second rounder for a career backup,changed coaches to the Susan lucci of the NFL he gets nominated ever year but don’t go nowhere andy Reid and all of a sudden there highlighted. Well it’s almostfootball season again so it’s time for the usual teams to get the annual stroking steelers,cowboys,chargers,panthers etc..

  19. kc571 says: Jul 14, 2013 8:00 PM

    Reid’s record after the bye is incredible. I’m anticipating an upset in Denver. With all the additions on the coaching staff,
    Hoping for 9 or 10 wins. Media can keep the expectations low.

  20. racerx1225 says: Jul 14, 2013 8:55 PM

    Ha! New coach, new QB, losing traditions….. They will never get by the Rdiers defense as they will stop the run up front and have their Secondary will eat these guys for lunch. Chiefs are cellar dwellers eternally. SD is on the downside of their winning years and so the Raiders will battle Denver for the West.

  21. andyisfat says: Jul 14, 2013 9:19 PM

    4-12 with Andy’s stupid, predictable play calling and out-dated west coast offense.

  22. 49erstim says: Jul 14, 2013 9:28 PM

    The Chiefs will win the AFC West. Bank it. As a fellow poster above pointed out that defense was worn out by that putrid offense. I believe if they can improve that offense to top 15-20 they’ll make the playoffs. ..if higher then they win the West.

  23. msclemons67 says: Jul 14, 2013 10:29 PM

    I’m not a fan but I like the Chiefs because I hate the Raiders and Broncos. I’d love to see the Chiefs smack the division around.

    That being said, you are what your record says you are (thanks Parcells). There’s a whole lot of “woulda, coulda, shouda” in this article for the worst team in the league. “But they had pro-bowlers” doesn’t change the fact that they also had the #1 overall pick in the draft.

    I don’t think adding a subpar QB and a washed up coach is going to fix all of their problems.

  24. dtlb58 says: Jul 14, 2013 10:37 PM

    A lot of people that didn’t watch the Chiefs last year also don’t realize how awful of a job Romeo Crennel did.

    The coaching upgrades, plus the new players and the expeirenced ones could very well lead to the post season for the Chiefs in ’13.

  25. themackstrong says: Jul 14, 2013 10:46 PM

    There is no way they should have had 6 Pro Bowlers being 2 win team which just shows you part of the joke of the voting system. I think they are rated right where they should be. I watched Alex Smith for years…He maybe be slightly better than Matt Cassell but he wouldn’t break the top 15 if you rated QB’s in NFL.

  26. nflofficeadmin says: Jul 14, 2013 10:48 PM

    Thomas Jones destroyed Baldwin’s psyche. He took his manhood in front of that locker room and it was down hill from there.

  27. phloorioisanarcissist says: Jul 14, 2013 11:03 PM

    Can’t believe the raider fans audacity to get on any blog and talk smack about beating anyone. The raiders are at the bottom of the heap in the NFL and there’s no denying it. I like the Chiefs but I am not about to get on here and talk about how great they are and how they are going to beat everyone down when they have nothing to stand by. They flat out stunk the last few years, plain and simple. But they seem to have improved a great deal, and they have the talent, just a complete lack of coaching and a makeshift qb. I believe Alex Smith will thrive under Andy Reid. Say what you want about Andy, but he is a winning coach and has a resume to prove it, and now he has complete autonomy with the Chiefs.

    For all you trolls out there talking about your “rings”, you don’t have any. The team you cheer for does. So, get out there and accomplish something so you feel better about yourself, and stop trolling.

  28. kenstabler says: Jul 14, 2013 11:29 PM

    Please, #21. New (old, declining) coach. New never good QB. New system on offense and defense. And a defense that is good on paper, but not on the field.

    They belong in the cellar with the Raiders, sorry.

  29. bhagos2 says: Jul 15, 2013 2:16 AM

    Ridiculous.

    Projected 21st after being DEAD last in the league last season. All they’ve added was a mediocre QB and an AVG at best CB.

    They’ll finish 5-11. Only reason they’ll even do that good is because of their lousy division anyway.

  30. natelan69 says: Jul 15, 2013 3:18 AM

    At least Chiefs fans can point to this article in December and reminisce fondly of “that one time when they were ranked higher than the Chargers”.

  31. faithful209er says: Jul 15, 2013 8:26 AM

    Sorry to burst your bubble, Chiefs fans, but I am a die-hard Niners lifer, and I warn you: Alex Smith has been outplayed by EVERY other qb he has ever played pro ball with. Not just kaep, but Shaun Hill, Jt O’Sullivan(!), Troy Smith(!), David Carr, etc.

    People who never watched will criticize me and cite stupid stats, but trust me, when you live and die for a team for 35 years, you watch players on that team very closely.

    By November, Alex Smith will break Chiefs fans’ hearts. By December, they’ll be calling for Chase Daniel.

  32. dirtydrew says: Jul 15, 2013 9:31 AM

    Chase Daniel will end up being the starter. He eventually will be put in over Alice Smith.

  33. dawkinsalwaysaneagle says: Jul 15, 2013 9:34 AM

    Let’s hope the Mid-Western air helps Andy learn how to manage the game clock. You will see KC, you will see…

  34. drkknightsw says: Jul 15, 2013 10:57 PM

    9-7 to 11-5. can’t wait to see the posts on KC by week 15 when all y’all haters can’t believe it. maybe you should actually watch real football instead of nose diving so deep into fantasy football.

    reasons a 6 pro-bowl player team wins 2 games:

    1) bad coaching
    2) bad qb play
    3) absurd amount of turnovers.

    kc’s fix:

    1) andy reid
    2) alex smith
    3) 1+2 =3.

    I also love how every ESPN analyst out there loves the Reid and Smith hires by KC yet none of the fans can get a grasp on how a team can go from 2 wins to 10 or 11.

    It’s called coaching and talent.

  35. drkknightsw says: Jul 15, 2013 10:59 PM

    Eagles fans,

    Andy Reid won more games during his time in Philly than the Eagles did in what, 20 full seasons before he arrived?????

    In the NFC East with those Qb’s and coaches you’ll face 6 times a year, there is no way you guys will win 1/2 the amount of games in the next 15 years that you won with Reid in the past 14 seasons

  36. 626tmt says: Jul 16, 2013 11:37 AM

    Way too high !!! For a team who only won two games .

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