It has only been two games, and preseason ones at that, but the Chiefs display a worrisome lack of a down field passing game. It could just be be vanilla game schemes, or it could be a deeper, more serious issue.
It is never good to panic over, or judge, what it witnessed in preseason games. There is so much going on that has nothing to do winning or losing the games. That doesn’t mean that what we see should be totally ignored either. Outside of the Chiefs first drive of the preseason against the New Orleans Saints, the offense looks eerily similar to the train wrecks fans have been witness to the last few seasons, in the fact it has been terribly unproductive, especially in the passing game.
So far in two games, starter Alex Smith has a relative decent completion percentage of 58.3 (14-24). He has had several balls dropped, but that happens in real games too. He is only averaging a paltry 5.4 yards per attempt. That is not even close to being an acceptable number. His longest completion is those 24 passes is 17 yards. You could pull 11 guys out of your neighborhood and cover 17 yards of a football field.
The lack of an down field aerial attack will also make it harder for Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis to find open spaces in the defenses in the running game. Being able to get the ball down field on the outside will loosen up the middle for the ball carriers. This just hasn’t happened on the field yet with the Chiefs.
A quick look at the team averages per play will reveal a telling story. So far in these two games, the Chiefs as a team are averaging just 4.7 a passing attempt, and only 3.2 on running plays. Their opponents are averaging 6.1 yards each passing attempt and 3.8 on rushes.
Do you want to be scared just a little? Last year, in the 4 preseason games, the Chiefs averaged 6.3 yards per passing attempt and 4.9 per carry. Ouch!
Another worrisome area that has a direct affect on the passing game is the line play. Last season, in four games, the offensive line allowed just 11 sacks. Chiefs quarterbacks have been pulled down behind the line of scrimmage 12 times already in two games. Now, not all of these sacks have been allowed by the starters, and several have been because of guys who won’t be with the team much longer, but it does need to be mentioned as something to keep an eye on over the next two weeks.
The lack of yardage in the passing game does not fall just on the quarterbacks or linemen. The wide receivers have been unproductive as a group. Jamar Newsome has 4 catches, Devon Wylie 3, and no other wide out has more than two. Dwayne Bowe has yet to pull in a reception and neither has Jonathan Baldwin, although the latter has a couple of drops. Bowe has hardly even been targeted in the offense this far.
There appears to be little reason to keep Baldwin on the roster. He has made no progress in his years with the Chiefs and looks lackadaisical in the field. It doesn’t seem as if he is a strong blocker or a precise route runner. He is just taking up valuable playing time from other receivers who have a better chance of producing in the long run.
There is still plenty of time for the Chiefs to work out the kinks in the passing game. It is tough to judge play without the starters playing full time. Head Coach Andy Reid needs to concentrate on finding ways to get the ball to his receivers on the outside and down the field, as well shoring up the pass blocking schemes. If opposing safeties don’t have to worry about getting burned deep, and are able to crowd the box, it will hamper Jamaal Charles’ ability to work effectively.
With two more preseason games still to be played, there is no reason to panic. The lack of an effective passing game is worrisome, and is something to watch carefully over the next two weeks, but at this point, we must trust Coach Reid to find the solution. Let’s hope he can get this offense looking better as the regular season quickly approaches.