2018 Season Recap: Kansas City Chiefs
Division: AFC West
Record: 12-4 (5-1 Division), 1st place in AFC West
Playoffs: No. 1 seed, lost in AFC Championship Game 37-31 (OT) vs. Patriots
In all likelihood, the 2018 campaign will go down as the start of something special in Kansas City, and nothing indicates this more than the sudden emergence of first-year starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who went on to earn the league's MVP award under the direction of longtime coach Andy Reid. The Chiefs' franchise QB spearheaded the NFL's most potent offense, but it was ultimately the Chiefs' defense that led to their demise. We'll get to that later. Mahomes was the obvious centerpiece of this season, and his supporting cast was among the best in the league.
The Chiefs committed to beginning the Mahomes era in late January when Alex Smith was traded to the Redskins in exchange for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round pick. Continuity among an athletic offensive line coupled with elite talent at the skill positions proved to be the perfect recipe for Mahomes' overall success.
A daunting schedule to start the season seemed far less intimidating after Mahomes began to truly get his feet wet. KC won its first five games to start the season, including a shootout at Pittsburgh and a thrilling come-from-behind victory at Mile High. The Chiefs' first loss of the season came in Week 6, a 43-40 defeat at New England, against the same team that ended their season a little more than three months later. Things eased up a bit for KC until one of the most exciting games of the year transpired in Week 11, a 54-51 loss against the host Rams, the third-highest scoring game in NFL history.
Several days before they returned from their bye week, the Chiefs faced their biggest moment of adversity when a video surfaced from earlier in the year showing star running back Kareem Hunt shoving and kicking a woman during an altercation at a Cleveland hotel. Although it had been common knowledge that the incident occurred, Hunt was released from the team after the video revealed that he was untruthful about what had happened during the team's initial inquiries into the incident. KC went on to finish the season 3-2, locking up the AFC's No. 1 overall seed in a convincing 35-3 home win over the Raiders in Week 17.
Then came a moment of true clarity. The Chiefs drew a red-hot Colts team to open the AFC Divisional round on a snowy afternoon at Arrowhead. Despite the trepidation of a fanbase that has seen plenty of playoff heartbreak, Mahomes guided KC to its first playoff win at Arrowhead in 26 years, positioning the franchise to host its first-ever AFC Championship Game.
Ultimately, the Chiefs' 2018 season was highlighted by a prolific offense (they scored at least 26 points in every game) but marred by a porous defense (the offense averaged 36.2 ppg in their five losses). However, there's very little reason for pessimism among Chiefs fans. Not only is it incredibly fun to watch this team week in and week out, but there is legitimate belief that a Super Bowl is no longer an unattainable feat.
Suddenly, it all seems possible.
|Stat||Value||Average||League Rank||2017 Rank|
|Total Yds||6,810||425.6||1st 🔺️||5th|
|First Downs||384||24.0||3rd 🔺️||10th|
|Total Passing Yds||4,955||309.7||3rd 🔺️||7th|
|Total Rushing Yds||1,855||115.9||16th 🔻||9th|
|Points Scored||565||35.3||1st 🔺️||6th|
|Interceptions Thrown||12||12th 🔻||2nd|
|Fumbles Lost||6||4th 🔻||1st|
|Stat||Value||Average||League Rank||2017 Rank|
|Total Yds Allowed||6,488||405.5||31st 🔻||28th|
|First Downs Allowed||419||26.2||32nd --||32nd|
|Passing Yds Allowed||4,374||273.4||31st 🔻||29th|
|Rushing Yds Allowed||2,114||132.1||27th 🔻||25th|
|Points Allowed||421||26.3||24th 🔻||15th|
|Interceptions Forced||15||9th --||9th|
|Fumbles Forced||12||4th 🔺️||11th|
|2||46||Breeland Speaks||Defensive end||Ole Miss|
|3||75||Derrick Nnadi||Defensive tackle||Florida State|
|4||124||Armani Watts||Safety||Texas A&M|
|6||196||Tremon Smith||Cornerback||Central Arkansas|
|6||198||Kahlil McKenzie||Offensive lineman||Tennessee|
Speaks saw playing time in all 16 games as a rotational OLB. His strength was against the run, but he looked a bit slow as a stand-up pass rusher. He didn’t "wow" anyone, but I wouldn’t say he had a bad year either. He ended the season with 24 total tackles, 1 1/2 sacks (eight QB hits), one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. As the Chiefs move into a 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Speaks could be one of the players who benefits the most.
