The Chiefs “Taking Care Of Business” Checklist p. II

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4. Making the Quarterback Position More Efficient

There are basically two ways to make the quarterback position more efficient:

1) replace the quarterback

2) improve everyone on the offense including the quarterback.

Because head coach Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey support their quarterback, it looks like the Chiefs have chosen to improve the offense while believing Alex Smith will do the necessary work to improve himself.

So, let’s first take a look at how the Chiefs can better support the QB thereby making the QB more potent. Then we’ll talk about which position is most important for them to fix, while comparing an upgrade at either the OL, or the WRs or the QB as well, all for the purpose of bringing the QB to a championship level of proficiency.

4A. Pick Up Stunts And Blitzes Better

The Chiefs, in all likelihood, will need to locate a better center than an inexperienced third-year man from a small town country college. I’m of course referring to Ccenter Eric Kush from California University, which is 36 miles south of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River. Calling line coverages as the offensive linemen are approaching the line of scrimmage and getting set for the next play is as important as any other aspect of executing a play. Especially on passing downs. Leaving that in the hands of a virtual rookie with small college experience, would appear to be a death knell to running a successful offense before the season even begins.

A few weeks ago, while discussing offseason improvements and Rodney Hudson’s exit from the Chiefs, John Dorsey had this to say about Eric Kush, as quoted by the Kansas City Star,

"“Rodney’s a very good player, but sometimes you can’t retain all the players you hope for and wish for, I have full confidence in (Eric) Kush — I think he’ll do a nice job.”"

I’m not a conspiracy theorist for nine whole months a year. However, from February through April I have no faith in the elevated language general managers use when talking about their own players. Everything is smoke and swagger (rhymes with cloak and dagger) secrets until the Sunday after Draft Day Weekend.

Now, picking up stunts and blitzes better in 2015 will have nothing to do with FB Anthony Sherman. He’s already turned out to be one of John Dorsey’s golden moves (trading DB Javier Arenas to get him). It’s likely Sherman — who’s made the difference for Jamaal Charles in the past two years — will continue to do his normal terrific job. So, while I don’t expect the Chiefs to draft a FB, they could do just that with their sixth or seventh round picks like they did in 2013. (Although, I would consider Dorsey and Reid’s sixth-round compensatory selection in 2013 of FB Braden Wilson a waste in the end.)

4. B. Upgrading the OL, the WRs and QB

It’s funny, everyone you talk to will tell you that the biggest problem the Kansas City Chiefs face this offseason is either, 1) their offensive line or, 2) their WRs. What’s so funny about that? Well, the Chiefs finished 10th in the National Football League in rushing yards but, nobody’s talking about that, are they?. Many are going to say that was due to the magic dancing feet of Jamaal Charles. Yes, JC had his sterling 5.0 yards per carry but when you consider that the team averaged 4.6 yards per carry, it’s difficult to think that the OL wasn’t doing something right.

Do they need to do a better job overall? Affirmative. However, the expected improvement of LT Eric Fisher and the addition of LG Ben Grubbs should have Jamaal Charles excited about running left. Which he can’t do all the time, or he’ll be running in circles, literally and figuratively.

When you think about how the Chiefs obtained two-fifths of their OL starters last season (at the tail end of the preseason), and that John Dorsey still has, 1) the draft, 2) the rest of free agency, 3) plus those waiver wire “gems” to add, then you have to at least give strong consideration to the idea that the Chiefs OL will not only be better at running the ball in 2015 but be much better able to protect the QB and allowing Alex Smith to become a real force to be reckoned with.

At least that’s the great hope.

Plus, Andy Reid is going to be Andy Reid. Meaning, he is going to coach the dickens out of whomever Mr. Dorsey sends his way. With what appears to be three-fifths of the OL still needing to be fixed, the GM has his work cut out for him, especially when you consider the cap challenges he continues to face, with almost $20M in dead money. However, one month ago, no one expected the Chiefs to have a top-notch LG like Ben Grubbs under contract at this point. So, you have to give John Dorsey his props for what he’s been able to accomplish in this offseason so far. Also, I’m convinced at least one other OL position will get “fixed” in this draft, which leaves two slots for the incumbent crew to develop and fill in. And that’s the minimum effect this draft should have on the OL and consequently, making the QB a more effective position.

Yes, the Chiefs’ major failing in 2014 was protecting QB Alex Smith. That is the No. 1 reason for the QB being less effective than we’d like. The Chiefs OL gave up 49 QB sacks and there were only six teams that gave up more sacks.

