New-look Chiefs ready for fresh start in 2013
The question wasn’t even fully asked before Eric Berry shut it
”I’m not talking about last year,” the Pro Bowl safety
Doesn’t matter whether the query had to do with the 14 losses
that the Kansas City Chiefs endured in 2012, or the countless
off-the-field distractions. Heck, it could’ve been about some
trivial issue such as the length of practices, Berry wasn’t going
Really, there’s not much reason to anymore.
After one of the most dismal seasons in franchise history, the
Chiefs have hit refresh. They have a new general manager in John
Dorsey, a new coach in Andy Reid, and a new quarterback in Alex
Smith leading a new-look team into its season opener Sept. 8 at
”We’ve got standards for ourselves,” Berry said, ”so we have
a lot of stuff to prove to ourselves. We’re not worried about
outside opinions or factors or anything like that. We’re just
focused on coming in, jelling as a unit, a team, and just taking
That’s been a tall order this offseason. The Chiefs had more
than 50 newcomers on the 90-man roster that reported to training
camp, and just five of the 22 on their two-deep were in the same
spot as they were for the final game of last season.
So whether it’s Berry trying to learn how to work with new
defensive backs Sean Smith or Dunta Robinson, or Smith trying to
get on the same page with wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Donnie
Avery, the eight months that have transpired since last season have
been all about work.
”I think every team in the NFL has positive expectations right
now, every single one,” Smith said. ”It’s a fresh start. It’s a
new beginning for everybody. It’s what team is going to put in the
work and take the steps necessary to get better?”
The Chiefs clearly believe they’ve put in the work, but there
are dozens of other factors that could dictate whether they have a
bounce-back season. Here are five more:
SMITH AS A STAR: The Chiefs’ first major move in their
rebuilding job was to trade with the 49ers for Smith, finally
stabilizing the quarterback position for the first time in years.
Smith was considered a bust as a No. 1 overall pick for the first
five years of his career, and then emerged as a star under 49ers
coach Jim Harbaugh. The Chiefs are betting that Smith was a
late-bloomer rather than a product of Harbaugh’s offense.
”Listen, I thought Jim did a nice job with him out in San
Francisco,” Reid said, ”but here, everybody’s on board. I’m
asking him to do a ton of things and he’s handling it.”
CHARLES IN CHARGE: Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles expects
to be utilized the same way that LeSean McCoy and Brian Westbrook
were used by Reid in Philadelphia – both were as dangerous catching
passes out of the backfield as they were taking handoffs. Charles
ran for more than 1,500 yards last season, despite missing most of
the previous year with a torn left ACL. But he’s shown plenty of
ability to catch the ball, too.
”They’ve seen how athletic I am and I can do more than just
running the ball,” he said.
ATTACKING DEFENSE: Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has promised
an attacking defense this year, and that’s good news to players
weary of their previous bend-but-don’t-break style. The Chiefs tied
for last in the NFL with seven interceptions last year. They only
managed 27 sacks, tied for 29th out of 32 teams, and only recovered
six fumbles all season.
”I definitely think this team has underachieved,” cornerback
Brandon Flowers said. ”We always had talent, but the wins didn’t
add up. But that’s the past. This is a fresh start.”
BIG PICKS ON BIG UGLIES: The Chiefs have invested high draft
picks on their offensive line the past few years, and that includes
spending the No. 1 overall pick in April on Eric Fisher. The rookie
out of Central Michigan is expected to start at right tackle
opposite Branden Albert, the Chiefs’ first-round pick in 2008.
Center Rodney Hudson and guard Jeff Allen were each second-round
picks, and fellow guard Jon Asamoah went in the third round. Their
ability to protect Smith and pave the way for Charles will be
REJUVENATED REID: Reid had a tumultuous season of his own in
Philadelphia last year. Along with family issues, the Eagles went
just 4-12 – his worst finish in 14 years as their coach. Reid was
shown the door after the season, but it was in many ways a mutual
decision. Reid was eager for a fresh start and Chiefs chairman
Clark Hunt was happy to supply it in Kansas City.
”I sincerely mean this, he’s having more fun,” Dorsey said.
”I see a more vibrant person – I see Andy, the coach I used to
know. He’s over here doing receivers. He’s over here with the tight
ends. He’s working with the tackles. He’s jumping the quarterback,
and that’s good.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org