He’s my personal favorite from the draft, so I’m going to gush a bit about him. Nnadi played in all 16 games and started 11. His impact, like most solid NTs, will not show up on the stat sheets. However, there were flashes of brilliance from this young guy. My favorite play of his was in the divisional round when he was lined up against Colts guard Mark Glowinski (Pro Football Focus #17 G), and he just blew past him and hit the running back for a 7-yard loss. The play. Nnadi appears to have a bright future with the Chiefs moving forward.
Later in the season, O’Daniel became a critical piece to the Chiefs' 11 personnel package. He possessed speed that no other Chiefs linebacker had. His ability to play coverage and still be quick enough to get down and help the run really helped the Chiefs out. Unfortunately, he missed the playoffs with a calf injury, and his speed at LB was sorely missed in the AFCCG. There’s a good chance he’s an every-down starter in 2019.
Watts had a great preseason and started the year off strong, working his way into the backfield more and more. Most thought he was going to be the best player from the draft class, and he made some plays that were proving them right. Unfortunately, he was placed on injured reserve after Week 5, and we never got to see him really try and take over back there. From what we did see, he’s a promising talent and potentially could be competing for a starting spot next season.
Smith made his impact on special teams. He returned kicks for the Chiefs, recording 33 returns for 886 yards (third in the NFL) with a long of 97 yards that was stopped inches before the goal line. On defense, he played sparingly and never really gave the team a reason to put him out there more. With the secondary so uncertain heading into 2019, Smith will likely push for more playing time on the defensive side of the ball.
McKenzie was a defensive tackle in college, but the Chiefs drafted him as an OL project. As such, he played no snaps last season while working toward learning a new position. Andy Reid said in December that he was happy with the progress McKenzie has made transitioning into an offensive lineman. I assume McKenzie will fight for a roster spot this summer as a backup interior lineman.
Free Agent Signings/Notable Trades/Impact Of Key Offseason Acquisitions
Free Agent Signings
|Jeff Allen||Offensive guard||Texans||1 year, $511,176|
|Cornerback||Raiders||1 year, $625,000|
|Kelvin Benjamin||Wide receiver||Bills||1 year, $185,882|
|Dustin Colquitt||Punter||3 years, $7.5 million|
|Chad Henne||Quarterback||Jaguars||2 years, $6.7 million|
|Defensive end||1 year, $880,000|
|Anthony Hitchens||Linebacker||Cowboys||5 years, $45 million|
|Safety||Falcons||1 year, $915,000|
|Austin Reiter||Center||Browns||1 year, $630,000|
|Orlando Scandrick||Cornerback||Cowboys||1 year, $1.415 million|
|Anthony Sherman||Fullback||1 year, $2 million|
|Sammy Watkins||Wide receiver||Rams||3 years, $48 million|
|Damien Williams||Running back||Dolphins||1 year, $1.2 million|
|Xavier Williams||Defensive tackle||Cardinals||2 years, $5.05 million|
NOTE: Players in italics were signed after the start of preseason. Players with a
strikethrough were waived/released prior to the start of the new league year (4 p.m. EST on March 13).
UDFA acquisitions: Raymond Davison (ILB, California); Ryan Hunter (OT, Bowling Green); Dee Liner (NT, Arkansas State); Chase Litton (QB, Marshall); Blake Mack (TE, Arkansas State); Elijah Marks (WR, Northern Arizona); J.D. Moore (FB, LSU); Jimmy Murray (C, Holy Cross); Ben Niemann (ILB, Iowa); Byron Pringle (WR, Kansas State); Devondre Seymour (OT, Southern Illinois); Arrion Springs (CB, Oregon); D'Montre Wade (CB, Murray State); Darrel Williams (RB, LSU)
|Date||Acquired||Gave Up||Trade Partner|
|March 14, 2018||3rd-round pick (2018), CB Kendall Fuller||QB Alex Smith||Redskins|
|March 14, 2018||4th-round pick (2018), 2nd-round pick (2019)||CB Marcus Peters||Rams|
|Aug. 31, 2018||CB Charvarius Ward||OG Parker Ehinger||Cowboys|
|Aug. 31, 2018||S Jordan Lucas||7th-round pick (2020)||Dolphins|
Impact Of Key Offseason Acquisitions
- Jeff Allen, OG: Brought back to Kansas City midseason due to OL injuries, Allen helped stabilize the line, seeing action in 10 games last season.
- Kendall Fuller, CB: Fuller became the Chiefs' top CB with the departure of Marcus Peters. He had a decent season and provided some bright spots to a shaky Chiefs secondary. Fuller recorded 12 pass deflections, two interceptions and 82 tackles.
