2014 Kansas City Chiefs: What Gets Fixed First

Dec 15, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs free safety Kendrick Lewis (23) loses his helmet after nearly intercepting a pass against the Oakland Raiders in the second quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

As the final seconds ticked off the clock at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Kansas City Chiefs second half — of the game and the season — collapse was complete, there were more questions than answers. The biggest question of course, was what needed to be addressed first?

The initial reaction by many Chiefs fans was to call for the head of defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. Once the dust settled and the smoke cleared most advocates for that course of action realized it probably wasn’t the best idea. From there, it was only a natural progression to find the root of the problem. On the defense, one of the biggest roots of that problem is free safety Kendrick Lewis.

Lewis was drafted by the Chiefs in fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Perhaps the biggest flag that stood out with Lewis was his 40-yard dash time. Even as a rookie coming out of college he ran a 4.73. That’s pretty slow, especially for a defensive back. Looking back at game tape, he continually takes bad angles on ball carriers and isn’t a very impressive tackler.

The best thing about the 2013 season coming to an end in regards to Lewis is, his rookie contract expires on March 11, and the Chiefs won’t have to worry about losing any “dead money” by cutting him. They can simply let Lewis fade away and potentially — suckers — be signed by another team.

However, should that happen, the Chiefs will have a hole in the free safety position. While Lewis had a terrible year and was the reason the Chiefs got beat deep a lot, he still held that position as a starter in the national football league. One could surmise from that, that there isn’t anyone else currently on the Chiefs roster that can play the position better than Lewis. That’s a scary thought.

Many think that when Sanders Comings — ironically another fifth-round draft pick — returns to full health this off

November 17, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sanders Commings (26) points during the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Chiefs 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

season he will be the natural replacement for Lewis. Others believe that the answer for the Chiefs at free safety lies in free agency or this year’s draft with the two biggest prospects being Jairus Byrd who hits free agency with the Buffalo Bills — but will be looking for a huge pay day — and Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix the top-15 prospect out of Alabama. Either way, Kendrick Lewis has likely — hopefully — played his last down of football for the Chiefs.

On the other side of the ball, the biggest question mark at the end of the season was the #2 wide receiver position. During this last off season, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey brought in Donnie Avery to compete for that position. Obviously during preseason former Chiefs wide receiver Jon Baldwin held down the position across from Dwayne Bowe but when he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers Avery stepped into the position.

When Avery scored the first touchdown of the season for the

Jan 4, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Donnie Avery (17) catches a pass and runs for a touchdown during the second quarter of the 2013 AFC wild card playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs by catching a ball from Alex Smith on an out route and breaking a tackle to find the end zone, many thought Avery was what everyone hoped he would be. But as the season marched on, the stone hands and drops that plagued Avery in Indianapolis became more and more evident. Even though Avery became the “go-to guy” on third-and-forever plays when he miraculously was able to pick up first down yardage on a short slant route, he was never able to be consistent enough to take pressure off of Bowe.

With Dexter McCluster potentially leaving the team in free agency, Avery could potentially be headed to the slot position held by DMC this season. Still, the Chiefs still need a solid #2 receiver. The Chiefs still have A.J. Jenkins on the roster who they received from the 49ers in the Baldwin trade. While he was widely considered a bust in San Francisco and he took a bit to catch on with the Chiefs offense, he started coming on at the end of the season.

Dec 1, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver A.J. Jenkins (15) catches a pass as Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) defends during the second half of the game at Arrowhead Stadium. Denver won 35-28. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Jenkins has the speed to “take the top off” the defense, which seems to be a prerequisite for a #2 receiver, but his route running ability — other than the fly — and hands are still suspect.

Still, the Chiefs also have a couple of other prospects on the roster to do an internal hire. Junior Hemmingway and other former 49er Kyle Williams are also on the roster and could show some promise. If the Chiefs look to free agency, big names such as Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, and Eric Decker are at the top of the wish list. Should it be the draft that the Chiefs use to fill this hole, they will have the choice between names like Mike Evans or Odell Beckham Jr.

So which is it, Addicts? What’s the biggest need for the Chiefs this off season? Sound off below.

