This year, Josh Carney and I will break down the opposing team’s offense in our weekly scouting report. Like last year, I will be looking at the opposing team in a more broad, scheme-approach. Josh will have a closer eye on the individual players.
Alex’s Scheme Report
Chiefs’ Run Game
The Chiefs run game has been strong, averaging 4.2 yards per carry, good enough for tied for ninth in the league. Jamaal Charles has missed the first three weeks leaving Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West have been splitting time. Ware has dominated the carries and snaps, 41/12 respectively in carries and 58/37.5 in snap percentage.
Both running backs are well above that 4.2 per carry average, making them even more potent. Ware is at 4.9 and West at 5.3.
They have 11 runs of 10+ yards – eighth in the league – and three of 20+ – tied for fifth. Stopping their rushing attack is an obvious must.
They’ve had some injuries along the line, #65 Jordan Devey replaced Jah Reid at RG last week and Parker Ehinger – a big 6’7 guard who played tackle in college – has dealt with a concussion. #73 Zach Fulton has replaced him at left guard.
The Chiefs, to my surprise, showed a lot of man and gap runs. Had seen more zone runs from them in the past. But it’s been effective and they’ll pull both their guards, giving them some nice versatility.
If Reid plays this week, watch for his stance. It might give away if he’s pulling or not. On this play, the one shown above, he was very tall in his stance.
And on the next, he was lower and didn’t pull. Butt isn’t up in the air as much. It’s slight but it’s there.
With an athletic Alex Smith at quarterback, they’ll even run some speed options. In the two games I watched, they ran it three times from different downs/distances and line of scrimmage. Have seen it on 1st and 10, 2nd and 13, and 2nd and 4, the last one coming near the goal line.
Smith has pitched the ball all three times. They’ve had varying degrees of success and the best way is to scrape/replace like defending the college option. Here’s a loss of five against the New York Jets last Sunday.
Similar to what the Eagles had in Darren Sproles, the Chiefs have rookie Tyreek Hill. 5’8, 185 pounds who ran a 4.29 at his West Alabama Pro Day.
They’ll get creative with him. Use him out of the backfield as a runner, receiver, and catching bubble/tunnel screens. Here’s a example of a, gulp, jet sweep. Very Philadelphia like because, of course, Andy Reid coached Doug Pederson for the last six years.
In fact, the Chiefs’ coaching staff is basically just Reid getting the band back together.
– Offensive coordinator and lecturing-uncle Brad Childress was with the Eagles and Reid from 1999-2005.
– Co-offensive coordinator Matt Nagy was with the Eagles from 2010-2012 and followed Reid to KC.
– Running backs coach Eric Bieniemy was a running back for the Eagles in 1999, Reid’s first year.
– Quarterbacks coach Corey Matthaei was with Philly from 2008-2012 and also followed Reid west.
– Tight ends coach Tom Melvin was an assistant for the entire Reid head coach tenure, 1999 to today.
– Ditto with WRs coach David Culley who served the same role the entire Reid/Eagles’ tenure and followed him to KC.
When they use a fullback, it’s Anthony Sherman, one of the better in the league. He’s playing about 10% of the time.
Chiefs’ Pass Game
Their passing game is very West Coast, as you probably already knew. They have just eight completions of 20+ yards, tied for 23rd in the NFL, and two completions of 40+.
They’ve run the same concept on the first play of the game the last two weeks. A tare concept, a three receiver combination with two out routes and one vertical concept down the sideline. Maybe the Steelers can jump a route.
Their tight ends are a threat. Travis Kelce is the household name but their main three are all huge dudes. Kelce is 6’5 260, #84 Demetrius Harris 6’7 230 and the unknown Ross Travis is 6’7 235. Travis has actually played about 14% of the snaps.
And these cats move all over the place.
You’ll see it in that second Tare route. That’s in their 13 personnel with everyone spread out. So they’ll put you in base and then ask your linebackers to walk out – lightning the box – and ask 6’2 guys without a lot of speed to cover 6’7 in an uncomfortable environment.
They love hitting Kelce on a little drag route across the field. Clear out the drag side with some vertical concepts and open up Kelce underneath. Watch for him when in a reduced split as the #2 or #3 receiver (not when he is the #1, furthermost outside). That’s most common.
Here’s a touchdown last week against the Jets.