- Chad Henne, QB: Signed as a backup veteran presence for Mahomes, his contributions were more off the field than anything. He completed 2 of 3 passes for 29 yards, but I’m sure he helped Mahomes a lot in the QB meetings.
- Anthony Hitchens, ILB: The other big FA acquisition for the Chiefs. Hitchens had a total of 135 tackles and one forced fumble. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the level of play expected when he was brought in (ranked as one of the worst MLBs in the NFL last season). Hitchens never really seemed to get it all together, but Chiefs fans are hopeful that the new defensive staff will elevate him to what he was in Dallas.
- Jordan Lucas, S: Lucas showed some flashes that there may be something there. Unfortunately, even though he was playing at the highest level of any safety on the team, Sutton decided to keep him on the bench most games much to the dismay of just about every Chiefs fan.
- Austin Reiter, C: Claimed off waivers in September from Cleveland, Reiter stepped in at center when starter Mitch Morse was injured (again). Reiter didn’t just fill in, he played fantastic. Pro Football Focus rated him at 74.2 in 11 games played and four starts. His play earned him a two-year contract extension, and with Morse a pending free agent, Reiter may be the starting center in 2019.
- Charvarius Ward, CB: No one thought much of anything about the trade for Ward in August. Fast-forward to Week 16, and all of a sudden, some guy named Ward is getting scrappy against the Seahawks. Over the next few weeks into the playoffs, Ward recorded seven pass deflections and 28 tackles. Perhaps most impressively, he held T.Y. Hilton to four receptions for 60 yards in the divisional round (his lowest yard total since Week 8). Over and over, Ward was there batting the ball away.
- Sammy Watkins, WR: Watkins signed the big three-year, $48 million contract in the offseason. It’s hard to say he lived up to the contract, but there’s no doubt he contributed an important role in the 2018 season, finishing with 695 yards receiving and three TDs.
- Damien Williams, RB: No one knew how important he would be when he was signed in the offseason. Damien filled in very admirably after the debacle with Hunt and showed he’s a dependable back, rushing for 256 yards with four TDs and racking up 160 yards receiving to go along with two more TDs. This earned him a two-year, $8.1 million extension at the end of the season.
- Xavier Williams, DT: Williams was a rotating DT/NT along with the rookie Nnadi. He played in all 16 games, recording 2 1/2 sacks and 47 tackles.
Weekly Game Recaps
The Chiefs went 2-2, splitting both home and away matchups. They lost to the visiting Texans 17-10 to open the campaign before knocking off the host Falcons 28-14 in the only indoors game Mahomes has yet to play in the NFL. It was a game that included a jaw-dropping bomb to Tyreek Hill, a throw that traveled nearly 70 yards in the air. The Chiefs closed the preseason with a 27-20 loss at Chicago and a 33-21 home win over the Packers. Fans were impressed by the play of Chase Litton as a potential backup QB, while the secondary proved to be very lackluster. Like most coaches, Reid unveiled a very stripped-down version of his offense, a notion that resonated immediately when the Chiefs began the regular season.
2018 Week 1 | Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers
Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes became the third player in franchise history to throw for four TDs in a season opener. In the second half alone, he engineered scoring drives on 3 of 6 possessions. Mahomes' connection with Tyreek Hill got off to a great start, with Hill hauling in seven catches for 169 yards and two scores, including a quick slant in the first quarter that resulted in a 58-yard TD, the first of Mahomes' career. KC never trailed in the game.
2018 Week 2 | Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers
Kansas City Chiefs
It was a stellar performance from Mahomes, who tied a single-game franchise record with six TD passes in just his third game as a starter. KC took a 21-0 lead in the first quarter only to watch the Steelers tie it up with 21 points of their own in the second. But Mahomes didn't budge and responded by matching his first-half benchmark in the final 30 minutes. Travis Kelce finished with 109 yards receiving and two TDs, the second of which was a 25-yard pass that capped a 75-yard drive on the opening possession of the second half.
2018 Week 3 | San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
San Francisco 49ers
The offense scored 35 points in the first half, and for the third consecutive game, the Chiefs never trailed. The biggest story of the game was Jimmy Garoppolo sustaining a season-ending injury, but once again, Mahomes-Mania rolled on as he delivered the single-most exciting 4-yard TD pass in the history of professional football. OK, maybe there's some hyperbole there. Maybe I'm a bit biased. But I can't deny the fact that I absolutely shrieked upon watching this play. KC only scored three points in the second half, but Mahomes' three TD passes and the defense's four combined sacks were enough to stave off the 49ers' second-half rally.
