Why Chiefs could miss playoffs

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
10:00
AM ET

After fast-tracking from two wins in 2012 to 11 in 2013, the Kansas City Chiefs have just as quickly become a popular projected regression candidate for 2014.

The stated reasons have varied, but a prevalent narrative turns toward the fact that Kansas City's schedule looks appreciably more difficult than its 2013 slate, during which it defeated just one team with a winning record (a Week 3 win over the Michael Vick-led Philadelphia Eagles).

The schedule this season does appear -- and we stress appear -- less favorable, with seven games against 2013 playoff teams and another at Arizona, which won 10 games last season. But schedule-forecasting can be misleading; who would've supposed the Houston Texans would be the league's worst team in 2013 after winning 12 games the season before? This time last year, the Texans were considered a significant challenge for their opponents when assessing the schedule. Injuries and other dynamics can quickly change the complexion of it.

There is reason, however, to be concerned about the Chiefs not returning to the playoffs in 2014, and it's a big one: a rebuilt offensive line that suffered a substantial blow on Friday when right tackle Donald Stephenson was suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season due to a violation of the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy.

While we're waiting for the Kansas City Chiefs roster cuts that are due Saturday, let's look at snap counts from the final preseason game in Green Bay for clues.

Quarterback -- Aaron Murray 27, Tyler Bray 24, Chase Daniel 13. Bray's knee and ankle injuries could allow the Chiefs to put him on injured-reserve and avoid having to part ways with one of their four QBs.

Running back -- Joe McKnight 23, Cyrus Gray 19, Knile Davis 19, Jordan Campbell 14, De'Anthony Thomas 4. The Chiefs gave a long look to McKnight, who hadn't played much because of injuries. He's still unlikely to make the roster.

Wide receiver -- Fred Williams 51, Albert Wilson 38, Mark Harrison 37, A.J. Jenkins 25, Frankie Hammond Jr. 13, Kyle Williams 3. Fred Williams and Harrison are unlikely to make the team unless injuries to others force the Chiefs to change plans.

Tight end -- Demetrius Harris 56, Richard Gordon 10, Travis Kelce 8. Harris, who didn't play football in college, needed the work. But that he played so much in the final preseason game and didn't play well could be ominous signs for him.

Offensive line -- Eric Kush 64, Donald Stephenson 64, Ryan Harris 53, Ricky Henry 44, Jeff Linkenbach 34, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif 33, Mike McGlynn 17, J'Marcus Webb 11. This group needed work, so those who played a lot are likely to make the team. Stephenson now begins a four-game suspension, so he played every offensive snap.

Defensive line -- Jaye Howard 51, Vance Walker 46, Kyle Love 41, Dominique Hamilton 24, Kona Schwenke 9. The three probable backups received the most playing time.

Linebacker -- Frank Zombo 75, Dee Ford 75, James-Michael Johnson 57, Nico Johnson 34, Josh Mauga 22, Devan Walker 19, Alonzo Highsmith 18. Interesting that Josh Martin didn't play. Could mean the Chiefs have other plans for him.

Defensive back -- Phillip Gaines 73, Justin Rogers 59, Daniel Sorensen 52, Malcolm Bronson 45, Kelcie McCray 39, DeMarcus Van Dyke 33, Jonathon Amaya 27, Ron Parker 14, Marcus Cooper 12. Gaines, a third-round draft pick, didn't play well and showed again he's not ready for the NFL game.
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5:23
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Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid revealed knee and ankle injuries to quarterback Tyler Bray that otherwise went undetected in the final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. These injuries could be the Chiefs' way out of their quarterback dilemma.

"He got banged up a little bit last night and I hope he’s OK," Reid said.

Those injuries could allow the Chiefs to put Bray on injured-reserve, which would be convenient in that they would like to keep all four of their quarterbacks. To do that, the Chiefs would have to either keep them all on their active roster, which they don’t want to do, or put one on an injured list.

Doing so with Bray would cost him this season, but allow him to remain a part of the picture for the long term.

"If you took one player and you said 'who’s improved and changed themselves physically and mentally in the last year the most,' you probably have to put Tyler in that mix," Reid said. "From where he was to where he is now, there’s a big difference."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A look at the snap counts from the Green Bay Packers' 34-14 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Thursday’s preseason finale:

Total offensive snaps (75)

Quarterbacks
Scott Tolzien: 40
Matt Flynn: 35
Tolzien
Notes: With Aaron Rodgers held out, Flynn started, played the first and third quarters and put up 17 points (including two touchdown passes). Tolzien played the second and fourth quarters and put up 17 points (including two touchdown passes). If there was a tiebreaker, it was Tolzien's accuracy, especially on deep throws. His 33-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Janis was on the money; Flynn missed at least three chances on deep balls. Tolzien completed 66.7 percent of his passes in the finale to Flynn's 46.7 percent.

