Kansas City Chiefs Season Preview

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Rory Norris
Rory Norris is an avid fan of the Sunderland AFC and the Washington Redskins, and a new writer in the world of sport. Recently, he has been commenting on the action of the NFL and EFL League One, having recently followed the action of the 2018 World Cup.

The Kansas City Chiefs were last season’s fairytale story, spearheaded mainly by the meteoric rise of sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes. On their way to an outstanding 12-4 season, Mahomes threw for an incredible fifty touchdowns and over five-thousand yards, and became the first Kansas City Chiefs player to ever be named NFL MVP. The focal point of the team throughout the season was their top-tier offensive corps, comprising not only of Mahomes but also boasting incredible talent both in rushing and receiving aspects.

On the ground, the charge was led, for the most part, by the breakout star of the 2017/18 season, Kareem Hunt. The runner led the league in rushing yards in his rookie year and continued his brilliance well into the new season, providing value both through rushing attempts and as a receiving threat. Following the Chiefs’ week eleven loss against the Los Angeles Rams, however, Hunt was released by the team due to the emergence of footage implicating the player in a violent attack against a woman- he would later be suspended for the first eight games of the 2019 season due to this incident. Following this, former Miami Dolphins rusher Damien Williams led the offensive efforts on the ground, and merged effectively into a Kareem Hunt-esque role.

The success of Patrick Mahomes no doubt has much to-do with the incredible amount of receiving talent at his discretion. Tyreek Hill retained his position as first choice receiver, as his lethal speed remained integral to the high-octane Chiefs offense. Hill ultimately finished the season with over 1,400 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, thus demonstrating his irreplaceable value to this team. Established tight-end Travis Kelce also remained stalwart in the team, again allowing this offense to flourish and giving Mahomes the best possible chance of success.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Chiefs were less impressive. The tactics deployed by head coach Andy Reid often involved a heavy emphasis on purely outscoring their opponents, rather than making any sort of defensive stop. The team conceded over thirty points to their opponents on five separate occasions, including a staggering 54 points in their loss to the Los Angeles Rams, thus reflecting the overbearing emphasis on offense within this team. Of course, this rule is not without exceptions, as player such as edge-rusher Dee Ford contributed positively in several ways- though this player may become more remembered for his vital offside penalty in the AFC Championship game, which many attribute as the primary reason for the Chiefs’ eventual loss.

Ultimately, the Chiefs were one of the most exciting teams in the NFL last season, and will look to improve on their vulnerabilities while being led by one of the most talented quarterbacks the league has seen for a long time. Let’s take a look at the coaching changes made by the team in this past offseason.

Staff Additions

Steve Spagnuolo: Following the dismissal of defensive co-ordinator Bob Sutton after an uninspired defensive showing in the 2019 AFC Championship game, Spagnuolo was appointed as his successor. The former New York Giants defensive co-ordinator brings a wealth of experience to the side, having also held the position of head coach at the (then St. Louis) Rams.

Brendan Daly: Daly joined the Chiefs this offseason, taking the role of both defensive-line co-ordinator and run-game co-ordinator following four seasons with the New England Patriots.

Matt House: House takes the role of linebackers coach with the Chiefs this season, having spent much of his past in a coaching capacity at the University of Kentucky. He has also spent time at Pittsburgh and Florida International.

Dave Merritt: Merritt held various coaching positions during fourteen seasons with the New York Giants, contributing to two Super Bowl winning efforts, and now joins the Chiefs as defensive backs coach having spent the previous season with the Arizona Cardinals in the same capacity.

The Chiefs have also made several player additions through free agency and trades as they look to capitalise on the various positive aspects of last season. Let’s see how these look to influence the team.

Player Additions

Tyrann Mathieu: The Honey Badger signed for the Chiefs through free agency following the release of franchise legend safety Eric Berry, and should inject quality into a secondary corps which looked mediocre at best last season. The athletic safety has yet to recapture the quality he demonstrated with the Arizona Cardinals, yet he should make an immediate impact and lessen the defensive struggles of the team.