2018 Week 4 | Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Trailing by 10 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Chiefs encountered their first taste of adversity against the Broncos, and the response couldn't have been better, encapsulated by a pair of scoring drives that vaulted them to victory. The game-winning drive was kept alive late in the game on third-and-5 when Mahomes was chased out of the pocket by Von Miller and scrambled to his left, switching the ball to his left hand at the last second to dump it off to Hill for a first down. Hunt ran for 121 yards and accounted for the game-winning TD.
2018 Week 5 | Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes threw for 313 yards and had one of KC's two rushing TDs, but he also tossed his first two interceptions of the season. No matter. The Chiefs defense showed up and stole the show, harassing Blake Bortles in an outing that resulted in five sacks and four picks. The play of the game happened when Chris Jones sniffed out a screen pass and returned it 20 yards to the house, shimmying an attempted tackle by Bortles in the process. KC held a 20-0 lead at halftime and was hardly threatened in this one.
2018 Week 6 | Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
New England Patriots
Kansas City Chiefs
Against Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and company on the road in primetime and with Justin Houston sidelined by an injury, KC's leaky defense started to really rear its ugly head. Mahomes threw a pair of picks in the first half, as the Chiefs stumbled into the locker room facing a 24-9 deficit, but KC didn't back down. Mahomes tossed four TDs in the second half alone, including a 67-yard pass to Hunt on the opening drive of the half, and the Chiefs clawed their way back into contention, tying things up at 40-40 late in the fourth. However, KC left way too much time on the clock, as Brady picked apart an already depleted secondary to set up a chip shot for Stephen Gostkowski as time expired.
2018 Week 7 | Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
Talk about bouncing back. KC put together one of its most complete games of the season in the aftermath of their first loss. Mahomes threw for 358 yards and four touchdowns, and Hunt was a monster. On the Chiefs' opening drive of the game, Hunt pulled a Houdini, spinning and hurdling his way to a 21-yard gain that set the tone for the remainder of the game. He finished with three TDs and 141 yards from scrimmage, an average of a little more than 7 yards per carry.
2018 Week 8 | Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes threw for 303 yards and four scores as the Chiefs completed a season sweep of their division rivals. Watkins had his best game in a KC uniform with eight grabs for 107 yards and two TDs, including a 13-yard score that extended KC's lead to two possessions during the second quarter. The Broncos scored nine points in the final quarter to cut the lead to seven, but the Chiefs were able to hang on for the win.
2018 Week 9 | Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns
Kansas City Chiefs
It was homecoming for Cleveland natives Hunt and Kelce, who both delivered monster performances. Hunt had 91 yards rushing and two TDs to go along with a 50-yard receiving TD, while Kelce hauled in seven catches for 99 yards and two scores, including a 13-yard touchdown that capped a 95-yard drive to start the second half. Mahomes finished the game with 375 yards passing, three TDs and one pick.
2018 Week 10 | Arizona Cardinals at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
Both teams struggled to protect their quarterback, allowing five sacks apiece, in a game that ended way too close for comfort for Chiefs fans. KC leaned heavily on its defense, picking off Josh Rosen two times and taking advantage of an Arizona offense that had very little identity. Mahomes had 249 yards passing and a pair of TDs, eclipsing the franchise's previous single-season mark (30) with six games remaining. Hill had 117 yards receiving and both TD receptions, including a 37-yard catch that capped the opening drive of the game in just three plays. This one proved to be KC's worst offensive game of the season.
2018 Week 11 | Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Rams
Kansas City Chiefs
It was easily the most exciting NFL game I've ever witnessed. And don't be fooled by the score; this game had it all — offense, defense, special teams (That's right! even the punters kicked ass!). The game featured 14 touchdowns, including three scored by the defense. Five of those TDs came in the fourth quarter alone. Mahomes was 33-of-46 passing for 478 yards with six TDs, three interceptions and two fumbles as it was very much a learning experience for the first-year starter. But the fight he continued to show throughout the game was very encouraging. Kelce and Hill each had 10 receptions, the latter of which finished with 215 yards receiving and two TDs, including a 73-yard bomb in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs had two chances to re-take the lead in the waning moments, but both drives resulted in forced interceptions by Mahomes. This entire game was just incredibly fun to watch.
2018 Week 13 | Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders
Kansas City Chiefs
The bye week brought some much-needed rest for the Chiefs, but after parting ways with Hunt just several days prior, the offense was forced to regroup in search of a new approach on the ground. The Raiders provided the perfect remedy, as KC churned out 174 yards rushing and took advantage of three fumbles. Mahomes threw for 295 yards and three scores, with Kelce as the main beneficiary. He finished with 12 catches for 168 yards and two TDs, including a 6-yard TD just before halftime that gave the visitors a 20-7 lead.
