Kansas City Chiefs: Sean McGrath

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.
Here is another installment of our detailed look at the Kansas City Chiefs, roster by position with a determination whether they improved or not since the end of last season. Keep in mind that the Chiefs can continue to make roster moves and could make significant additions or subtractions before they arrive at training camp. But the bulk of the roster they will take to Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph is intact.

We’ll continue here with the tight ends.

Kelce
End of 2013: Anthony Fasano, Sean McGrath, Richard Gordon.

Serious 2014 roster candidates: Fasano, McGrath, Demetrius Harris, Travis Kelce.

Analysis: The Chiefs, after losing Kelce and Tony Moeaki for the season and Fasano for seven games last year because of injuries, pieced together a decent season from their tight ends with the help of McGrath. They caught 53 passes last season, but look for that number to jump significantly if Kelce is healthy. He adds a nice dimension to their passing game because of his size (260 pounds) and his ability to catch passes down the field. Harris, a basketball player in college, has the potential to help in the passing game. Fasano was a durable player his first seven NFL seasons, but is now 30 and it’s natural to wonder after his injury troubles last season how much he has left. If healthy he can help the Chiefs as a receiving threat in the red zone.

Better or worse: Better unless multiple injuries strike the tight ends, as they did last season.
Here’s this week’s Kansas City Chiefs mailbag based off questions taken from Twitter. To ask a question for a future edition, tweet questions to me (@adamteicher) and use the hashtag #ChiefsMail.

 
The NFL will hand out in 2016 $3.46 million in performance-based pay to Kansas City Chiefs players from last season. The system is designed to get money into the pockets of lower-paid players who got a lot of snaps and, in theory at least outperformed their contracts.

Rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper was the big winner among Chiefs players. Cooper will receive $253,736 in addition to his league-minimum $405,000 salary he received from the Chiefs last year.

Cooper was a nice find for the Chiefs last year. A seventh-round draft pick by San Francisco, Cooper was placed on waivers by the 49ers just days before the start of the regular season. The Chiefs claimed him and it didn't take Cooper long to become the third cornerback.

His strong play was no small factor in Kansas City's 9-0 start. Cooper's play faltered down the stretch, one reason the Chiefs wound up winning just two of their last eight games. But the performance-based pay system is designed to take care of players like Cooper and in this case at least, it worked.

Other Chiefs who will eventually collect a big check under this system include safety Quintin Demps ($193,180), tight end Sean McGrath ($185,734) and wide receiver Junior Hemingway ($182,389).

Everybody who played in a game for the Chiefs last season will receive some extra money. Linebacker Tamba Hali received more than $15 million last year from the Chiefs in salary and bonuses, but he will pick up an extra $7,540. Defensive lineman Kyle Love, who joined the Chiefs at midseason and played in one game before being released, will get $568. Tight end Travis Kelce, who was in uniform for only the season-opening game in Jacksonville before a knee injury ended his season, gets $209.

Rookie report: TE Travis Kelce

February, 7, 2014
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs got nothing from their rookie tight end last year, but that could change next season.

Kelce
TE Travis Kelce

How acquired: 2013 third-round draft pick.

2013 season: Kelce never played a snap last season and that was a huge letdown for the Chiefs. He dressed for the season-opening game in Jacksonville but didn’t play. Then a sore knee kept him from practicing and he finally had surgery, ending his season. The loss of Kelce had to hurt the Chiefs' passing game. He was their move tight end, the one they would send in motion or line up in a variety of spots. Kelce, in offseason practice and training camp, showed he could get down the field to make catches more like a wide receiver than a tight end. With Kelce at 260 pounds, they hoped they could find favorable matchups against linebackers who would have trouble staying with Kelce down the field. The Chiefs never identified a player with that kind of ability on their roster after he was gone.

Looking ahead: If he’s healthy, Kelce should get plenty of playing time in 2014. The Chiefs also have veteran Anthony Fasano and Sean McGrath at tight end, but neither is the versatile receiving threat Kelce could be. The Chiefs also have a developmental prospect in Demetrius Harris, who if he shows tremendous progress could steal some of Kelce's playing time. But Harris' skills were raw and he is less reliable at this point. Kelce will need to improve as a blocker in order to remain in the lineup in all situations, regardless of down and distance.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Maybe wide receiver Weston Dressler will be the latest in a line of Canadian Football League players who finds the transition to the NFL to be too difficult. Maybe he will follow players like Warren Moon, Jeff Garcia and Cameron Wake and become a star in the American game.