Running backs
Michael Hill: 31
LaDarius Perkins: 21
James Starks: 12
DuJuan Harris: 10
Notes: Eddie Lacy didn't play, and Starks and Harris each got only one series. Perkins made a case for a roster spot by averaging 5.6 yards per carry, but he would only make it if the Packers decide to keep four halfbacks. Fullback John Kuhn suited up but did not play, allowing the coaches to get long looks at the tight ends in the backfield.

Receivers
Myles White: 48
Alex Gillett: 47
Davante Adams: 35
Kevin Dorsey: 30
Jeff Janis: 19
Jarrett Boykin: 10
Notes: Janis, the rookie seventh-rounder, caught two passes this preseason. Both were for touchdowns, and both showed off his speed. Even if he's raw, the Packers would have a hard time sneaking him through waivers to bring him back to the practice squad, which means he's probably a lock for the No. 5 spot behind Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Boykin and Adams. The Packers used Adams in the slot extensively against the Chiefs. Before Thursday night, he had run only six routes from the slot all preseason, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

Tight ends
Ryan Taylor: 28
Jake Stoneburner: 28
Andrew Quarless: 24
Justin Perillo: 19
Richard Rodgers: 13
Notes: The fact that the veteran Quarless was still playing in the second half of the preseason finale could mean that he has fallen out of favor with the Packers.

Offensive line
Derek Sherrod: 75
Garth Gerhart: 75
Jeremy Vujnovich: 73
Jordan McCray: 53
John Fullington: 53
Lane Taylor: 22
Corey Linsley: 22
Aaron Adams: 2
Notes: Linsley, Sherrod and Taylor might have been the only players who saw action on the line against the Chiefs that will be on the roster. When Adams left with a knee injury on the first series, it exposed the Packers' lack of depth at tackle and forced Sherrod to play the entire game. He opened at left tackle but moved to the right side after Adams left. Linsley fared well in his first start, but the Packers ran only three plays of no-huddle during his two series. They surely will run more in Seattle next week.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ leading wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe, won’t play in next week’s regular-season opener because of an NFL suspension.

Bowe
One of their other leading receivers, Junior Hemingway, missed the final two preseason games because of a hip injury. Two more, Kyle Williams (shoulder) and A.J. Jenkins (concussion) were forced prematurely from Thursday night’s game against Green Bay.

But coach Andy Reid said Hemingway would probably return to practice this week, and that the Chiefs might have enough available receivers to play against Tennessee.

"As long as A.J. is healthy, we’ll be OK numbers-wise," Reid said.

The Chiefs have nine receivers on their roster heading into Saturday’s final round of roster cuts. The seven who injuries and suspensions aside would be serious roster candidates are Bowe, fellow starter Donnie Avery, Hemingway, Williams, Jenkins, Frankie Hammond Jr. and Albert Wilson. The others are Mark Harrison and Fred Williams.

Hammond and Hemingway would take Bowe’s snaps against Tennessee. Including Avery, Wilson and Williams and Jenkins (if healthy), the Chiefs would have enough receivers to get through the Titans game.
Examining the Kansas City Chiefs' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)

At this point, it would be a surprise only if Smith isn’t the starter, Daniel isn’t the No. 2 quarterback, and the Chiefs don’t keep Bray on their active roster. So the question is what they do with Aaron Murray. The Chiefs saw this scenario developing and didn’t draft him to set him free this quickly.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

With an unsettled offensive line and injuries at wide receiver, the Chiefs will need not only big production from Charles but significant help on offense from both Thomas and Davis.

WIDE RECEIVER (6)
Dwayne Bowe is suspended for the season's first game so I've left him off this list. Hemingway has been out for most of the preseason with injuries, and Williams and Jenkins left the Green Bay game early, Williams with an injured shoulder and Jenkins with a concussion. So the Chiefs may have to keep Mark Harrison or Fred Williams or acquire a receiver.

TIGHT END (3)

Harris had an awful game against the Packers. He still probably makes the roster.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

I've left Donald Stephenson off this list because of his suspension. The decision on McGlynn or Ricky Henry as a backup guard could go either way.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)

I don't see how the Chiefs can keep Mike Catapano after he missed all of the preseason and most of training camp.

LINEBACKER (9)
Joe Mays will likely go on an injured list but perhaps return later in the year.