2018 Week 14 | Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
This was one of the Chiefs' most highly-anticipated games of the season — No. 1 offense against No. 1 defense — and boy, did it live up to it. The Chiefs held a 17-10 lead at halftime before the Ravens defense stifled them in the second half and responded with two TDs to take the lead. This game featured an unreal no-look throw from Mahomes to Demarcus Robinson near the end of the first half, but that wasn't even the most jaw-dropping play of the game. On fourth-and-9 with KC needing a first down inside the final two minutes, Mahomes and Hill made some magic happen to keep the game alive. The Chiefs scored on that drive to force overtime, and kicker Harrison Butker delivered the game-deciding field goal in overtime to secure the win.
2018 Week 15 | Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers led for just 4 seconds in the 120 minutes of action between the two teams in 2018, but those 4 seconds were enough to even the season series. Mike Williams was wide open in the end zone when he caught the 2-point conversion pass from Phillip Rivers, as LA rallied from a 14-point deficit in the final minutes to escape Arrowhead with a key AFC West victory. For the Chargers, the win ended a nine-game skid against the Chiefs. LA racked up 407 yards of offense despite playing without star RB Melvin Gordon. While the Chiefs struggled to get their running game going, Mahomes carried the load, finishing with 243 yards passing and two TDs, including a 5-yard pass to Robinson that got the scoring started in the first quarter. Additionally, this game was Eric Berry's first appearance of the season.
2018 Week 16 | Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks
Kansas City Chiefs
Seattle ran for 210 yards, while Russell Wilson performed exceptionally well in primetime to lead the hosts to victory. KC had two costly fumbles in the first half and was never able to keep pace with a Seahawks squad that was very much in need of a win. The loss ultimately had no bearing on the Chiefs' hopes of locking up the AFC West crown, but it certainly didn't help the morale of an already struggling defense. Mahomes had 273 yards passing and three scores, including an 11-yard toss to Robinson that pulled the visitors within three points in the final minutes, but the defense was unable to stop the Seahawks from marching down the field and scoring another TD that extended the lead. The seven-point loss was KC's worst margin of defeat of the entire season.
2018 Week 17 | Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
Coming off the first two-game skid of Mahomes' career, this was the opportunity the Chiefs couldn't let slip from their hands. KC responded emphatically, holding the Raiders to just 292 yards of offense and three points. The Chiefs picked off Derek Carr twice, while Hill had 101 yards receiving and two scores. Mahomes had 281 yards passing and two TDs, the second of which was an 89-yard bomb to Robinson that secured Mahomes' 50th TD of the season. Chants of "M-V-P" rained down throughout Arrowhead, as KC locked up the AFC West title and the top overall seed in the AFC.
2018 Division | Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
On a snowy Saturday afternoon in Kansas City, the Chiefs exercised some demons. Damien Williams amassed 129 yards rushing and one TD, while Hill finished with 72 yards receiving to go along with a 36-yard TD run in the first quarter. Mahomes threw for 278 yards and added a rushing score, but the game was mostly decided by the stellar play of the Chiefs' defense. Houston had a pair of sacks, and six different Chiefs players combined for 11 total pass breakups, including four by Ward. Andrew Luck was limited to just 203 yards through the air, completing 19 of 36 passes. It was a game that many assumed would be a shootout between two QBs who represent the future of the league, but as is the case many times in the playoffs, defense was the difference. The Chiefs opened up a 24-7 lead at halftime and held the Colts to just six points for the remainder of the game. The ending was a cathartic moment for all of Chiefs Kingdom. Finally, the 25-year wait of celebrating a home playoff win had ended.
