Kansas City Chiefs: Snowballing Questions

Kansas City Chiefs:

Snowballing Questions

Laddie Morse

In 2016, more than any other season I can recall, key questions kept going unresolved as the year progressed. What will WR Chris Conley’s role in the 2016 offense be? Will he have a breakout year? I kept waiting for it to happen but it never did. After all, at 6-foot-3 inches tall, he’s the same height as the Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones — who the Falcons traded up for and selected 6th overall in the 2011 draft — and Conley might even be more gifted athletically (Conley had a better 40 time, jumped higher and further and had more reps at 225 lbs. while Jones was better at the 3-cone drill the 20-yard and 40-yard shuttles). Still, in Jones 2nd season he has 79 catches for 1,198 yards receiving. Conley had 44 receptions for 530 yards. The questions remain with a player who has Conley’s gifts… is it the system that’s holding him back? The quarterback? Something else?

 

Kansas City’s other unanswered questions swelled as the year passed. Will the LT Eric Fisher make strides to meet expectations of a first round pick? Would the defense be able to stop the run without the presence of Mike DeVito… then injuries to Josh Mauga… then Allen Bailey… then Justin March-Lillard… then Jaye Howard… and then Derrick Johnson? Of course, that question was answered but no one liked the answer. Would TE Demetrius Harris take another step forward or at least learn to hold on the ball when it hits him in the hands? Another — asked and answered — question. Would anyone be able to replace Sean Smith at cornerback? Will Tamba Hali ever be more than just a part-time role player again in his career? Will WR Albert Wilson ever be seen for what he is? Would someone upstairs please yank that guy’s contract! Please notice… that last sentence was not a question.

 

Now, the Kansas City Chiefs have lost a critical piece of their front office in Chris Ballard, who has signed to be the new general manager of the Indianapolis Colts. Ballard, who served as the Chiefs Director of Player Personnel, has been rightfully credited with the assisting in the remaking of the Chiefs roster in the past four seasons. It raises the question: how much was Ballard’s influence responsible for the improvement in the team? Example: Chris Ballard visited Oakland prior to the draft and informed John Dorsey that Marcus Peters would not be a problem player. Peters, of course, has been nothing short of sensational… making the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons. Ballard’s departure represents more than “one” position to fill. With the rumor that Ballard would like to hire the Chiefs special team coach Dave Toub as the head coach, the Colts will be set with a great team at the top of the organization but it leaves the Chiefs with work to do, holes to fill and questions to be answered.

 

The team finished the season with a growing list of questions when they weren’t able to beat the Steelers at home and advance to the AFC Conference championship final against the New England Patriots. Can Andy Reid properly prepare a team for a playoff game? Can QB Alex Smith raise his level of play to take the Chiefs all the way? Will the team ever fix their offensive line so it can dominate instead of being dominated every time the playoffs roll around?

 

Last night in the Pro Bowl, LB/ST player D.J. Alexander led all defenders in tackles.  Will Alexander be given the opportunity to start at ILB next year or are the Chiefs going to go out and find an ILB in the draft or free agency?

 

Yes, this team is still loaded at several positions and drafted well in the past few years but have to answer these questions:

 

  • Will ILB Derrick Johnson be able to come back and contribute at the same Pro Bowl level he’s used to contributing?
  • Will RB Jamaal Charles be able to come back and contribute at the same Pro Bowl level he’s used to contributing?
  • Will Josh Mauga be able to come back?
  • Will Allen Bailey be able to come back?
  • Will Parker Ehinger be able to come back?
  • Will Jaye Howard be able to come back?
  • Will Justin March-Lillard be able to come back?

 

Also, where has Phillip Gaines gone? He was supposed to be that answer piece for the exit of Seam Smith. Does defensive coordinator Bob Sutton now see CB Terrance Mitchell as the answer at corner, across the defensive backfield from Marcus Peters? If Eric Berry leaves this offseason the defensive backfield will once again be in disarray.

