Chiefs get fresh start after franchise face-lift
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — The thousands of fans heading north on Interstate 29 to catch some of the Kansas City Chiefs’ training camp the next few weeks would be wise to bring along an updated roster.
There’s a new quarterback in Alex Smith being protected by a new right tackle in Eric Fisher, the first overall pick in April’s draft. Wide receiver Donnie Avery and tight end Anthony Fasano were brought in to catch Smith’s passes, and Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson were brought in to defend the opponent’s passes — they’re a couple of veteran defensive backs.
Yes, there are plenty of new faces this season — off the field, too.
After slogging through an abysmal 2-14 season that included everything from banners paid for by fans calling for general manager Scott Pioli to be fired to a murder-suicide involving linebacker Jovan Belcher, the Chiefs wiped the slate clean this past offseason.
CEO Clark Hunt hired former Eagles coach Andy Reid to replace the fired Romeo Crennel, then plucked away longtime Packers personnel man John Dorsey to overhaul the roster.
About half of the faces will be new when the full squad reports to camp on Thursday.
“I’m never content. Even if we win the Super Bowl, I won’t be content,” Dorsey said. “At the end of the day, what you’re measured with is if you leave this place better. You establish a tradition, of sustaining on a year-in and year-out basis winning football teams. To me, then you’ve done your job.”
If that’s the case, the Chiefs have a long way to go. Here’s five things to watch as they seek just their second winning season since 2006.
1. ALEX-ANDER THE GREAT: The Chiefs traded their second-round draft pick and another pick next year to land Smith from the 49ers. He’s already earned praise from his teammates for his leadership, and should provide a massive upgrade over Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. The former No. 1 overall pick finally flourished two seasons ago under Jim Harbaugh, and was playing well last season until sustaining a head injury. He ultimately lost his job to Colin Kaepernick, and then had to watch from the sideline as the 49ers made the Super Bowl. He’s said several times how much that’s motivated him, and he won’t be looking over his shoulder at anybody this year.
2. PRINCE ALBERT: The biggest offseason drama concerning the Chiefs was whether they would trade LT Branden Albert, who signed the team’s franchise tender and will make about $9.3 million this season. Albert has been seeking a long-term contract, but the two sides have not been close to an agreement, and the period for getting a deal done has passed. Albert has been a prince since joining the team for offseason workouts, helping to tutor rookie Fisher, and his ability to protect Smith’s blindside will have a big impact on the Chiefs’ ability to move the ball.
3. BOWE SHOW: Dwayne Bowe finally got his long-term deal, a $56 million pact that will keep him in Kansas City for the next five years. Now, the question becomes who among the wide receivers will help him out? Former first-round pick Jon Baldwin has been a disappointment, free agent Donnie Avery has been hurt and the rest of the corps is mostly unproven.
4. DEFENSIVE MINDSET: The Chiefs are sticking with the 3-4 defense they used under Crennel, but it should look a bit different under new coordinator Bob Sutton. Crennel took a bend-but-don’t-break approach. Sutton, a former assistant with the Jets, prefers to take risks, blitz often and allow a retooled defensive backfield to get after wide receivers in man coverage.
5. REID ALL ABOUT IT: The Chiefs dramatically overhauled their roster from last season, and with good reason. Despite having six Pro Bowl players, they still went 2-14. But any sort of turnaround that they’re able to engineer this season will hinge on whether Reid can bring all the new pieces together. The longtime Eagles coach has appeared rejuvenated with a change of scenery, and having Dorsey on hand to deal with personnel has taken some of the administrative burden off his shoulders. Reid is back to focusing entirely on coaching, and he’s willing to admit that he’s having as much fun on the field as he’s had in years. “I’m enjoying this, and it’s good to be back coaching a little bit more than what I was doing,” Reid said.
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