2018 Conference | New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
New England Patriots
It was one of those games that sent every Chiefs fan crashing back down to earth. Confidence wasn't an issue, but Mahomes' play can only stretch the margin for error so much. The first two quarters set the tone and were the perfect example as to why Belichick is considered the greatest coach of all time. The Patriots methodically controlled the clock and stifled KC's offense during the first half, jumping out to a 14-0 lead. However, that wasn't the case in the second half. Mahomes marched the offense down the field 74 yards in four plays on the opening possession of the second half, capping things off with a 12-yard bullet to Kelce that pulled the Chiefs within seven. Perhaps it was a precursor for what was to come. Both teams combined for 38 points in a wild final quarter, during which the Chiefs outscored the Pats 24-14 and tied the game at 31-all on a 48-yard field goal by Butker in the final seconds of regulation. Unfortunately, Mahomes was never able to touch the ball in OT, as Brady carved up the Chiefs' secondary on the opening drive, marching 75 yards in 13 plays and converting on third-and-10 three different times. A 2-yard run by Rex Burkhead sent the Pats to their fourth Super Bowl appearance in five years. Mahomes had 295 yards passing and three TDs, while the defense was gashed for 524 yards and 36 first downs. Of course, Chiefs fans will always remember the offsides call against Dee Ford that could've changed everything. Or perhaps the overthrown pass to Williams in the second quarter that could've been the difference. Personally, I don't remember much of anything after I drank away my pain into oblivion.
Coaching Staff Review
I thought Reid had a really good year, probably his best with KC. His decision-making was great all season, and he was the most aggressive we’ve seen him be. Maybe it was the confidence in having a QB like Mahomes, but Reid went for it on fourth down 15 times and converted 12 of them, which was the third highest percentage in the league. This is up from 3 for 10 the previous season. Before the season, I said I was worried Reid would box in Mahomes and potentially hold him back with his conservative nature, but he did exactly the opposite and let loose. Overall, I wouldn’t want anyone else steering this ship than Big Red. I love what he’s done with this team since he’s been in KC, and I’m behind him 100 percent. I hope in 2019, we finally see one of the best coaches in NFL history hoist the Super Bowl trophy and cement his place as a future Hall of Fame coach.
He had a great first year as offensive coordinator. Bieniemy was the Chiefs' running backs coach from 2013-17, and he has a really impressive resume in this position that includes the development of Maurice Jones-Drew (in college), Adrian Peterson (with Minnesota), Jamaal Charles, Knile Davis, Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, Damien Williams and Kareem Hunt with the Chiefs. In his first year as OC, Bieniemy had one of the most talented offensive rosters in the league, and he unleashed it. The Chiefs offense finished first overall in yards and points per game. They also finished third overall in NFL history in points scored in a single season. Bieniemy was thought to be a top head coaching candidate, but after some interviews, he will be back with KC in 2019.
Sutton is a DC that runs high school-level scheme. This isn’t an exaggeration or just me being upset at him either. In the playoff game against the Patriots, the final drive of the game was actual high school-level complexity that you can go see at your local stadium on a Friday night. It was a basic undisguised Cover 2 man, over and over and over and over. The same defense you usually play in a game of park flag football, “Hey, you get him, and you get him. And we’ll play back deep.” After being burnt on the slant numerous times, to Sutton’s credit, he did adjust one time. He dropped a safety in a robber zone on Rob Gronkowski's side of the field and left a 5-foot-11, 195-pound cornerback in 1-on-1 coverage with the 6-6, 260-pound Gronk. The Chiefs were playing against one of the most prolific coaching staffs and QBs in NFL history in the AFC Championship Game, and Sutton decided that playing an undisguised Cover 2 man defense more than five times in a row would be enough to stop them. Honestly, think about the level of idiocy it takes to do that. The good thing is he’s fired, and the bad man can’t hurt us anymore.
Toub is a special teams mastermind, and the fact that he isn’t a head coach after what he has accomplished in this league is honestly a travesty. Again in 2018, his unit was among the top in the league. PFF ranked the Chiefs special teams unit first overall, and Football Outsiders ranked them second overall in special teams DVOA. Standard Dave Toub stuff. I’m all for him staying here and continuing his ST dominance, but on a personal level, this man deserves a chance to be a head coach.
- Quarterback: Mahomes was a First Team All-Pro, was named to the Pro Bowl and earned NFL Offensive Player of the Year and MVP. Those are just a few of the accolades Mahomes garnered in his first year as a starter. The things he did out there were simply unbelievable. I was lucky enough to drive up to LA for the Chiefs-Rams game, and wow, seeing it in person was one of the best nights of my life. The dude is just electric, and I don’t even know what to expect in his second year after a 5,126-yard, 50-TD season. All I know is it’s clear the Chiefs have something very special, and a lot of us have waited a very, very long time for it. I don’t think much more needs to be said — you all know what Mahomes is.
- Running back: Hunt played the first 11 games of the season and looked to be on pace for 1,700+ yards from scrimmage and around 20 TDs, but then we all know what happened. Williams was thrust into the starting role of RB and unexpectedly ran for 256 yards and four TDs, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He filled in admirably given the circumstances and was awarded a contract extension for his performance. Whether or not he’ll be the starter heading into 2019 is still to be determined.