 

On offense, many fans are hoping that something will be done about the Guard positions. Whether or not LG Parker Ehinger makes a full return or not, he needed an offseason in the weight room. Now, we want to know if his body can hold up under the grind of a 20-plus game season (4 preseasonn games and 16 regular season contests). If the Chiefs intend to correct what ails them on offense it has to begin with the offensive line and if it is the offensive line then it has to begin with the Guard-play. So, will the Chiefs be active in free agency and the draft at bringing in “higher” quality guards than they have. Ehinger was drafted last year and was a 4th rounder, 105th overall (and some think that was too high for him). Right Guard Laurent Duverany-Tardif was drafted in the 6th round of the 2014 draft and was 200th overall. So, will the Chiefs invest a 1st, 2nd or 3rd round pick on and interior lineman? They should have two third round draft picks because of a compensatory pick hopefully coming for Sean Smith. 

 

If you were paying attention to the Pro Bowl then you’re aware that the Dallas Cowboys had three offensive linemen in the NFL’s all-star event. Why should we think about that? Because… the first year that Andy Reid and the Chiefs got together they hosted the Cowboys at Arrowhead Stadium and one of the features of that game was… the Cowboys had one of the worst offensive lines in the league. So, it is possible to build your organization around your OL and in the case of the Cowboys, they now have one of the best offenses in the league featuring two rookies, one at QB in Dak Prescott and one at RB in Ezekiel Elliott (both of whom also made the Pro Bowl… gee, I wonder why they made it?).

 

Sure, the Chiefs have more questions to answer, like, who will share the backfield with Spencer Ware? Jamaal Charles, or a newbie? One of the biggest questions I always have is, which second-year players will take a big step forward. It’s always fun to see who will be doing that when training camp rolls around. However, training camp is a long way off and for now, we’ll just have to be content asking questions. There sure seems to be a lot of them.

 

 

 

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  • Chiefly Bacon

    Timing was bad for the Chiefs on the Ballard hire. Ballard likely wants Toub for his head coach, and Chiefs already lost his replacement. Brock Olivo. Chiefs need to get busy filling some coaching vacancies.

    • Merlin

      Well said. Job #1 is signing Dorsey and Reid to contract extensions

      • berttheclock

        Or, at the very least, Dorsey.

        • jimfromkcj

          Well you guys have a much higher opinion of Dorsey than I do.

  • freshmeat62

    Let’s start by answering questions.

    Will DJ and JC come back – I wouldn’t count on them. JC especially I believe will be gone, if for no other reason than to save $7mil on the salary cap. But 2 knee injuries at his age and wear and tear? Trying to hang on to these old players just isn’t good. Belichick would have dumped both years ago…Hali also. Did Alexander do something in the Pro Bowl game? I’ve seen his name mentioned twice now, here and in the game thread. He’s listed at 233# and to me that’s a bit lite to be taking on RB’s and blocking o-linemen all the time.

    Mauga and March-Lillard come back?- These 2 average LB’s at best, we’re hoping “come back”? “Come back” from what? We’re wanting a “come back” from these 2? Yikes!!!

    And while I’m on the “come back” subject, Ehinger? – He hasn’t been on the field enough to have done anything to come back from.

    Bailey & Howard, and let’s add Houston – Definitely need all of them to come back.

    I mentioned a couple days ago that the Chiefs looked like Swiss Cheese what w/ all the holes they have. I’m thinking now that they have more holes than cheese.

    This is a scary, scary team!

    • ladner morse

      I get where your’e coming from with respects to Mauga and march-lollard… but when the Chiefs weren’t even average at ILB without DJ… they could at least help this season. JML has flashed in training camp twice now. Is he Flash and trash?

      • Merlin

        No, he is flash and get hurt. Time to move on IMO

    • berttheclock

      In the Pro Bowl, Alexander had six tackles. What he really needs with the Chiefs is to have far more reps. He was inserted against the Titans, but, showed hesitation. He has said DJ told him to play with more instinct. That means he has to have time on the playing field.

