AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One reason the offense worked better in Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos is that the Kansas City Chiefs made better use of their skill players.

The Chiefs had 86 offensive plays in Denver and the skill players in the lineup most often (other than quarterback Alex Smith) were tight end Anthony Fasano (79 plays), wide receivers Dwayne Bowe (72) and Donnie Avery (68), running back Knile Davis (67) and slot receiver Junior Hemingway (34).

But tight end Travis Kelce, who led the Chiefs in receiving yards in Denver with 81, played just two fewer snaps than Hemingway.

The top five skill players in snap counts in the season-opening loss to Tennessee were, in order, Avery, wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr., running back Jamaal Charles, Fasano and Hemingway. Kelce was sixth but 15 snaps behind Hemingway. Kelce was in for 18 snaps against Tennessee.

The Chiefs also got their third tight end, former basketball player Demetrius Harris, involved against the Broncos. He was in for three snaps, catching one pass for 10 yards and drawing a pass interference penalty against Denver in the end zone.

Harris didn’t play on offense against the Titans.

On defense, five players were in for all 49 of Denver’s snaps: linebackers Justin Houston and Josh Mauga, cornerbacks Sean Smith and Marcus Cooper and safety Husain Abdullah.

For a change, nose tackle Dontari Poe didn’t lead the defensive linemen in snaps played. End Allen Bailey was in for 45 snaps, Poe for 42.

Rookie linebacker Dee Ford, the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick, was in for just six snaps.

The Film Don't Lie: Chiefs

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
A weekly look at what the Kansas City Chiefs must fix:

The Chiefs are one of four teams yet to force their opponent to commit a turnover. That’s one reason the Chiefs are 0-2 going into Sunday’s game against the Dolphins in Miami. Their defensive system is based on pressuring the opponent into making mistakes, and the Chiefs have failed in that regard so far. The Chiefs’ pass rush has otherwise been productive. It has a sack on 8.5 percent of its opponents’ pass attempts, which ranks eighth in the league. In their 9-0 start last season, the Chiefs led the NFL with 23 takeaways and five defensive touchdowns.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Expect another heavy workload for Knile Davis this weekend. Rookie De'Anthony Thomas might be available for the first time in his NFL career, but Jamaal Charles is unlikely to play for the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday when they play the Dolphins in Miami.

Coach Andy Reid said Charles has a high ankle sprain, and though Reid didn’t rule him out of the Dolphins’ game, he would probably need more recovery time before he’s ready to play.

"These things take time, but it doesn’t look to be a real severe one," Reid said. "What does that mean? We’ll see."

Charles was injured in the first quarter of Sunday’s 24-17 loss to the Broncos in Denver. He was replaced by Davis, who led the Chiefs in rushing with 79 yards on 22 carries. He also was the team leader in pass receptions with six and scored both of the Chiefs' touchdowns.

"I don’t think it will change much from what you saw (Sunday)," Reid said of Davis' likely role in Miami. "He was involved in a lot of different areas. I’m not saying number of carries or anything, but you saw him going in and playing a few different ways."

Thomas, the Chiefs’ fourth-round draft pick, has yet to suit up for a regular-season game because of a sore hamstring. Reid held out some hope he could play in Miami.

"He should be able to work himself back in this week," Reid said. "We’ll just see how he does once we get to Wednesday."

The Chiefs begin their practice week on Wednesday.

Safety Eric Berry also sprained an ankle in the Denver game. Reid indicated that injury wasn’t as severe as Charles' injury.

Chiefs should get Davis ready to play

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
Jamaal Charles is his team’s best offensive player, so if the Kansas City Chiefs know now that he will be available for this Sunday’s game against the Dolphins in Miami, they should build their game plan around him.

But doubts about his availability for the Miami game could linger all week and if so, the Chiefs would be better off preparing Knile Davis to be their featured back. Charles sprained his ankle in the first quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Broncos in Denver and he never returned.

