Pasts of Reid, Smith offer glimpse of Chiefs future

When the Chiefs made the trade to acquire Alex Smith from San Francisco, coach Andy Reid quickly noted he tried on multiple occasions to pry Smith from the 49ers during his time in Philadelphia.

May 14, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid talks with quarterback Alex Smith (11) during organized team activities at the University of Kansas Hospital Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

May 14, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid talks with quarterback Alex Smith (11) during organized team activities at the University of Kansas Hospital Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Reid sees in Smith a quarterback that fits his system, an athlete with the accuracy and the temperament to thrive in the West Coast offense.

After two weeks, so far the Reid-Smith marriage looks like a good fit.

While the Chiefs defense quickly manhandled the Jaguars, Smith had a couple of successful drives against the Cowboys and managed the clock well getting the Chiefs to 2-0. Both games offered few glimpses at how the Chiefs offense will look in 2013.

Upon Reid’s arrival, ChiefsSpin.com’s Herbie Teope, then-Chiefs correspondent for Pro Football Weekly, offered insight on the importance of the tight end in Reid’s system.

But how well do the tendencies of Smith and Reid truly match? And what is the trend so far in Kansas City?

Reid in Philadelphia

A review of the five-year pass reception totals for receivers, tight ends and running backs under Reid in Philadelphia showcases several trends of note for Chiefs fans.

2008-12 Eagles

Receptions

Yards

TD

2013 Chiefs
WR1

60

988

6

Dwayne Bowe
WR2

53

737

5

Donnie Avery
WR3

46

585

2

Dexter McCluster
WR4

18

242

1

Junior Hemingway
WR5

12

164

1

A.J. Jenkins
Others

4

56

0

Chad Hall
Totals

197

2810

14

If this ends up being the distribution in Kansas City in 2013, Chiefs fans will be pretty happy. Junior Hemingway already has a touchdown in week one, but otherwise these numbers are consistent with past performance and potential for development. A year ago McCluster caught 52 passes for 452 yards, and Smith not only looked for McCluster against the Jaguars and Cowboys but appeared to be targeting him more downfield rather than closer to the line of scrimmage.

If he’s healthy, the average for number one receivers would be a disappointment from Bowe. It would not be a surprise to see more targets for Bowe and fewer for both Avery and McCluster or from the running backs.

Are Bowe and Avery apt comparisons for DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin? Bowe is certainly comparable of putting up Jackson-like numbers, although in a different fashion. Avery had a breakout season in 2012, but hasn’t yet reached Maclin’s consistency.

2008-12 Eagles

Receptions

Yards

TD

2013 Chiefs
TE1

55

655

4

Anthony Fasano
TE2

15

153

1

Sean McGrath
TE3

>1

2

0

Travis Kelce
Totals

71

810

8

If Reid and Smith are going to have a successful season, the biggest key may be Fasano.

Tight ends have always played a critical role in Reid’s offenses, and Vernon Davis was a safety blanket for Smith in San Francisco. But can a 29-year-old tight end in his eighth season post his career-best numbers with a new team in a new offense?

While McGrath is showing he can certainly share some of the load, Fasano is going to be relied upon for the bulk of the production. Even in years when multiple tight ends shared responsibilities in Philadelphia, it was a corps of players more experienced and credentialed than the Chiefs roster this year. The only way to offset a subpar year from Fasano is for Kelce to quickly develop into the Kansas City version of Brent Celek.

2008-12 Eagles

Receptions

Yards

TD

2013 Chiefs
RB1

55

398

3

Jamaal Charles
RB2

15

120

1

Knile Davis
Other RB

6

46

0

Cyrus Gray
FB1

6

42

0

Anthony Sherman
Other FB

<1

4

0

Totals

82

611

4

For a team with a game-changing running back who has never started all 16 games in a season, it’s concerning that the last Eagles running back to start 16 games was Duce Staley in 2002. Reid faced increased criticism in Philadelphia for his use of the running back position in recent years, with the perception being he prefers to throw to the back rather than run the ball.

The numbers back that up to a degree. The 55 receptions the Eagles lead back averages the last five years is ten more catches than Charles’ career-high. In his last full season in 2011, LeSean McCoy had 321 touches. Charles had 320 touches a year ago. It’s already evident Charles will be asked to catch the ball more and run the ball less.

With four catches for 44 yards in the opener against the Jaguars, Sherman nearly equaled the yearly average for fullbacks in Reid’s Philadelphia offense and is more than halfway to his career highs. Week two suggests this was a one game aberration caused by the Chiefs blowing out the Jaguars and Charles injured. Or is this an indication Sherman may take some of the load from Fasano and Charles? If it’s the latter, that’s a concern because Fasano and Charles are much more explosive players and more likely to create big gains and scores.

Smith in San Francisco

The primary fan and media critiques of Smith in San Francisco focused on his apparent reticence to throw the ball down field and tendency to check down to receivers for shorter gains. The 2012 season offers an amazing opportunity to study the 49ers quarterback tendencies because both Smith and Colin Kaepernick each attempted exactly 218 passes.

