Red Zone

The Chiefs and NFL by beat writer Terez Paylor

Chiefs Q&A: After collapse against Colts, KC left to pick up the pieces

01/06/2014 1:11 AM

01/06/2014 1:03 PM

The heartbreak was real in Kansas City on Sunday, and really, I can’t say blame Chiefs fans one bit. Had I not grown up in Detroit, where the Lions have spent the last 50 years treating their fans like Schillinger treated Beecher his first week in “Oz,” I’d say it was the most brutal sports-related thing I’d ever seen. It certainly was the most brutal gut-punch game I’ve ever seen in person. So when I decided to do an impromptu Chiefs Q&A late Sunday, I wasn’t sure what kind of response I’d get. Or honestly, if I’d even get one. I know that the best thing to do after losses like that is to put them behind you as soon as possible, though that’s easier said than done. But really, I should have known better. This town loves its Chiefs (even though they don’t always love back), and I had plenty of good questions, which you can read below. It should probably come as no surprise that after a game in which the secondary was shredded yet again, the very first question I got was about the defensive backs who will return in 2014. I answered this and more, including stuff on free agency and the draft, and (as always) tried to give you honest answers — no B.S. here. Anyway, hope you enjoy. I was only going to answer the five best questions, but ended up answering them all because I got so many good ones. First, the safeties. Eric Berry did some nice things this season and he’s only 24. I expect him to get better. He spent most of the year in front seven, playing the run, covering the tight end and blitzing, but the staff seemed to use him more in coverage late in the season. I need to check the tape to see how he did as a cover guy. Kendrick Lewis is a free agent, and while he was the best they had back at playing the deep part of the field — I suspect that’s the reason he was never replaced — he struggled toward the end of the year. I could see the Chiefs trying to upgrade there. Quintin Demps is also a free agent. He led the team in interceptions with four and was a solid kick returner, but he also made some mental mistakes that hurt his team late in the year. Maybe they try to upgrade here, too, but I do think there's a reasonable chance he comes back. Husain Abdullah was a special-teams standout who played a ton on defense against the Colts on Saturday and actually played pretty decent. He was also voted a captain by his teammates at the end of the year, which tells me he has some solid intangibles. He’s a free agent but I’d think they’d want him back if they can get him at a reasonable number. At corner, I think Sean Smith, Brandon Flowers and Marcus Cooper will be back. Maybe Ron Parker has earned a second look, too. Dunta Robinson is a veteran who sat most of the season, though he returned to the field toward the end. Nevertheless, being benched is an indication of how the staff feels about him. I don’t think he’ll be back. It’s hard to evaluate fifth-round rookie Sanders Commings because he was hurt most of the year. He’s a draft pick so he probably has a little longer rope than most but I wouldn’t be surprised what happens to him, either way. Regardless, I expect Chiefs general manager John Dorsey to use some resources to upgrade the secondary, one way or another. Too soon for a Q&A for some, I see. Hard to say, fellas. The Chiefs are more forthcoming that other teams about injuries but Andy Reid didn’t provide any updates today. I’ll say this; it’s never a good sign when guys get diagnosed with concussions these days ... they typically sit out a week, just as a precaution. Jamaal Charles, Donnie Avery and Brandon Flowers all had concussions Saturday. I saw Knile Davis (knee) moving around okay in the locker room afterward. I guess I’d say any of the concussions and the Justin Houston left knee injury would have concerned me the most. I’m not sure any of the guys who were injured Saturday will be terribly effected long-term, though Hali’s knee problems — you know, with the swelling and all — certainly doesn’t sound very good for a 30-year-old pass rusher. I’ll be interested to see how third-round rookie tight end Travis Kelce (remember him?) bounces back from his knee injury. He’s a big, athletic guy who fits the offense well. He’s more explosive than Sean McGrath and Anthony Fasano, too. Yes. If Dorsey and Andy Reid see a developmental-type quarterback they like, they would take him. But I’d be shocked if they took one early, especially since they’ll be without a second-round pick. This team has a championship window — guys like Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson aren’t getting any younger — and they need a lot of help in a lot of places. I wouldn’t touch the offense. I think they’re