2019 NFL Season Preview- Kansas City Chiefs
For the first time in years, the Chiefs were a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Kansas City was arguably the hottest team in the league, cruising to their third straight AFC West championship and the conference's top overall seed. In the playoffs, the Chiefs advanced to the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 1993 by defeating the Indianapolis Colts 31-13 in the divisional round. This win ended the Chiefs' six game home playoff losing streak dating back to 1993. It was only Kansas City's second win in their last 13 playoff games. In the AFC Championship Game, the Chiefs lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots 37–31 in overtime.
The offense drove the team, belong the first team in NFL history to score 26 points or more in every game. Running back Kareem Hunt was released midseason after a security video released showed him in a physical altercation with a women at a Cleveland hotel in February. His departure changed the offense, but Spencer Ware and Damien Williams helped keep the ship on course. Williams had six touchdowns in the final four games and Ware came back from a devastating knee injury to finish with 470 yards from scrimmage. Tight end Demetrius Harris had only 12 catches on the year, but three were for touchdowns. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins shined as the team number two option, but a foot injury hindered him down the stretch. Chris Conley recovered from a ruptured Achilles to add 32 receptions for 334 yards and five touchdowns and Demarcus Robinson flashed some play making ability. The offensive line was tested when three starters missed time with injuries.
The defense struggled against elite offenses and were exposed as the year went on. The defensive line needs more strength and power at the point of attack against the run but still helped lead the league with 52 sacks. Defensive end Chris Jones had a breakout year with 15.5 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, and a pick six. Allen Bailey finished with a career high six sacks. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens led the team with 135 tackles and Reggie Ragland had a solid year after being traded from Buffalo. Cornerback Kendall Fuller lived up to his reputation as a nickel corner and eventually emerged as an every down player. Steven Nelson showed great improvement in his final contract season with four interceptions and a career best 68 tackles. Injuries plagued the safeties as the team was forced resign Ron Parker after he was released by Atlanta and acquired Jordan Lucas in a trade with Miami. Eric Berry was limited to just two regular season games as he struggled to recover from a torn Achilles and Daniel Sorenson wasn't activated until November after suffering a knee injury in training camp.
Kicker Harrison Butker took a small step backwards after a strong rookie year missing four extra points, but still made 89% of his field goal tries. Punter Dustin Colquitt had another strong season at age 36. Marcus Kemp was a solid special teams gunner.
The team had six Pro Bowlers in quarterback Patrick Mahomes, fullback Anthony Sherman, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce, tackle Eric Fisher, and outside linebacker Dee Ford while tackle Mitchell Schwartz was named first team All-Pro. Mahomes eliminated any doubts that he could lead the team and threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns while earning the NFL MVP award. Sherman had a solid hear as the lead blocker and had a 36-yard receiving touchdown. Hill was the undisputed No. 1 receiver with a franchise record 1,479 receiving yards along with 13 total touchdowns and became so dangerous as a return man that teams avoided kicking towards him. Kelce briefly held the single season receiving yards record for a tight end with 1,336 until San Francisco's George Kittle broke it less than an hour later. But he still had his third straight 1,000 yard receiving season and set a franchise record for tight ends with 103 receptions and a career high 10 touchdowns. Fisher had a strong season making his first Pro Bowl while Schwartz made his third All-Pro team. Ford was able to stay healthy and finished with 55 tackles, 13 sacks, and a league tying seven forced fumbles.
The rookie class has to take a big step forward in year two. Outside linebacker Breeland Speaks showed flashes as an edge rusher, but it is still unknown if his best position is a standup linebacker or down lineman. Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi displayed some strong moments on the inside, but has to do better against the run and cut down on penalties. Inside linebacker Dorian O'Daniel could be an every down player down the road with strong cover skills and good pursuit against the run. Safety Armani Watts was injured early, which kept him from a larger role, but could push for a starting job in 2019. Cornerback Tremon Smith made an immediate impact as a kickoff returner but is still adjusting to the speed of the game at corner. Guard Kahlil McKenzie spent he year transitioning from college defensive lineman but the coaching staff loves his potential.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
With the strong 12-4 season, 2019 has to be a make or break year for head coach Andy Reid. During the season, Reid recorded his 200th victory to become one of only nine NFL head coaches to win 200 games. With his 206th win at the end of the regular season, Reid also surpassed Marty Schottenheimer for the most wins of an NFL head coach to not win a championship. If he wants disassociate from the ladder, he has to change his philosophy and be more aggressive in the postseason and control the clock better.
