AFC West: Anthony Fasano

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Regarding the Kansas City Chiefs’ inability to get the ball to a wide receiver for a touchdown this season, quarterback Alex Smith’s comments about tight end Anthony Fasano could be instructive.

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“He’s a guy that you can really trust [with] a lot of throws," Smith said Wednesday. “You can see the last two years the types of catches he’s made in traffic with people around him. That’s certainly one of his strengths. Certainly as a quarterback you feel good throwing those balls into those tighter windows."

Fasano has developed into one of Smith’s receivers of choice when the Chiefs are near the opponent’s goal line. While Smith has aimed more passes inside the red zone to Travis Kelce and Jamaal Charles (eight each), three of his four passes to Fasano in the red zone have gone for a touchdown.

Fasano's other touchdown this season was from 20 yards, or three feet outside the red zone. Fasano caught three red-zone touchdowns from Smith last year despite missing seven games with various injuries.

The point is that Smith didn’t say these things about Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery or any of the Chiefs' wide receivers. Judging from where he goes with the ball in red zone, it doesn’t appear he has that level of trust with any of the wide receivers.

“He’s always been a good player and somebody that the quarterback trusts," coach Andy Reid said of Fasano. “That part is an important thing."

It is an important thing. That Smith feels that way about Fasano can explain a lot.

“Tight end is important in this offense, not only to move the chains but to be a safety valve for him," Fasano said. “I think he takes advantage of that."
Bigger is better when it comes to wide receivers. That’s not a secret around the NFL, and it’s not a notion that’s particularly new. Speed matters, but size is generally what wins out.

That’s something all teams, the Kansas City Chiefs included, believe. Bigger, stronger receivers are more capable of shucking physical coverage and making catches in a larger radius, thus giving the quarterback more room for error. That’s accepted fact in the NFL, not opinion.

Now comes my ESPN colleague, Mike Rodak, who covers the Buffalo Bills, with an interesting story. Rodak went through NFL rosters and figured an average height for the wide receivers for each team.

The Bills led the league with an average height of 6-2. Of more interest to you, the Chiefs came in next to last at slightly less than 5-11 1/2. And that doesn’t even count rookie De'Anthony Thomas, who should be playing at least some as a slot receiver but is being listed for the time being as a running back.

Thomas is 5-9.

A height of 6-2 is generally considered the dividing line for a receiver between having the right size and not. Dwayne Bowe at 6-2 is the only Chiefs' receiver who passes the test. Among the others who could or might play a significant amount next season, Donnie Avery is 5-11, A.J. Jenkins 6-0, Junior Hemingway 6-1 and Weston Dressler 5-7.

The Bills, as a comparison, have seven wide receivers who stand at least 6-2.

The Chiefs have some tall tight ends who can help compensate. Travis Kelce, who showed some impressive receiving skills last year before a knee ailment ruined his rookie season, is 6-5, as is Sean McGrath. Anthony Fasano, who caught three touchdown passes last year despite missing seven games with injuries, is 6-4.

But this is an issue for the Chiefs. Their receivers were at or near the bottom of the league in production last year and a lack of size is one reason why.

It’s not just my opinion here. Read what Bills general manager Doug Whaley had to say. The Chiefs may not go on the record as saying so, but they agree, too.

Kansas City Chiefs season wrap-up

January, 8, 2014
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Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 10
Preseason Power Ranking: 19

Biggest surprise: The Chiefs plucked rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper, a seventh-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers, off waivers to start the regular season. Cooper played better than the Chiefs had a right to expect for a long stretch of the season as the third cornerback. He had a rough stretch late in the season before bouncing back at the end. At 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds, Cooper has the size to match up with the league's bigger receivers. Cooper projects as nothing less than the Chiefs' third cornerback next season and could eventually become a starter.

Biggest disappointment: Offensive tackle Eric Fisher was the first overall pick in the draft last year but rarely played like it. The Chiefs used Fisher on the right side, and he initially had trouble making the transition. He also had trouble avoiding nagging injuries, which caused him to miss four games, including the playoff loss to Indianapolis. Fisher should eventually develop into the kind of player the Chiefs envisioned. He showed great athletic skills that will help him reach his potential. Fisher was usually unable to anchor against a strong pass rush and that's where many of his problems occurred. A year in Kansas City's strength program will benefit Fisher greatly.

