Following a 2017 campaign that included winning the AFC West and making the ’17-’18 postseason, the Kansas City Chiefs will look to make it back to the playoffs once again in their 49th season and 6th under HC Andy Reid. The Chiefs were very active this offseason- starting with trading QB Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins. Kansas City has elected to move forward with second-year QB Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech) as their starter, with Chad Henne serving as a veteran back-up. In 5 seasons with Kansas City from 2013-2017, Smith had a 4.2 TD-Int ratio and a 65.1% completion percentage. This past season, Smith set career highs in passing yards (4,042), touchdown passes (26) and completions (341).
Quarterbacks Coach Mike Kafka told the media this week that Mahomes has made great strides (pun not intended) in his footwork and mechanics over the offseason.“One big point of emphasis for Patrick (Mahomes) was his feet and his footwork. He put in a ton of work all last year and coming up to the offseason right here, so I think that’s, right now, where I’m the most happy where Pat’s at with his footwork,” Kafka said after Thursday’s workout. “[I]n our quarterback room we’re going to strive to perform at a really high level. So we’re coaching them hard, he’s put in a ton of work. It’d be doing him a disservice if I told him if there was only one thing he needed to work on. So we’re working to fine-tune every single aspect of playing the quarterback position.”
Mahomes will have a great set of options on offense this season. Tight end Travis Kelce, a 3x pro bowler and 2nd team all-pro last year, will return in his 5th full season with the team. In 2017 he hit 1,000 receiving yards in a season for the second time in his career; he also set a career high with 8 TDs. Tyreek Hill, nicknamed “Cheetah” for his 4.2 40 speed, is coming off an 1,183 receiving yards season where he contributed 8 total touchdowns. And pro bowler Kareem Hunt, who led the league in rushing last year as a rookie, will look to continue his success out of the backfield this season. The new face for the KC offense will be former 1st round pick Sammy Watkins, who scored 8 TDs last season for the Los Angeles Rams on just 593 receiving yards.
Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemey said that Andy Reid’s system allows for Watkins to get involved quickly in the offense. ““You have to understand, the head man we work with, everyone is inclusive. If you are the starter or you are the bottom guy on the roster, we are going to coach our guys as if they are all starting. They are all being given an opportunity to show what they can do. That is the beauty of being in this particular situation. We also have a very good staff of coaches that do an outstanding job of communicating. We just want all our guys to come out here and feel a part of it.” On Sammy Watkin’s abilities so far, HC Andy Reid added, “Every day he does something a little better than he did the day before. You see the quickness, the speed, the strength – phenomenal strength off the ball. You know we can’t do bump and run here but you get an idea when he comes off the ball he comes off with a lot of energy and strength… his ability to catch the football is incredible, he has very good hands.”
Along with Alex Smith, the other big trade out of KC this offseason was sending CB Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams. A 2x pro bowler and 2x all-pro selection, Peters had a disappointing 3rd year campaign, culminating in a slew of penalties. Most notably, he threw a referee’s flag into the crowd at MetLife Stadium in a December loss to the New York Jets. Coincidentally, Peters will look to fill the void of Trumaine Johnson in LA- who left for the NY Jets this offseason.
But the changes on defense don’t stop there for KC- the team released veterans Tamba Hali and Ron Parker. The Chiefs signed Dallas Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens to a 5-year, $45 million dollar deal in March- as Hitchens was coming off arguably his best year despite playing in just 12 games . KC also signed CB David Amerson and DT Xavier Williams to help fill some voids on defense. CB Kendall Fuller (who’s brother Kyle currently plays for the Chicago Bears) was acquired in the deal to send Smith to Washington, which also came with a 2018 3rd round pick.
Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton knows that the defense is getting overhauled with a large group of new players. ““We have a lot of new dudes. I think I counted one time, it was 19 or 20 in the group, something in that number. They are all different. They are from young rookies to guys that came here as free agents. It is a really good group of guys. It is early in the process, but they seemed to have meshed really good. They are very attentive, working hard at it. Overall, really happy with the guys. I think they have done a great job. This is hard on anybody, but it is really hard on defensive players in this time frame. You can’t do a lot of things you want to do, but the guys have really embraced it and gotten as much out of it as we possibly can.”
Arguably the most interesting story out of OTAs this week came from OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who officially became a doctor on Tuesday after graduating from McGill University. HC Andy Reid called Duvernay-Tardif a “sharp kid” adding, “A lot of work went into that. It’s not an easy thing to do, I think we also know that. I think the way he handles himself is first class.” The 321 pound OL told reporters he pushed most of his school work to the offseason, though he did schedule some exams during bye weeks when he could. He plans to relax in future off-seasons and wait till his career is over before returning to medicine. He also contacted the NFL offices about having M.D. on his jersey for this season, and is still waiting to hear back.
The Chiefs will begin their season on September 9th in Los Angeles to face the AFC West rival Chargers at 4:05pm.