AFC West: Kendrick Lewis

On to this week's questions for the Kansas City Chiefs mailbag:

Moving day for many Chiefs?

March, 11, 2014
The free-agent signing period begins Tuesday, and as of now the Chiefs have yet to re-sign any of their significant free agents. The parade appears to be lining up at the exit door. Left tackle Branden Albert is at the front, as he reportedly has already agreed on a contract with the Miami Dolphins. Receiver/punt returner Dexter McCluster, offensive linemen Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz and linebacker Akeem Jordan could be right behind him.

The Chiefs have attempted to re-sign defensive end Tyson Jackson, and that could still happen. But the Chiefs didn't appear confident in that happening. They had arranged a free-agent meeting with defensive end Red Bryant before he signed last week with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Free safety Kendrick Lewis has been a longtime starter and is also a potential unrestricted free agent. But the Chiefs may be ready to move on from him.

The Chiefs have some money to spend in free agency and draft picks to use on potential replacements. In some cases they've already prepared for the eventuality of losing some of these free agents. They drafted tackle Eric Fisher in the first round last year knowing this day with Albert would probably come this year. They signed Weston Dressler of the Canadian Football League hoping he could be the next McCluster. Last year they drafted linebacker Nico Johnson and defensive back Sanders Commings, and they are possible replacements for Jordan and Lewis.

That doesn't mean this isn't an meaningful day for the Chiefs. With the exception of Jordan and Schwartz, who were signed to one-year, free-agent contracts last year, these players didn't join the Chiefs as stopgap players but as those they could build around. Albert and Jackson are former first-round draft picks. McCluster was drafted in the second round, Asamoah in the third, Lewis in the fifth.

More importantly, many should be heading into their prime seasons. Albert will turn 30 in November but plays a position where he could retain his skills for the life of the new contract he will sign. Jackson is 27; McCluster, Asamoah and Lewis are 25.

If they're all out the door at a single time, that's a hefty blow to the Chiefs. They made plenty of progress in the past year, going from two wins in 2012 to 11 victories and the playoffs in 2013. Continuing on that track will be difficult enough but perhaps impossible if they lose this entire group of players.

If the Chiefs fall back to the pack in 2014, they may look back on this day as a big reason why.

Free-agency primer: Chiefs

March, 7, 2014
» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: T Branden Albert, G Jon Asamoah, DE Tyson Jackson, LB Akeem Jordan, FS Kendrick Lewis, WR/PR Dexter McCluster, G Geoff Schwartz

Where they stand: The Chiefs need help at wide receiver but may prefer to do their shopping at this position through the draft after having made a sizable financial commitment to Dwayne Bowe last year. The Chiefs have the depth at tackle to withstand the likely loss of Albert, but they'll need to do some shopping if Asamoah and Schwartz, who split time as the starter at right guard last season, depart. On defense, the Chiefs could use another big body for their defensive line, particularly if Jackson leaves as a free agent. A replacement who can be an upgrade over Lewis is another priority. Sanders Commings, a rookie last season, could potentially fill that spot. Whether the Chiefs actively pursue a veteran there could depend on how they feel about Commings' ability to handle the position.

What to expect: The Chiefs should have about $9.6 million in salary-cap space, which is one of the lowest totals in the league and probably won't allow them to win many bidding wars. Even if the Chiefs had the cap room and were so inclined, this isn't a great crop of free-agent wide receivers. Seattle's Golden Tate might make sense for the Chiefs, but only if the price doesn't get out of hand. The Chiefs could look to division rival Denver for guard Zane Beadles if they need a starter to replace Asamoah and Schwartz. Seattle's Red Bryant could be a fit at defensive end if the Chiefs don't re-sign Jackson. Buffalo's Jairus Byrd is exactly what Kansas City is looking for at free safety, but he will likely be out of its price range. If the Chiefs go safety shopping, they might go for a lower-priced option, like Miami's Chris Clemons.

Free-agent report: FS Kendrick Lewis

February, 27, 2014
The series on potential Kansas City Chiefs free agents continues with a look at a long-time starter in the secondary.

FS Kendrick Lewis

Four NFL seasons, four with the Chiefs. Will be 26 when next season begins.

Chiefs career: Lewis has started all but three of the 53 games in which he’s played for the Chiefs. A fifth-round pick in 2010, he joined the Chiefs at the same time as Eric Berry and when they had a need at safety. Lewis played well as a rookie, but that was the best season of his NFL career. Lewis was always average at best against the run, but his pass coverage sharply declined over the course of his career. Lewis started off last season playing well, but his game hit a wall in the middle of the season and it never recovered. A shoulder injury caused him to miss seven games in 2012, and though he had surgery at the end of that season, he never quite seemed the same player after that.

Argument for keeping Lewis: This is a difficult one. He has experience, certainly more than Sanders Commings or any rookie the Chiefs might draft to play free safety. He’s still young and could get back to what he was earlier in his career. But that also could be wishful thinking.