Even with the walls crumbling in around him last season, the Chiefs QB was able to complete enough of his passes to finish 11th in the league in passing percentage. “ASS11” (as Alex is often referred to by some of his less adoring fans) finished better in passing percentage than all of the following: Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Eli Manning, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco and many others. Imagine what Alex Smith could accomplish with solid protection in front of him.

Pro Football Focus has some other numbers that reveal just how important it is for the Chiefs to keep their QB from being pressured.

Here’s a review of Alex Smith’s performance in 2014. When he:

  • Dropped back to pass and was not pressured, his completion rate was 72%,

for which he received a  + 13.9 PFF Rating.

  • Dropped back to pass and he was blitzed, his completion rate was 62.9%,

for which he received a  +  4.4 PFF Rating.

  • Dropped back to pass and was pressured, his completion rate was 48.5%,

for which he received a  –  6.2 PFF Rating.

By comparison here’s what happened with the league’s MVP Aaron Rodgers:

  • Dropped back to pass and was not pressured, his completion rate was 71.3%,

for which he received a  + 42.0 PFF Rating.

  • Dropped back to pass and he was blitzed, his completion rate was 62.3%,

for which he received a  +  12.1 PFF Rating.

  • Dropped back to pass and was pressured, his completion rate was 45.7%,

for which he received a  –  3.0 PFF Rating.

I don’t know why Aaron Rodgers’ PFF Ratings would be higher if his completion percentages were lower in every single case. However, this does show that there is less “ASS” in A.S. than some may have previously presumed there was.

Many analysts like to use the TD-to-INTs ratio to measure a QB’s effectiveness. Last year, John Dorsey didn’t provide the Chiefs QB with enough wide receiving weapons who could get open to make that ratio meaningful. What can be used instead, is the ratio between INTs and total passes thrown.

This chart would indicate that Alex Smith is effectively keeping the ball out of the opposition’s hands. But notice the company he keeps as Packers QB Aaron Rodgers shows everyone up. After Rodgers and Smith, there’s quite a fall off in terms of taking care of the football.

The day after the season ended, GM John Dorsey said this about the Chiefs QB,

"“We’ve got to put some more pieces around him, but I think he’s lived up to what we thought he could be.”"

John Dorsey must have been aware of the same above positive numbers about Alex Smith as we are.

This doesn’t tell me that the Chiefs need to replace their QB, so much as it tells me they must enhance and coordinate the OL unit that protects their QB, plus expand and elevate the quality of play of multiple wide receiver options around him. This also tells me that Alex Smith is still doing a first-rate job taking care of the football even though he’s under enormous pressure, with scant open outlets down field.

Level of Need Already FULFILLED Making the QB More Efficient: ✓✓ (need 3 ✓ at OL)

So, when you’re making your checklist of things to do to fix the Chiefs, replacing Alex Smith is not one of them, unless Marcus Mariota falls in your lap.

Improving QB Efficiency Draft Considerations: Rnds 1-7 (OL), 1-3 (WR), 3-7 (QB)

OL- it’s hard to imagine a reality in which the Chiefs don’t take an offensive lineman at any point during this draft. If they don’t pick an OL in the first round, but wait until the second or third rounds, I’d like to see them target D.J. Humphries or Cedric Ogbuehi because both of them are athletic and have piston-feet. The Chiefs picked eventual RG starter Zach Fulton in the sixth round so every round — including UDFA — is a possibility when it comes to improving the OL.

WR- the same holds true for making the WR position better in order to improve QB efficiency. You should not be surprised when John Dorsey signs a complete unknown and that complete unknown turns into a starter in 2015. For more on wide receivers, see “Wide Receiver Draft Day Considerations” on page one of this post.

QBs- with four QBs already in the house, at first glance it doesn’t appear likely that the Chiefs would take a QB in this draft. However, if Reid and Dorsey see a QB they like, they will have no problem pulling the trigger. And, if someone like Bryce Petty were to fall to the Chiefs as a third-round comp pick, I could see R&D jumping in. I’m a Petty fan and believe he has a big-time arm. The rest can be learned, or taught. Andy’s proven that.

No matter who the Chiefs take in this draft, they will continue to hunt and gather more pieces along the way. It’s an endless checklist of things to do and people to see. However, you have to like their attitude, too. Referring to building a team, John Dorsey said recently,

"“Our philosophy is, we’re never done….”"

While I’m encouraged about the Kansas City Chiefs moving forward, it’s akin to hearing a news forecast that says the rain storm has ended, while you’re still standing in the rain storm. Yes, the skies are clearing, we’re just not quite there yet.

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What do you think, Addict fans? Who’s on your checklist?  Do you have any unfinished business checklist items to suggest?