Chiefs questions need answering in offseason

Jan 9, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Chiefs free safety Eric Berry (29) reacts after intercepting a pass against the Houston Texans during the first quarter in a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Chiefs free safety Eric Berry (29) reacts after intercepting a pass against the Houston Texans during the first quarter in a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

After a disappointing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, it is easy to switch off withdrawal from Chiefs Kingdom.

This is usually the point we lose people. Don’t let that be you.

But stay with us. We will be here to cover all kinds of information during the offseason, starting with the college All-Star games, coming free agency and the draft. The road to the next Super Bowl is already being paved today.

This weekend, the first recognition of the college players as a draft class will begin. The Shrine East-West game is on Saturday. It is one of my favorite events. It is the All-Star Game for non-seniors and less well-known players. There are plenty of players in the Shrine game that get drafted each year. The Chiefs’ scouting department is good at scouring every level of college football, so there is a chance a future Chiefs player will be playing Saturday.

There are some interesting players like Hardy Nickerson Jr. and there are multiple local players on the rosters. As a Jayhawk, I am most interested in seeing Fish Smithson, the safety from Kansas. A good showing at the Shrine game could get him an invite to the Senior Bowl and elevate his stock.

We wrapped up the season with Seth Keysor and began to look at the offseason on today’s show. Here it is:

On offense, the holes are nothing unexpected.

We have talked about the deficiencies of this squad all season. Injuries and slowed development have left a mark on this roster. Below is my postseason evaluation of each player at each position, at least the ones who saw the field.

Injuries mark the biggest questions this team faces in the offseason. The future of Jamaal Charles will have a big impact on how much help they’ll need at running back. Spencer Ware began the season like a freight train but fell off dramatically as the season went on. I like his running style and his dedication to the team, but he’s not an overwhelming threat. Charcandrick West did not live up to his 2015 season and needs to be upgraded. If the team does not have Jamaal Charles in 2017 for whatever reason, the team needs another home run hitter.

The unfortunate injury to Parker Ehinger makes relying on him at left guard difficult. Laurant Duvernay-Tardif has continued to make slow but steady progress as a second-year starter. Although I like him and his game, he remains average-at-best and is another candidate to be upgraded. In addition, Zach Fulton has proven to be lacking while filling in for Ehinger. The Chiefs need to draft or bring in a free agent to compete for a starting guard spot. At the very least they have to have a swing guard that is a major upgrade from Fulton.

Additionally, the swing tackle position must be upgraded this offseason. Jah Reid’s time in Kansas City needs to come to an end. In part-time duty, he took a severe step backward in 2016.

The quarterback situation is perplexing. At the end of the day, I don’t think Andy Reid will allow the team to get away from Alex Smith until after next season. The 2017 quarterback draft class looks to be very thin, but if Andy Reid can identify a mid-round project we could see another quarterback selected.

The emergence of Tyreek Hill has done a lot for the wide receiver group. Chris Conley has done fairly well with the opportunities he’s received, but he could have done better. Jeremy Maclin was not himself for much of the season, either. If there’s an opportunity to bring in a starting-caliber wide receiver through the draft, the team needs to do that.

The defense is good, but can still improve in several ways.

There is a lot more green on this side of the ball. For the most part, depth is the main concern. Only a couple starting positions need addressing right now. There are several positions that will need more depth in the next 12 months.

The primary starting position that needs to be improved is at inside linebacker. With the Derrick Johnson and Josh Mauga injuries, this position needs to be one of the draft priorities. Timelines for both are muddy. Stopping the run was exposed as the deficit of this defense. While Ramik Wilson did a solid job filling in at inside linebacker he is not enough to sustain the unit if Johnson and/or Mauga are not ready to begin the season.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
Terrance Smith needs another season or two to mature in order to earn playing time (outside of another rash of injuries). If Kansas City has two truly starting-caliber inside linebackers in 2017, Smith should be on the practice squad. The big question mark remains Justin March-Lillard. Thought to be ready for a starting role when he returned from injury, he was unable to beat out Terrance Smith. That is a cause for concern and makes this position group the weakest on the defense. In the lead-up to free agency and the NFL draft keep an eye out for a powerful 3-down linebacker, such as Dont’a Hightower (who happens to be a free agent). That is what the Chiefs need. /

Outside of Marcus Peters, the cornerback group could use an upgrade as well. Steven Nelson made progress and played well on occasion in 2016. Terrance Mitchell was a complete surprise and looks to be another young corner that can help this team down the line. Both can be solid in 2017 but are not primetime corners.

Phillip Gaines has been often injured. In 2016 when he was on the field, his performance suffered a setback as well. His play regressed and he appears to have lost his confidence. In order to contend for a Super Bowl, the team needs a true #2 corner to pair with Peters.

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Free agency will be daunting for Kansas City. The top two priorities are clearly #29 and #90. Add to that Daniel Sorensen is a free agent which complicates the safety picture. The top three safeties on the roster, only Ron Parker is under contract. With Dontari Poe and Eric Berry negotiations both looming, John Dorsey has contingency plans in place.

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Dorsey has players on the roster that can ascend if the team loses Poe and/or Berry. Chris Jones was a standout as a rookie and would be an easy transition on the d-line. Eric Murray was outstanding as a special teams player and has a very similar style of play to Eric Berry. The team has quietly shown confidence in Murray. At the very least he is capable of replacing Sorensen in 2017.

Tamba Hali has said he plans to play in 2017. Justin Houston still does not look to be fully recovered from his knee injury to my eyes. Dee Ford had a promising 2016 until his injury and was not able to regain his level of performance on the field. The Chiefs need to find another dominant pass rusher in a hurry. The Pittsburgh games highlight its importance.

I’ll have a ton of information and evaluation on player prospects this entire offseason. It may be hard to get excited about it right now but stick with me. The Chiefs can get a lot better by May.

What do you think of the depth chart? What should be their priority addicts?