Davis filled in nicely against the Broncos. He was the Chiefs’ leading rusher (79 yards on 22 carries) and pass receiver (six catches). He also scored both of Kansas City’s touchdowns.

How much more could he have given the Chiefs if he had been given all of the snaps in practice during the week?

“[Davis] gets limited reps all week and so you’re practicing certainly things that are in [the game plan] for Jamaal and [Charles] gets the reps,’’ quarterback Alex Smith said. “It’s tough when these young bucks have to step in. ... It’s hard for them to know the game plan inside and out.’’

The Chiefs at 0-2 are at the point in the season where they need to go with a sure thing. If that’s Charles, so much the better. If the Chiefs aren't sure about that, they need this week to do whatever they can to make Davis the best player he can be.
DENVER – The Kansas City Chiefs might be the only ones who continue to believe that keeping undrafted rookie kicker Cairo Santos was a good decision.

“No, I don’t,’’ coach Andy Reid said when asked whether the Chiefs regretted their choice of Santos over a proven and mostly reliable veteran, Ryan Succop. “He’s got to kick better. I don’t ever look back on those things.’’

The decision is looking like a rotten one. Santos missed another field goal attempt, this one from 37 yards, in Sunday’s 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Santos made a kick from 45 yards. He was also 1-for-2 in last week’s game but sent both kicks off the uprights.

The reliability of a kicker is important for any team but crucial for a team struggling to find itself offensively. The Chiefs improved vastly in that area since last week’s game but are far from a finished product.

They certainly aren’t good enough to overcome the failures of their kicker.

The Chiefs saved about $1.6 million in choosing Santos over Succop and a savings of that nature can make such a move understandable. What’s troubling is that the Chiefs believed Santos was a better option regardless of the cost savings.

They believed he had more ability and potential than Succop and thus was a better choice. He certainly looked the part in training camp and the preseason, when he showed a strong leg and handled a position battle flawlessly.

But the Chiefs can’t wait for him to develop. They needed him to be NFL-ready against the Broncos and he wasn’t.

It sounds like Reid and the Chiefs will make that wait.

“When he settles down he kicks it fine,’’ Reid said. “He’s got to do that. We have trust in him.’’
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The bad injury news continues to pile up for the Kansas City Chiefs. Coach Andy Reid said offensive lineman Jeff Allen would need elbow surgery and is not likely to return this season.

Also, rookie running back De’Anthony Thomas has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Broncos in Denver because of an injured hamstring.

 Allen started at right tackle in the season-opener against Tennessee. He started training camp as the left guard but switched positions when right tackle Donald Stephenson was suspended for the season’s first four games because of a violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Allen’s spot at right tackle on Sunday will be filled by veteran Ryan Harris, who signed with the Chiefs on the eve of training camp. The starter in Allen’s original spot at left guard, Mike McGlynn, joined the Chiefs in late August after being released by Washington.

If Allen misses the remainder of the regular season, he would be the third starter lost for the year from the Tennessee game. Linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive end Mike DeVito each ruptured an Achilles tendon.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Numbers aren’t the best way to measure the impact Derrick Johnson had on the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense or the problem they will have in replacing him for the rest of the season. Johnson, an inside linebacker, ruptured his Achilles tendon in last week’s opener and after having surgery is out for the season.

 Johnson’s gift is his down to down presence. He was as consistent a player as any coach could ask for against both the run and the pass. Johnson was one of the NFL’s best players at his position, and if he had caught more of the game-changing interceptions that he’s dropped -- Johnson’s hands are legendary bad -- more people would know about his skills.

But we’ll try to quantify just how much the Chiefs will miss Johnson. The Tennessee Titans rushed for 26 yards on 10 carries for a 2.6-yard per carry average in last week’s game against the Chiefs before Johnson left the game late in the second quarter.

After his departure, the Titans averaged 4.9 yards per carry with 136 yards on 28 carries.

