Kansas City Chiefs: Speed is the new signature

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In a trend of the past decade or so, notably spotlighted during the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, much is being made of team speed for each of the participants. No, we haven’t yet reached Al Davis’ Nirvana where speed trumps all skills. The ability to play the game still reigns supreme. However, it’s obvious that the teams with the greatest team speed overall are usually filling in the brackets of the Lombardi trophy tournament.

Locally, the Kansas City Chiefs are adding players, at the right positions where team speed is critical, like wide receiver and cornerback, and it could be “the” difference in helping them win their first playoff game on over 20 years.

Looking back over those 20 years it’s almost as if “speed” has been a dirty word within the organization. Maybe it was some kind of subconscious desire to run an inverse end around of their most hated rival’s maniacal mantra. However, current general manager John Dorsey must have sent out a memo in week one demanding, “Get me faster players.”

Mr. Dorsey apparently wasn’t merely mandating speed on the field. He’s turning over the Chiefs rosters at his own rate of speed that I’ve never seen before. At least not in fountain town. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying before, “The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang.” Well if that’s actually become a truism, the speedy blurred men in red and gold will soon need to be renamed the Maples (that’s what you get when you mix the two colors).

Here’s a look at the last three years beginning with the Chiefs 2015 draft picks and their 40 yard dash times.

CB Marcus Peters                4.53

WR Chris Conley                   4.35

CB Steven Nelson                 4.43

ILB Ramik Wilson                 4.77

ILB D.J. Alexander                4.56

TE James O’Shaughnessy   4.56

Da’Ron Brown                       4.40

The Chiefs 2014 draft class and their 40 times.

OLB Dee Ford                      4.59

CB Phillip Gaines                 4.31

RB De’Anthony Thomas   4.34

WR Albert Wilson               4.38 (UDFA)

The Chiefs 2013 draft class and their 40 times.

TE Travis Kelce                 4.61

RB Knile Davis                  4.35

DB Sanders Commings   4.41

DE Mike Catapano           4.75

At first glance these may not look like incredibly fast times but in some cases players ran slower at the combine than expected. Playing speed can differ from track speed but you need to know those really are fast times for the players at those specific positions.

It’s well documented that running back Jamaal Charles is one of the fastest players in the NFL and his speed does translate to the field. De’Anthony Thomas has speed that rivals Charles’. Team speed can have a variety of effects on the opposition and having DAT and Charles on the field together can cause havoc for defenses.

Example: when the Chiefs were playing the Bills in Buffalo last year, Jamaal lined up in his usual place six yards deep behind Alex Smith who was under center. Thomas lined up in an odd formation another three yards deeper off Charles right shoulder. When the ball was snapped, the offensive line, Alex Smith and Thomas all motioned to the left while Smith turned to hand the ball to Charles who headed to his right.

The play went for a nice gain but that play doesn’t work at all unless the Bills respect De’Anthony Thomas speed and bite on the fake Smith made to Thomas. Let’s just say they bit the big one. His speed was used as a decoy on that play but by mid-season, when K.C. played the Bills, DATs speed was enough of a factor in games prior for opposing defenses to completely overreact every time he took the field, even though he often never touched the ball.

That’s just one example of what superior team speed can do for you. Of course players with speed have to prove they can be effective in other ways or their speed means nothing. The Oakland Raiders have drafted enough speed merchants who couldn’t actually prove their worth. So, for a newbie, like wide receiver Chris Conley, he’ll have to come though and show that he can hang onto the ball when he gets his chance, for his speed to be justified and taken seriously. Once that happens with Conley… it will open up a whole new frontier for Alex Smith and the rest of the K.C. offense.

Imagine Chris Conley (once proven effective) and Jeremy Maclin going deep and both drawing double-coverage. That will leave a huge gaping hole in the middle of the field for Alex Smith and his merry men to exploit and plunder. Travis Kelce, Albert Wilson, Jason Avant, Da’Rick Rogers, Demetrius Harris as well as De’Anthony Thomas and Jamaal Charles will all benefit greatly from having the field stretched by Jeremy Maclin and another receiver like Chris Conley.

All it will take is a few, early season, pitch and catch successes from Alex to Chris Conley (or perhaps Albert Wilson or Da’Rick Rogers or Ra’Ron Brown)… and the passing game for the remainder of the season will be like graduating from the Scrambler (a family fun ride at Worlds of Fun) to the Mamba (a bit swifter and a little more daring).

Here’s how the formulas break down:

Sp ≠ SCS        (SPEED ≠ SUCCESS)


So, while Kansas City has increased their overall team speed at key positions, it will take being effective with that speed for it to become meaningful. The same goes for the defense as it does for the offense.

Next: Defense clocks in...