Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Kansas City Chiefs season wrap-up
By Adam Teicher
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.
• NFC season wrap-ups: N | S | E | W
• AFC season wrap-ups: N | S | E | W
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.
GRADING THE KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Alex Smith improved over the season's second half in both completion percentage and getting the ball downfield in the passing game. Smith did a nice job of protecting the ball, committing only 10 turnovers in the regular season.
Jamaal Charles was brilliant from start to finish and expanded his game to become a much more dangerous receiver. He led the league in touchdowns. Fullback Anthony Sherman did an excellent job as his lead blocker.
Dwayne Bowe had a disappointing season, although he played well in the playoff loss to Indianapolis. Donnie Avery, A.J. Jenkins, Dexter McCluster and Junior Hemingway delivered big plays only in rare instances.
Things improved as the season went on, as expected from such a young group. Left tackle Branden Albert was solid. Geoff Schwartz made a difference once he became a starting guard midway through the season. Rookie Eric Fisher showed potential but needs to make big strides.
Tamba Hali and Justin Houston were terrific on the outside, collecting 11 sacks each. But they couldn't sustain as the season went on and Houston missed five games with an elbow injury. Derrick Johnson on the inside also had a big season.
The Chiefs asked a lot of their cornerbacks, and after a strong start they broke down repeatedly as the season went on. Strong safety Eric Berry had a superb season.
The Chiefs consistently won the field-position battle. They set an NFL record for kickoff return average and scored four touchdowns on kick or punt returns. Punter Dustin Colquitt had another strong season.
Andy Reid and his staff quickly changed a rotten culture and were quickly able to fit their systems to the skills of the players. But the defensive collapse over the second half was troubling. They failed to adjust to the way opponents attacked them.