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NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - INSIDE SLANT
The progress of the Kansas City Chiefs offense from last year to this one can be judged by how many times head coach Andy Reid blows his whistle.
The shrill noise signifies the end of the action for each play. Last year, Reid spent a lot of time blowing his whistle before the ball was even snapped. The Chiefs struggled in the early days of learning his version of the west coast offense and at least a half-dozen times per practice, they were sent back to the huddle to regroup and run the play.
So far during the current OTA sessions, players running with the first-team offense have given Reid an opportunity to save his breath. Even the No. 2 offense and the new faces on the roster are cruising through with a minimum amount of pre-snap mental errors with alignment, movement and motion.
"Everyone is a lot further along in the playbook than we were last year at this time," fullback Anthony Sherman said. "It makes these practices so much better because everyone is on the same page and knows what to do. We are much improved from last year."
During his 15-year head coaching career, Reid always put together offensive playbooks built on the foundation of diversity, whether in the run game or the passing attack. He stays pretty true to the west coast offensive education he received as an assistant coach under Mike Holmgren in Green Bay.
The desire to reach deep into the playbook at the start of last season was tempered by the new situation and personnel that Reid found in his first year with the Chiefs. Through the first 10 games on the 2013 schedule, the Chiefs had a 9-1 record, but the offense scored just 18 touchdowns in those 10 games.
As the schedule wore on, the offense improved and in the season's final seven games (including the first-round loss in the playoffs to Indianapolis) scored 28 touchdowns.
Quarterback Alex Smith and the offense really clicked in that postseason game against the Colts, scoring five touchdowns and giving the Chiefs a 28-point lead with 28 minutes to play. They ended up losing thanks to a collapse from the Kansas City defense.
As the 2014 offseason program began, the offensive coaching staff pushed the theme of picking up where they left off. There was no talk of going back and starting from square one. That has made installation quick and relatively painless.
"The second time around these guys really picked up right where we left off with the Indianapolis game," offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. "They understand what we are trying to teach and put in. We've focused on the things that we were successful with at the end of last season. They have responded really well."
They will have to respond quickly when the 2014 season begins. The Chiefs face a much tougher schedule in September and October than they did a year ago. Among their first nine opponents in 2013, only Philadelphia made the playoffs. This year among their first five foes are Denver (Sept. 14), New England (Sept. 29) and San Francisco (Oct. 5).
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - NOTES, QUOTES
--Fullback has become an endangered species on NFL rosters, as more and more offenses are using three wide receivers or two tight ends in their base offensive alignment.
The Kansas City playbook is filled with those types of plays, but the fullback remains a factor in the Chiefs offense.
"It's not phased out here, so I'm happy," Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman said.
In fact, Sherman hopes to see an increased role for his blocking, running and receiving.
"I'd love to expand it," Sherman said. "Whatever coach (Andy) Reid and (offensive coordinator) Doug Pederson wants us to do in the offense ... they'll put us in the right position to be successful."
Sherman's numbers in 2013 did not match those of frequently used fullbacks such as Marcel Reece of Oakland, Chris Obgonnaya of Cleveland and Mike Tolbert of Carolina.
However, some analysts believe Sherman was among the most efficient players in the league at the position. He touched the ball only 20 times in the Chiefs' offense, producing 158 yards and a touchdown.
That does not include his efforts in blocking on running plays and special teams, where he was one of the team leaders.
--Add seven-year, inside linebacker Joe Mays to the list of Chiefs who are very impressed by what they've seen from first-round draft choice Dee Ford. Ford has looked good in his early days with the Chiefs at outside linebacker.
"That guy is explosive," Mays said of Ford. "He's quick off the ball. He kind of reminds me of Von Miller with the way that he gets off the ball and gets around the offensive linemen. He's a freak.
"He knows how to work angles and uses his hands real well. He can bend and do all types of stuff you don't see in the everyday pass rushers. He's definitely 'as-advertised.'"
--Veteran defensive end Mike DeVito is sold on the atmosphere that has developed around the Chiefs over the last year-plus under coach Andy Reid.
DeVito said the word of the season is family.
"I think the coaches bring a culture and a philosophy and I think the players buy into it," DeVito said. "I think in the locker room it's about relationships, not just on the field, but off the field as well.
"This is a great locker room, the best I've been around, and that's a huge asset during the season when you have so many highs and so many lows. That foundation of us as a family is really important."
--Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith crashed into a light post with his vehicle and was arrested early Monday morning in Kansas City.
Smith was charged with operating a vehicle with .08 percent or more of alcohol in his blood, careless driving and driving without proof of insurance, The Kansas City Star reported.
Smith, who started 15 of 16 regular-season games last season, was trying to make a left turn at an intersection when he broke the light post, according to Kansas City police.
KCTV reported that Smith refused medical attention at the scene before he was taken into custody. Smith practiced Tuesday but appeared to be working with the second-team defense.
"We are aware of the situation involving Sean Smith," the Chiefs said Tuesday in a statement. "Whenever one of our players is involved in an incident like this, it is disappointing. We will have no further comment at this time as this is an ongoing legal matter."
Smith joined the Chiefs in 2013 after four seasons with the Miami Dolphins. The 26 year old is beginning the second-year of a three-year, $16.5 million contract.