He will probably land somewhere in between. But whatever happens with Dressler, don’t blame the effort of the Kansas City Chiefs. They signed Dressler, who played the last six seasons with Saskatchewan Roughriders. He caught 442 passes for more than 6,500 yards and scored 43 touchdowns.

General manager John Dorsey has shown a willingness to look in some offbeat places for players. It already paid off to an extent last season when the Chiefs claimed seven players off waivers at the start of the regular season. Three of them – defensive backs Marcus Cooper and Ron Parker and tight end Sean McGrath – helped them win a game at one point or another.

The Chiefs last year signed undrafted free agent Demetrius Harris, a tight end who had been a football star in high school in Arkansas but switched to basketball in college at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Harris is raw and may never develop into a productive player but he’s shown the necessary skills and is worth the minimal investment the Chiefs made in him.

Dorsey also loaded the Chiefs’ practice squad with developmental prospects from small schools like Lane, West Alabama, California (Pa.) and Shepherd in the hope of mining a productive player.

The Chiefs will have to continue with this kind of thinking during the offseason. They won’t have the kind of salary-cap flexibility they’ve had the past few seasons. They probably won’t be able to win any bidding wars in free agency.

Their biggest veteran additions may be role players like Dressler, who could replace Dexter McCluster as the slot receiver and punt returner. It’s a good thing Dorsey is making the effort and he should keep trying even if Dressler doesn’t eventually work out.

Chiefs position analysis: tight end

January, 22, 2014
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Today begins a nine-part series looking at the roster for the Kansas City Chiefs. I’ll look at one position each day, offering suggestions for what the Chiefs might want to do at each spot.

We’ll begin at tight end, where the season began with such promise before injuries often forced the Chiefs to go with players who joined them after training camp had ended.

Roster (6): Anthony Fasano, Richard Gordon, Demetrius Harris, Dominique Jones, Travis Kelce, Sean McGrath.

Potential 2014 free agent: Gordon.

The position: The Chiefs went into camp with Fasano, Tony Moeaki and Kelce as their top three tight ends, but Moeaki (since released) and Kelce never played an offensive snap all season because of injuries and Fasano was limited to nine games. As a result, the Chiefs had to scramble at tight end most of the season. They plucked McGrath off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks at the start of the regular season and he was a find. Mostly because he played in all 16 games, McGrath led Chiefs tight ends with 26 receptions. Still, the Chiefs initially believed they would get as many as 100 catches from their tight ends, but instead they got just 55 catches at this spot. That number has to increase next season. Fasano if healthy should catch more than the 23 he grabbed this season. Kelce will be a factor in their passing game if he also can stay healthy. He showed during offseason practice and training camp the ability to beat coverage down the field to make catches. Another player to watch is Harris. A standout high school football player in Arkansas, he didn’t play the sport in college. He instead was a basketball player at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. But after spending all season on Kansas City’s practice squad, Harris has a chance to become one of those former basketball players who becomes an accomplished pass-catching tight end.

The Chiefs should keep: Fasano, Harris, Kelce and McGrath. They won’t need four tight ends going into the regular season so they should let Harris and McGrath battle for the final roster spot. Besides, with the injury problems they had this season, it doesn’t hurt to have numbers here.

The Chiefs should dump: Gordon and Jones.

Free agency/draft priority: The Chiefs certainly don’t need to force anything. They have the bodies to make the position work. But as they learned this season, they can never have too much depth, so if a bargain comes along in free agency or they find good value at a particular point in the draft, they should move on it.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- John Dorsey has made many correct moves since joining the Kansas City Chiefs as their general manager a year ago. Along with coach Andy Reid, he helped set the much-needed tone of professionalism throughout the organization. He led the charge in the trade for quarterback Alex Smith, though with the Chiefs desperate for a quarterback the deal with the San Francisco 49ers made too much sense for it not to happen.