CORNERBACK (5)

As Gaines showed against the Packers, he is a developmental player. The Chiefs might have kept DeMarcus Van Dyke, but he suffered a high ankle sprain in Green Bay.

SAFETY (4)

Berry's injury could force the Chiefs to keep a veteran backup. Neither Bronson nor Sorensen has played in a regular-season NFL game.

SPECIALISTS (3)

It wouldn't be a surprise if the Chiefs went with either Cairo Santos or Ryan Succop as their kicker.
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Since the fourth preseason game never gives any indication about a team’s true potential, the only real takeaway from the Kansas City Chiefs’ 34-14 loss to Green Bay was that it followed a familiar pattern established in the previous two exhibitions. The Chiefs' offense struggled for long stretches. There was a dearth of noteworthy plays. And since this game was a showcase primarily for backups and players hoping to make the 53-man roster, there are still questions about how much quality depth the Chiefs have at certain positions heading into their season opener against Tennessee.

Here are some other thoughts on the Chiefs’ final preseason effort:
  • Quarterback Tyler Bray blew his opportunity to secure the coaches’ confidence. There had been plenty of discussion about Bray’s potential to unseat veteran Chase Daniel as the top backup to Alex Smith. That conversation ended with Bray completing 8 of 15 passes for 116 yards with one touchdown and one interception. This game was typical of what we’ve seen from Bray throughout the preseason. He displayed his tremendous arm strength on some plays, then made poor decisions on others, including the interception tossed to Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush in the second quarter. Bray had nearly two quarters to make a statement after replacing Daniel, who played the first quarter. The only message he sent was one Daniel surely liked hearing.
  • Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop likely has played his last game in a Kansas City uniform. Succop has been the team’s kicker since 2009 and he’s been fairly reliable (converting 81 percent of his field goal attempts). His real problem is that he’s due to make $1.6 million this coming season and the Chiefs have a cheaper option in Cairo Santos. With the team discussing new contracts for Smith and outside linebacker Justin Houston, Succop could be trade bait or just outright expendable.
  • Penalties were once again a disturbing sight, even with backups logging most of the minutes. The Chiefs were penalized 14 times for 131 yards. They also had 13 penalties in their second preseason game (a 28-16 loss to Carolina) and seven penalties in their preseason opener (a 41-39 win over Cincinnati). The good news is that the Chiefs had only two penalties in their 30-12 loss to Minnesota, when the starters played well into the third quarter. But a potential lack of discipline is something worth monitoring this season. The Chiefs just aren’t good enough to overcome those kinds of mistakes.
  • Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke has a strong shot of making this roster. When the offseason began, he was better known for having to compete against his cousin, David Van Dyke, in a crowded secondary. But he’s benefited from the numbers game when the Chiefs released Brandon Flowers, a lack of great competition (rookie Phillip Gaines has struggled mightily) and his own performance. Given that the 6-foot-1 DeMarcus Van Dyke has 4.28 speed and three years of experience (one with Oakland and two with Pittsburgh), he was an intriguing developmental option from the start. Now he could bring much needed depth to a secondary that has plenty of questions.

W2W4: Kansas City Chiefs

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
12:00
PM ET
The Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) and Green Bay Packers (2-1) conclude their preseasons Thursday night at Lambeau Field.

Here are three things to watch:

1. Competition for backup spots. Coach Andy Reid has said that few if any starters will play, so this game is all about the backups. The Chiefs seem to have settled for the most part on the players they will keep on their regular-season roster but in a few spots they seem to be in doubt. One is offensive line, where the four-game, season-opening suspension of starting right tackle Donald Stephenson has opened a roster spot. This would be a good time for players like Jeff Linkenbach and the newly signed Mike McGlynn to play well.

2. Playing time for young quarterbacks. The Chiefs won't make any long-term decisions based solely off what they see against the Packers but both Tyler Bray and rookie Aaron Murray can help themselves in the bigger picture by playing well. Starting quarterback Alex Smith won't play and his top backup, Chase Daniel, will start and play in the first quarter. Bray and Murray will split the final three quarters. Each has done some good things in the preseason but both can also take the blame for a bad interception.

3. Kicking duel. There hasn't been much to separate one place-kicking candidate, incumbent Ryan Succop, from the other, undrafted rookie Cairo Santos. Both kicked well at training camp. Each has made all of his three preseason field goal attempts. though Succop's longest is 54 yards and Santos' is 44 yards. This game represents the last chance from one kicker to separate himself from the other before the final roster cutdown.
Charles
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If anyone knows the demands of being a workhorse NFL running back, it's someone who's been in that spot. Eric Bieniemy never put in the workload during his nine-year career that Jamaal Charles has recently put in, but as a former running back Bieniemy can still appreciate the difficulty Charles faces in doing again in 2014 what he did last year. Charles is No. 11 in the 2014 #NFLRank survey of offensive players.

