Stable environment has Chiefs primed to receive more out of aerial attack

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Continuity proved a main theme for the Chiefs entering 2015, especially when considering the past season marked the first time in 12 years the team had the same coaching staff for a third straight year.

Nov. 15, 2015; Denver; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) and tight end Travis Kelce (87) celebrate a touchdown against the Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

Nov. 15, 2015; Denver; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) and tight end Travis Kelce (87) celebrate a touchdown against the Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

The Chiefs didn’t disappoint, reeling off 10 straight wins to finish the regular season at 11-5 and advanced to the second round of the postseason.

With the foundation relatively intact from players to the coaching staff, the Chiefs look to build on the success and seek more in 2016.

“We want to get there, we want to win it all,” wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. “I think we have the talent to do so. I think we have the type of guys in this building, the type of coaches in this building and the type of organization in general to get that done, so it’s our job to go out there and do it.”

Maclin’s declaration sounds easy enough to accomplish the mission, of course.

But while Kansas City’s defense finished among the league leaders in numerous statistical categories, the aerial attack must improve if the Chiefs are to meet lofty expectations.

The running game has consistently been a source of strength for the offense since coach Andy Reid arrived in 2013. But the Chiefs’ passing game ranked 30th in the league in 2015, averaging 203.4 yards per game.

The previous two seasons through the air also weren’t special, as the Chiefs ranked 28th in 2014 (198.9 yards passing per game) and 24th in 2013 (208.8).

Personnel growth and familiarity with the offensive scheme, however, bodes well for a payoff entering the fourth season under Reid.

“The goal, I think, is to be a better offensive unit,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “We’ve got a ton of guys coming back and I think we’ve added a couple new pieces. We have the draft coming up so we’ll see what happens there.

“The big thing is, more so than any other year I can remember, especially on the offensive side of the ball, is the continuity. Having a big, big chunk of the guys coming back that have been in the system for a year or multiple years and we’re really kind of building off what we did last year.”

Having two primary receiving threats in Maclin and tight end Travis Kelce offers optimism that the passing game with Smith at the helm is primed to take the next step.

Maclin, who joined the Chiefs in 2015 on a five-year, $55 million deal, led the team in receiving with 87 catches for 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns, while Kelce finished second with 72 catches for 875 yards and five touchdowns.

For his part, Kelce, who signed a five-year, $46 million extension in January, believes it is more than realistic to believe the Chiefs will get more out of the offense in 2016.

“Not just squeeze it out, we’re going to unleash it,” Kelce said. “I’m confident in where our personnel is right now. Where we’re headed as a team is awesome and it’s exciting. Yeah, I feel like, offensively, we can definitely improve from last year.”

Kelce’s belief is based on the countless offensive repetitions in practice and the chemistry built among the key members of the passing game.

“The more time I spend with Alex, the better that we get,” Kelce said. “The more time he spends with J-Mac (Maclin), the more they’re going to be able to connect. It’s just putting in the hours and being able to be on the same page out there on the field.”

The Chiefs’ No. 1 wide receiver agreed.

“It’s just going out there and being accountable,” Maclin said. “Being accountable to each other, being accountable with Alex, to this offense and to this team, and just making plays when the ball comes our way.”

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Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for The Topeka Capital-Journal and ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.

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