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
A closer look at the Chiefs' picks:
Round 1/23 -- Dee Ford, OLB, 6-2, 252, Auburn
--Last season, the Chiefs were sixth in the NFL in sacks (47), but in their six losses in the regular season and playoffs, they had just six. They lost twice to Denver, San Diego and Indianapolis, and when quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers are one-fourth of the schedule, the more productive pass rushers the merrier. Ford was the second-rated pass rusher on the Chiefs board based on his explosive first step. With starting outside linebacker Tamba Hali sitting with just two more seasons on his contract, his replacement is now in place.
Round 3/87 -- Phillip Gaines, CB, 6-1, 185, Rice
--A team in today's NFL can't have enough pass rushers or talented players in pass coverage. After getting their rusher in the first round, the Chiefs picked up a coverage guy in the third. He may be a reach given that in 52 games and 40 starts Gaines finished his college career with just four interceptions, all in his senior season. But he did set a school record for passes broken up (36) during a career with the Owls.
Round 4/124 -- De'Anthony Thomas, RB, 5-9, 174, Oregon
--The Chiefs were not intent on signing Dexter McCluster after the 2013 season, and the former second-round choice landed with the Tennessee Titans. With Thomas, they replaced him and may have upgraded the talent level on the roster as well. McCluster was quick, but did not necessarily possess straight-line speed; the Chiefs think Thomas has both the quickness and explosive speed. For the Ducks, Thomas averaged 12 yards every time the ball was in his hands as a runner, receiver and returner. He will do all three with the Chiefs.
Round 5/163 -- Aaron Murray, QB, 6-0, 200, Georgia
--Through different general managers, coaches, coordinators and other decision-makers, the Chiefs have not been an active participant in drafting quarterbacks. Including the 1998 selection meeting, Kansas City picked three quarterbacks in 16 drafts. Murray is the most gifted and experienced college quarterback the franchise has drafted since 1983 when they made Todd Blackledge the No. 7 pick in the first round. A torn ACL and surgery put an early end to Murray's career with the Bulldogs, but he moved on as the all-time touchdown passer in the SEC with 121 scores over his four-year, 52-game starting career.
Round 6/193 -- Zach Fulton, G, 6-5, 316, Tennessee
--The offensive line at Arrowhead Stadium has been in a state of flux since the end of the 2013 season and Fulton will get a quick chance to be involved at a position that's wide open: right guard. Last year's starters Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah left in free agency and the tentative depth chart has untested Rishaw Johnson in the starting lineup. Fulton played his whole career at Rocky Top at right guard and if he can make the transition, he'll be in the mix for playing time.
Round 6/200 -- Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, T, 6-5, 321, McGill (Canada)
--LDT was a mystery to the Chiefs before last January's East-West Shrine Game. That's where the guy that goes by the Americanized name of Larry caught the eye of NFL scouts with his athletic ability, especially his quickness, speed and flexibility for someone standing 6-5, 321 pounds. Due to the competition level in the Canadian colleges, just how high LDT can rise in the NFL is in doubt and thus he's considered a project. But given he's in his third year of medical school in Montreal, he won't be held back by being unable to handle the mental side of the game.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--LB Dee Ford (1/23): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Phillip Gaines (3/87): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB De'Anthony Thomas (4/124): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--QB Aaron Murray (5/163): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--G Zach Fulton (6/193): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (6/200): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Husain Abdullah: UFA; terms unknown.
--LS Thomas Gafford: Potential UFA; $730,000/1 yr.
--TE Richard Gordon: Potential RFA; $645,000/1 yr.
--WR Kyle Williams: UFA; terms unknown.
--LB Frank Zombo: Potential UFA; $1.625M/2 yrs, $100,000 SB.
--DT Jermelle Cudjo: FA Rams; terms unknown.
--G/T Jeff Linkenbach: UFA Colts; terms unknown.
--DT Kyle Love: Not tendered as RFA by Jaguars; terms unknown.
--ILB Joe Mays: UFA Texans; $6M/2 yrs.
--RB Joe McKnight: FA; $645,000/1 yr.
--CB Christopher Owens: UFA Dolphins; terms unknown.
--CB Justin Rogers: FA; terms unknown.
--CB Kevin Rutland: FA; $570,000/1 yr.
--CB DeMarcus Van Dyke: FA; $645,000/1 yr.
--DT Vance Walker: UFA Raiders; $10.02M/3 yrs, $3M SB.
--OT J'Marcus Webb: UFA Vikings; terms unknown.
--T Branden Albert: UFA Dolphins; $46M/5 yrs, $8.5M SB/$25M guaranteed.
--G Jon Asamoah: UFA Chiefs; $22.5M/5 yrs, $8M guaranteed.
--S Quintin Demps: UFA Giants; $1M/1 yr, $100,000 SB/$100,000 RB.
--LB Robert James (released).
--DT Tyson Jackson: UFA Falcons: $25M/5 yrs.
--TE Dominique Jones (released).
--LB Akeem Jordan: UFA Redskins; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--S Kendrick Lewis: UFA Texans; $795,000/1 yr, $100,000 guaranteed.
--WR Dexter McCluster: UFA Titans; $12M/3 yrs, $4.5M guaranteed.
--DE Brandon Moore (released).
--DT Jerrell Powe: Not tendered as ERFA/Texans; terms unknown.
--CB Dunta Robinson (released).
--G Geoff Schwartz: UFA Giants; $16.8M/4 yrs, $3.2M SB/$6.2M guaranteed.