The slumping Kansas City Chiefs have fewer hairs on the tops of their heads this week. Their 35-28 loss to the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead on Sunday afternoon has all but dashed their hopes of winning the AFC West. In just three weeks, they’ve also lost the pole position in the race for the AFC’s #1 seed and will most likely have to travel once the postseason tournament starts. Questions abound at One Arrowhead Drive, but I’m not sure anyone there has any answers.
I could tell you the sky’s fallen and how big a fraud the Chiefs are, but that wouldn’t be an honest take. Truth of the matter is, I believe this is still a good football team who is struggling to redefine itself during a period of adversity. The offense, despite their inconsistency, has turned the corner. The eight touchdowns they’ve scored in the past two weeks give me that confidence. Unfortunately, their progress coincides with two steps in the wrong direction defensively.
I think it’s time head coach Andy Reid shook the team up a bit. Might be a great opportunity to try a few new things in an effort to right the ship. Drops have plagued this offense in recent weeks. Poor performances from the Chiefs’ secondary have also been an issue. You aren’t going to find difference makers on the waiver wire this late in the year, but it may be beneficial to allow some of Kansas City’s younger players to see more of the field.
Here’s my recipe for getting things turned around the last quarter of the regular season:
1. Relieve Donnie Avery of his WR2 responsibilites.
Were I Andy Reid, Kansas City’s No. 2 receiver would be on the unemployment line today. That might sound reactionary, but I’m very serious. On Sunday, Avery dropped at least three passes and should’ve been credited with a turnover. Early in the Chiefs’ final offensive drive, Smith threw a short pass to Avery that was later ruled an incompletion. He appeared to have made the catch and fumbled, but the officiating crew bailed the Chiefs out by allowing the original call to stand (after a booth review).
Despite being the second-leading wide receiver on the team in 2013, his unreliability has reached critical mass. Sunday proved that he’s simply not an offensive skillplayer this team can count on. Reid should take a long, hard look at both Junior Hemingway or Alex Jenkins (who has made key catches the past two games) as his starter opposite of Bowe. Neither of them has much game tape available and they’ve both made the most of limited opportunities.
Make no mistake, Avery is still one of the most talented receivers on this football team. I would continue to use him from time-to-time, but those looks would come in the slot instead of on the outside. Hemingway has just seven catches on the season, but two of them have been for touchdowns. I think a few more offensive looks for the former 7th-round pick are well within reason in light of Avery’s struggles.
2. Replace Kendrick Lewis as the starting safety (opposite of Berry).
I can’t count the number of times Lewis has been out of position during the Chiefs’ three-game slide. For every play he makes, there are three others where he simply isn’t getting over in time enough to help on big pass plays surrendered in these three losses. Marcus Cooper and Brandon Flowers are also culpable, but the lack of safety help has been appalling.
Quentin Demps has often been a liability in coverage as well. Reid might be justified in starting safety Husain Abdullah for a game or two to see if he can help prevent quarterbacks from taking the top off of this defense. At this point in the season, I believe he’s effectively shaken off the rust from a yearlong NFL hiatus. It’s not much of a gamble for Reid. He can always shuffle back through Lewis and Demps if it doesn’t work out.
Kansas City’s safeties have routinely been in the wrong spots since returning from the bye. Offenses are challening this defense down the field now. Cornerbacks are bound to get beaten in a defensive scheme that relies so heavily on press coverage. It’s vital to have help over the top when you face a quarterback who can throw the deep ball accurately. Abdullah may or may not be the man for the job, but he should be given a shot nonetheless.
3. Give Knile Davis more chances to touch the ball both offensively and on special teams.
Kansas City’s third-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft has earned the trust of his coaching staff. His 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown (the longest in franchise history), coupled with three offensive touches for 38 yards on Sunday, should net him more playing time. The former Razorback has avoided the injury bug and hasn’t had the ball security issues that plagued him in college. Davis appears to be maturing rapidly and running with much more confidence than he has all season. It’s time he saw more of the football field.
The Chiefs are desperately in need of playmakers they can depend on. Davis might be one such weapon, but only time will tell if Reid will allow him to share the load. Thus far, he’s only used Davis sparingly. To date, he hasn’t touched the ball more than a half-dozen times offensively. His season-high came much earlier in the season, in the TNF game against the Philadelphia Eagles (where he ran the ball six times). Davis has just five kickoff returns on the season.
More of Davis means fresher legs for Jamaal Charles. Charles has gone over 200 carries for just the third time in his career. He also has a career-high 55 receptions in 2013. The more Davis can spell Charles the rest of the way, the better the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense could potentially be. Davis can also be helpful to Quentin Demps who often pulls double duty defensively and on special teams.
4. Rotate Moses/Zombo at OLB and continue to use CB/S blitzes until Houston returns.
Linebacker Justin Houston figures to be out another couple of weeks with his subluxed elbow. The Chiefs are fortunate that Tamba Hali’s ankle situation was minor. It looks as though they’ll have him on the field over the final four games, but they’ll need pressure from the opposite side of the field as well to have any real chance at rediscovering their pass rush.
I’ve said this a number of times already, but Dezman Moses and Frank Zombo both have a pass-rushing skillset. The two of them are athletic enough to get to the quarterback, but Sutton will likely have to rotate them to figure out which of them can bring the most pressure. Neither of them are a long-term answer, but in a pinch, they’ll be serviceable.
Since the pass rush dried up, the most effective blitzes I can recall came on plays where the defensive coordinator sent either Brandon Flowers or Eric Berry. Sutton is going to have to continue to be creative until Houston’s healthy enough to play again. Hali simply can’t do it all on his own. If teams can take him out of the equation, this secondary will continue to get picked on.
There a number of concern areas with this football team. I’m sure there are a half-dozen other changes that can be made to help the Chiefs. For now, I think the team would be well served to try a few things on this list. If Reid is unwilling to try something different, there’s a good chance that nothing will change.
What say you, Addicts? I’d love to hear your ideas on how the Chiefs can turn things around. Use the comment section below to have your say. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.
Until next time, Addicts!