Opening Up The Chiefs Offense


Brian Daboll was brought to Kansas City to open up the Chiefs offense. Right? Right! So, let’s take a look at some of the basic offensive plays that Daboll will be able to execute that may not have been possible in the past.

First off, anyone who follows the Chiefs must be aware that the Chiefs signed some excellent, solid and even difference making players this off-season. So, that Brian Daboll is able to get the Chiefs players to perform in a specific way, that may not have previously been possible, should not necessarily be to Daboll’s credit alone but, instead to Scott Pioli’s, Romeo Crennel’s and Clark Hunt’s.

Play Action: Then and Now
A successful “play action pass” is not simple but, is critical as far as making the whole offense work. When play action is working it gets the defensive backfield to draw in towards the line of scrimmage, giving receivers more time or more open space to run their routes and the quarterback more time and space because of indecision of the defense.

When that happens the passing game opens up because DBs can’t be sure the offense will be running or passing on any given play and that, is a definite advantage for the offense. Especially when you have a running back like Jamaal Charles who only needs inches or milliseconds to reap his havoc.

So, how will this year’s roster be able to make “play action” more successful than in other years?

First of all, the defense must respect that the offense is going to run the ball, for play action to work. Not just run the ball but, run it successfully. The return of Jamaal Charles will help certainly but, the addition of Peyton Hillis, Kevin Boss and Eric Winston should make play action a real clam bake in 2012.

Matt Cassel has shown a propensity to be successful when given the proper protection. For that to happen the Chiefs will need to keep a running back or tight end in the backfield (early in the season or early in games) to help with that protection. Jamaal Charles is an excellent RB but, it may not be prudent to continually ask him to pick up the 250 linebacker coming on a blitz, at least not on a regular basis.

Could Peyton Hillis handle that? Oh yes. In fact, Hillis is the perfect back to keep in because he gives the defense another read.” A read they wouldn’t have to make if the Chiefs simply inserted a fullback into the backfield to help protect Cassel. In other words, someone on the defense will have to be responsible for Hillis coming out of the backfield after he’s done blocking. Charles can do this to a limited degree, but, with Hillis the LBs know they’re not getting through him, when they come on a blitz. With Charles, the defense is already expecting him to chip the LB and then slip into the flat and be a safety valve. With Hillis providing a sustained block, Cassel’s prime directive will be to use that protection to identify wide receivers downfield and… strike!

Since offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s scheme is designed to “attack” downfield, it’s also more likely he’ll be sending RBs into the defensive backfield to run a route, than utilizing them as “safety valves” in the flat. A practice I’m sure many Chiefs fans will be thrilled to see come to an end, or at least curtailed to a greater degree.

Also, TE Kevin Boss gives the Chiefs more flexibility in play action scenarios as well. Boss can come in motion and stay back to protect. Defenses can’t just assume that when Boss is in, that it means the Chiefs are going to run. Since 2007, Boss’ first year in the league when he played backup to Jeremy Shockey, he’s average 463 receiving yards per year. Since the Chiefs will be attacking more downfield this year, expect the front five offensive linemen to get someone helping them out like a RB or a TE. At least initially.

As I mentioned before, as a game goes along, and as the season progresses, the Chiefs will probably be going to a five man front, LT, LG, C, RG, RT — exclusively — for protection. They can go to this protection package when they begin to detect that the defense is on it’s heels and can’t be sure what’s coming.

Which… is a goal of play action.

This also allows the Chiefs to go into — three, four and even five — receiver sets. That potential will maximize their attack and throws the offense wide open. Imagine what a pain it will be for opposing defenses to know the Chiefs have multiple players who can — make plays — from five different receiving positions: Dwayne Bowe, Jon Baldwin, Steve Breaston, Dexter McCluster, Tony Moeaki, Kevin Boss, Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis. There’s a rocket load of proven, explosive, talent here.

Plus, rookie RB Cyrus Gray had 776 receiving yards in college. If we learned anything from OTA’s its that either UFA WR Josh Bellamy or 7th round WR Junior Hemingway is going to make and contribute to this team (AA writer Lyle Graversen thinks it’s going to be Josh Bellamy). Rookie slot WR Devon Wylie looks to offer a solid back-up for Dex.

Now, consider what a disaster ex-RT Barry Richardson was to the Chiefs play action in the past couple of years. If you can’t protect the quarterback then all of the options of a good play action play are obliterated. The sad reality is that there have been too many times that BRich kept the Chiefs from being able to get into their offense and execute their plays. Instead, Matt Cassel had to improvise and more importantly, the play, and all the options that came with a play, became scrambled and lost. Especially the deeper options.