      • freshmeat62

        Thinking back, it seems like it took DJ 4 or 5 years to become the all pro that he became. Haley was the one that benched him for a short spell, and then DJ came on like gangbusters.

  • berttheclock

    Still having major problems accessing this site. I had to go past the top Arrowheadone.com to the Arrowhead, Conversations, Disqus below to be able to post.

    The Cowboys drafted an excellent LOT, Zack Martin, then moved him to LOG to begin their rebuilding of their offensive line. Yet, another smart move to build your O-line first, then, find the needed QB and/or RB to work behind that line. Plus, you build the very important interior portion of the O-line to make them road graders on blocking and solid pass defenders.

    Tie in between Ballard and Conley. Ballard looked more for impressive athletic ability than he did with actual game performance. Conley was not used as much as a receiver in college, but, he had outstanding athletic skills. Dorsey looks more for the gamers he sees on actual tapes of games. He wants to see aggressiveness.

    My biggest concern with Ehinger heading into the season was the fact Dorsey had retained one of Pioli’s scouts and it was that scout who touted Ehinger to Dorsey. Pioli was terrible in trying to find decent players past the 3rd rounds of any of his drafts and this scout was part and parcel of his advisory group.

    Laddie, about the only thing you did not cover is “Will Stella get her groove back?”

    • freshmeat62

      I’ve been having problems also. Keeps timing out. Little wheel sits there spinning and spinning. Sometimes I have to press enter 3-4 times.

      • tm1946

        Just bought a new laptop, no issues here. I think they intentually design the stuff to fail, then sell you another. Just me, heck I still want to see the Chiefs in a SB sooner than later.

    • mnelson52

      Some think Ehinger will be the savior for the O-line. I do not. I think he is a little better than LDT and Fulton, which in my opinion would make him a decent backup for a good O-line.

    • ladner morse

      Stella? I’m more concerned about how they moved that island on “Lost?” Or what ever happened to Mork and Mindy?

  • berttheclock

    The biggest question mark for Gaines is his health. Gil Brandt said before his 2nd year, he expected to see him in the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately, he can not stay healthy and that has hurt him when trying to return to play before he is fully healed. Time to find another DB to replace him.

  • tm1946

    Suspect every team has issues. To me, #1 Dorsey and Reid decided who gets the contract extensions. #2 get extensions done. #3 someone has to evaluate if walking wounded have a future with the team, face it Charles and Houston were needed last year but basically mia. #4 If Charles, Hali, and DJ are gone, what needs to be done to cover those positions. #5 We are getting the team Reid wants on the field, draft for needs or the future and let them sit?

    Lastly Toub, I can only hope for the best. If he gets a HC offer, 32 jobs in the entire world…. I hope he gets it.

    • mnelson52

      Colquit has almost by himself won games for the Chiefs by flipping the field with punts inside the 20, and many times inside the 10. He does this multiple times a game due to an inept offense. I think he earns his check even if he is the highest paid punter.

      • tm1946

        It is not about Colquitt or his skill set. Wonderful guy, loves his family, goes to church. We need money under the cap. 4+ mil is to much money. If Alex, Charles, Houston, Maclin, and Berry were cheaper, we would have money to fill the cracks in the roster. Only Hali gave the team a deal on his contract. WE NEED CAP HELP and no one seems all that interested in kicking in some bucks.

        To me Colquitt is a easy choice. We do not have enough extra cash to pay the position.

        • Laurels and limitations

          4 mil for a guy that nearly single-handedly positively influences nearly every single game in KC’s favor is peanuts though. Colquit is not getting any younger so if a comparable kicker was to be available I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger, as long as the drop-off in talent was negligible. Cutting Colquit simply to save money though? That would be folly and monies can be freed up elsewhere.