At receiver, Jeremy Maclin and Chris Conley are the starters with Albert Wilson in the slot. Despite Conley playing over 80% of the time, he is averaging just three catches per game.
Again, back to Hill. They’ll look to get him in space on screens or angle routes (also known as a Texas route). Here’s the latter.
They have an array of RPOs, Alex Smith has complete control over the offense, and they’ll present the combinations in a variety of different ways. Against the Jets, they ran this power/slant RPO several times for chunk plays, often throwing the slant.
Have to be alert for these RPOs on 1st and 10, where they most commonly occur.
While they have speed (Maclin, Conley, Wilson can all fly), they don’t take a lot of shots vertically without scheming for it. They love wheel routes and combinations off it, post/curl + wheel being the two most common.
Ran it on third and short twice in Week Two against the Houston Texans. Once on 3rd and 2, again on 3rd and 3. Here’s an example.
And sail on third and long as they near the red zone fringe. The Steelers have gotten a little better defending it but still aren’t great (Brent Celek got them last week on a 20+ gain).
Chiefs’ Special Teams
Tyreek Hill is their man returner in both facets and sports an excellent punt return average of 14.1 on nine tries. That isn’t bloated by one great return either. Eight of his nine chances have gone for at least 10 yards. Four of them have gone for at least 15.
Their kick return formation is a 6-1-2-2 look.
Fake alert! Always have to watch that field goal unit. Their wings are two offensive players, FB Anthony Sherman and TE Travis Kelce and in 2014, Dustin Colquitt completed a six yard pass to Kelce…against the Steelers. Came on 4th and 5 in the second quarter with the game tied at three and the ball at the Steelers’ 12. It’s the only pass he’s thrown in his NFL career.
Though it’s the defensive unit, the punt team, the Chiefs have Sherman and West on the punting team. So guys who can catch the football. Plus cornerback Eric Murray, who played running back/receiver in high school and caught five touchdowns his senior year.
Josh’s Individual Report
With the Kansas City Chiefs riding into Heinz Field Sunday night to take on a banged up Pittsburgh Steelers team on national television, the Steelers will have their work cut of for them while trying to improve to 3-1 on the season.
Although key players like Ryan Shazier, Robert Golden and Sean Davis will likely miss Sunday night’s game against Alex Smith and the Chiefs, the reserves won’t have to change much in terms of preparation for the Chiefs’ offense considering they just faced a mirror image in the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3.
Granted, the Steelers really struggled with the Philadelphia attack that was based on off-tackle runs, quick passes to get receivers into space with the ball in their hands and the occasional up-tempo attack.
While the preparation will be similar from last week to this week, the execution will have to be much better against an efficient offense in Week 4 on Sunday Night Football.
Smith and the Chiefs come into the Week 4 matchup averaging roughly 332 total yards per game offensively (23rdoverall), 16th in Time of Possession (29:44) and a turnover margin of +5, good for 3rd overall.
In the passing game, Smith is as conservative as they come in the NFL, averaging just over 6.7 yards per attempt (24th), 241 yards per game (22st) and just three touchdown passes (T-19th). Although the numbers won’t blow you away, Smith takes what the defense gives him and makes it work; he won’t turn the ball over and hurt the team. That’s pretty much all you can ask for from this passing game.
But like they have been under Andy Reid since the day he came to Kansas City, the Chiefs’ offensive attack begins and ends with a power rushing attack led by Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West, as well as stud running back Jamaal Charles, who is still on the mend following last season’s torn ACL. We could see Charles this week, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Chiefs wait for the bye week to bring the dynamic running back back into the fold.
With Ware, Kansas City found a diamond in the rough as the LSU product is a physical runner who rarely goes down on first contact while having breakaway speed and soft hands in the passing game, giving the Chiefs another serious threat out of the backfield.
As a unit, Kansas City averages just 91.3 rushing yards per game (21st overall), but that’s not an indication of the attack. They’re efficient and really wear the defense out with physical runs. On 21.7 attempts per game, the Chiefs average just over 4.2 yards per carry. That’s pretty good stuff from a unit without their best running back.
All of that starts up front with an offensive line that gets overlooked at times, yet continues to put up some impressive performances week after week.