Argument for letting Lewis go: The Chiefs allowed one long pass play after another last season, and though Lewis wasn’t solely to blame, he had a big hand in that. His range simply doesn’t appear to be what it was earlier in his career. That was evident on the long Andrew Luck-to-T.Y. Hilton touchdown pass that beat the Chiefs in the playoffs last season. It’s impossible to believe the Chiefs wouldn’t be better off with Commings or a rookie at free safety. They would be getting a younger and probably more productive player at a lesser cost.

What should happen: This might be the easiest call for the Chiefs with regard to any of their six regulars who are free agents. Pro Football Focus recently ranked the top 10 free-agent safeties and Lewis isn’t on their list. That, among plenty of others, is a sign the Chiefs need to upgrade at free safety.

Plays that defined the season: No. 2

January, 10, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs had reason to feel good about their pass defense after the season-opening game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That changed quickly in the season's second game, on Sept. 15 against the Dallas Cowboys at Arrowhead Stadium.

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
Denny Medley-USA TODAY SportsLong pass plays by Dez Bryant and the Cowboys in Week 2 foreshadowed deeper issuer for the Chiefs.
On Dallas' second play from scrimmage, wide receiver Dez Bryant outmuscled Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers to catch a 16-yard pass from Tony Romo along the right sideline. Flowers fell down and was unable to make the tackle.

Safety Quintin Demps was in position to make the tackle but Bryant ran around Demps and down the sideline. Demps and fellow safeties Kendrick Lewis and Eric Berry gave chase but didn't catch Bryant before he ran out of bounds at the Kansas City 29 for a 53-yard gain.

The Chiefs held the Cowboys to a field goal on that drive and eventually won the game 17-16. But that play was an omen of things to come.

The Chiefs allowed an astounding 63 passes of at least 20 yards. They were able to mute the effect of such plays early in the season, when the Chiefs were consistently pressuring the opposing quarterback and forcing turnovers by the bucket.

Pressure on the quarterback and the flood of turnovers eventually stopped, but the Chiefs kept allowing the big plays. The Chiefs allowed eight passes of 20 or more yards in a Dec. 15 game against the Oakland Raiders, who finished tied for 24th in the league in passing yardage.

Then there was the 45-44 playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The Chiefs led 38-10 early in the third quarter. From that point, the Chiefs yielded four long passes, none longer than Andrew Luck's 64-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton with 4:21 left that gave the Colts their first lead of the game and the one that would hold up.

It was fitting that Kansas City's season was extinguished by its inability to stop the long ball. It was a problem that started with the arrival of Dez Bryant and Tony Romo at Arrowhead Stadium.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Ask cornerback Brandon Flowers about the recent tackling problems of the Kansas City Chiefs defense and he'll give you a general answer that doesn't reflect any great resolve.

"It's hard," Flowers said. "Guys in the National Football League, there are some great runners out there. We've got to make sure to do our part to bring them down whether it's running to the ball ... whatever we have to do."

But ask Flowers about a particular play, one in a loss to the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago, and he shows an acceptable amount of anger.

On that play, a 51-yard touchdown run by Colts running back Donald Brown, Flowers, free safety Kendrick Lewis and nickel back Dunta Robinson each missed attempted tackles. Lewis actually had Brown wrapped up but failed to bring him down.

"With the defensive guys we have in this building, this room, that huddle, that's not acceptable at all," Flowers said. "We watched it a hundred times to see what happened on that run. The guys that missed those tackles, everybody faulted themselves. Nobody blamed each other. We know we've got to get it right."

The Chiefs were a solid tackling team when the season began but things have been sloppy in that department over the past several weeks. The Chiefs set a torrid defensive pace for the season's first half by sacking the quarterback and forcing turnovers at a high rate.

The Chiefs cooled down considerably in those categories since then and their tackling has worsened. Those are indications of a tired defense.

Eight defensive starters, Flowers among them, received a bye of sorts last weekend when they didn't play in the final regular-season game in San Diego. Maybe they will return refreshed in Saturday's playoff rematch against the Colts in Indianapolis.

If not, tackling against Brown and the Colts could be a problem again. If it is, the Chiefs probably won't get another chance to get it right.

Injury situation could be interesting

December, 4, 2013
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.

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.
Dwayne Bowe Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesDwayne Bowe and the Chiefs gutted out a 17-16 victory against the Texans to improve to 7-0.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This was the Kansas City Chiefs' seventh win in as many tries in a season full of surprises, but their locker room celebration was a little longer and a little louder after Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans.

The Chiefs were at last impressed with what they accomplished in beating the Texans 17-16 at Arrowhead Stadium. For the first time this season, the Chiefs took an opponent’s best shot, albeit an opponent struggling with injuries and having a season as disappointing as Kansas City’s is satisfying.

