Evaluating the Chiefs offense going into camp

Unless one happens to be wrapped up in the Tom Brady-Roger Goodell soap opera of deflated footballs and inflated egos, this is the quiet time in the world of pro football. It’s vacation time and after a few days off, players around the country will get back to work on their individual conditioning programs, to stay sharp for the end of July and the start of training camp.

For your consideration, here’s a look at the 2015 Chiefs offense position-by-position, where they stood on New Year’s Day, where they stand now and the direction the arrow is pointing, whether it’s an improvement, or it’s a step backward. Stars are based on the following:

– Not good enough.

– Improvement needed.

– Can win with them.

– Among best in division/conference.


Quarterbacks: There’s no change from last season with this group. Essentially the Chiefs have two bankable quarterbacks in Alex Smith and Chase Daniel. Unknown are how Aaron Murray and Tyler Bray will react if forced into the hot seat. There’s no question that Smith needs to raise his level of play and with that the production of the offense. The weapons have improved for him.

– On January 1.

– Going to camp.

Analysis: improvement must come from within. Even if the Chiefs add an arm for training camp with Bray rehabbing that torn ACL, that new quarterback is not going to be someone that can push Smith or Daniel, and likely not Murray. The Chiefs can’t compete for a championship with a 2-star quarterback position. They need more from Alex Smith. He’s being compensated as a franchise quarterback, and he needs to perform like one.

Running backs: This is another position where there’s not much change from last season, other than Jamaal Charles being healthy. If Charles, Knile Davis and Anthony Sherman are healthy it’s a strong position for the Chiefs. The fourth running back spot is open as Cyrus Gray tries to come back from his torn ACL. Through the off-season work, none of the other running backs established a lead for that job among fullback Spencer Ware and running backs Keshawn Hill and Charcandrick West.

– On January 1.

– Going to camp.

Analysis: The Chiefs need to make sure somebody carries all of Charles’ training camp boxes and bags upon check-in and then check-out in St. Joseph, especially if he really did hurt his ankle/foot carry his stuff to the car when the 2014 camp was over. In four pre-season games, No. 25 should see only between 15 and 20 carries. The pre-season should be time for Davis to make sure he’s improved in his third season. Charles says he’s got many more seasons in him. Right now, he needs to worry about only the 2015 season and being strong and healthy enough to produce as a runner, receiver and blocker.

Wide receivers: The Chiefs decided going into the 2014 season that they did not need big additions to the receiver position. That came back to bite them with the lack of tools for the team’s passing game and that held the offense back. They did not make the same mistake this time, using most of their money in free agency to sign Jeremy Maclin, drafted Chris Conley in the third round and they moved De’Anthony Thomas from running back to wide receiver. The other nine receivers on the roster include four players that went to camp last year with the Chiefs – Frankie Hammond, Junior Hemingway, Fred Williams and Albert Wilson. They caught a combined 32 balls for 413 yards. Jason Avant joined the offense late in the season and caught 13 passes for 152 yards. Rounding out the roster at receiver are Armon Binns, Kenny Cook, Tello Luckett, Jeret Smith and draft choice Da’Ron Brown round out the roster at receiver. Only Binns has caught an NFL pass in that group, grabbing 24 balls in 277 yards and one touchdown catch. His last catch was in 2012.

– On January 1.

– Going to camp.

Analysis: Maclin is a major upgrade at the position, one of those talents that can raise the tide and lift all boats at the receiver position. Thomas should be able to provide more to the offense than he did as a rookie. Conley is physically gifted, but he’ll be better next year than he will be this season. Those three catchers will be the leaders at the position, but the Chiefs will need another solid and contributing receiver. That could be Wilson. Improvement is needed on a daily basis from this group starting with the first day of training camp.

Tight ends: Last year the tight ends were 30 percent of the catches (96), 34 percent of the receiving yards (1,111) and 50 percent of the TD receptions (9) in the Chiefs air game. Anthony Fasano is gone, Demetrius Harris is coming back from recent foot surgery and Travis Kelce returns for what should be quite a season for the third-year catcher/blocker. In what amounted to his rookie season last year, Kelce displayed his physical talents. Opponents, especially those in the AFC West, have had time to prepare for him, something they didn’t have last year. He will draw more attention from defenses, but that should help others if they concentrate on the tight end. Draft choice James O’Shaughnessy shows promise, but it would be a surprise if he caught more than a handful of passes. Rounding out the roster at tight end are Richard Gordon, Adam Schiltz and Ryan Taylor; Gordon has the edge due to his blocking.

– On January 1.

– Going to camp.

Analysis: Much is expected from Kelce and he must raise his level of performance from last season. The attention he will receive from opposing defenses is going to test his maturity level, something that he struggled with last season. Kelce must also solve the problem of his fumbles. Ball security and maturity are the only avenues for Kelce to improve his performance and production. Andy Reid’s offense needs another catcher at tight end, whether that’s O’Shaughnessy or Harris. There remains work to be done.


Offensive line: Ben Grubbs was a major addition to the Chiefs offensive picture, giving them a solid left guard that has performed at times on a Pro Bowl level. That’s really what the Chiefs have going for them as they head into training camp. Eric Fisher will be the left tackle as there hasn’t been much in the way of competition for him at that spot. Center, right guard and right tackle are in play on the first day of camp. Eric Kush and rookie Mitch Morse will battle for center duties. Morse, Jeff Allen and Paul Fanaika appear to be the competitors at right guard, with Allen, Donald Stephenson and Derek Sherrod battling at right tackle. Zach Fulton and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif are back from last season and there are a host of untested players on the roster with first year players Jarrod Pughsley and Tavon Rooks, and undrafted rookie free agents Garrett Frye and Daniel Munyer.

– On January 1.

– Going to camp.

Analysis: The question will be asked on the first day of training camp and will continue through the 2015 season – did the Chiefs do enough to improve their blocking unit? Right now, it’s impossible to judge where this group stands. The pads have to be on, bodies need to collide before any real evaluations can be made. Grubbs was a solid addition and will be counted on to help this group grow. With a full off-season, Fisher should be improved on his performance of last year, which wasn’t nearly as bad as some people think. The rest of the starting lineup and key backup spots remains a contested situation. Center will have an inexperienced starter whether Kush or Morse open there. Allen is a better tackle than guard and Morse may find himself starting at right guard. The problem the Chiefs face is this: they need to solidify their starting group and give them time to work together. The competition for those jobs cannot last through the entire training camp and pre-season. Decisions will need to be accurate and made quickly.

Overall, the Chiefs offense needs major improvement on the line and at receiver, and improvement in the play of the quarterback. That’s an awful lot to ask for in one season. It’s a situation that will truly test not only the players, but Andy Reid and his offensive coaching staff.

Next: The defense position-by-position going into camp.

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