Left to right, this is how the Chiefs align up front:
LT — Eric Fisher
LG — Parker Ehringer (R)
C — Mitch Morse
RG — Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
RT — Mitchell Schwartz
Fisher, coming off of his big contract extension this off-season, has been a stout left tackle for the Chiefs over the last year and a half, but the former Central Michigan star always has problems with James Harrison and the Steelers.
Ehringer wasn’t expected to become a starter right away, but through hard work and some impressive work in the run game as pushed the rookie into the starting lineup. Same goes for Duvernay-Tardif, who had a great training camp and has really provided the Chiefs with a rock solid starter at right guard.
Schwartz was a terrific signing in free agency as the Chiefs stole him away from the Browns. Although Schwartz struggles with speed off the edge, he’s very strong in the run game and moves well in space on zone reads and stretches for Kansas City.
At the skill positions Kansas City doesn’t have anyone that will really blow you away, but like the offense as a whole, everyone is solid, does their job well and rarely makes mistakes.
Jeremy Maclin was a big get in free agency a few years ago and has really emerged as a consistent No. 1 receiver. Through three games, Maclin has hauled in 15 passes for 166 yards (11.1 ypc) and a score. However, Maclin isn’t much of a deep threat at this point as his longest catch of the season is 22 yards. He does a majority of his work on quick outs, stops, digs and comeback routes, as well as the occasional screen to his side of the field.
Along with Maclin, tight end Travis Kelce is the other major threat in the Kansas City passing game as the veteran tight end leads the Chiefs in catches (17) and yards (187) while averaging 11.6 yards per catch. However, Kelce hasn’t been used a deep threat this season, so that could change this week considering Kelce has had success in the past down the seam against the Steelers.
Behind Maclin and Kelce is second-year receiver Chris Conley (9 catches, 102 yards), veteran Albert Wilson (5 catches, 12 yards), rookie Tyreek Hill (6 catches, 43 yards, 1 touchdown) and Ware out of the backfield (10 catches, 185 yards). Hill and Conley can be considered the downfield threats for the Chiefs, but that’s about it.
Look for a ton of run-pass options by Smith, some quick bubble and tunnel screens, slants, quick outs and dump-offs out of the backfield to Ware and West. It’s the same offense the Steelers have seen over the last 2-3 years; there isn’t much that will surprise you.
That being said, I’ve noticed an interesting concept the Chiefs have been trying to utilize this season.
In pre-snap motion, Smith calls Maclin in motion to set up the fake handoff on the jet-sweep, forcing the San Diego linebackers and safeties to follow the fake, allowing Ware to get free out into the flat, giving Smith an easy throw. From there, Ware showcases his speed as a power back down the sideline for a huge 28-yard gain early in the game to set up a field goal.
Later on in the first quarter the Chiefs utilize the jet-sweep fake once again, but this time Smith gives the ball to Ware a solid run resulting in a first down.
Once again you see the quick motion from Maclin as he darts right to left, causing San Diego linebacker Manti Te’o to bite on the fake, allowing Ware to cut back up the middle for the big chunk of yardage.
By utilizing the quick motion from Maclin, the Chiefs are able to get the defense going one way before hitting them with a big play the other way. Like I said, they don’t have very many explosive players offensively, but through the offensive scheme they’re able to manufacture big plays.
Outside of the offense, the Kansas City special teams have always been a very solid unit led by kicker Cairo Santos and punter Dustin Colquitt.
Through three games Santos has been perfect for the Chiefs, booting 7-of-7 field goals, including a long of 54 yards in 2016. Outside of field goals, Santos is a perfect 3-for-3 on extra points. He’s quietly putting together a very strong season in Kansas City.
With Colquitt, the Chiefs are getting roughly 43.6 yards per punt this season on 15 punts, including a long of 57 yards and six punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
Hill was drafted as a punt returning threat and so far on nine returns this season, the rookie is averaging 14.1 yards per return and has a long of 32 yards. Despite the limited sample size, Hill is a game breaker back deep for the Chiefs.
Kick return duties fall to Hill and veteran running back Knile Davis. Davis is famous for taking back the opening kick against the Houston Texans in the playoffs last season, but he seems to have fallen out of favor with the Chiefs.
On three kickoff returns Davis has 75 yards, including a long of 29 yards, but the bulk of the work on kick returns has gone again to Hill, who has five kick returns for 109 yards and a long of 30 yards. Neither has come close to busting off the big one, but there’s certainly the threat of just that happening back there with both guys.