Breaking the KC Chiefs “secret code”

Chiefs Secrets

APRIL 2016 – Believe it or not, strategy at 1 Arrowhead Drive is not a matter of national security, contrary to the way and speed in which information is leaked by the Kansas City Chiefs. The team hides behind the veil of not wanting to give away the recipe to the “secret sauce” to the opposition.

Sometimes you have to think they just like keeping secrets.

It’s kind of like the old school-yard trick of saying, “I know something you don’t know,” when that something really isn’t that significant. Sometimes that “something” is significant to a few people, but what would be the harm in letting the word out as soon as it’s known? Does Johnny really have a crush on Suzie? Who cares? By the time the word gets out, Johnny once again thinks Suzie has cooties.

Many Chiefs fans questioned why the Chiefs invested three years and $21 million ($11.5 million guaranteed) in Tamba Hali. Hali is a 32-year-old outside linebacker, a position that relies greatly on speed and agility. Hali has been injured often the last couple of years, and he barely practiced last year to save his aging legs as much as possible for game day.

Were the Chiefs that down on Dee Ford, the player they supposedly drafted in the first round in 2014 to replace Hali? Was Ford that much of a bust?

That answer was revealed somewhat on March 22 with the “oh, by the way” announcement by coach Andy Reid that All-Pro outside linebacker Justin Houston had had reconstructive surgery on his ACL.

In February!

The Chiefs waited more than a month to let us know that one of their top defensive players would be out 6-12 weeks, the normal recovery time for this procedure. Reid said he hoped Houston, a notoriously fast healer, would be back sooner, rather than later. Why didn’t they tell us when Houston had the surgery? Is that delay going to slow down their rivals as they prepare for KC without Houston?

Houston is the anchor of a pretty good Chiefs defense, and it should still be pretty good, even without him. But his surgery and recovery might change how the Chiefs approach this month’s NFL Draft. Before we look at places the Chiefs might go with their first-round pick on April 28, let’s take a look back at last year.

The Chiefs ranked 23rd (out of 32 teams, so just inside the third quadrant) in total offense.

Total offense is based solely on yards gained, so maybe scoring offense is a better gauge. They were ninth in that category.

They were 30th in passing offense, mainly because their sixth-ranked rushing offense was so good that the aerial game was semi-grounded. They had more weapons in the passing game than in 2014, when the Chiefs set a record for futility with no touchdown passes to a wide receiver. But they still could use some more firepower for quarterback Alex Smith. Jeremy Maclin is a top receiver, while Travis Kelce is an elite tight end. They use their running backs in the passing game, and Jamaal Charles should be healthy again after blowing his ACL early last year. But another good receiver is an option.

Charles is getting older. Backups Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware did an admirable job in backing him up, but they’re not in Charles’ class. Not likely to be an early-round spot, but don’t be surprised to see the Chiefs invest in another running back in later rounds.

The offense line has been rebuilt (again) this offseason, but the changes were more subtle, as the line started to jell late last season to become a strength. It would not be a huge surprise to see the Chiefs select another O-lineman on the draft’s second day, which comprises the second and third rounds.

On the defensive side, the Chiefs ranked seventh in total defense (329.3 yards/game), and third in scoring defense (17.9 points per game). That’s probably the reason five of the six Chiefs to make the Pro Bowl were from the defensive side (Kelsey was the lone offensive player).

They were ninth in passing yards allowed and eighth in rushing yards allowed, which balances out to seventh overall. Getting Derrick Johnson back at middle linebacker, Mike DeVito back at nose tackle and Eric Berry back at strong safety certainly helped the run defense. Pro Bowl rookie cornerback Marcus Peters helped the pass defense. But the Chiefs had a lot of potential free agents on the defensive side, and they couldn’t keep them all. So defense certainly will be addressed in the draft, maybe as early as the first round.

The Chiefs lost cornerback Sean Smith to free agency (the Raiders signed him). They also lost safety Tyvon Branch (Arizona), guard Jeff Allen (Houston), tackle Donald Stephenson (Denver) and backup quarterback Chase Daniel (Philadelphia). All were expected to be gone, but their loss still will be felt.

The Chiefs were able to re-sign Hali, Johnson, defensive end Jaye Howard and linebacker Frank Zombo, and they franchised Berry, ensuring he will be back.

So where do the Chiefs go with the 28th pick of the draft? Do they try to fill a need or go with the dreaded “best player available?” Fans love to debate who is the best player at a specific position. Cornerbacks, for example, can be graded on height (there are lots of big receivers in the AFC West), speed, cover ability, hands and overall athleticism. Which attribute is the most important is secondary to which position the Chiefs might focus on first.

The Chiefs own that 28th pick, plus the 59th, 91st, 126th, 162nd, 165th, 203rd and 246th picks. The 91st (third round) pick was forfeited for tampering in securing the free-agent services of Maclin last season, but the Chiefs are appealing that ruling, so that is still in question.

Mock drafts, which are updated almost daily, have the Chiefs selecting a pass rusher, cornerback, an offensive or defensive lineman or even a backup quarterback. There is no consensus on whom they will draft. The most-often mentioned player is cornerback William Jackson III from Houston, but the mocks have them taking players from all over the field.

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Article by David Smale

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