People are acting like we have seen this Kansas City team recently, probably referencing the 41-14 dismantling of the Patriots just last year. We can't simply compare New England vs Kansas City though, we must look past the jerseys. Let's dive right in and find out if last year's roster looks anything like the 2016 Chiefs unit:
At the QB position, Alex Smith is still leading the charge. Although he is sometimes deemed simply a "game-manager", this quarterback has done more than enough to prove he is one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Similar to last year, the Chiefs' offense is predicated on the run and maintaining short-yardage situations where they can attack you with a wide variety of runs and short passes. Alex Smith doesn't throw many interceptions and definitely doesn't take unnecessary risks. He is in the top 10 with at least 100 passing attempts in passing accuracy and can beat you with his legs; defenders usually figure this out a little bit too late.
Last year the running backs gave our defense lots of trouble. Although Jamaal Charles got the rushing TD, both him and Knile Davis had great games filled with highlight plays. They ran the ball with their RBs 34 times and only passed 26 times, numbers we could likely see again this coming Saturday. Although Jamaal Charles is injured and Knile Davis has taken the backseat to two new runners, Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West, their lead blocker Anthony Sherman will be a constant. The two new faces in the backfield have a great combination of speed and power, showing their skills in multiple games this season. Our front-seven will need to be responsible in their gaps and tackle well to limit these backs.
Over the offseason the Chiefs attempted to patch up their weak WR corps by adding speedy Jeremy Maclin. They got rid of Dwayne Bowe and kept Albert Wilson, but besides the Maclin acquisition have not done much to change a glaring weakness. Include the recent ankle injury to Jeremy Maclin and the wide receivers become even less of a problem. Our consistent secondary should have minimal problems with this group.
The left side of the offensive line has remained the same, but the middle and right side have changed. Their ability to run-block is much better than their pass protection as a unit, which is vital to the success of the offense. With the quick-passing offense, the linemen only need to hold off defenders for a short amount of time when in pass protection. Jeff Allen and Eric Fisher are still on the line but new faces include rookie center Mitch Morse, second-year right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and veteran Jah Reid. With the constant pressure the Patriots' front-seven brings, both the new and returning athletes on this offensive line should have problems.
Overall the Kansas City Chiefs defense still fields the aggressive, ballhawking defense they did over a year ago. All of the problems they cause start with the pressure and dominance up front. They primarily play with a nose tackle and two ends, which is a similar group from last year. We did not see Mike Devito last year but Dontari Poe, Allen Bailey and Jaye Howard will all be familiar faces. The group brings an incredible blend of power, speed and agility that brings lots of pressure up the middle while also being able to stop the run. Our offensive line will need to bring their best against this crew.
Backing up the front three are four linebackers with some very scary names. Elite pass rushers Justin Houston (with 22 sacks last year) and Tamba Hali brought tons of problems last year and have been doing the same this season. Josh Mauga is also back from last year, who posted 5 solo tackles in our last match-up. The fourth starter of this group is Derrick Johnson. We did not get to see him play previously but he has been an anchor for this squad since coming into the league in 2005. This front-seven brings tons of pressure and power, we will need to ensure our OL steps up and allows Brady to get the ball out quick.
Punter Dustin Colquitt and kicker Cairo Santos have remained with the team and continued their general success. Dustin Colquitt downed a great number of punts within the 20 this year and he has been doing so since 2005 with increasing success. Cairo Santos finished in the top 5 this year for field goals made, but only had a kicking percentage of 81.1 which is in the bottom 5 of the league. His stats were saved by the sheer number of attempts the Chiefs made over the past regular season. New long snapper is rookie James Winchester who has not done much to be noticed this year, which for long snappers tends to be a good thing.
As with every NFL team, there has been a good amount of turnover the past season. Strong talent has been added to multiple positions all around the team with minimal loss and they were able to hold on to some of their strongest playmakers such as Justin Houston. Schematically this team is very similar to the one we saw last year but with a few new toys to play with. Unfortunately the Chiefs suffered injuries to stars Jamaal Charles and Jeremy Maclin and those two losses could be just enough to cool the hot Chiefs.
Kansas City Chiefs Photographers - Spencer Ware, Travis Kelce, Justin Houston
Troy Taormina of USA Today Sports - Eric Berry
Depth chart information was obtained through the Kansas City Chiefs website.