Fasano in line for increased red zone looks

  Print article

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson has plans to improve efficiency and part of it involves tight end Anthony Fasano.

Returning from a four-game absence due to ankle and knee injuries, Fasano was on the receiving end of two red zone targets in Week Seven’s 17-16 win against the Houston Texans and looked fine in his first game back since Week Two.

Oct 20, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Anthony Fasano (80) catches a pass as Houston Texans inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton (51) and strong safety D.J. Swearinger (36) attempt the tackle during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 20, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Anthony Fasano (80) catches a pass as Houston Texans inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton (51) and strong safety D.J. Swearinger (36) attempt the tackle during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

“It was great to get him back out there,” Pederson said Thursday. “He was another one that we wanted to target in our game plan last week, especially in the red zone.”

Pederson said it was unfortunate Fasano didn’t get in the end zone, but the eighth-year tight end should expect more looks going forward when the team nears the goal line.

“He’s such a good route runner, has great hands down there,” Pederson said. “We’re going to continue to do that with him, maybe give him the ball a little bit more this week, and just kind of keep bringing him along and making him feel more comfortable in our plans.”

Fasano caught four passes for 27 yards on five targets against the Texans. In the three games he’s played on the season, he has eight catches for 61 yards on 12 targets.

But now that he’s back, getting his number called in the passing game, especially in the red zone, suits Fasano just fine.

“I’m up for that challenge,” Fasano said. “I’m up for any looks they’re trying to get me. I think our offense – just spreading the ball around running it and throwing it – will get everybody those looks.”

Still, there could be a question of lost chemistry between Fasano and quarterback Alex Smith.

The duo looked good during offseason workouts and in training camp, and Fasano admits chemistry isn’t easy, especially when considering this is their first time together in the Chiefs’ offense.

However, Fasano said opportunities exist to make up for the lost time.

“No matter how many times we hooked up in the spring and summer, fall is a different game,” Fasano said. “It’s going to continue to get better and better, but hopefully I won’t let that time apply any rust to our relationship.”

Meanwhile, the tight end position plays a critical role in coach Andy Reid’s version of the West Coast offense, a point Reid stressed earlier in the week.

“That’s an important position in this offense,” Reid said. “It’s closest with the exception of the running backs; it’s the closest eligible receiver to the quarterback 99 percent of the time.”

[Related: Signs point to TE involvement, success in Chiefs offense]

The Chiefs offense, which ranks 19th in net yards per game (330.7), has yet to put together a complete game and the passing game currently ranks 26th (210.7 yards per game).

While the Chiefs improved in converting on third down last week by going 7-of-15 (47 percent), the team is 36-of-104 (34.6 percent) on the season to rank 27th in the league.

Nevertheless, former Philadelphia Eagles tight end Chad Lewis said in a phone interview he believes Fasano will help address deficiencies.

Lewis, a three-time Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro selection in Reid’s offense, has kept an eye on the Chiefs based on his relationship with his former head coach.

Currently an associate athletic director at Brigham Young University, Lewis said that getting Fasano back in the fold is beneficial for Reid’s offensive scheme.

“The bearded one (Sean McGrath), he’s done a great job, but they brought in Fasano to be exactly who he’s going to be and he’ll be critical down the stretch for this team,” Lewis said. “His toughness, his experience, he’s a physical football player. And I know that Andy loves everything about him.”

When informed of Lewis’ compliment, Fasano smiled and said the former Eagles tight end was “a great player” whose play is worthy of emulation on the field. Fasano also said he recalled watching tape of Lewis when the Chiefs began installing the offensive system.

In the meantime, the Chiefs offense appears to finally be at 100 percent strength with Fasano in the lineup and he looks forward to putting the lost time behind and helping in any way he can.

“It was an unfortunate injury for me,” Fasano said. “I’m happy to be back and I’m going to try and provide my role the best I can.”