Two days after the AFC Championship loss, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was fired after the defense finished second to last in the league. The team then hired former New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to be the new signal caller.
In March, wide receiver Tyreek Hill was investigated for alleged battery after an incident in which his three-year-old son sustained a broken arm. The following month, his son was placed into care temporarily as a result of an emergency hearing. The following day, an audio recording of Hill and his fiancée Crystal Espinal discussing the injury to their son and the subsequent investigation was released. In the recording that surfaced, Hill and his fiance discuss their son's broken arm, she said that their son is scared of him, to which Hill responds “You should be afraid of me too.”
On July 9, the full unedited audio from the recording was released. In the recording, Hill accuses Espinal of lying about his domestic violence accusations in 2014 and about Hill breaking their son’s arm.
On July 19, 2019, the NFL released a statement saying that Hill will not be suspended and that they found no evidence that Hill violated the league's personal conduct policy, but said the incident will be reopened if new evidence emerges.
On August 5, cornerback Morris Claiborne was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Notable Additions- RB Carlos Hyde, TE Blake Bell, DE Frank Clark, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, LB Darron Lee, LB Damien Wilson, CB Bashaud Breeland, CB Morris Claiborne, S Tyrann Mathieu
Notable Departures- RB Spencer Ware, RB Charcandrick West, WR De' Anthony Thomas, WR Kelvin Benjamin, WR Chris Conley, TE Demetrius Harris, C Mitch Morse, LB Dee Ford, LB Justin Houston, LB Frank Zombo, CB Steven Nelson, CB Orlando Scandrick, S Eric Berry, S Ron Parker
Chiefs 2018 Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
Since they traded with Seattle for Frank Clark, the Chiefs did not have a pick in the draft until the second round. Because of this, they have to be smart when addressing positions like running back, wide receiver, and cornerback.
Carlos Hyde is a solid back, but the offense is at its peak when it has a runner who can be a dangerous receiver as well.
The team let go of two receivers in the offseason. The receiving corps needs more depth behind Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins.
Bashaud Breeland is a good addition and Kendall Fuller is a great slot corner, but the secondary needs a true shutdown cornerback.
When it came time to pick, Kansas City ended up selecting Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman and Virginia safety Juan Thornhill with their second round picks. Hardman has great speed and burst with added value as a return specialist, but is raw as a wide receiver in terms of route running. Thornhill was viewed as the top zone coverage safety prospect in the draft class, but lacks great physicality as a tackler.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Khalen Saunders, DT, Western Illinois- Rare athleticism, more agile than powerful
Rashad Fenton, CB, South Carolina- Strong press corner, lacks recovery speed
Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State- Elusive open field runner, very undersized
Nick Allegretti, G, Illinois- Team leader, slow footwork
Mecole Hardman Highlights
What To Expect
The Chiefs set a blueprint last year, and will look to build on it.
Patrick Mahomes displayed enough arm strength and scrambling ability to show he can be a dangerous quarterback in this league for years to come. Carlos Hyde is a bruising power back, but Damien Williams And Darwin Thompson will see a lot of touches as well. Tyreek Hill is the perfect complement to Mahome's cannon arm while Sammy Watkins is an above average number two receiver and Mecole Hardman will likely man the slot and take over as the team's punt returner. Travis Kelce is arguably the best tight end in football and has shown no sign of letting up. With the departure of Mitch Morse, Austin Reiter will be the starter at center moving forward.
Under Steve Spagnuolo, the defense will change to a 4-3 front which means pass rushing outside linebackers will be down linemen. Frank Clark and Emmanuel Ogbah are the likely starters at defensive end while Chris Jones and Derrick Nnadi man the middle. The linebacker corps has a lot of depth with Anthony Hitchens likely the starter at middle linebacker while Darron Lee and Damien Wilson on the outside. The secondary still has some concerns as outside of Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller, the depth at cornerback is very suspect. Tyrann Mathieu is a suitable replacement for Eric Berry while Armani Watts and Juan Thornhill will compete in camp for the starting free safety spot.
The way I see it, Kansas City should still have a high powered offense but given their concerns on defense, the margin between them and the Chargers is razor thin and the AFC West title will come down to the wire.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 12-4