Consistency may be the strongest thing the stable Chiefs have going for them, as they will field almost the same team in 2017 that led them to a 12-4 record and a playoff berth in 2016. This team is 44-24 in the last four years and the only thing really missing is a Super Bowl. They are led by a very steady head coach and a very experienced coaching staff. Their success in 2017 will likely rely on a terrific defense that creates turnovers and doesn’t allow a lot of points to counter an offense that is steady, but not very explosive, and doesn’t score a lot of points. A lot of low scoring games may be ahead.
This remains a run-first offense with a safe/short passing game, but they are very creative in how they run the ball. a lot of screens and three- and five-step drops that are basically extensions of the run game. They are not going to dazzle you with their selection of plays but they play smart and under control and their elite defense gives them good field position but they need to do a better job of capitalizing on it. They have not been a high scoring offense but they do have some big play guys if they can get them the ball.
Multi TE sets, unbalanced looks and a physical run game typifies this offense. Three TEs on this play at the 10-yard line that looks like it will be a run and keeps the defense in their base personnel. All three line up on the right with Travis Kelce outside. The two inside TEs attack the middle of the field to hold the safeties, while Kelce starts outside to create room and then he bends back inside with a single matchup vs. a DC. The QB shows a nice RB play action fake to the left to hold the front seven and then a semi-roll to the right for a nice TD and a safe play.
This is a little bit of a “bend, but don’t break” scheme that gives up yards between the 20s but they tighten up in the red zone. They are terrific at creating turnovers and just don’t let opposing offenses get into the end zone. They are flexible in their 34 front and coverage schemes on the backend and they can either attack or sit back and play it safe. If their edge pass rush is productive it makes the rest of this defense better and these players know this scheme well and they trust it. Here is a look at their nickel blitz that they like to call.
Kansas City has two DL on this play with their hands in the dirt on a third and twenty situation, and with two OLBs rushing off the edge it looks like a four-man front. The opposing OL tries to “man” block and that plays right into the Chiefs’ hands. Both DTs run an X-stunt, attacking both “A” gaps, and both OGs get hung up trying to block inside, and with the OLB occupying the LOT with a hard-outside rush it leaves a hole between the OT and OG, and that allows the LB to attack the OG/OT gap and it forces the RB to step up and pick him up on the blitz. It looks like the offense has blocked this play well. but as Lee Corso says, “Not so fast my friend!” On the back end of this defense, a cover two safety look turns into a cover one with one of the safeties creeping up close to the line of scrimmage. With the RB tied up in the LB blitz pick-up, the DS attacks late into the same gap with nobody to block him and it leads to a nice sack and a creative call by the coaches.
5 additional summer film evaluations
- This offense needs more explosive plays — QB Alex Smith gets rid of the ball quicker than any other NFL QB and that often means that they are going to a lot of short/safe passes and not letting deeper routes develop. They have a terrific deep threat in WR Tyreek Hill so maybe they will go vertical a little more, and opening up the passing game will force defenses to play more honestly and not crowd the LOS to stop the run and short passing game.
- This run defense could be in trouble — They finished 26th in run defense in 2016 and they lost their anchor, NT Dontari Poe, in free agency. If their new addition, NT Bennie Logan, can fill Poe’s shoes, they might be okay. But that is asking a lot and they will rely on a fairly deep rotation. It is a one-gap penetrating 34 front, and they must stay healthy, which was not the case in 2016.
- Will they stay with their man “press” schemes? — They will occasionally show some zones and combo coverages but tight man coverage is who they are. Elite DC Marcus Peters will shadow the opponent’s best WR all over the field and SS Eric Berry plays a lot of single high safety looks. Man coverage allows them to blitz if necessary, but they must fight thru a lot of offenses who try pick plays to rub out that tight coverage. A good up front pass rush really helps the backend.
- What will this run game look like? — Andy Reid has always preferred a run-first attack but injuries and inconsistent RB play in the past couple of years have forced him to adjust. Kansas City doesn’t have a very physical run game, as we will see a lot of stretch plays, sprint draws, misdirection and screen passes as extensions of the run game. It is a proven scheme but their RB talent level may hold them back. RBs Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West must have bounce back years.
- They need to be great in turnover ratio — This has been an Andy Reid strength for years and it often covers up a lot of other weaknesses. They were at the top of NFL in 2016 with 33 takeaways and only 17 turnovers for a plus-16 TO ratio, and this defense needs to do a good job of getting the ball back to their offense, while QB Alex Smith does a good job of taking care of the football. On a team that does not have a large margin for error this is an important area to excel.
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