Topics: Donnie Avery, Kansas City Chiefs, Kendrick Lewis

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  • berttheclock

    Jason, I hate to direct traffic away from your fine article, but, everyone should read the Teraz Paylor needs versus cap breakdown at the Star this morning. There are several very important points made from the analysts he used to discuss the safety, corners, linebackers and defensive end players. However, from my perspective the most important point made was neither Lewis nor Demps are legitimate starters and they both lack speed and take very bad angles. Demps might be kept as a backup, but, Lewis must go. On the corners, the Chiefs need more speed to play Sutton’s system. One point made concerned Smith. Either he needs to use more jamming or he will lose foot races. So, he was mentioned as a possible cut. Another solid point emphasized how the pass rush falters when extra DBs are brought in to play. The Chiefs need another quality pass rusher in the front seven. Yes, the Chiefs need a legitimate Number Two wide out. BTW, he mentioned Jarius Byrd would be a solid fit for Sutton’s scheme, but, he may well want a figure close to the $8 M given to Goldson last year. With Berry at over $11 M, that might be a bit pricey, but, could be well worth it.

    • freshmeat62

      I’d keep Demps just for his special team play. But you’re right about needing to hit the receivers at the line. They’re allowed to pretty much maul the receiver for 5 yards, they need to do it. The Chief’s opponents are doing it to them.

      • Doc

        That’s one ting I noticed this year – our defense never bumped the receivers at the line, they were always five yards (or more) off of the receiver. Was this Sutton’s way of doing things because of a speed (lack of by the secondary) issue? By not holding the receivers up at the line, or bumping them off their route, it is no wonder our line couldn’t get pressure on the QB.

  • freshmeat62

    I think the secondary is the biggest need, but I think the play calling or schemes they were in played a big part of being the biggest need, which brings me back to Sutton. It’s ridiculous how Manning, Rivers, and Luck continually ran pick plays (which I thought were suppose to be illegal) and the defense couldn’t find an adjustment to stop them. But it sounds like Sutton will be back, so now we need to find some supermen to make up for that deficiency. From everything I read it sounds like they think Commings can be the FS, if he can stay healthy. He’s a hard hitter w/ 4.45 speed. That would be great and the Chiefs can look elsewhere w/ their 1st pick.

    My philosophy is that you build the chassis or foundation (defense and o-line) first before adding the bells and whistles (WR, TE, and RB’s). It seems that you can find more gems in the later rounds at WR or RB.

    But whatever, do it thru the draft, and not the FA’s that usually don’t do much more than destroy your cap for the future.

    • berttheclock

      I really hope the off season can help his injured shoulder, but, one thing I like about Commings is he played center field very well in college baseball. Being a top center fielder is a must for playing his free safety position.

      However, I have really wondered at times what Pioli read about some of his lower picks. On one scouting report of Lewis coming out of college was this, “Does not have elite speed to be true center fielder and make plays all over the field. Struggles to turn and run with receivers in man coverage.” That report went on to say he lacked strength to fend off blockers. In addition, at the combines, he ran a 4.7 forty. The eventual All Pro Chancellor went 3 spots before him and ran a 4.59. The pick of Lewis was as bad as the 2nd rounder Reid made with Philly to take a safety he had to cut his second year and publicly apologize to fans of the Eagles.

      Reminds me of the negative reports concerning Baldwin where it was said he was fast, not quick, was a slow starter off the line and needed long strides to get up to top speed and could be jammed by defenders. Pioli only read the raves about him.

  • Doc

    I agree, it is time to let Lewis walk. I trust in Dorsey/Reid to find a replacement. I suspect it will be Commings. However, with the flaws of Lewis (lack of speed, poor angles, etc.) why did not Sutton use Berry back to help him out? Too many times I saw berry playing up when he could have been a better help by staying back.
    I would also look at C Smith. IMO he would make a great play, then take 5-10 plays off. He had a lot of times he was behind the receiver or too far off. With his speed, he should have been jamming receivers at the line every down.
    While I hate to say it, it is time to look for Flowers replacement. he appears to have gotten ‘old’ legs this year. Was he playing with an injury that we did not know about? He did not show the speed of years past to run down receivers. He appeared to take some bad angles too. Was this Sutton’s play calling that lessened Flower’s performance by having him out of position?
    From what I saw, I am not that impressed with Sutton as DC. Friendly ties with Reid or not, it may be time to look elsewhere. This may seem harsh since it was only one year, but this is a production business and we have the talent on the team. I believe the coaching was not utilizing them correctly.

    • Chris Tarrants

      Sorry but I have to disagree with the idea of letting Lewis just walk away. I want somebody to kick him in his ass on his way out the door. Have Poe pick him up and chuck him like a lawn dart into arrowhead parking lot

      • freshmeat62

        I’m sure the guy’s trying his best, he doesn’t want to be embarrassed out there. It’s just that he doesn’t have the skills to do it.

