Dec 1, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Anthony Fasano (80) catches a pass for a touchdown as Denver Broncos strong safety Mike Adams (20) defends during the first half of the game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Anthony Fasano Factor: Reports Say The Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Is Looking Healthy

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OTA practices are always difficult to judge when it comes player performance, especially younger players. This is a time of the season where teams are installing their offense, refreshing players on some different fundamentals, getting rookies and new players adjusted to the way the team does things, and host of other basic things.

One thing we can take aways from things like OTAs is the progression of some of the players who were injured a year ago and how they are responding to being back out on the field. A player that appears to be responding well is tight end Anthony Fasano.

There hasn’t been a lot of chatter about Fasano as a key piece to the Chiefs offense, but don’t be fooled by what he can do for Andy Reid and the Chiefs. A healthy Fasano with a year of Reid’s scheme under his belt could mean big things for the Chiefs passing offense in both production and flexibility.

Much was made about Alex Smith‘s low average “air yards” per attempt – a number designed to show how far down the field a quarterback is throwing the ball down field. Many use the number as argument towards Smith having a “noodle arm” or not taking enough risks downfield. And while Smith could certain afford to go downfield more, the number indicates some other issues within the Chiefs offense. One being that the Chiefs got next to nothing out of their tight ends.

Tight ends are commonly used as safety blankets for quarterbacks in the NFL. Smith is famous for how frequently he targeted Vernon Davis in San Francisco, and the Trent Green built his Chiefs career by tossing the ball hundreds of times to future hall of fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. Last season the Chiefs basically played without a tight end in the passing game due to injuries. The result was Smith having to find another safety blanket in the passing game. His name was Jamaal Charles.

Charles was targeted 104 times by Smith last season, meaning one in every five passes (1 in every 4.88 attempts to be exact) went Charles way. The vast majority of those attempts were behind or at the line of scrimmage, either in the screen game, quick passes to the flat, or dump offs when no one was open down field. When one of every five passes is going behind the line of scrimmage or at the line of scrimmage it shouldn’t be a surprise when an “air yards” stat is as low as Smith’s.

To give you an idea of how much not having a tight end to throw to impacted Smith’s air yards statistics, here’s his average air yards per attempt for the last three seasons.

2013: 2.91

2012: 4.26 (7th highest in NFL)

2011: 3.77

This is where a guy like Fasano can help expand the offense. He’s not a “featured” type player who is going to create mismatches for you like a Gonzalez or Davis. What he can do is be the guy who can be the safety outlet, attack the middle of the field in the mid-range game, and a red zone weapon. From the time Fasano turned it a full-time starter in 2008 to 2012, Fasano averaged 11.9 yards per catch and totaled 23 touchdowns. Most all of those 23 touchdowns came in the red zone.

Converting some of those safety valve passes to Charles behind the line of scrimmage to 5-yard dump offs to Fasano not only improves Smith’s meaningless air yards stat and saves Charles some extra hits, but it also allows the offense to move down field at a better rate. In Fasano’s limited action with the Chiefs last season, he averaged 6 yards gained per target and converted 12 of his 33 targets into first downs. This a valuable asset to have that the Chiefs sorely missed for most of the season.

Travis Kelce is the high ceiling guy who can create the mismatches. Dwayne Bowe is the “number one receiver” who can make the big plays. De’Anthony Thomas is the dynamic slot guy who can turn a short screen into a 80-yard touchdown. Those are the players that get a lot of the attention. But guys like Fasano play a crucial role in setting those players up for big plays and keep drives alive. It is good to hear Fasano looks healthy and back to his old ways.

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Tags: Anthony Fasano Kansas City Chiefs

  • Josh Michaels

    Agreed, him healthy is crucial to their offensive success.

  • Allen Ayers

    The beard was there when we needed him.

    • berttheclock

      Hard to believe it was his very first year playing in regular season NFL games and with a completely new system to learn.

    • Johnny

      Exactly.

  • berttheclock

    The year before Finley was to become a free agent, the Packers carried five TEs. Yes, they are very important, especially, the ones who can catch and the ones who can block, as well. Some of the latest TEs to come into the league can catch, but, are poor blockers. One of the biggest problems with the TEs of the Chiefs of late is not just the injury factor, but, the problems with the offensive line created far too many situations where the TE had to stay in to block just to protect the QB. Not a great deal of down the field yardage as a result. As the season began last year, there was talk of using two TEs, but, with injuries and the poor developing O-line play, that faded. That said, a healthy Fasano will help immensely due to the fact his one claim to fame with the Dolphins was his excellent Red Zone play.

  • berttheclock

    Completely off topic, but, could Quentin Groves fit the Chiefs? He helped Horton install the 3-4 with the Browns last year before tweaking his ankle. New regime has just cut him and the Steelers may show interest in him. He does have a pass rush.

  • Reggie Flenory

    They completely left out the beeard he balled his ass off i cant wait to see kelce this yr healthy

  • Calchiefsfan

    Good to see Fasano healthy. I’m a little concerned about Kelce. Still on the sidelines recovering.

    On a completely different note, did anyone see that Marquise Lee is in a boot and not practicing. That was the guy that all the experts thought the Chiefs had blown it by not taking him at 23. It will be interesting to see how his year turns out compared to Dee Ford. Kind of like Geno Smith last year.

  • Tony Parker

    What the hell is the problem with Kelce, another fragile TE???? Before the chiefs draft or sign another TE, kick the shit out of them to see if they get back up again! First Moeaki and now kelce

    • Randall Miller

      Tony he had a freak injury, we would have not selected him with our 2nd round pick last year if that was the case.

      • area

        Problem is that more often than not, players do not recover to 100 percent after micro fraction, huggaballoo, medical mumbo jumbo surgery. I really hope Kelce is the exception to this law of averages..but we’ll see.

    • Johnny

      He’s not fragile, he just craves contact. Pancaking people is going to leave bumps and bruises. It’s a good thing he’s elusive and speedy as well. Fasano and Harris are going to free up Kelce for some long gains and vice versa. Provided they go to Bowes side of the field.

  • area

    This was a well thought out and written article even though I’m missing a mentioning of ‘da beard’. I”m hoping that the Chiefs get over their tight end curse this year and the Reid wco can finally come out in full force.

  • BWrangler

    I’ve liked Fasano since he was at Notre Dame. The dude is a blue-collar TE with decent hands and an able blocker. His red zone game is awesome. He knows how to shake coverage for just that split second in the end zone and doesn’t drop the pass when it comes his way. Having Kelce back could put the Chiefs over the top if he delivers on his potential.

  • Bigtexjayhawk

    If we can get Kelce healthy I would love to see a 4 TE set with Alex in the pistol and JC behind him. How would the defense defend that???