- Wide receivers/tight ends: Hill had another great year and solidified himself as a top-10 receiver. With 1,479 yards, 12 TDs and a league-leading 27 receptions of 20+ yards, Hill is a dangerous weapon on the field. Watkins contributed 519 yards and three TDs. He again had some trouble staying healthy. He earned a big contract and was expected to contribute more, but he clearly added another dimension to the offense when he was on the field. Kelce had a monster year, finishing with 103 receptions, 1,336 yards and 10 TDs. With Hill/Watkins running deep and outside routes, Kelce dominated across the middle. Kelce didn’t have the signature drops in big moments that he had in previous years, and he put together a very solid season at TE.
- Offensive line: The O-line starts with tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who earned First Team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. At the other tackle position, Eric Fisher had a decent year. He still had some "uh-oh" moments, but overall, I thought he held his own and put together a solid year. The interior of the line saw a lot of rotation due to injuries at the guard and center positions. Right guard (Dr.) Laurent Duvernay-Tardif fractured his fibula in Week 5, and Morse had another concussion, which forced him to miss five weeks. In their absences, some young guys stepped up in a big way. Andrew Wylie filled in at RG and won the team's Mack Lee Hill Award for best first-year player, and Reiter filled in and did an outstanding job. Both guys look to have futures on the Chiefs OL and will complement the guys already here or filling in for departures.
- Defensive line: Jones had an outstanding year at defensive end, recording 15 1/2 sacks, 29 QB hits, five PBUs, two forced fumbles and an interception returned for a TD. Jones is about to get paid, and he will be a contributor to build around for a long time. Nnadi had an outstanding first year as well at nose tackle and will likely be anchoring the center of the line in a starting role next season. The guy is just strong and can clog up lanes, my personal favorite pick from the 2018 draft.
- Linebackers: Outside linebacker Ford put together a great year when he needed it the most. He contributed 13 sacks, and his biggest improvement seemed to be helping in the run game. On the other side, Houston stayed steady and contributed nine sacks to the team effort. He wasn’t the force he once was, but his patience in the run game and pressure when we needed him most helped him have a pretty solid campaign. Hitchens had a year to forget. I don’t know if moving into the 3-4 hurt him more than expected or what was going on, but he didn’t ever look comfortable in the role. He was often out of position, missing a tackle, getting run over or just missing where the play was going. It was hard to watch him after having Derrick Johnson dominate for so long. Hopefully the switch of coordinators and the change to a 4-3 under scheme will help him out, but as of right now, his contract appears to be an overpay.
- Cornerbacks: I think this group gets a lot of the hate for the defense's struggles, but in my opinion, it was more about poor positioning in scheme than anything. Overall, I don't think they really had all that bad of a year on an individual level (PFF also ranked them all average or above average). I’m not going to talk about them individually, but Fuller, Steven Nelson, Orlando Scandrick and Ward were not the problem. There were times they got beat, but more times than not, they were put in situations where they had no chance to make a play because they were either too far off the line, in press coverage with no help over the top or hung out to dry by safeties who simply abandoned their assignments. By far, this unit was screwed by Sutton’s scheme more than any other defensive group.
- Safeties: There's really not much to say here either. The safety play was pretty bad all season. With Berry hurt and the kid who we all thought would play in the FS spot placed on IR (Watts), the Chiefs were forced to go back and sign Ron Parker, who they had previously cut. It's a position group that needs to be addressed in the offseason big time.
