Will Sean Smith Remain a Starter Throughout 2014?
When deploying Sean Smith in a press-man, single-high look, every snap is a dice roll. There's no gray area.
If he secures an effective jam, he normally maintains leverage and remains in-phase with his target throughout the route. But if he bites on a feint or stem, his footwork occasionally betrays him, and his average closing speed allows wideouts to create sizable cushions.
Furthermore, his skill set somewhat limits Bob Sutton's play-calling.
For instance, from a tangible standpoint—specifically length, acceleration and straight-line speed—Marcus Cooper, Ron Parker and Phillip Gaines all fit the bill as potential Cover 3 corners. Unless coverage is rolled ("cloud") to compensate, Smith's pedestrian acceleration and speed pegs him as a liability.
In other words, if No. 27 is on the field, you probably won't see the defense drop into a conventional Cover 3 (outside corners and one safety each guard their respective deep thirds of the field). On any given snap, Smith is destined to play press-man or retreat into a short to intermediate zone—quarterbacks know this.
Regardless, from now until next offseason, the vet's DUI citation won't sway any votes in his favor, and the club can gain $5.5 million in cap space by parting ways with him after 2014, per Spotrac.
Can the Offensive Line Weather the Initial Storm?
Strictly in terms of potential, the Chiefs boast a top-five offensive line. In terms of on-field performance? Eh, not quite. Flip the stock's arrow.
Whether it be length, power or athleticism, Eric Fisher, Zach Fulton, Rishaw Johnson, J'Marcus Webb and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif are all physically capable of dominating at their position(s).
If even two of the aforementioned five scratch the surface of their true capacity, Kansas City will file it under the win column.
But being that two of them are rookies (Fulton and Duvernay-Tardif), two are notorious underachievers (Johnson and Webb) and one is rebounding from two offseason surgeries (Fisher), per ESPN.com's Adam Teicher, that fantasy sits atop an arduous uphill climb:
Will the Receiving Corps Improve?
By and large, observers have raved about Dwayne Bowe's offseason attitude and performance. Even when he's responding at pressers and posting on Twitter, the big-bodied star sounds like a refreshed and refocused individual:
Although, the extent tends to vary, Bowe is the only wideout on Kansas City's roster who brings a hint of consistency.
Last season, Donnie Avery was largely a one-dimensional vertical threat. He regularly bobbled and/or dropped passes—particularly over the middle—and often posed as one of the worst blocking receivers in the NFL.
Due to his untimely acquisition, A.J. Jenkins lagged two steps behind while learning the playbook, which curtailed his amount of on-field opportunities. He intermittently showed flashes of promise, but until they're answered, the same questions that harassed him in the past will continue to pay a yearly visit.
And while John Dorsey restocked the cupboard with slot talent, De'Anthony Thomas, Weston Dressler and Albert Wilson are equally inexperienced (pertaining to the NFL). Meanwhile, Junior Hemingway, though talented, may tote the league's most atypical frame at the position.
"Bo" knows football. "Bowe" knows double coverage.
How Does the Return of TE Travis Kelce and FS Sanders Commings Impact Play-Calling?
Between the opening whistle of Week 1 and final whistle of Week 17, the injury-riddled duo of Travis Kelce and Sanders Commings combined for three regular-season snaps (all belonging to Commings).
Unlike his positional cohorts, Kelce can impose his will in the ground game or aerial attack.
Relative to mindset, he arguably rivals Rishaw Johnson as the team's most ill-intentioned blocker. If opponents ease up at the tail end of a play, Kelce will bury them in a way that makes a field sprayer debate if he should outline the body.
As far as pass-catching is concerned, his routes and breaks will benefit from some polishing, but he's a prototypical seam threat with brutal strength and underrated speed.
With he and Anthony Fasano—who was also uncharacteristically nagged by injuries last season as well—active, it allows Andy Reid to employ more double-tight end sets, cranking up his playbook's creativity on third-and-short situations.
On the other side of the ball, the inclusion of Commings could have reversed last year's soul-stomping, Wild Card Weekend plot twist. Whether replacing Dunta Robinson as a nickelback or Kendrick Lewis as a deep safety, Commings is considerably better equipped to handle either task.
The second-year pro is a stoutly built, bone-bruising tackler with unique speed and laudable ball skills. While he only partook in three plays last season, his first NFL snap ended with him audibly tattooing Knowshon Moreno, prompting NBC's Cris Collinsworth to interrupt a sideline report with an emphatic, "Oomph!"
Also, unlike Lewis, Commings and Eric Berry are somewhat interchangeable. Both can blitz, defend the run, play man or roam as a single-high safety on any given down.
That, in turn, plants one more seed of doubt into the minds of opposing quarterbacks.
If Kelce and Commings enter Week 1 at full strength, the club will not only be adding two potential starters but two additional dimensions.