Breaking Down Andy Reid's Blueprint for Attacking Today's Ever-Changing NFL

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Breaking Down Andy Reid's Blueprint for Attacking Today's Ever-Changing NFL
USA TODAY Sports

Andy Reid has the right blueprint to quickly turn around the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite struggling in his last two years with the Philadelphia Eagles, Reid still knows how to attack today's ever-changing NFL.

Since being hired by the Chiefs on January 4, per ESPN.com, Reid has made a series of smart, bold decisions to get the struggling organization back up to speed.

His most decisive move is also likely his most controversial. That was the decision to trade a second-round pick this year and a mid-round choice next year for quarterback Alex Smith, per ESPN.com.

Reid knows that such an aggressive play for Smith was entirely necessary for the Chiefs. This year's draft class of quarterbacks is failing to set pulses racing.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Reid made the necessary choice trading for quarterback Alex Smith.

So Reid had little choice but to find his new signal-caller among current pros. Whatever doubts anyone has about Smith, he was the best veteran passer available.

Reid gave up a pair of high, but not first-round picks, to secure a credible starter with recent playoff experience. That has to boost a team that was 2-14 a year ago.

Smith may not be such a risk for Reid and the Chiefs. He had his critics with the San Francisco 49ers and they weren't all wide of the mark.

However, Smith suits what Reid likes to do on offense. He is a mobile, high-percentage passer. That kind of quarterback has been the template for Reid's offense since he drafted Donovan McNabb second overall in 1999.

As the video below shows, Smith has the skills to be accurate on the move. That's a quality Reid will have no problem using to attack defenses.

Alex Smith has the mobility and accuracy to thrive in Reid's version of the West Coast offense.

It might even encourage some elements of the read-option, pistol-style offense that is currently sweeping today's league. It's not something Reid has traditionally used, but Smith has the experience, having operated a read-option scheme in college at Utah.

In truth, an option-style attack, is not a world apart from some of the things Reid likes to do. Often unfairly chided for neglecting the running game, Reid is an expert at designing running lanes from the shotgun.

A play from Week 13 of the 2012 season, against the Dallas Cowboys, shows what the Chiefs' running game might look like in 2013.

Notice the direction of the blocking. Both guards and the center shift in unison to the play side.

Reid is able to scheme a huge outside running lane from the shotgun formation.

On one edge left tackle King Dunlap (65), executes a cutback block. On the other side tight end Brent Celek blocks down on Anthony Spencer, helping the right tackle seal that edge.

Those blocks spring speedy running back Bryce Brown around the edge. On the outside, Reid has his wide receiver block to create a clear lane for Brown to attack.

A block on the edge from a wide receiver, opens the outside lane further.

The real beauty of the play is that Reid's blocking design purposefully ignores two defenders. The outside linebacker away from the play side, in this case DeMarcus Ware (94), is left unblocked.

There is also no blocking contingency for the safety hovering around at the 40-yard line. The reason for this is simple.

Reid knows that even if Ware is free to pursue from the backside, he won't catch Brown in the open field. He also knows that a fast runner can beat a safety coming across.

Speed will beat the unblocked deep safety.

That's precisely what happened here. Brown gained 39 yards on a run from the shotgun formation.

Reid designs shotgun formation runs that are orchestrated to let speed flourish. He has no shortage of that speed in Kansas City.

Consider that same play run from the short-shotgun, or "pistol" formation, with Smith handing off to Dexter McCluster. The 24-year-old's raw speed, Reid's shotgun runs and the threat of Smith's mobility is a formula for many big plays.

Expect Reid to make full use of Dexter McCluster's speed and versatility as a runner.

Of course, when it comes to Chiefs running backs, most fans want to know what Reid will do with Jamaal Charles. Many wonder how often Charles will be used given Reid's pass-first reputation.

It is worth noting that Deuce Staley, Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy each recorded a pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons under Reid.

The one characteristic many of Reid's runners, including Westbrook, McCoy and Brown share, is speed. Few backs in today's NFL exemplify that quality more than the brilliant Charles.

He often faced eight-man fronts in the versions of the Perkins-Erhardt power offense the Chiefs ran under Romeo Crennel and Todd Haley.

Reid will use his receivers to spread defenses out more often. That will help free Charles for big gains.

Reid will spread defenses to free Jamaal Charles for these kind of game-breaking runs more often.

Expect to see more than a few elements of the spread attack to take advantage of Charles and McCluster's skills. According to Fox News, Reid has hired Brad Childress as a "spread game analyst." That gaudy title shows a commitment to some version of the spread-attack in 2013.

As well as using spread alignments and running from shotgun sets, Reid will observe another modern fancy to attack defenses. He will utilize the two-tight-end set to great effect in Kansas City.

That will be helped by one of Reid and general manager John Dorsey's best free-agency signings, Anthony Fasano. The ex-Miami Dolphin will form a dangerous tandem with youngster Tony Moeaki.

Two-tight-end sets have become one of the best ways to attack modern multiple defenses. The New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers have committed to it and others now follow suit.

Reid knows how to use the formation to his advantage, as he's one of the best two-tight-end play-caller's in the league.

One play from Week 2 against the Baltimore Ravens shows how Reid can use two tight ends to dissect a defense.

The play begins with both tight ends, Brent Celek and Clay Harbor, stacked together.

Reid stacks both his tight ends together on one side, with both wide receivers on the other side.

Reid has placed his two wide receivers on the other side and will use them to split the Ravens' coverage. Celek will work to the inside and attempt to get behind Baltimore's zone scheme.

The two wide receivers will pull the coverage scheme apart, allowing Celek to work to the open middle.