That’s not a scientific measurement, for sure. It’s a tiny sample size that is also influenced by other factors. Shortly after Johnson left the game, the Chiefs lost another one of their best run defenders, Mike DeVito, also for the season with an identical injury.

But it helps illustrate what the Chiefs are facing here. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is well aware of what Johnson meant to the Chiefs.

“A lot of times when you have a guy like [Johnson] who has exceptional speed for his position, it isn’t just the plays you make but the plays you prevent,’’ Sutton said. “Sometimes those are runs that went for five [yards] or passes that went for 10, but he’s there and that stops a play from going. That’s the one advantage of speed in relationship to your position.

“So you miss that. You miss his experience.’’

The Chiefs will replace him with James-Michael Johnson, who was claimed off waivers last season from the Cleveland Browns.

Derrick Johnson has been extremely durable. He’s missed just seven games since joining the Chiefs in 2005 and one of those was the final regular-season contest last year when the Chiefs rested Johnson and a few other starters.

The last time Johnson missed a game because of injury was 2009.

So playing without Johnson will be an event for the Chiefs on Sunday in Denver against the Broncos. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has already noticed.

“I played against him for a long time going back to my days in Indianapolis,’’ Manning said. “Special player, and I just hate to see it. I was watching the TV game, and I just hate to see that kind of injury. But obviously anytime you lose a quality player, everybody else has to step up, and I know the Chiefs will do that. But I hate to see what happened to Derrick -- he’s such a great football player -- in the first game of the season.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After losing their season-opener in a rather convincing manner, the Kansas City Chiefs are in a position where they could use a lift from the return of their most accomplished wide receiver.

 Dwayne Bowe isn’t waiting until Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos to try to provide that lift. He indicated that process started earlier in the week, shortly after his return for a one-game NFL suspension for a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

“Just be myself,’’ Bowe said when asked what he wanted to accomplish this week. “Come in jovial, come in picking guys up and letting them know it’s one game at a time, one play at a time. Just play with energy, just play with passion, just play your game. That’s what I’m preaching to everyone in the locker room, and that’s what we’ve got to bring if we’re going to beat the Denver Broncos.’’

That’s all good, but what the Chiefs really need from Bowe is to play on Sunday as he did earlier in his career. One reason the Chiefs floundered on offense against the Tennessee Titans is that their wide receivers caught just eight passes, which is tied for last in the league with the New York Giants.

“Being a playmaker, you want to make plays whenever the ball is being thrown,’’ said Bowe, who watched the game on TV at his home in Kansas City. “It was hard watching. I’ve seen myself making some of the plays that [weren’t] made. If they happen again, I’ll be out there to make those plays.

“I wish I could have been out there to help my team, but things happen and you move forward and you learn from them and you try to let it not happen again.’’

History says Charles will have big game

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Since becoming the Kansas City Chiefs’ featured back midway through the 2009 season, Jamaal Charles has had six games with fewer than 10 carries. One, of course, happened last week against Tennessee when he finished with seven carries for 19 yards.

 If history is any guide, Charles has a good chance of having a big game this Sunday against the Broncos in Denver.

In 2012, Charles had just six carries in a September loss to the Buffalo Bills. Next came a 233-yard, one-touchdown game against the New Orleans Saints. But later that season, he followed a five-carry game against Oakland with just 39 yards against San Diego.

However, in December of that same year, Charles rushed for 226 yards and a touchdown against Indianapolis a week after carrying nine times against the Raiders.

Then, last season, Charles followed an eight-carry game against the Raiders with 106 yards and a touchdown against the Colts.

Charles had just two carries in a 2011 game against the Lions in Detroit, but he tore his ACL on the second of those carries, and his season was finished.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In their upcoming game, the Kansas City Chiefs happen to be playing against Kevin Vickerson's former team. That’s a nice coincidence but not the reason they signed the veteran defensive end.

The Chiefs would not only like to get Vickerson on the field Sunday against the Broncos in Denver but in the subsequent 14 games as well.