Biggest need: The Chiefs need a fast wide receiver to energize their passing game. They gambled by giving Dwayne Bowe a lucrative long-term contract last offseason, but Bowe didn't play like a No. 1 wide receiver until the playoff loss to the Colts. Bowe will turn 30 next season, so if nothing else, it's time for the Chiefs to plan for someone else to step into that top receiver's role. The Chiefs have a couple of fast wide receivers in Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins. While Avery delivered some big plays, he dropped too many passes and disappeared too many times. Jenkins hasn't been able to establish himself as a consistent threat.

Team MVP: The Chiefs have at least a couple of defensive candidates but the better choice is running back Jamaal Charles. He supplied much of Kansas City's offensive production, particularly early in the season when the offense around him frequently sputtered. Charles led the league in touchdowns and expanded his game to become a much more dangerous pass-catcher. Coach Andy Reid and his offensive staff did a much better job of getting Charles matched up against linebackers in the open field, and he rewarded them with a number of big plays. If the Chiefs had not lost five of their final seven regular-season games, Charles would have been a strong candidate for league MVP.

Injury situation could be interesting

December, 4, 2013
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Going to be interesting to see who is able to practice for the Kansas City Chiefs Wednesday as they begin preparation for this weekend's game against the Redskins in Washington.

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Left tackle Branden Albert has a hyperextended knee and though he could play against Washington, it might be too soon for him to participate in practice in any significant way. If he doesn't practice, look for the Chiefs to keep Donald Stephenson at left tackle and Eric Fisher on the right side.

The Chiefs probably would have made a move for a tight end if they thought tight end Anthony Fasano (concussion) would be out for an extended period. They still could do that, of course, and could promote one of their practice squad tight ends to the active roster if need be. But Fasano's situation is one to watch. His loss would be a significant one. He has a touchdown catch in each of the past three games.

Don't expect linebacker Justin Houston back in time for this week's game. He had ligament and muscle damage in his elbow, so he's probably another week or two away.

Safety Kendrick Lewis was able to play last week's game after injuring his knee, but there could be some residual soreness there.

Upon Further Review: Chiefs Week 13

December, 2, 2013
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- An examination of four hot issues from the Kansas City Chiefs' 35-28 loss to the Denver Broncos:

[+] EnlargeMarcus Cooper and Eric Decker
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelMarcus Cooper struggled to contain Denver's wide receivers.
Trouble at cornerback: After playing well in the early part of the season, rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper had his third straight poor game. Cooper missed a jam at the line against wide receiver Demaryius Thomas on one play during the third quarter, leaving Thomas alone to catch a short pass and turn it into a 77-yard gain. Cooper recovered to tackle Thomas down the field, but the play set up the touchdown that put the Broncos ahead for good. The Chiefs were determined to take away the crossing routes than San Diego repeatedly burned them on last week, but that left Cooper and the other cornerbacks vulnerable to the deep pass.

Big play from Davis: Rookie running back Knile Davis had the biggest game of his NFL career. He returned a kickoff a team-record 108 yards for a touchdown, and he also carried once for 20 yards and caught two passes for 18 yards. Davis, a third-round draft pick from Arkansas, is a logical player for the Chiefs to try in their effort to improve their offense. Playing him on offense requires the Chiefs to take Jamaal Charles out of the game, but giving Davis the ball eight to 10 times a game could be worth the effort. At 227 pounds, Davis is big enough to make his own hole and also fast enough to be a big-play threat.

Injury update: The Chiefs appear to have lost starting left tackle Branden Albert for an extended period with a left knee injury. Albert was taken from the field in the back of a motorized cart, and the Chiefs were expecting to learn from his MRI on Monday that Albert has ligament damage. He was replaced at left tackle by Donald Stephenson, who filled in for Albert last season when he missed time with back spasms. Rookie Eric Fisher, the first player taken in this year's draft, will stay for the time being at right tackle. The Chiefs may also be without tight end Anthony Fasano on Sunday against the Redskins in Washington; he has a concussion. Fasano had become a threat in the red zone. Against the Broncos he caught a touchdown for the third straight game. The only other tight end on the active roster is Sean McGrath.