It’s like starting out with a great recipe for “Eggs Benedict” and ending up with scrambled eggs on the floor… cause that’s where things got cooked. Richardson was more of a chef, than a Chief, and a bad one at that.

With Eric Winston manning the right side, the Chiefs will be able to execute the “check-release” option many good offenses of the league can offer their QB.

On a “check-release” the running back who stays behind can read the number of men being sent to rush the passer and if there are only four… and the line looks like they are handling it… they release into the defensive backfield, or the flat, on a route. The running back I think of most, who was monstrously good at this, was Priest Holmes. Don’t confuse a “check release” with a safety valve because a check-release is part of a specific route tree.

The way the Chiefs have misused the safety valve for the past few years has been more of an extemporaneous EMT reflex to keep a play from dying on the field. The “pass in the flat” has become so anticipated and predictable that every time it happens you could hear a groan in the collective unconscious of Chiefs fans the world over.

Don’t expect that to be a big part of Brian Daboll’s attacking style offense.

Broken Plays
Another advantage of having Eric Winston is on broken plays. If Cassel drops back to pass and four seconds goes by and he decides to move out of the pocket… in the past he’d have to move to his left, towards Brandon Albert, who was usually dealing with the opposition’s best pass rusher. Now, if Winston defeats his man… space can open up to Cassel’s right side, his throwing arm side. Then, plays that get extended can become a positive, instead of a negative, as they so often have been in recent memory.

For years I have marveled at how other teams could have a play break down and it actually… and often… with great frequency… became a positive play for them. I think that will be a greater possibility for the Chiefs now that Eric Winston is in town. And not just Eric but, with Kevin Boss and Peyton Hillis beating their respective men — throughout the remainder of a play — the odds go up. Then… Matt Cassel performs a lot better. Which also opens up the running game. Which leads to more team success. It’s a win-win-win situation.

An Attacking Style Offense
Brian Daboll states clearly that he wants the Chiefs to run an attacking style offense in 2012.

The first word I’d like to use is “attack.” When you’re an offensive football coach you want to try to really set precedence on a defense and attack the defense. I think it’s important to be balanced and help the quarterback out in the run and the pass.

Success breeds success. If the Chiefs are having success running the ball, play action works. If play action works, the passing game opens up. If the passing game opens up then the running lanes do too. That’s why the Chiefs current personnel may be the perfect fit for a Daboll designed offense. He goes on to say,

Utilize different personnel groups. Different formations. Sometimes we’ll move and shift. Sometimes we’ll be stationary.

It looks like Daboll is not going to be giving the defense anything they can count on. Not from play to play and not from game to game. As I mentioned in my recent post called,40 Daze And 40 Knights: No Chiefs Football”: It’s really interesting how everyone used to complain about how Marty Schottenheimer’s offense was too predictable and now that we have Brian Daboll’s offense which is so unpredictable, everyone is like, yeah, but, it just doesn’t have an identity.”

Bravo I say, bravo!

No Huddle
Daboll plans to make the Chiefs offense unpredictable and even wants to change the pace at will. He says,

I think you need to have an ability to get to an up-tempo scheme, where you’re in a no-huddle package. Threatening run, passes, all those different things, you have to try to keep a defense off-balance.

This is beginning to sound a bit like the Buffalo Bills offense of the late 1980s under coach Marv Levy. If that happens, personally, I’d be in heaven. That was one of the most exciting offenses to watch in the history of the game. Too bad for Marv that he never won the big one. Should have beaten the Giants in my opinion.

A Consistent Philosophy
Coach Daboll understands that the Chiefs have had several different offensive schemes here in Kansas City over the past few years. However, he believes in consistency.

Sometime (what’s) overlooked is continuity. When you can have a system in place and you can understand the roles that your players are going to be in that system, and they understand the roles, I think that that gives you a little bit of a jump start.

This year’s OTAs have played an important role in giving the Chiefs that “jump start.” I’ve heard several players say it… Matt Cassel, Dexter McCluster and Jon Baldwin included… that the playbook is becoming second nature to them.

Now, I’m sure Brian Daboll appreciates the importance of players knowing the playbook but, Chris Brown of Grantland.com had this to say about coaching, “…it’s not how many X’s and O’s they know but, what they can teach their players.”

What the players can learn in one off-season has its limits. Of course, we’d all love for Dwayne Bowe to have been there this off-season but, when 99% of the players have been there,  the team should hit the ground running come time for training camp. Consequently, you have to feel pretty darn good about the “jump start” most everyone has on training camp.

Now, training camp isn’t that far away. However, as one of our AA posters pointed out, waiting for training camp is strangely familiar,  “This is almost as bad as waiting for a baby to be born.”

What the Chiefs are about to birth… could be electrifying.

So Addicts, what are you “expecting” from this year’s offense?

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