KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs coach Andy Reid said during Sunday’s end-of-season presser the team will learn from the 45-44 playoff loss to the Colts.
Part of the education process will surround tackling the flaws painfully exposed during the defeat.
“Immediately, what we’ll do is we’ll go through and evaluate our talent,” Reid said Sunday. “We’ll put together evaluations, end of year evaluations of players. Then I will step back and take some time.”
While the brain trust at One Arrowhead Drive digests player evaluations, some of the positions needing immediate attention during the offseason are obvious.
The Chiefs are set at strong safety with All-Pro Eric Berry, but the free safety position proved a liability down the stretch.
It was magnified Saturday as Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton streaked down the field between safeties Kendrick Lewis and Quintin Demps to score the game-winning touchdown.
Kansas City desperately needs a speedy free safety and incumbent starter Lewis, who clocked a 4.73 at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2010, sorely lacks in that department.
The Chiefs will address the position in some fashion because Lewis, Demps, who led the team with four interceptions, and Husain Abdullah are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents when the new league calendar takes effect March 11.
Demps, who also doubled as a returner, and Abdullah were solid special teams contributors, so it wouldn’t surprise to see the Chiefs bring one or both back.
Meanwhile, the solution to the free safety position could already be on the roster.
It was a lost season for rookie Sanders Commings, who broke his collarbone in training camp. The Chiefs thought enough of the fifth-round pick (134th overall) out of Georgia by placing him on injured reserve with a designation to return in lieu of season-ending injured reserve.
The Chiefs activated Commings during the Week 10 bye and he appeared in two games, recording a tackle, before aggravating his shoulder injury, which landed him on injured reserve the rest of the season.
Nevertheless, there’s plenty to like about Commings, who stands 6-0, 223 pounds.
“I think it’s the combination that he kind of gives to you in terms of being able to play safety, corner and special teams,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said on Nov. 5, the day the Chiefs activated Commings from injured reserve. “He gives you a little bit more speed, gives you a little more length and size or adds to the length and size that we currently have.”
The speed Dorsey alludes to is Commings’ 4.41 40-yard time at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The Chiefs started Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery and neither eclipsed the 700-yard receiving mark. The duo combined to score seven touchdowns in the regular season.
Dexter McCluster comes off a season where he was named to the Pro Bowl as a punt returner. He’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.
Ultimately, someone other than running back Jamaal Charles has to step up and be a viable receiving threat in the passing game and consistently stretch the field.
Whether that player is already on the roster – Avery showed off his downfield ability against the Colts on a 79-yard touchdown reception – remains to be seen, but the Chiefs need another wide receiver.
Two starters and a former starter are scheduled to become unrestricted free agent in 2014.
The big one is starting left tackle Branden Albert, who played 2013 under the franchise designation.
But the Chiefs could choose to let Albert leave if they’re sold on Eric Fisher on the left side and Donald Stephenson, who proved his worth with seven regular season starts (three at right tackle, four at left tackle), on the right side.
Starting right guard Geoff Schwartz replaced Jon Asamoah and both are schedule to become unrestricted free agents.
Schwartz offers the team attitude in run blocking and the running game blossomed in the second half with Schwarz in the starting lineup. The Chiefs would be wise to bring back Schwartz.
Still, a team can never have enough offensive linemen, so it makes sense to address it.
Once considered a strength, the position was exposed by quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck down the stretch and in the playoffs.
Sean Smith and Brandon Flowers are the starters, but there are question marks behind the duo.
The Chiefs are high on Marcus Cooper despite his struggles in the second half of the season and he could pan out in his second year after displaying flashes of brilliance in the first half of 2013. Cooper also contributes on special teams.
Dunta Robinson isn’t the same player from when he entered the league in 2004 as a first-round pick (10th overall). He offers a veteran presence, but his speed and coverage skills have deteriorated with time.
Ron Parker contributed mostly on special teams.
Starting inside linebacker Akeem Jordan is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, but the Chiefs could move Nico Johnson, a fourth-round pick (99th overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft, into the starting lineup.
Jordan finished the season as the team’s fourth-leading tackler (67 total tackles, 54 solo) and he has history with Andy Reid from their time together in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, outside linebacker Frank Zombo is also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. Zombo filled in for both Justin Houston and Tamba Hali down the stretch, but he didn’t provide the pass rushing abilities of Houston or Hali.
Zombo finished the season with 27 tackles (23 solo) and two sacks.
Starting defensive end Tyson Jackson, who had a career-high four sacks in 2013, comes off arguably his best season as a Chief.
He’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in 2014.
The Chiefs are set in the middle with defensive tackle Dontari Poe and defensive end Mike DeVito, but obviously need to address the line if Jackson leaves.