To split the zone and free Celek, the inside wide receiver breaks across the middle. The outside flanker runs a deep post on the outside.

The receiver going across the middle draws the coverage of the cornerback on the tight end side. The deep route occupies the other corner and the strong safety.

Reid has used two-tight end personnel to create a hole in zone coverage.

The free safety is kept deep by the receivers routes. That allows Celek to head for the open area in the zone, just behind the linebackers.

While Celek got open for a simple 23-yard gain, Harbor stayed in to block one of the outside linebackers in Baltimore's 3-4 defense.

In Fasano and Moeaki, Reid has two tight ends who can block and thrive over the middle. He'll have the flexibility to design many passing plays like this.

Reid will construct a more flexible and athletic offense than the Chiefs have fielded in recent seasons. That is already leading to some tough choices up front.

One of those choices seems to be using prized left tackle Branden Albert as trade bait. ESPN's Adam Schefter recently reported Albert will be dealt if a team offers a second-round pick, plus a 2014 selection.

That's a bold decision considering Albert is one of the few building blocks seemingly in place on offense. However, Reid is making a tough call with two clear benefits.

The first is dealing Albert will free the Chiefs to select a more athletic bookend tackle with the draft's first pick. That idea has some credence, given recent reports.

The Chiefs have shown interest in Texas A&M's dominant left tackle Luke Joeckel. That's according to The Sideline Views' Adam Caplan.

Another option could be Central Michigan's Eric Fisher. He certainly fits with the spread-style, speed-based attack Reid could favor.

Central Michigan's Eric Fisher is the kind of athlete the Chiefs O-line will need to execute Reid's schemes.

However, finding a younger, different style of blocker isn't the only motivation behind trading Albert. Reid knows the Chiefs have multiple needs.

Recouping the second-round pick lost in the Smith deal would give him the chance to select another impact player. That player could help the Chiefs win now.

Securing an extra pick in next year's draft goes towards building a sustained winner. Reid kept the Eagles in the playoff hunt for most of his 14-year tenure.

Consistent success is something the Chiefs have not known since the days of Marty Schottenheimer.

Part of establishing that consistency has been to maintain the strength of the Chiefs' roster, the defense. Despite a long association with the 4-3 defense in Philadelphia, Reid chose to stick with the 3-4 in Kansas City.

The Chiefs have spent four seasons drafting and developing 3-4 scheme fits. Players like outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston would be set back by suddenly ditching the system.

However, Reid will look to expand the schemes and add a greater attacking element to the defense. The Chiefs' traditional, 2-gap version of the 3-4 had become predictable.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
The Chiefs traditional, 2-gap 3-4 had become predictable.

Teams knew to usually expect a three-man rush, supplemented by one of the outside linebackers. This isn't a creative way of bringing four rushers and would often be supported by the same quarter-quarter-half zone coverage.

Reid hired former New York Jets assistant Bob Sutton as defensive coordinator. That should see the Chiefs defense be more varied and daring this season.

KCChiefs.com quoted Reid referring to Sutton as "a creative coach that is going to give our defense a variety of looks and packages."

Sutton has indicated that his Chiefs defense will look a lot like the multiple scheme the Jets have run. Speaking to KCChiefs.com, Sutton said:

I’m not going to get tied to anything – but the way I envision it and in speaking to Coach [Andy] Reid when I came in here, we’re trying to incorporate many of the things we did in New York. Again, it’s got to be tailored a little bit to the personnel here. But I think the transition will be good because it’s 3-4 based but it has a little bit more multiple than what I had done in New York before or the same that Romeo had run here.

The Jets bringing pressure against the St. Louis Rams in Week 11 shows how the Chiefs' defense could be more attack-based in 2013.

The first thing to notice is the alignment. The Jets are showing an eight-man pressure look, similar to the 46 defense, with safety LaRon Landry up on the line.

The Jets align in a version of the 46 defense and re-position their three-man line to pressure the quarterback.

The Jets have also tweaked the alignment of their defensive linemen. Both defensive ends have been shifted into gaps between blockers.

This creates better pass-rush lanes. Under Crennel, the Chiefs' linemen would be aligned directly over their blockers without obvious openings to create pressure.

Not only will the defensive line be given greater license to rush, the Jets will blitz three of their four linebackers.

This is the kind of heavy blitz the Chiefs defense can unleash in 2013.

Both outside linebackers will blitz, combined with a stunt by inside 'backer David Harris. The Jets will rush six and play single-high coverage behind it.

Man coverage underneath without two deep safeties, isn't something the Chiefs read-and-react defense has risked very often.

This kind of isolated, man coverage with a safety behind it isn't something the zone-based Chiefs risked often last season.

However, this daring approach is met with a reward. The Jets sacked St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford and forced a crucial fumble as part of a 27-13 road win.

If the Chiefs are more creative defensively, they have a better chance of forcing turnovers.

Reid knows he must add greater big-play capability to the Chiefs' defense. The unit managed only 27 sacks in 2012, ranked 29th in the league.

Without consistent pressure, the Chiefs' defense failed to produce decisive takeaways. They tied for the fewest interceptions in the NFL, with just seven. In all, they forced a mere 13 takeaways.

Reid proved in Philadelphia that he isn't afraid to surrender control of his defense, or let a coordinator unleash blitzes. The late, great Jim Johnson enjoyed that freedom and the Eagles' defense benefited.

A multiple-pressure 3-4 front has become a key staple of today's defensive football. By maintaining the structure of his team's strength, but tweaking its philosophy, Reid's defense can help the Chiefs win now.

It's just another part of a veteran coach's bold and smart blueprint to thrive in today's NFL.

 

All screen shots courtesy of CBS Sports, NBC Sports and NFL.com Gamepass

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