Dorsey was named as the NFL’s Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writer’s Association. There’s no greater example of where Dorsey shined in Year 1 with the Chiefs than his move shortly before the start of the regular season.

The Chiefs, who at the time were still first in line for waiver claims, grabbed seven players in an effort improve the bottom of the roster. Three came from the Seattle Seahawks and two from the 49ers, two of the deepest teams in the NFL.

Three of those players helped the Chiefs this season and could continue to do so in 2014. Rookie Marcus Cooper, from the 49ers, became the Chiefs’ third cornerback early in the season and, despite hitting a rough patch late in the season, probably has more immediate impact than any of Kansas City’s other rookies. That includes tackle Eric Fisher, the first pick in last year’s draft.

Two players plucked from the Seahawks, tight end Sean McGrath and cornerback Ron Parker, also made contributions. McGrath was fifth on the Chiefs with 26 catches and also scored two touchdowns.

Parker helped preserve a one-point, early-season win over the Dallas Cowboys with a sack and a forced fumble.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Oct. 6 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans was scoreless in the first quarter when Dustin Colquitt’s 40-yard punt bounced off the foot of Tennessee’s Damian Williams and caromed into the end zone.

The mad dash for the ball was won by none other than Chiefs rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper and the resulting touchdown gave the Chiefs a 7-0 lead in a game they would eventually win 26-17 to raise their record to 5-0.

Williams
Cooper
Cooper had joined the Chiefs only a few weeks earlier, off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers at the start of the regular season. The fumble recovery was not the only contribution Cooper made during the season. After quickly becoming Kansas City’s third cornerback, Cooper had three interceptions and other than a horrible three-game stretch toward the end of the season played better than the Chiefs had a right to expect.

The Chiefs did a nice job of taking the castoffs from other teams and turning them into necessary components. Cooper was the prime example. A converted wide receiver, Cooper played just two seasons of defensive back in college at Rutgers but the Chiefs saw enough in him to not only claim him when the 49ers waived Cooper but also use him regularly.

Other players who joined the Chiefs off waivers at the start of the regular season were tight end Sean McGrath and cornerback Ron Parker, both from the Seattle Seahawks.

Tight end was a position for the Chiefs that was often plagued by injuries. McGrath was often the only healthy player at the position. He wound up leading Chiefs' tight ends with 26 catches and also scored a pair of touchdowns.

Parker helped preserve a one-point win against the Dallas Cowboys in September with a sack and a forced fumble. He also was a standout in the final regular season game against the San Diego Chargers when the Chiefs rested many of their starting players.

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.

Chiefs returning to full health

December, 18, 2013
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The four regulars who missed last week's game for the Kansas City Chiefs because of injuries returned to practice in some form Wednesday. At least one of them appears to have a good chance of playing Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts at Arrowhead Stadium.

Tight end Anthony Fasano, who missed the last two games because of a concussion, was listed as a full practice participant on the Chiefs' injury report. Also listed as a full participant was right tackle Eric Fisher, who left last week's game in Oakland early because of a shoulder injury.

Three players were listed as limited participants: wide receiver Dexter McCluster (ankle), linebacker Justin Houston (elbow) and left tackle Branden Albert (knee). None of the three played against the Raiders. Albert's participation was limited to working on the scout team.

Four other players were listed as full practice participants: tight end Sean McGrath (knee), linebackers James-Michael Johnson and Nico Johnson (ankle) and defensive back Ron Parker (shoulder).

TE move could mean Fasano won't play

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
11:50
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs wouldn't need another tight end for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts at Arrowhead Stadium if they believed their starter, Anthony Fasano, would be available to play.

But the Chiefs signed tight end Richard Gordon, who will join them for practice for the first time Wednesday. Fasano has missed the last two games because of a concussion.

The Chiefs have Fasano, Gordon and Sean McGrath at tight end. McGrath caught a touchdown pass Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. Dominique Jones had been their second tight end during Fasano's absence but he was placed on the non-football injury list.

Gordon, at 268 pounds, is more of a blocker than receiver. He played for the Raiders the past two seasons, catching three passes.

