Chiefs trying to reprogram QB Alex Smith


ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- When Alex Smith showed up for Kansas City Chiefs training camp, quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy had a piece of advice for him.

“Let’s let the ball rip a little bit,’’ Nagy told Smith. “It’s practice. Let’s see what we can get away with and what we can’t get away with so when the games come we know where we’re at.’’

The Chiefs are trying to get more big offensive plays than they did last year and a reprogramming of Smith is part of the effort. Smith, as usual, did a nice job of protecting the ball last season. He threw just seven interceptions, one of the lowest totals in the league for a starting quarterback.

But Smith’s reluctance to go downfield with the ball at times cost the Chiefs. They had 18 fewer pass plays of 20 or more yards than their opponents. Their leading receiver was running back Jamaal Charles.

So coach Andy Reid, offensive coordinator Doug Pederson and Nagy have subtly been in Smith’s ear, urging him not to be reckless but to take the occasional calculated chance.

“We’re a little more aggressive right now in training camp with some downfield throws as far as his decision making,’’ Nagy said. “We’re telling him to push the ball. You may see an interception here or there that he may not necessarily make in a game but we’re telling him to do that, trust it and just see what happens. Now, when we get to a game, let’s make the right decision.

“There are some days when it really jumps out at you and you get back in the afternoon and watch the tape and you give him a high-five and say, ‘That’s what I’m talking about.’"

Smith is sometimes maligned for not having an arm strong enough to be an effective downfield passer but last year that proved to be false. Smith did a nice job with the deep ball when he tried it last season. He was more often victimized by dropped passes or the failure of the receiver to get open.

So getting Smith thinking more about the big play isn’t a bad idea, but the Chiefs need to be cautious with him. One of the qualities that makes Smith so effective is his ball security. Trying to get more big plays isn’t worth the effort if the result is more turnovers.

Kansas City quarterbacks lost two fumbles and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in last week’s game against Cincinnati. Smith was responsible for one of those plays but the Chiefs don’t have the firepower to continue to outscore opponents if they continue to commit turnovers that way.

“We can’t do that at this position,’’ Nagy said. “That’s one of our strengths.’’