“He was somebody we were very concerned about last year when we played them," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I told him when he got hurt I felt bad for him, but I can’t tell you I was the saddest guy in the world about [Vickerson being out of Denver’s lineup]. He’s a pretty substantial load there.

“We’ll welcome him in.”

Vickerson’s signing may not work out as they hope, but the Chiefs have plans for Vickerson. He takes the roster spot vacated when starting defensive end Mike DeVito was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Jaye Howard will likely slide into DeVito’s starting spot. But Vance Walker and Vickerson could get into that mix as well.

“Being physical, just being myself, being dominant against the run, just coming in with an attitude," the 328-pound Vickerson said. “I definitely play with a chip on my shoulder.

“I’m just getting the game plan down right now and just trying to get used to the new teammates and get ready to go. I’ll be all right."

Vickerson started the first 11 games for the Broncos last season before his season ended with a hip injury. The injury limited his practice time during the offseason and early in training camp.

“That’s been a question that’s been circling in my area: Are you healthy?" he said. “I’m healthy, yes."

If he does play Sunday, Vickerson’s familiarity with Denver quarterback Peyton Manning can’t hurt.

“Just bring your technique and just get after the ball," Vickerson said. “He gets the ball off fast. ... It’s important not to panic when they do go hurry-up. The main thing is to just keep your composure and just play ball. At the end of the day, if you keep your composure and play ball, everything will work out."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There’s no shame in losing to Peyton Manning. He’s won almost 70 percent of his regular-season games since arriving in the NFL, so he’s hurt a lot of opponents for a lot of years.

But the Kansas City Chiefs' history against Manning is particularly sad. Manning is 11-1 against Kansas City all-time, counting a pair of playoffs games, including one in which the Chiefs never forced Manning’s Indianapolis Colts to punt.

Manning has undefeated records against the Cincinnati Bengals (8-0) and Cleveland Browns (6-0). Otherwise, his winning percentage is better against the Chiefs than any team he’s started against more than three times.

Funny thing is, the Chiefs have actually defended him well a couple times. He was something less than average against the Chiefs in regular season games in 2007 and 2010, but the Colts still managed to win those games.

Statistically, his best game against the Chiefs was the one in which he lost. He threw for 472 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-35 Chiefs victory in 2004.

The Chiefs have had no luck against Manning in the four games since he joined the Denver Broncos. The closest margin in those games was 17-9 in 2012 at Arrowhead Stadium, and Manning still managed to throw a pair of touchdown passes.

The Chiefs had him down 21-7 at Arrowhead last season before Manning and the Broncos got hot. The Chiefs couldn’t keep up.

There’s no reason to believe things will be different in the rivalry when the Chiefs and Broncos meet on Sunday in Denver. To beat Manning, the Chiefs will either have to slow him down or outscore him.

Judging from last week’s game against Tennessee, the Chiefs don’t look capable of doing either.

Ford can still be an asset to Chiefs

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Ask and you shall receive. Shortly after I suggested the Kansas City Chiefs need to get more from their first-round draft pick, coach Andy Reid said linebacker Dee Ford would get more work.

“Dee Ford probably didn’t have enough snaps,’’ Reid said. “We’ve got to work him into the rotation and do a better job there, which we’ll do.’’

Ford played just three snaps on defense in Sunday’s 26-10 season-opening loss to the Tennessee Titans. Ford also was in for two plays on special teams.

Pass rush is hardly the Chiefs’ biggest problem right now. They sacked Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker four times on Sunday.

But the Chiefs are desperate for playmakers. They need someone who can make a game-turning play before their season spirals out of control.

Ford is capable of making that happen. The Chiefs don’t have to take Tamba Hali or Justin Houston out of their lineup to put Ford in.

Ford didn’t play more against the Titans because he looked lost in the preseason against the run and in pass coverage.

That’s OK. He’s converting to outside linebacker from defensive end in college. The Chiefs expected a transition period for him, particularly in coverage.