Playoff primer: At 9-3, the Chiefs are only a game behind the Denver Broncos in the AFC West standings. But the Broncos in effect lead the Chiefs by a game and a half. They swept the season series from Kansas City, and would win any tiebreaker between the teams. The Chiefs will have to finish with a better record than Denver in order to win the division title.

Chiefs release TE Kevin Brock

October, 29, 2013
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tight end Kevin Brock, who was expendable with Anthony Fasano's return to the lineup, was released by the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday.

The Chiefs have Fasano and Sean McGrath at tight end.

Brock went to camp with the Chiefs but was released prior to the start of the season. But two games into the season injuries to Fasano and Travis Kelce left the Chiefs short at tight end, so he was re-signed. Brock then played in four games as a backup, catching three passes.

Fasano returned from knee and ankle injuries for the game two weeks ago against Houston, and Brock was inactive for both of the games.

Upon Further Review: Chiefs Week 7

October, 21, 2013
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A review of four hot issues from the Kansas City Chiefs' 17-16 win over the Houston Texans:

More aggressive decisions: Andy Reid has been coaching the Chiefs this way all season and he continued his aggressive game decisions against Houston. Up by a point early in the fourth quarter, Reid had the Chiefs try for a touchdown rather than kick a field goal while on the Texans’ 1-yard line. The Chiefs failed to score when quarterback Alex Smith’s pass intended for tight end Sean McGrath missed the mark. "I made a deal with the players on that when I first got here," Reid said. "We’re going to stay aggressive and at the same time try to do what we think is right there. We thought we could get that son of a gun in there."

[+] EnlargeDwayne Bowe and Alex Smith
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesDwayne Bowe and Alex Smith celebrate the Chiefs' one-point win against the Texans in Week 7.
Winning while losing: The Chiefs lost the turnover battle for the first time this season, committing two while the Texans coughed up the ball just once. The Texans' turnover, quarterback Case Keenum’s fumble with less than two minutes remaining, was the crucial one because it killed what eventually proved to be Houston’s last possession. The Texans started just one possession in Kansas City territory while the Chiefs started two on Houston’s side of the field. The Chiefs, at plus-11, still lead the NFL in turnover differential. Three teams are tied for second at plus-7.

Other receiving threats: For the first time in four games, running back Jamaal Charles did not lead the Chiefs in receiving. The Chiefs made a concerted effort through formations to get the ball to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and the move paid off as Bowe had season highs in receptions (five) and yards (66). Slot receiver Dexter McCluster and tight end Anthony Fasano each had four catches. The development of other offensive threats is crucial to the Chiefs, who are close to getting the maximum from Charles. Charles was again an offensive leader against Houston with 86 yards rushing and 37 receiving. Charles also scored one of their two touchdowns, giving him eight of their 14 offensive TDs. He has at least one touchdown in each of the seven games.

Charles expresses regret: Via Twitter, Charles indicated he felt badly about the block on Texans linebacker Brian Cushing that injured Cushing’s knee. “Wishing @briancushing56 a speedy recovery. Hate to see anyone get injured on the football field," Charles tweeted. In response, Cushing indicated he didn’t blame Charles for the injury. “I know you were just doing your job," Cushing wrote.

Friday's Chiefs practice report

October, 18, 2013
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs could have their entire roster available to them in Sunday's game against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium. Starting free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis and was listed on their injury report as having a 50-50 chance to play.

The other 12 players on their report were listed as probable. That includes cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee) and tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle/knee). Both were listed as being limited practice participants on Friday.

Everyone else on their injury report was listed as a full practice participant: wide receiver Donnie Avery (shoulder), offensive linemen Branden Albert (knee/elbow), Jon Asamoah (knee) and Jeff Allen (groin/hand), nose tackle Dontari Poe (ankle), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), punter Dustin Colquitt (knee), tight end Kevin Brock (shoulder), linebacker Dezman Moses (toe) and defensive lineman Jaye Howard (non-injury related).
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rookie defensive back Sanders Commings, who has been on the Kansas City Chiefs' injured-reserve list all season, practiced for the first time on Wednesday.