          • tm1946

            I keep agreeing with these comments, guess I am getting slow. But we need more than a great Punter… don’t we? We have been through this before. We need an above average offense and a killer defense and above average ST. All three. Unfortunately, we have some money not drawing the dividends to match the cash paid. Happens.

            Near as it has been explained to me there is no “monies can be freed up elsewhere”, actually we may not have monies to cover keeping our better veterans. We are on the cusp of making waves for the next few years. We must use every dollar where necessary because stub our toe and we are in 3rd place in the AFC West.

            Wish I had the words to say this better…. you cannot win a race if all you have is 1st and 4th gear, the car won’t get you where you want to go. Frankly, with Reid’s issues at OC, we have all the handicaps we need to win in the league…. don’t we?

          • Laurels and limitations

            Foles and Charles being released saves the team 17 million and according the OTC Kc currently has 4.1 million available. To boot, if the last few years have proven anything to us, it is that in regards to the salary cap there is always a way.

          • tm1946

            Good comment and if we could play next year without refilling those positions needing to be refilled we could spend the 17 million on a #2 WR, depth at OLB and ILB or CB or OL. Trying to say we have needs and whatever we can save of the 17 mil will help other places of need. That is how it is supposed to work…. think. But choices have to be made and Dorsey/Reid will do that.

          • Laurels and limitations

            As long as Dorsey keeps going after players in the draft and not trying to break the bank in FA I’ll be pretty happy. I don’t mind the occasional Schwartz signing, but that’s about it for me. Dorsey started off pretty slow in his drafting proficiency but he has been steadily gaining steam and as long as he does so the team can be centered around it’s own developing players while signing a few “just pay the man” signees.

        • mnelson52

          The safety position is not a 13 million dollar position either

  • berttheclock

    Mr Ballard, David Culley left the Chiefs because he wants to become a HC in the NFL. Please, consider him instead of Toub.

    • ladner morse

      I’ll let him know your wishes.

  • ladner morse

    Question: who will be hiring the new Special Teams coaches (Toub… if he goes and Oliva for sure)???

    Reid? Dorsey? Certainly not Hunt?

    • ladner morse

      BTW… there’ll be no more games where they can lean on special teams now. Although, just putting Colquitt or Hill out there is half the battle.

      • ladner morse

        Makes me wonder if they’ll try to keep all the guys who played Special Teams this year… ON Special Team to help with the transition and help keep ST’s special?

        • Laurels and limitations

          I can’t see that, unless your name is Steve Trasker you can bet that your job is yours to lose on STs. It must be hard being a ST’s coach of any sort knowing that any given week you might lose the services of your best players because they are moving up. On the same hand, the players have to understand that the bottom of the roster is constantly in flux while coaches attempt to find new talent.

      • freshmeat62

        I’m wondering if Colquitt will be back next year. Salary cap being what it is, I can see where his $4mil is tantalizing an him being cut. I’d sure hate to see it.

    • tm1946

      Whoever it is, doubt we will get a “Toub-lite”, may have a guy with his own ideas of how to do things. If we move Hill to a bigger role on offense, look cheaper at P and K…. Special teams may be a whole different animal.

    • mnelson52

      I think Reid is allowed to hire his own coaches.

      • ladner morse

        He’ll probably fill the positions with guys that used to play or work for him.

  • mnelson52

    A lot of ifs here. What if Toub gets hired by Ballard to be HC of the Colts? Then what if Toub hires some other coaches away from the Chiefs? If that happens, what if the Chiefs offered coaching jobs to DJ and Charles if they would retire and save millions for the Chiefs. All the players say they have learned as much from these guys as they have their coaches. Like I said to start, a lot of ifs. I also wish Hali would retire. He’s getting paid millions that we can’t get out of by releasing him, and he’s playing part time with little success anymore. We need to draft a replacement.

    • tm1946

      Need to evaluate any players becoming coaches. Babe Ruth was a terrible coach, Ditka was pretty good. Seems to me many of the better coaches were not stars but stood on the sidelines watching the entire game as opposed to playing every down.

