Ed. Note: Every evening from now until July 26 – the day every Chiefs player is expected to report for training camp – we will countdown and discuss some of the more important questions for the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs.
This would be the number of points the Chiefs scored last season, the worst in the NFL. That’s right, worse than Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Oakland.
The New York Jets, the team infamously connected to the “butt fumble” last season, scored 80 more points than the Chiefs.
Brandon Weeden, who had a QBR of 26.6, led Cleveland to 91 more points than the Chiefs.
If Kansas City is going to make the fabled leap from worst-to-first then they are going to have to start scoring more points. The question is did they do enough in the offseason to upgrade their offense?
While the Chiefs made a bunch of moves this offseason, they did not land any marquee offensive players. Instead, they decided to lockup Dwayne Bowe, trade for Alex Smith – who is a good but not elite quarterback – and fill in as many holes as possible with free agent signings and draft picks. The result is below.
Alex Smith – Potentially the Chiefs best quarterback since Trent Green.
Eric Fisher – His draft position suggests he should be an upgrade over Eric Winston.
Geoff Schwartz – A sleeper Pro-Bowler at left guard…if he wins the job.
Donnie Avery – Shaky hands and injury issues but may still be Chiefs best option next to Dwayne Bowe.
Anthony Fasano – A better blocker than receiver but is reliable in the redzone.
Knile Davis – Fix the fumbles and Davis could be the dynamic backup the Chiefs have been looking for.
Those are the hopes for those players, at least.
Any bump in the offense is going to initially come from not turning the ball over 37 times. Slightly under 20% of every drive last season ended in a turnover. 19.89% to be exact. Only 9% of Chiefs drives ended in a touchdown, 15% ended in a field goal. So the likelihood Kansas City was going to turn the ball over (19.89%) was almost more than the likelihood the Chiefs would score a point (24.19%).
To put that into perspective, the average NFL team last season scored 364 points and scored on 37% of their offensive drives.
If the Chiefs are just going to reach “average” as an NFL scoring offense they will need to be 153 points better than they were last season. So the question is: Are they 153 points better?
The average NFL passing offense last season threw for 23.7 touchdowns and 3,700.6 yards. The Chiefs managed to throw for just nine touchdowns and 2,713 yards. This alone was enough to fire Scott Pioli.
So the Chiefs responded by trading for Smith, the best available quarterback this offseason, and revamping their tight end position. They also re-signed Dwayne Bowe and brought in Avery. The hire of Andy Reid should also be included as an upgrade to the passing game.
But is this enough?
Smith has thrown for over 3,000 yards just once in his career, and that was in 2011 when he passed for 3,144 yards. That is well under the 3,700 yard benchmark the average NFL passing offense set. In addition, Smith’s career high is passing touchdowns is 18, yet another number below the league average.
The difference with Smith is he is not going to turn the ball over. Smith totaled 10 interceptions in the last two seasons combined (26 games, 663 pass attempts), which will save the Chiefs points on the defensive side of the ball. He also averaged 7.4 yards per attempt over his last two season, which is slightly above league average (7.1). One could argue that with more chances to throw the ball – something Reid is going to give him – Smith could come closer the 3,700 yard mark than what his history would suggest.
Assuming he keeps his same TD%, INT%, and yards per attempt average he has accumulated over the last two seasons, Smith would need to throw 500 times in order to get t0 3,700 yards. At 500 attempts that would give Smith a basic line of 3,700 yards, 22.5 touchdowns and 7.5 interceptions. Yes, the touchdowns are bit short, but the reduction in interceptions would be worth the points the Chiefs won’t be allowing on the other side of the ball.
This all sounds good in theory until one considers that someone has to catch the ball. We know Bowe and Charles can produce in the passing game, and we have seen flashes from Tony Moeaki. The real question is going to be how the other receivers and the new tight ends integrate themselves into the offense. The Chiefs are going to need at least one wide receiver and one tight end to breakout in order for Smith to maintain his current yards per attempt and touchdown averages. How likely that is to happen, I don’t know. But I do know Jonathan Baldwin is going to have a heck of a camp, because he always does.
THE RED ZONE
Jamaal Charles is a beast, there is not denying this.
Pro Football Focus recently rated him as the second best running back in the game…and then promptly left him off their Top 100 players list. So make of that what you will.
Still, even with all the awesomeness of Charles, the Chiefs could still not score touchdowns in the running game. KC scored just nine touchdowns on the ground last season due to a poor scheme inside the red zone and at the goal line.
Kansas City scored a touchdown just 27 percent of the time they reached the red zone last season. This was dead last in the NFL, and the closest team, the Arizona Cardinals, were ahead of them by 13%.
If you want a good predictor about who will make the playoffs then look at the average red zone touchdowns scored per game. Last season 10 of the top 12 teams in that statistic made the playoffs. The two that didn’t finish in the top 12 but made the playoffs – Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings – finished 13th and 15th respectively. It turns out that the more times you make it to the red zone and then score touchdowns, the more likely a team is to win games.
Who would have thought?
Kansas City managed to score a touchdown once EVERY OTHER game, or 0.6 times per game. This was even with 2.3 opportunities per game. Not only do the Chiefs have to add at least one opportunity per game, but they also have to start converting their opportunities into touchdowns.
This is where the tight end overhaul may come into play. John Dorsey added two tight ends to a group who can all catch the ball and block well. When the Chiefs send them out there they will not be adding just blocking bodies but also receiving threats. This should help make the Chiefs more dangerous in the red zone because there will be more things opposing defenses will have to think about.
Because all three can block it will make the red zone rushing game more effective, especially on sweeps and stretch plays. And on play action passes, having a guy like Travis Kelce leak out into flat should make things easier for Bowe and Charles in the passing game. Now, instead of one guy being keyed in on, the Chiefs have multiple red zone weapons.
Will it be enough, and will the Chiefs be able to get to the red zone more? That’s going to hinge on what we talked about with the passing game, but the tools are in place for the Chiefs to be a far more effective red zone unit.
While the Chiefs have a lot of catching up to do to become just an average scoring offense, the piece are in place for them to make that leap this season. Their ability to go beyond just an average offense is going to hinge on the Alex Smith maintaining the improvements he made in San Francisco and the development of the wide receivers. If Smith regresses too much or if no receivers step up behind Bowe then Kansas City is looking at another year where they will have a below average scoring offense.