There is some evidence to support that argument.  Smith threw 151 of his passes fewer than 10 yards down field compared to 135 for Kaepernick. Smith was 8 of 17 for 273 yards and three touchdowns on throws more than 20 yards down field, while Kaepernick went 17 of 31 for 528 yards and 5 touchdowns. The edge on deep throws goes to Kaepernick.

On medium throws between 11 to 20 yards from the line of scrimmage, Smith was 22-of-39 for 388 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Kaepernick went 25 of 50 for 437 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Kaepernick also had the edge in completions to wide receivers, with 105 to Smith’s 93.

Much was made of Michael Crabtree exploding in the second half of the season paired with Kaepernick, but much of that gain came at the expense of other wide receivers, particularly Mario Manningham. While Crabtree caught 62 passes from Kaepernick and 43 from Smith, Manningham saw his receptions cut in half from 28 to 14 in the quarterback switch.

Among the tight ends, Vernon Davis saw his catches drop from 25 to 16, although backup Delanie Walker doubled his touches from 7 to 14 under Kaepernick, making the position largely a wash. Kaepernick threw half as many passes to running backs Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Billy Miller.

So what’s the difference between a quarterback that puts a premium on accuracy such as Smith versus a gunslinger that takes shots down field such as Kaepernick? In the 49ers offense, it was about 10 yards per game in favor of Kaepernick.

Pairing Reid & Smith Together

Philadelphia 2008-12

Alex Smith 2011-12

Receptions

Yards

TD

Receptions

Yards

TD

WR1

60

988

6

79

934

6

WR2

53

737

5

38

365

3

WR3

46

585

2

23

345

2

WR4

18

242

1

16

197

1

WR5

12

164

1

8

98

1

Other WR

4

56

0

1

8

0

TE1

55

655

4

59

752

7

TE2

15

153

1

17

188

3

TE3

>1

2

0

3

20

0

RB1

55

398

3

27

185

0

RB2

15

120

1

14

141

0

Other RB

6

46

0

1

3

0

FB1

6

42

0

9

72

1

Other FB

<1

4

0

0

0

0

Totals

348

4201

24

292

3323

22

NOTE: For comparison purposes, Smith’s numbers with the 49ers are only useful from 2011-12. Why? Largely because if the Chiefs acquired the version of Smith from 2005-10, it doesn’t matter. That Alex Smith had only one .500 season. If that Smith shows up in Kansas City, he won’t be in Kansas City long enough for trends to matter.

Comparing these numbers, it’s perfectly understandable why Reid pursued the 49ers to acquire Smith so vigorously. The parallels are eerie. Smith may be the ideal Andy Reid quarterback.

As far as the distribution to the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers, much of that can be attributed to the fact that Jackson and Maclin were comparable receivers, whereas there was quite a fall off in performance from Crabtree to No. 2 receivers Manningham and Kyle Williams.

The distribution of passes to tight ends is shockingly similar, and that will be a key for the Chiefs. Both Reid and Smith favor the tight end. The tight end is a key position in the West Coast offense. If Fasano stays healthy and can post numbers near Celek’s in Philadelphia, the Chiefs passing game can thrive.

However, there are two significant differences between the two resumes. At running back, Reid’s offenses were nearly twice as likely to target running backs in the passing game than Smith in San Francisco.  Philadelphia averaged 63 more rushes per season in 2011-12 than San Francisco, largely accounting for the difference in touches among the running backs.

Reid has consistently relied more on short passes to backs to augment the running game than the 49ers did. Notably, Frank Gore was a definite threat in the passing game before Jim Harbaugh’s arrival in San Francisco, never catching fewer than 43 passes in the five previous seasons. In Harbaugh’s first two seasons, Gore has averaged just 23 catches per season.

The second notable difference is the total number of passing plays and yards. Despite the revolving door of quarterbacks in his last five seasons in Philadelphia, Reid’s teams averaged an astonishing 4,201 yards per season. Only twice has a Chiefs quarterback thrown for more yards in a season (Trent Green’s 4,591 yards in 2004 and Bill Kenney’s 4,348 yards in 1983). Philadelphia also averaged 24 touchdown passes a season. Only four Chiefs quarterbacks have thrown more in season, with Len Dawson topping that number four times, Green twice and Elvis Grbac and Matt Cassel once each. During Green’s five-year run as starting quarterback, the Chiefs only averaged 22.4 touchdowns per season.

Arguably the Chiefs have the talent in the backfield to pick up additional receptions. Based on what we’ve seen in the first two weeks, clearly the Chiefs will target Charles more in the passing game. Right now he is on target for 88 catches and 256 carries for 344 touches. That’s a bit more than the Chiefs would like to see, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Charles totaled around 270 rushes and 60 catches.

Right now, the Chiefs offense seems more tailored for Smith’s 49ers output than Reid’s Eagles performance. Through two weeks, the team is on pace for just under 3,200 yards passing. If they are going to get closer to Reid’s production in Philadelphia, there must be more involvement from the tight ends (especially Fasano) and much more production from the receiving corps in Bowe, Avery and McCluster.

Those four players through two weeks are on target for about 1,800 yards of offense. Those positions averaged almost 2,400 yards per year for Smith in 2011-12 and just under 3,000 yards per season for Reid from 2008-12. The amount of production Smith and Reid are able to generate from those four players will likely be the biggest indicator of success for the Chiefs in 2013.

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