Chiefs hope continuity matures young core

Dec. 13, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) rushes for yards against the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Dec. 13, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) rushes for yards against the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs rank as one of the youngest teams in the NFL, yet one of the team’s biggest strengths may be its continuity, with a group of veteran leaders bringing together a talented young core ready to tackle the new season.

Quarterback Alex Smith says the team has confidence and an understanding that only comes with time and coaching.

“I think that comes with being in a system for longer,” Smith said. “I think that guys do see the bigger picture, don’t have the tunnel vision just on their assignment or their line on the paper, really kind of understanding what we’re doing.”

Smith, a 12-year NFL veteran entering his fourth season at the helm of the Chiefs offense, is among the key group of veterans along with a stable coaching staff the Chiefs believe can help their young squad mature quickly.

Jeremy Maclin leads a young wide receiver corps that includes two rookies, fourth-round pick Demarcus Robinson and fifth-round draft pick Tyreek Hill.

He spent the offseason in Kansas City with two of his running mates, third-year wideout Albert Wilson and second-year receiver Chris Conley. This year marks the first time the Chiefs have returned their top three receivers in passing yards from the previous season in Smith and Reid arrived in Kanas City.

Maclin said the key step to learning the Chiefs’ offense is understanding everyone’s role, not just your own.

“We have open lines of communication,” Maclin said of his chemistry with Smith. “It kind of helps when we think alike as well.”

The offensive line does have two new faces – right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and rookie left guard Parker Ehinger. But the same starting group has played together since the spring, which left tackle Eric Fisher says is a plus.

“We’ve had to shuffle a lot of guys around the last few years,” Fisher said. “So having the same group in there throughout spring, through training camp and all the preseason games, it’s been really nice.”

Fisher is the longest-tenured Chief along within the position group entering his fourth season with the team, reflecting the youth along the offensive line. But despite the group’s age, Fisher says they have more stability and camaraderie than past seasons.

“It feels good, we’ve got good chemistry, we communicate well together and we all get along,” Fisher said. “We’ve got a good group.”

Another key to the Chiefs continuity is the coaching staff, which has had relatively few changes since Reid arrived in 2013. The coach said young players benefit coming into a stable environment, but are taught to expect the unexpected.

“Especially early in the year, teaching becomes important,” Reid said. “Continuity and the guys doing the teaching I think are important. Like I say, you think you know this team we’re playing, but there’s going to be something different. How ready are you to handle that new that they’re going to throw at you?”

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Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and the Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.


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