Carlos Hyde: The veteran rusher was an early free-agency acquisition, however may find his backfield reps limited due to the rise of Damien Williams in the latter half of last season. Hyde has nevertheless demonstrated some quality with both the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns, and should contribute in some capacity to the team effort this season.

Emmanuel Ogbah: Ogbah was acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns this past offseason, and again looks to provide an instant impact in this formerly lacklustre defensive corps. The edge-rusher struggled to break into a Browns team featuring such talent at defensive end as Myles Garrett, however should gain the reps he has been seeking in Kansas City.

Frank Clark: The Chiefs acquired Clark in return for their first round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, and the edge-rusher looks to replace the departing Dee Ford. The Chiefs obviously see some quality in Clark if they were willing to waive their first round selection, and the statistics agree; Clark finished last season with a total of thirteen sacks, and the Chiefs should expect similar production.

Darron Lee: Lee was again acquired through a trade, this time with the New York Jets, who selected the linebacker in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Lee never quite returned on his first-round pedigree, however should at the very least be a reliable depth option for this team.

NFL Draft

2.56: Mecole Hardman, WR- Georgia
2.63: Juan Thornhill, S- Virginia
3.84: Khalen Saunders, DT- Western Illinois
6.201: Rashad Fenton, CB- South Carolina
6.214: Darwin Thompson, RB- Utah State
7.216: Nick Allegretti, C- Illinois

A relatively quiet draft-day showing from the Kansas City Chiefs largely derived from their lack of first round selection, having been traded away in order to acquire Seattle’s Frank Clark. The franchise nevertheless made several smart decisions, taking players in key areas of need. Wideout Mecole Hardman impressed whilst at Georgia, and should add even more quality to this already lethal offense. Plus, he runs a 4.33s 40-yard dash. Seeing this guy line up next to former sprinter Tyreek Hill- what’s not to love?

Virginia safety Juan Thornhill furthermore promises to add quality to a secondary corps which was heavily lacklustre for a large majority of the previous season. Meanwhile, Utah State rusher Darwin Thompson again adds more excitement (if that’s even possible) to this offense.

Undrafted Free Agents

Gary Johnson, LB- Texas
Darius Harris, LB- Middle Tennesse State
Dino Boyd, OL- Cincinnati
Tim Ward, DE- Old Dominion
Jack Fox, P- Rice
Cody Thompson, WR- Toledo
Felton Davis III, WR- Michigan State
Jamal Custis, WR- Syracuse
Jamire Jordan, WR- Fresno State
Andre Lindsey, WR- Sacramento State
Kyle Shurmur, QB- Vanderbilt
T.J. Linta, QB- Wagner
John Lovett, TE- Princeton
James Williams, RB- Washington State
Mark Fields, CB- Clemson
Dakari Monroe, CB- San Jose State
Jalin Burrell, CB- New Mexico

The Kansas City Chiefs added 17 undrafted free agents this offseason, one of the largest hauls seen throughout the league. Several may have chances of making the roster this season, such as former Vanderbilt QB Kyle Shurmur- the son of Pat Shurmur, head coach of the New York Giants. The quintuple signing at wide receiver also involves a number of head-turning players, the most notable being Toledo’s Cody Thompson, who emerged from nowhere as one of the major playmakers at the college. Elsewhere, who doesn’t love a good punter signing? Rice’s Jack Fox was a semifinalist for last year’s Ray Guy award, which is given to the best punter of the nation. He also has a legitimate chance of making the roster this year.

Notable Camp Standouts

D’Montre Wade, CB
Mecole Hardman, WR
Darron Lee, LB
Carlos Hyde, RB
Tremon Smith, RB
Juan Thornhill, S
Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE

Camp standouts include new additions Darron Lee and Carlos Hyde, neither of which hold a guaranteed roster spot given their questionable past performances. Aforementioned Georgia rookie Mecole Hardman continues to impress and may represent a legitimate receiving threat; importantly, this means that opposing defenses will no longer be able to place Tyreek Hill under double coverage as they may desire. Tanoh Kpassagnon has been flying under the radar in the Kansas City Chiefs for quite some time and may be in line for a breakout season this year.

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