“He’s getting better in the run game,’’ Reid said. “Right now, his strength is the pass game, but he’s getting better. There are some things you can do rotationally there where he gets in and has an opportunity to play.’’

Te Chiefs were eager to use a 255-pounder who’s a good athlete on special teams. But Ford has been deficient in that area, too.

“That’s not necessarily his strongest point,’’ Reid said.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs have signed veteran defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson, according to Pro Football Talk. The addition fills the void left by the season-ending injury to defensive end Mike DeVito. DeVito ruptured his Achilles tendon in Sunday's loss to Tennessee and was to have surgery.

Jaye Howard and Vance Walker will share DeVito's spot in the base defense. Howard is an interesting prospect. He joined the Chiefs last season off waivers from Seattle but played little.

He played a lot in the preseason because a hand injury kept DeVito from playing and Howard handled it well.

"Howard is an explosive player," coach Andy Reid said. "His big thing was just making sure that was something that took place on every play. Consistency was the factor, he's shown us that he can do that throughout his time here. He had a good preseason with us and now will have an opportunity to get in there and play a little bit more."

Walker was signed from Oakland during the offseason as a free agent but played just one snap against the Titans.

Either way, the Chiefs will miss DeVito. He was an underrated player, strong against the run and improving as a pass-rusher.

Vickerson, 31, has played nine seasons for Miami, Tennessee and Denver with 43 starts.
An examination of what the Kansas City Chiefs must do after their loss to the Tennessee Titans:

It turns out that the Chiefs' sluggish offensive play in the preseason was a genuine issue and not something that was going to resolve itself once the real games started. The Chiefs converted just once in 12 tries on third down in their 26-10 season-opening loss to the Titans.

The Chiefs were minus-3 in turnovers against Tennessee, but a bigger factor was the game’s imbalance on third downs. The Chiefs converted just 8 percent of such situations, the Titans 44 percent. The result: Tennessee had the ball for almost 38 minutes and ran 19 more plays than did the Chiefs.

To correct that in Sunday’s game against the Broncos in Denver, the Chiefs must do better on early downs. They were stuck in third-and-long far too often. They needed 5 or more yards on nine of their third-down plays.

The Chiefs in Denver will see the return of one of their best offensive players in Dwayne Bowe. He was suspended by the NFL for the Tennessee game. They also might get back speedy rookie De'Anthony Thomas, who sat out the Titans game with a sore hamstring.

The Chiefs need to make a strong effort to get the ball to both players. Bowe isn’t fast and is more of a possession receiver, but he can help the Chiefs avoid the third-and-long situations and also convert on third-down plays. Thomas is only 174 pounds, so the Chiefs have to monitor his number of plays. But wise utilization of his speed can help a struggling offense.

Then there’s the Chiefs’ best offensive player, Jamaal Charles. After giving him a contract extension on the eve of training camp, the Chiefs almost ignored Charles against Tennessee. He has to get the ball more than the 11 times he did against the Titans.

Smarter utilization of Charles is another way the Chiefs can avoid the third-and-long situations. But on third downs, the Chiefs can make better use of him as well. It’s not a coincidence that the Chiefs threw a pass to Charles for their only third-down conversion in the Tennessee game.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Here's what jumped out at me of the snap counts of the Kansas City Chiefs' 26-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans: First-round draft pick Dee Ford was in for fewer plays than all but one of the other five rookies in uniform.

Ford played three snaps on defense and two on special teams. The struggling Chiefs need far more than that from their top draft pick, but Ford was on the field for fewer plays than rookie kicker Cairo Santos (6).

Snap counts for the other four rookies: guard Zach Fulton 57 (plus three on special teams), safety Daniel Sorensen (18 plus 24), cornerback Phillip Gaines (one plus 11) and wide receiver Albert Wilson (one on special teams).

Three others, running back De'Anthony Thomas, quarterback Aaron Murray and offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, were inactives.