Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp and Preseason Review
by Noah Gronniger- Outsiders Podcast
A new era of Chiefs football started in late July as they opened up training camp with a new General Manager in John Dorsey, a new Head Coach in Andy Reid, and a new Quarterback in Alex Smith. The fans filed in hours before the first practice to tailgate and get ready for what they hope is a new and vastly improved Chiefs era of football. I do a sports podcast called ‘The Outsiders Podcast’ and my co-host Clint Switzer and I were at training camp with media credentials for the first day. We talked with several fans, all of them excited for this new regime and hopes of making the playoffs and never seeing a season like last years’ 2-14 record again. As I began to watch practice and look through the roster I was way more hesitant to heap glowing praise upon this new regime.
All roads through the QB
Throughout training camp the quarterbacks struggled to impress while constantly reminding everyone of a face they all want to forget, Matt Cassel. The quick check downs are something that Chiefs fans have grown all to familiar and frustrated with after the Cassel era. The down the field passes were few and far between, but the times they let it fly the ball was often inaccurate and uncatchable.
Other than the now released Ricky Stanzi, backup quarterback Chase Daniel struggled the most during camp with his timing and accuracy. Alex Smith showed me his leadership and understanding of the offense very early on in camp, however, his lack of arm talent is a disappointment. Meanwhile, undrafted rookie 3rd string quarterback Tyler Bray clearly has the most arm talent, but needs to mature and learn how to become a leader of the offense and team.
Offensive depth is shallow
The most troubling thing about this 2013 Chiefs team is the lack of depth at almost every position on the field. I got to ask Andy Reid about that and specifically about their wide receivers and running backs behind Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles. He told me that the players are out there trying to get better and they would have to wait and see how it all shakes out.
After struggling through camp the Chiefs decided to move on from wide receiver Jon Baldwin and traded him to the San Francisco 49ers for their own struggling wide receiver A.J. Jenkins. Donnie Avery and Dexter McCluster are the underwhelming wide receivers behind Dwayne Bowe in the lineup. Rookie running back Knile Davis has impressed as a kick returner by taking one back for a touchdown versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, but remains to have fumbling issues and a lack of instinctiveness in the run game. So far, Knile Davis remains the backup running back to Jamaal Charles, but I believe Shaun Draughn is the better back as of now.
The offensive line for the Chiefs was supposed to be a strong point with the addition of the #1 overall pick in this years draft, Eric Fisher. The Chiefs also kept Branden Albert with the franchise tag seemingly giving them two studs as bookend tackles. However, the Chiefs have struggled on the line and Eric Fisher looks soft and somewhat unsure of himself on the right side after playing left tackle during his college years. On the inside Jeff Allen, Rodney Hudson, and Jon Asamoah need to pick up their games especially identifying and properly blocking stunts and delayed blitzes from linebackers. Hopefully the Chiefs will get this figured out for week 1 at Jacksonville, but only time will tell.
Key is the “D”
The defense has been the stronger unit during camp with the additions of defensive end Mike DeVito, inside linebacker Akeem Jordan, and cornerbacks Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson. Nose tackle Dontari Poe looks much improved and has dropped 15 pounds from staying away from, the always hard to resist, Kansas City BBQ. Defensive end Tyson Jackson looks to be carrying over his improved play from late last season which is going to be a big key to whether this defense will succeed or fail.
Again, I’m worried about depth along the defensive line and at the linebacker position. If Tamba Hali or Justin Houston were to get injured, I don’t see anyone who can step in and give you anything close to what Hali or Houston give. A new safety has arisen, but at a different position; Quintin Demps has shown his ability for the big play in the kick return game taking one back for a touchdown versus the San Francisco 49ers. The defense should carry this team as there are fewer questions with the starters and less depth issues than on the offensive side of the football.
Not quite ready for “prime time”
In my opinion, until the Chiefs take the quarterback position seriously and can get a franchise type guy in there at that position, they will always struggle to be a true contending team. There are a ton of holes on this roster so health with be key just to keep their heads above water this season. If I had to pick a record for them right now I would say they finish 7-9. At some point, the Chiefs are going to have to make a bold move to acquire a franchise quarterback or wallow in world of mediocrity forever.