        • Chris Tarrants

          He tries, but this isn’t JV football. You don’t get to play a few snaps just because your grandparents showed up to watch you play! He should have been canned a long time ago but for what ever reason he wasn’t. He never looked like he was trying out there this year, he was just going through the motions

          • berttheclock

            I can understand your anger, but, it does take time to completely rebuild a team, especially, when, so many holes were left by the previous Autocracy.

      • Doc

        I stand corrected Chris – I LIKE your idea better!

      • berttheclock

        You mean Pioli wouldn’t send his personal limo for him?

      • diehardchief

        Take (S.S.) with him, dude couldn’t guard a tree if was standing in front of him.

  • freshmeat62

    There needs to also be more pressure from the d-line, specifically the LDE. Somebody to complement Poe, ala Reggie White and Jerome Brown. Sorry Tyson, but despite probably his best year in sacks, what was it 4 this year, he just doesn’t do enough. I can’t think of anything more scary than some 6-6 or 6-7 320# dude along w/ Poe coming at me w/ arms flailing, while in the back of my mind I know that Hali is coming from my backside and Houston from my right, and maybe some blitzer. That would put the fear in me!!!

  • berttheclock

    There is one free safety whose stock could rise in the combines. He, already, has run a 4.54 40. Ed Reynolds, the free safety for Stanford, has announced he will enter the draft. As he will come out after only playing a little more than one full season, some might back off. He is a hard hitter, who will have to stop his targeting, if he wants to last in the NFL. However, he has made several interceptions for the Cardinals. No, he does not play baseball and the irony is the fine center fielder for the Cardinals was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates and played one season in the minors, but, when, he returned in the fall, Tyler Gaffney was a running back for the football team.

    Reynolds might be one to look for, but, if he has a big combine, he might move up and not be such a reach at 23.

  • Chris Tarrants

    Here is food for thought, how much would Eric Berry be worth? We all love Berry, his passion and his heart. But he is in fact a perennial probowler, could he be used as trade bait for another good safety and a 1st or 2nd round pick? I really don’t want to see him gone but with the cap hell we are in and the lack of depth in the secondary could it be a possibility?

    • freshmeat62

      I’m thinking you may be on to something, maybe not specifically trading Berry, but I’m betting some of the higher salaries might be let go or traded – Hali anyone? Would hate to lose his drive and attitude, but I think he’s lost a step, and he does have that big cap number.

      • berttheclock

        Are you trying to channel one Bill Belichick, whose philosophy of release before their time has worked rather well, at times? Too many times, the Chiefs’ fans have witnessed players kept beyond their prime. Better to churn early, than to have to completely start from scratch.

      • mattU

        Definitely need to shop Hali this off-season for cap reasons. I think he’s still worth a 2nd rd pick, and there’s teams out there below the cap floor that might be willing to take on his salary…Looking at the Jets cap situation over the next couple of years, they could be a possible destination. Unless he restructures, Hali is gone after next season ($9MIL in cap savings) anyway because we’re going to need that money to have any chance at resigning Houston.

        Berry may have struggled at times in coverage, but you don’t strengthen the worst position group on your team by removing its best player IMO Berry is better than any safety prospect in this draft…The only defensive player in the draft worth giving him up for is Clowney.

  • berttheclock

    Interesting the draft breakdown of one of the finest defensive backfields in the NFL. Well, it was before the suspensions. But, look at the Seahawks who began the season with a 1st round pick in Thomas, who was taken a bit later than Berry, Chancellor, who was a 5th round pick and another overlooked by Pioli in the fifth round of Richard Sherman. Browner was a pickup from the CFL. So, no, teams do not have to have all top picks for an excellent secondary, but, they must have a General Manager with insight and vision and scouting ability. The Chiefs are very lucky to have such in Dorsey and given time he will build a great unit.

  • Merlin_Arrowhead_Addict

    I like Mike Evans a lot, but it is likely will go earlier than the Chiefs pick.

    • berttheclock

      Have you read the comments by Gil Brandt who has him as 5 players he believes are coming out a year early? He likes his stats, but, believes he needs more work in running precise routes and gets away far too much with pushing off, which might hurt him in the NFL. BTW, look at the five he believes are coming out at the right time, including two tough offensive linemen.

      • Merlin_Arrowhead_Addict

        Evans is coming out and will be picked in this draft. I like him but I think he will be drafted before the Chiefs pick. Oh, by the way, since when is pushing off illegal in the NFL? I seem to see that on just about every play.

        • berttheclock

          You have watched a great deal of the early Plaxico Burris, I see.

          • Merlin_Arrowhead_Addict

            To me, Michael Irvin remains the gold standard of offensive PI

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