      I think if the Chiefs lose Toub, we will be in a period of transition. First, the new Special Teams coach may not be a clone of Toub. Might be better or worse. We will be facing the fact many of our veterans are ready for non football life. Honestly, we have heard Reid take the blame for losses already, so if STs cannot cover for our offensive woes…. not much has changed.

      • Chiefly Bacon

        I feel like the best coaches are players who were limited athletically, but still had really good careers as players, because those guys can give advice that any player can follow. Players like Chase Daniel, Daniel Sorenson and Anthony Sherman are the type who could have a future in coaching.

  • ladner morse

    Chris Ballard is keep ing Chuck Pagano for the 2017 Season.

    And all of Chiefs Kingdom heaves a sigh of relief!

    • berttheclock

      However, the Colts will have about $50 M in money to spend on FAcy. They need a strong safety. Look for Ballard to attempt to acquire Berry. As they are drafting at 14, they are in a very good position to upgrade their defensive side by adding a quality LB or a solid CB. Their young O-line needs some help, but, they could add depth in the lower rounds.

  • Laurels and limitations

    Clark, Dorsey, and Reid always knew that Ballard was on the fast track for being awarded a GM spot, I can guarantee you that this came as little surprise. The only real question in my mind right now is what are the contingency plans for both THIS year in replacing Ballard and NEXT year in the possibility of replacing Dorsey?

    • Chiefly Bacon

      Could be they were using him as leverage in contract negotiations with Dorsey. Now probably scrambling to hand him a big ol’ check.

      • Laurels and limitations

        Oh, I’m sure that was in-play in some shape or manner but I really have my doubts about the entire “scrambling” thingy. Clark strikes me as the type of guy who formulates a plan thoroughly then initiates the plan full-go. If Dorsey was the plan for the future then the course was already set in re-signing him, if Dorsey was not the future he still wouldn’t be even with the moving on of Ballard.

  • berttheclock

    One player the Chiefs might well consider giving a long look is Jarvis Jones, the OLB of the Steelers and former Number one pick from Georgia. He is only 27 and in Steelers’ land he is considered to be a major bust as a draft pick. HIs sack production never has been the same as it was in college, but, he is solid against the run. Steelers’ fans might argue with me over that, but, what really hurt the Steelers in trying to stop the run was the huge loss of their outstanding DE, Cameron Heyward. He tore up KC during the season. After he went down, teams could run to his side and Jarvis ended up being benched and James Harrison took his place. Jarvis needs to have top DEs play in front of him.

  • Laurels and limitations

    Is it possible that there is more than one Wes Welker out there in the NFL world?

    The @HoustonTexans announce 2017 assistant coaching staff: pic.twitter.com/E658MfLrVP— Texans PR (@TexansPR) January 30, 2017

    • ladner morse

      Wes Welker. Hmm. Interesting.

      • Laurels and limitations

        funny isn’t it? And here everyone was freaking out about just Mike Vrabel.

  • Chiefly Bacon

    The #Chiefs have signed RB Darrin Reaves and DT Montori Hughes to reserve-futures deals.— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) January 31, 2017

    • Chiefly Bacon

      Glad to see Reaves back. I have had high hopes for him.

      • mnelson52

        me too

      • Laurels and limitations

        yeah, I was always kinda shocked when he couldn’t crack the roster last year.

        • mnelson52

          I don’t think they would have brought back Davis if Reaves had been healthy at the time.

          • Laurels and limitations

            the whole situation strikes me as odd, but I agree there with the reason as to why Davis was brought back.

    • tm1946

      Would seem Dorsey is shaking the trees but doubt either are ready to be Charles and Poe.

    • ladner morse

      Glad to hear about Darren Reaves.

      • KCMikeG

        Really wish we would have given him a shot last year after losing JC and Ware/West having injury struggles. The kid is a Beast!

        • tm1946

          When the injury bug bites, the players needs to show the team it is a passing thing or you end up more Gaines on the roster than we can use.