building some good things there. In general, I was really impressed by Reid’s play calling. I think he and offensive coordinator Doug Pederson had a nice year and did a lot with what they had. Defensively meh. I’m still unsure whether their issues were more scheme or talent related. They were certainly a combination of both, but the blame lies more in one area than the other. If Reid isn’t going to make any changes on the staff, though, that teams me he thinks the scheme is probably solid — it’s the players that have to get better. I look forward to talking to people around the league and diving into a pile of film this offseason to try to give you guys a more informed opinion. A combination of all three, my friend. Hali was definitely banged up the last half of the season, and the Chiefs became infinitely easier to block up front without Houston racing around the right tackle every play. I thought the Chiefs did make some strides late in the year at defending the "rub" routes and stack formations and crossing patterns that killed them most of the season, but in the end, they simply weren’t consistent enough back there. Good quarterbacks ate them alive and that’s not a coincidence. The Chiefs need a really speedy free safety that can cover a lot of ground to make their scheme work. I like what Berry brings to the table but he’s better as a swiss army knife-type guy back there. Just an opinion here, but I expect the Chiefs to target the following areas (in order, just for fun): free safety, receiver, tight end, cornerback. I also expect them to look for depth at offensive tackle, outside linebacker, inside linebacker and defensive end (if they don’t re-sign Jackson). Can’t wait to dive into this more. I’m a college football fan and there’s a lot of guys I like. Film work will begin on them shortly. Just for kicks, here’s guys I’ve heard good things about and am looking forward to breaking down before the draft: Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, Alabama safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, Colorado receiver Paul Richardson, North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron and USC receiver Marqise Lee. They need a good offseason — period. The defense must be fortified in a big way. A better free safety, someone with more range than Lewis might be a good start. A high-upside cornerback who fits the scheme would also help, and how about a better third passer rusher than Frank Zombo? Guys, the Chiefs aren’t THAT far from being a really good football team. But Dorsey needs to have a better draft than the one they had last year, and a couple good free agent signings would also go a long way toward solidying the defense. Still too soon, I guess. The fact the roster size is stuck at 53 is ridiculous, in my opinion. This country churns out football players at an incredible rate. You mean to tell me there aren’t more guys who can play in this league? And asking players to sign a waiver to re-enter games is barbaric, in my opinion. Guys are competitive and take pride in sacrificing their bodies for their teammates. The peer pressure to sign the waiver for injured players would be immense, and I imagine teams would use it to protect their own butts down the road. This is a civilized society. We want to be entertained but there’s a moral obligation to protect these guys from themselves, man. They’re warriors, sort to speak, but they’re also sons, fathers and neighbors. I think Reid believes in his ability to develop young quarterbacks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to hammer something out this offseason. Alex played his tail off and if you’re trying to be a contender, you really don’t want to go into next season with this guy on a one-year deal. NFL people hate distractions, and that’s exactly what that would be. It’s been a rough 48 hours in Kansas City, folks. Here’s a little sunshine for ya! Good question. The best safety on the market figures to be Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd. Dude can play. He is one of the game’s best single-high safeties, which would make him a perfect fit in the Chiefs’ defensive system. Problem is, he will command a high salary — somewhere in the range of the five-year, $42 million contract Dashon Goldson signed with Tampa last summer — and I’m not sure the Chiefs can afford him. And even if they could, doing so might limit how many other upgrades they can make, and as we saw Saturday, there’s plenty of work to be done. As far as cornerbacks go, New England’s Aqib Talib is having a monster year. The former Kansas star is in line for a huge payday, but again, I’m not sure the Chiefs would be willing to do what it takes to sign him. They have holes all over and other priorities. Fine guys, I get the point.

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