Pending Free Agents
|Jeff Allen||Offensive guard||UFA||29||Allen did a pretty solid job rotating around the line when players got injured. I could see the Chiefs offering him another 1-2 year contract and seeing if they can't retain his services.|
|Allen Bailey||Defensive end||UFA||30||Bailey saw a bit of an uptick in production last season with a career-high six sacks. That being said, I can't see the Chiefs paying him to stay, especially if the base defense is now a 4-3.|
|Kelvin Benjamin||Wide receiver||UFA||28||The Chiefs can't afford to continue feeding him, so he's not going to be on the 2019 roster.|
|Harrison Butker||Kicker||ERFA||24||Butker only missed 1 of 24 kicks from inside 50 yards last season and ultimately ended the season 24 of 27 and 2 for 2 in the playoffs. Being that he is an ERFA and has been fantastic since coming to the Chiefs in 2017 from the Panthers' practice squad, Butker will likely be a Chief in 2019.|
|Chris Conley||Wide receiver||UFA||27||Conley is a solid WR and just an overall good guy (loves playing video games and streams all the time). I think Conley is going to get paid somewhere like Albert Wilson did last offseason. I think he'll find a new home as a solid No. 2. If your team needs a hard-working wideout with good speed, size and hands, you should want Conley.|
|Dee Ford||Outside linebacker||UFA||28||Likely to receive the franchise tag, per general manager Brett Veach.|
|Demetrius Harris||Tight end||UFA||28||I hope the Chiefs move on from him, but Andy seems to like him for whatever reason. I could see him getting a short-term deal if no one else wants Stone Hands on their team.|
|Mitch Morse||Center||UFA||26||Talent-wise, Morse is really good. He's probably a top-10 center when healthy. The problem is he's only played in 18 of a possible 32 regular-season games over the past two years. He's also had numerous concussions, and his last one caused him to miss five games, which is scary. In his absence, Reiter didn't skip a beat at center, so I could see the front office moving on from Morse because of all of this. It'll be an interesting one to watch.|
|Steven Nelson||Cornerback||UFA||26||Nelson had a good season despite what you think about the Chiefs' secondary. He was the most targeted CB in the NFL, and PFF graded him out at 72.1 (#33). He struggled at the end of the season, but overall, he had a good enough year that he'll get a lot of looks in free agency. I believe the Chiefs won't retain him because someone will offer him more than they'll be willing to pay, but we'll see how it plays out. I wouldn't mind seeing him come back if the front office can make it all work.|
|Orlando Scandrick||Cornerback||UFA||32||He was a fill-in player, and I see little chance he's brought back.|
|Anthony Sherman||Fullback||UFA||31||My heart says KC keeps him on another one-year contract, but I could also see them parting ways. Chiefs fans love The Sausage.|
|Spencer Ware||Running back||UFA||28||I could see a scenario where he is brought back for depth and goal-line situations, but the fact is he's always injured. And he'll likely not be re-signed.|
Other FAs: Jordan Devey (G), Alex Ellis-ERFA (TE), Justin Hamilton-ERFA (DE), Marcus Kemp-ERFA (WR), Jordan Lucas-RFA (S), Terrance Smith-RFA (ILB), De'Anthony Thomas (WR), Charcandrick West (RB), Frank Zombo (OLB)
Free Agency/Draft Concerns
- Safety: Both safety positions were a revolving door for the Chiefs last season. More than anything, there was a lack of aggressiveness in run support, which led to the lopsided numbers allowed by the defense. But even in pass coverage, there was plenty of inconsistency to go around. Look for the Chiefs to pursue the likes of a key playmaker to lead the way while Berry's status with the team remains a huge question mark.
- Cornerback: I sense that Veach will prioritize this position in the draft due to all the excellent CBs that are available. Fuller played well last season, but in order to maximize his ability in the slot, it would be best to find a true CB1. I could see the Chiefs adding another CB in free agency, as Nelson will likely ink a deal worth more money than the Chiefs are willing to pay.
- Defensive line: There's going to be a running theme here: defense. It's no different on the defensive line, where there will likely be the biggest upheaval in the change to Spagnuolo's 4-3 under scheme. Speaks stands to gain the most under the new regime, but there's a definite need to prepare for what lies ahead, with Houston likely getting cut and Ford a likely candidate for the franchise tag.
- Linebacker: Hitchens and Reggie Ragland should be placed in more instinctive roles in the new defensive scheme. I could see Hitchens or O'Daniel starting at Will LB, but I have questions about Ragland's ability to truly take control of the Mike position. Hitchens could be the answer at Mike as well, but it's a position that Veach could also try to address in the draft. Depending on Justin Houston's situation, there are also questions about who will start at Sam LB.
- Running back: Finally, some offense. There's no question that the absence of Kareem Hunt left a weakness in the Chiefs offense. That's not to say that Damien Williams didn't play well. He proved to be more than capable of handling the primary role, but his ability to sustain an entire season remains to be seen. Look for KC to use a mid-round pick on an RB or perhaps acquire an inexpensive player in free agency.
Other needs: Tight end (depth), offensive line (depth), wide receiver (depth)
I want to give a big thanks to /u/ReallyFnCleverName for helping out with the draft recap, key offseason acquisitions, coaching staff review, roster review and pending free agents sections. This is obviously a very hectic time to recap the offseason with so many changes, so please note that, with the exception of the change in defensive coordinator, I intentionally chose not to delve into what has happened since the start of the new league year on March 13. We'll save that for the Offseason Review Series, which will run over the summer. Thanks to those of you who read through all of this and to /u/therealDoctorKay for the opportunity to put it all together.