"The hardest part about being a professional is being a consistent professional," said Bieniemy, who as the Kansas City Chiefs' running backs coach now works with Charles. "Everybody knows Jamaal is a great player, [but] it's going to be a huge challenge for him. The thing that I love about Jamaal is that he doesn't take anything for granted."

It will help Charles that, by all accounts, he worked as hard during the offseason as he did when he was a rookie with the Chiefs. But his recent workload -- 544 carries and 105 catches combined in the past two seasons -- has to take its toll.

If the prevailing theory holds that an NFL back only has so much work in him before his skills start to erode, Charles will have trouble getting to his 2013 numbers of 1,287 yards rushing, 70 pass receptions and 19 total touchdowns.

"I don't believe that," Charles said when asked about that theory. "I think those are just numbers."

That may be. Charles is only 27 and his big 2013 season followed a solid 2012 (1,509 yards rushing, 35 pass receptions, 6 touchdowns). Charles also believes that playing in coach Andy Reid's offense saves him wear and tear.

"[Reid's offense] puts me in space where I can catch the ball out of the backfield and make a move, make somebody miss," Charles said. "He wasn't always trying to get somebody to get a big hit on me."

The Chiefs have talked about trying to lessen Charles' load. They drafted running back Knile Davis in 2013 and another, De'Anthony Thomas, this year. But Charles is their best player, their big-game threat, and they'll go to him often in a close game.

"You have a player who wants the football," Reid said. "He loves playing the game, and you have a coach who kind of likes giving it to him."
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The fourth and fifth Kansas City Chiefs players have popped up on ESPN's rankings of the top 100 defensive players. Safety Eric Berry is in at No. 21 and outside linebacker Tamba Hali checks in at No. 27.

Both players are deserving of top 100 ranks. So are the other top Chiefs defensive players, nose tackle Dontari Poe at 35, outside linebacker Justin Houston at 42 and inside linebacker Derrick Johnson at 62.

So how did the Chiefs' defense do a huge nosedive the last half of last season and waste a 28-point, third-quarter lead in the playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts? Houston missed five games last season because of a dislocated elbow but his absence alone doesn't explain why the Chiefs were so bad defensively over the season's second half.

There's a huge disconnect between the talent level and the way the Chiefs have played on defense. The Chiefs have five premier defensive players and filled in the other spots around them with decent players (other than perhaps cornerback, an important position). So if the Chiefs don't play better on defense this season, they'll someday look back at these times and regret a wasted opportunity.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A sluggish preseason from the Kansas City Chiefs hasn't dulled the optimism from their chairman, Clark Hunt. He said on Wednesday he expects another postseason appearance from the Chiefs, who haven't made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since 1994 and 1995.

"My expectation is that we build on what we did last year,'' Hunt said before the Chiefs' annual kickoff luncheon. "We obviously set the bar very high for ourselves, not only with the undefeated start but the 11 wins and making the playoffs.

"I expect John [Dorsey] and Andy [Reid] to build on that. It won't always show up week to week in wins and losses but clearly we want to get back to the playoffs and hopefully go further than we did last year.''

Regardless of how the Chiefs do this season, in a sense it's already a success. Interest in the Chiefs in Kansas City has rebounded after a horrible stretch of seasons dating from the late 2000s to the early 2010s.

The Chiefs once sold out Arrowhead Stadium on a seasonal basis except for a few hundred tickets they purposely held back for single-game buyers. By the late 2000s, they were begging their fans to come to games and had their first local TV blackout in more than 15 years in 2009.

The rebound started last year with the hiring of Reid as head coach. But it took an 11-win season and a return to the playoffs before the interest was truly rekindled.

Season-ticket sales swelled from about 50,000 to over 60,000, according to Chiefs president Mark Donovan, who also said TV ratings for the first three preseason games have increased more than 10 percent.

"The fan base really responded to the success the team had last year,'' Hunt said. "There's a lot of interest in the Kansas City Chiefs right now.''

 
After beginning the season at home against Tennessee, the Chiefs have a stretch of five games that will determine the fate of their season. Included are four road games (against Denver, Miami, San Francisco and San Diego) and a Monday night home game against New England. If the Chiefs can get two wins here and beat the Titans to begin the season, that would get them to 3-3, where they presumably wouldn't be buried. The schedule flattens out to an extent after that, but it's still difficult to see the Chiefs rallying from 2-4 (or worse) to become a serious playoff contender.

Complete Chiefs season preview.

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