But the Chiefs survived, and after the Denver Broncos' loss Sunday night, sit alone atop the AFC West. The Texans played about as well as they reasonably could have, considering they started the game without injured quarterback Matt Schaub and finished it without, among others, running back Arian Foster and linebacker Brian Cushing.

The Chiefs won the fourth quarter of a tight game yet again, breaking through to sack Houston quarterback Case Keenum four times and making him fumble in the final two minutes to kill the Texans' final possession.

“Some games are going to get messy and some games are going to be hard," free safety Kendrick Lewis said. “It’s the NFL. However it comes, however we need to get it, we all pull together and get the win."

It wasn’t pretty and, in many quarters, the one-point victory against the short-handed and 2-5 Texans will further talk that the 7-0 Chiefs are the products of their lousy schedule. They have just one victory over a team that has a winning record, that being last month’s one-point home win against the Dallas Cowboys, now 4-3.

That may eventually prove to be true. After games the next two weeks against the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills, the Chiefs’ schedule takes a decidedly more difficult turn. Five of the final seven games are against the Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts.

Just don’t try selling that notion to the Chiefs. They’ve made a habit of strangling their opponent in the fourth period, and it’s to the point where they believe they’ll make that happen each week. Overheard in the celebration as the team entered the locker room were the words of one player: “This is how we do it."

This was indeed how the 2013 Chiefs do it, how after finishing a league-worst 2-14 last season they are 7-0 this year. Though neither team scored in the final 15 minutes, the Chiefs owned the fourth quarter against the Texans.

Houston took 13 snaps in the period, not counting punts. The Texans’ fourth-quarter offensive output: negative-1 yard. Seven plays went for zero or negative yards.

The Chiefs have outscored opponents 57-17 in the fourth quarter, a pace they may not be able to continue. Linebacker Tamba Hali, who had 2.5 sacks in the final period, including the one that made Keenum fumble, looked as weary as if he’d played all seven fourth quarters on Sunday.

“It’s definitely draining doing it this way," he finally said. “You put so much into the game. After the game you want to be happy about it. But we’ve got another tough game coming up against Cleveland."

It’s easy to think now, after the fact, that there should have been a sense of inevitability about the fourth quarter. But so much was different about the first three periods Sunday that no one could have taken anything for granted about what would happen next.

The Chiefs’ pass rush had been meek for most of the first three quarters. Kansas City afforded plenty of time to Keenum, enough for him to complete six passes of more than 25 yards. Making his first NFL start and taking his first regular-season NFL snap, Keenum for three quarters played better than the Texans had a right to hope.

The Chiefs, who had been living off turnovers with an NFL-best differential of plus-12, for the first time this season coughed up the ball more than their opponent. The only turnover that mattered was Houston’s only one of the day, the Keenum fumble on what would be the Texans’ last snap of the game.

“You counter [turnovers] with some big plays," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “You counter with good defense."

The Chiefs seem to have an endless supply of those two elements, at least in the fourth quarter. They had five sacks and two interceptions in the final period last week against the Oakland Raiders, two interceptions in the fourth quarter the previous week against the Tennessee Titans.

Nine of Kansas City's 16 defensive takeaways occurred in the fourth quarter, when the Chiefs are at their best.

“We love to make plays when the game is on the line," Hali said. “Our guys are playing with a lot of confidence. We believe we’ll be the ones making those plays every week."

Friday's Chiefs practice report

October, 18, 2013
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).

Friday's Chiefs practice report

October, 11, 2013
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.

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).

Friday's Chiefs practice report

October, 4, 2013
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. -- Four starters are listed as questionable on the Kansas City Chiefs injury report for Sunday's game against the New York Giants. Cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee), free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle), guard Jeff Allen (groin) and tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle) are the players listed as questionable.

Flowers played on a sore knee in last week's game in Philadelphia, but aggravated the injury in the game. He practiced on a limited basis Thursday but did not practice on Friday. Lewis, Allen and Fasano were listed as being limited practice participants Friday.

Backup tight end Travis Kelce (knee) did not practice and will not play against the Giants.

Listed as probable for the Giants game and full practice participants on Friday were three starters: tackle Branden Albert (shoulder), defensive end Mike DeVito (neck) and fullback Anthony Sherman (knee). Backup linebacker Frank Zombo was also listed as probable for the game after participating fully in practice.

Thursday's Chiefs practice report

September, 26, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Starting cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee) and free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle) returned to practice for the Kansas City Chiefs, though on a limited basis. The Chiefs also listed on their injury report two other starters, offensive tackle Branden Albert (shoulder) and defensive end Mike DeVito (neck), as being limited practice participants.

Otherwise, their injury report remained the same. Two starters, tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle) and guard Jeff Allen (groin) did not practice, increasing the likelihood they won't be available for Sunday's game against the New York Giants at Arrowhead Stadium. Backup tight end Travis Kelce (knee) also did not practice.

The other two players on the injury report, fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and linebacker Frank Zombo (elbow), were listed as full practice participants.