The promotion of Commings, a fifth-round draft pick from Georgia, to the active roster, appears inevitable, with the only question being the timing of the move. Commings was a nickel safety for the Chiefs during offseason practice and would have challenged for playing time had he not broken his collarbone during the first practice at training camp.

The Chiefs are deep in the secondary, with the emergence of rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper and veteran safeties Quintin Demps and Husain Abdullah, but the return of Commings would provide even more security at the back end of their defense.

Starting tight end Anthony Fasano, who has missed the last four games because of knee and ankle injuries, returned to practice on a limited basis and said that barring a setback he would play Sunday against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium.

The only player who did not practice was starting free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle). The only other player who was limited in practice was cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee).

The Chiefs listed nine players as full practice participants: tackle Branden Albert (knee/elbow), nose tackle Dontari Poe (ankle), guard Jeff Allen (groin/hand), guard Jon Asamoah (knee), wide receiver Donnie Avery (shoulder), tight end Kevin Brock (shoulder), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), punter Dustin Colquitt (knee) and linebacker Dezman Moses (toe).
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs drafted tight end Travis Kelce in the third round this year in large part because of his ability to line up in a variety of positions, get down the field to catch passes and create matchup problems.

Kelce
They won't get any of that this season from Kelce. He had surgery to repair a microfracture in his knee this week and on Saturday was placed on the injured-reserve list, ending his season.

The Chiefs promoted an undrafted rookie safety, Bradley McDougald, from their practice squad to take his place.

The loss of Kelce means two of the top three Chiefs tight ends heading into training camp are done for the season. The Chiefs lost Tony Moeaki during the preseason with a shoulder injury.

The third tight end, Anthony Fasano, has played in just two games because of knee and ankle injuries. Fasano is unlikely to play in Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs are left with Sean McGrath and Kevin Brock at tight end. McGrath was pulled off waivers from Seattle at the start of the season but has 15 catches and a touchdown. Brock is a journeyman who has two receptions.

Friday's Chiefs practice report

October, 11, 2013
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs ended the suspense with outside linebacker Justin Houston, listing him on their injury report as probable to play in Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.

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Houston
Houston, hit in the head and neck area in last week's game against Tennessee, missed practice Wednesday as the Chiefs put him through the NFL's concussion protocol. He returned to practice on a limited basis on Thursday and was a full practice participant on Friday.

Houston is second in the NFL with 8.5 sacks.

But cornerback Brandon Flowers, who missed a game against the New York Giants two weeks ago because of a sore knee, injured the other knee in practice and was listed as having a 50-50 chance to play against the Raiders.

Another starter, free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle) practiced for the first time this week and was also listed as questionable for Sunday's game. Tight ends Anthony Fasano (ankle/knee) and Travis Kelce (knee) did not practice all week. Fasano is listed as doubtful, and while Kelce will not play.

The Chiefs have nine other players on their injury report, and all were listed as likely to play: running back Jamaal Charles (toes), wide receiver Donnie Avery (shoulder), punter Dustin Colquitt (knee), tackle Eric Fisher (concussion), guard Jeff Allen (groin), tight end Sean McGrath (knee), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz (triceps), and linebacker Dezman Moses (toe).
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs had 12 names on their injury report, so things are looking up for them in that category. They listed 14 players last week.

Four starters did not practice: linebacker Justin Houston (possible concussion), running back Jamaal Charles (toes), tight end Anthony Fasano (knee/ankle) and free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle). Backup tight end Travis Kelce (knee) also did not practice. Kelce, who had arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday, will not play Sunday against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.

Two other regulars were listed as being limited participants in practice: wide receiver Donnie Avery (shoulder) and punter Dustin Colquitt (knee).

Tackle Eric Fisher, who missed last week's game against the New York Giants because of a concussion, was a full practice participant. Others listed as full participants: guard Jeff Allen (groin), tight end Sean McGrath (knee), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz (triceps).

Hits keep on coming for Chiefs' TEs

October, 9, 2013
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tight end has been a sore spot, literally, for the Kansas City Chiefs all season. Rookie Travis Kelce had arthroscopic surgery to repair a microfracture in his knee, putting his season at risk.

