Red Zone

Eight Chiefs-related developments to be merry about

Updated: 2013-12-27T21:11:27Z

By TEREZ A. PAYLOR

The Kansas City Star

Hey everybody, it's Christmas — a day that's all about giving!

So, in the spirit of the season, here's my gift to you: eight random developments I've enjoyed during this Chiefs season, in no particular order.

1. Alex Smith's overall performance as a quarterback

Yeah, I know. You’d rather have a quarterback with the gun of Matt Stafford, the poise of Tom Brady or the brilliance of Peyton Manning. Well, those guys don’t grow on trees. And if you’re the Chiefs, it’s hard not to call the addition of Smith a home run, at least for this year. I mean, come on. Some wanted the Chiefs to draft Geno Smith No. 1 overall. Well, be glad that didn’t happen. Even if he develops into a good quarterback down the road, it probably wasn’t gonna happen this year. So give me Smith, who seems no worse for wear after his up-and-down tenure in San Francisco. He does a nice job of taking care of the football, has shown an ability to make throws downfield since the bye week and is an experienced guy who has been through the wars.

You guys know I love Pro Football Focus, and while his overall grade of -0.6 this season is middling at best (25th in the league), I do think he's been better in recent weeks and is a guy who can take you pretty far if you have a strong enough supporting cast around him.

That said, I expect Chiefs coach Andy Reid to do what he does best and develop a young quarterback to be the starter here three or four years from now. It could be Tyler Bray, though he recently told me he hasn't gotten any reps at scout team quarterback this season (which seems odd to me), so it could also be someone else.

But if I'm general manager John Dorsey and Reid, for next year, at least, I feel pretty good about my team's ceiling if Smith is my starting quarterback.

2. Breakout years by Justin Houston and Dontari Poe

Houston is just 24 years old while Poe is only 23. They also happen to have the highest overall grades on the Chiefs' defense, according to Pro Football Focus. Tamba Hali has the third-highest grade, but he just turned 30. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Chiefs draft an outside linebacker somewhat early in the draft, because Hali is far from finished, and you would have time to groom his eventual replacement. But the point is that Houston and Poe figure to be anchors in the front seven for years to come, which means the Chiefs' defense has a chance to have a high ceiling for several years, provided the front office drafts well.

3. The return of Jamaal Charles' explosiveness since the bye weeK

Enough said.

4. Eric Berry's growth

Berry's favorite player growing up was Sean Taylor, and there have been times this year where he's made a play and I said ‘Dang, he looked a little like Sean there' — and it's not just the way he tapes his fingers like Taylor (his way of paying homage), either.

Check out the way he runs like a locomotive after interceptions:

Berry's leap this season has been one of the most encouraging signs of the 2013 season.

5. The respect shown to Sean Taylor

Speaking of Taylor, it was very cool to see the way Washington fans continue to honor his memory after his untimely death. When the Chiefs went to D.C. a few weeks ago, I'm pretty sure there was a Taylor banner in the stadium and I alsosaw a bunch of Taylor jerseys. You also had tweets like this on Christmas, too…

6. Derrick Johnson doing his thing

Look, I'm a trenches guy. There's nothing I enjoy more than seeing a dominant defensive linemen kick butt (see: Sheldon Richardson at Mizzou last season). But if you like football, I encourage you to take four or five plays each game to focus solely on linebacker Derrick Johnson. He plays his butt off and it's fun watching him make plays in coverage and knife inside for a tackle. According to PFF, he is currently the third-best 3-4 inside linebacker in football, behind San Francisco's ridiculous duo of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. My point is, enjoy it while you can. The man turned 31 this year and unless he's on The Ray Lewis Career Path, he won't be playing at this level forever.

7. The way Jeff Allen and Geoff Schwartz seem to get along

I know most offensive linemen are close because the nature of the position lends itself to friendship. But I enjoy the banter and conversation these two seem to have with each other. I'm also grateful to these two and offensive tackle Donald Stephenson for making themselves available for interviews more often than not. Players have the option of doing any number of other things during the time the Chiefs set for media interaction during the week, and if I was a player, yes, I'd rather eat lunch, watch film or lift weights than talk to the media, too. But these guys seem to get that we have a job to do, and the Chiefs' media corps couldn't be more grateful.

8. Sean Smith's incompletion celebration

Of course, we've seen a lot less of this in recent weeks, especially since the San Diego game. But it sure was fun earlier in the season, when the lanky 26 year old was locking down Philly's Riley Cooper — who is having a nice year, by the way — playing with confidence (who can forget his “Our swag is through the roof right now” boast) and seemed to be coming into his own as a cover corner. If he can find a way to get his juice back, it will provide a huge boost to a defense that could really use it.

Well, that's all I've got, folks. Am I missing anything? Feel free to mention them in the comments section below. Enjoy the rest of your day, and Merry Christmas.

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor

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