Roster moves have improved KC's depth

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- With the obvious exception of quarterback Alex Smith, many of the key players for the Kansas City Chiefs were with them last season, before the arrival of general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid.

Where Dorsey and Reid went to work was on Kansas City’s depth. Much of Kansas City’s considerable roster turnover was in backup players and, according to Pro Football Focus, their efforts have paid off.

PFF ranked the 32 NFL teams with regard to the quality of their depth and the Chiefs came in a surprising sixth (ESPN Insider access is necessary to read the story) Insider.

On offense, the Chiefs have been hammered by injuries at tight end. They were counting on veteran Tony Moeaki and rookie Travis Kelce. Neither played a snap this season and starter Anthony Fasano has missed five games, but their losses haven’t been crippling.

The Chiefs plucked Sean McGrath off waivers from Seattle to start the regular season. He's fifth on the Chiefs with 23 catches.

Because of injuries at times to tackles Eric Fisher and Branden Albert and guard Jon Asamoah, the Chiefs have had to dip into their offensive line depth. The play of tackle Donald Stephenson and guard Geoff Schwartz prevented the line from collapsing.

Schwartz, signed as a free agent from Minnesota in the offseason, played so well in recent games that he’s retained the starting job at right guard even with Asamoah healthy and back.

On defense, the Chiefs added linebacker Frank Zombo as a free agent from Green Bay. He replaced the injured Justin Houston the past couple of games and had a sack in last week’s win against Washington.

Two of the better pickups have been in the secondary. Rookie Marcus Cooper, claimed off waivers from San Francisco at the same time they picked up McGrath, played well as the third cornerback before a recent slump. He bounced back with a strong game against the Redskins.

The Chiefs signed veteran Quintin Demps in the spring and he’s played well as the nickel safety. Demps has four interceptions, to say nothing of his work on special teams.

Demps is second in the league in kickoff return average. He brought one back 95 yards for a touchdown in last week's win against Washington.

Chiefs again make TE contingency plans

December, 5, 2013
12/05/13
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Few endeavors have been more hazardous this season than playing tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs. They're planning on playing Sunday against the Redskins in Washington without starter Anthony Fasano, who has a concussion.

Alford
Fasano
Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said the Chiefs would activate 270-pound Dominique Jones off their practice squad in time for Sunday's game to take Fasano's place. Jones played last season and early this year with the Indianapolis Colts.

"He's a guy who's been here," Pederson said. "He's got some experience. He's going to have some opportunity to play this weekend and we're looking forward to getting him out there and still using our two tight-end sets."

The Chiefs went to training camp with Fasano, Tony Moeaki and rookie Travis Kelce as their tight ends. Fasano missed four games earlier in the season with knee and ankle injuries. Moeaki injured his shoulder during the preseason, was waived and only this week was healthy enough to sign with the Buffalo Bills.

Kelce injured his knee during the preseason and is out for the season.

The Chiefs added Sean McGrath at tight end at the start of the regular season. He has played in all 12 games.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With a touchdown catch in each of the last three games, tight end Anthony Fasano has become a bigger part of the Kansas City Chiefs’ passing game. But Fasano didn’t practice Wednesday because of a concussion, leaving his status in doubt for Sunday’s game against the Redskins in Washington.

His would be a significant loss. The Chiefs have only one other tight end, Sean McGrath, on their active roster.

Not having Fasano would not only leave the Chiefs without a safety net at tight end, but rob them of their ability to use two tight ends, as coach Andy Reid at times likes to do.

The options for replacing Fasano at this point aren’t plentiful. When hit by injuries at tight end earlier in the season, the Chiefs put out an emergency call to veteran journeyman Kevin Brock, who went to camp with Kansas City but was released before the start of the regular season. Brock has since been cut.

The Chiefs also have a pair of tight ends on their practice squad. One is 270-pound Dominique Jones who has 10 games of experience with the Indianapolis Colts. The other is Demetrius Harris, who played basketball but not football in college.

“I have a couple of guys on the practice squad I like,’’ Reid said. “That would be the reason not to do something right now and then just see how Anthony does as we go. It’s too hard to predict that.

“One’s got experience and one doesn’t. I think they both can catch the football well. One probably blocks a little bit better than the other one. That’s what it would come down to.’’

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