The Chiefs have not decided whether to put Kelce on the injured-reserve list.

“We’re going to give it a little time,’’ coach Andy Reid said. “We’ve done that to this point. There’s nothing lost there just to give it some time. I’m glad for the kid that he was able to get it fixed up. He’s going to have a nice long career.’’

The Chiefs planned to use Kelce, a third-round draft pick from Cincinnati, in a variety of ways. During off-season practice and training camp he lined up at many different places in a formation, including as a wide receiver and he showed the ability to beat coverage down the field and make catches.

But he came up with a sore knee during training camp. He has practice rarely during the regular season and hasn’t played a snap on offense.

Trainer Rick Burkholder said Kelce’s condition wouldn’t necessarily be career-threatening.

“Any time you have injuries you worry about that but I wouldn’t classify it as that,’’ Burkholder said. “This is an injury that people get better from. He’s a young guy. He’s got a good, healthy knee. We’ve protected him and he’s protected himself so he didn’t do any more damage to it. That gives him a good chance to come back and have a great career.’’

The Chiefs passing attack has sputtered at times this year, one possible reason being they’ve been shorthanded at tight end since the start of the season. The Chiefs lost Tony Moeaki with a season-ending shoulder injury during the preseason.

Kelce has been unable to contribute. The starting tight end, Anthony Fasano, has missed the last three games with injuries to his knee and ankle. He has just four receptions for 34 yards.

That left the Chiefs at tight end with Sean McGrath, who was pulled off waivers from the Seahawks at the start of the regular season, and a journeyman, Kevin Brock. McGrath is fourth on the Chiefs with 15 catches.

Friday's Chiefs practice report

October, 4, 2013
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For having 14 players, including 10 regulars, on this week's injury report, the Kansas City Chiefs look like they will be in decent shape for Sunday's game at Tennessee. The only players who have already been ruled out are two rookies, starting right tackle Eric Fisher (concussion) and backup tight end Travis Kelce (knee).

Three starters are listed as questionable to play on Sunday: cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee), free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle) and tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle/knee). Flowers didn't play in last week's game against the New York Giants, but said after practice that he was far ahead physically from where he was at this point last week and that he would play against Tennessee.

Nine players are listed as probable to play in Sunday's game, including running back Jamaal Charles (blisters on his feet). The problem was so severe early in the week that Charles had to miss practice on Wednesday. But Charles, like Flowers, said he would play against the Titans.

The others listed as probable include five regulars: guards Jeff Allen (groin) and Jon Asamoah (knee), center Rodney Hudson (shin), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and punter Dustin Colquitt (knee). Also listed as probable are tight end Sean McGrath (knee), cornerback Marcus Cooper (knee/thigh) and linebacker James-Michael Johnson (thumb).
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs won’t be the team without their starting quarterback on Sunday when they meet the Titans in Nashville, Tenn., but they should have an extensive injury list during preparations this week.

The most pressing issue is the sore knee that caused starting cornerback Brandon Flowers to miss the Chiefs’ 31-7 win over the New York Giants. Coach Andy Reid said Flowers still has inflammation of the knee, so his practice week, at the least, could again be disrupted.

Veteran Dunta Robinson started the game as Flowers’ replacement but he yielded a 69-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz. Rookie Marcus Cooper then replaced Robinson and played well, but over the long haul Flowers is one of the Chiefs’ best defensive players.

Rookie offensive tackle Eric Fisher left the Giants game late in the first half after receiving a concussion. He was replaced by Donald Stephenson. The Chiefs will similarly monitor Fisher’s progress throughout the week.

“When you look at it, he got hit more in the shoulder area than he did the head,’’ Reid said. “He didn’t take that direct blow to the head, which is a good thing. I think that will end up being a plus for him going forward.’’

Among other injured players, running back Jamaal Charles has what Reid called “very extensive” blisters on his feet and punter Dustin Colquitt has a sprained knee. Both players were able to finish the game and should be ready to play in Nashville.

Two other starters, tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle) and guard Jeff Allen (groin), did not play against the Giants and it may be at least another week until either player is ready for a game.

The 3-1 Titans will be without quarterback Jake Locker, who injured his hip in a win over the New York Jets. He will be replaced by veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

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