One Step Back. Two Steps Forward.
The Chiefs finished the season a dissapointing 7-9. Did not make the playoffs, have very little cap room to make significant upgrades, and Head Coach Andy Reid retired. Any hopes of reaching the owner's lofty goals were dashed when starting HB Treveon Marshall was seriously injured in the preseason, missing the entire season. He had also gotten injured late last season and missed the Wildcard game. A very significant hit for a team that like to run the ball and has a rookie QB under Center. In fact, the only goal the team reached was that they found out exactly what kind of player they had drafted in QB James Strzelczyk.
The 1st Round rookie began his season wth a solid outing. He was in the talks to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, but he could not keep his play at a high level. The offensive line struggled to keep him upright. 56 sacks resulted in him looking more and more like a rookie. The running game was solid with TJ Logan doing his best with his opportunities, but it was not enough to relieve the pressure on the young signal caller.
Defensively the team stuggled to create turnovers and allowed more big plays than in the past seasons. It wasn't until late in the season, with the playoffs long out of the picture, that the unit played inspired football and really got to the opposing QBs. It was the right mix of Dante Fowler and Cliff Avril playing together (injuries had prevented this) and playing all out for the departing coach in Andy Reid.
For the upcoming season the team wanted to get better on defense and focus on the trenches. The brass hired Mike Zimmer as the new Head Coach. He's the perfect defensive minded coach. He leads players and provides solid fundametals stopping the run and getting after the QB. Last couple of seasons the defensive unit had been on the lower end in rushing yards allowed. With the injury bug hitting Treveon Marshall and TJ Logan not quite being the answer the team signed proven HB LeSean McCoy. The talented HB still has the ability to make defenders miss in space and will be key in proving an outlet for Strzelczyk. Finally in the MBL Draft the team went all in on offensive and defensive line. The team chose LT Anthony Eaton in the 1st round. Widely regarded as the best offensive linemen. Center Bryant Jerry was chosen in the 3rd round with the team believeing they got an absolute steal with him. Look for him to challenge for a starting spot as the season progresses. DE Rashawn Pryce will also challenge for a starting spot. Coaches believe he could be the teams best pass rusher in his first season. Mike Zimmer has stated he is fully commited in developing the lines and go from there.
Upcoming Season Goals
This goals for this season remain the same. Challenge for the division and make the playoffs. James Strzelczyk is expected to have better production with an improved offensive line. On defense the unit seeks to remain tops in the league in pts allowed, passing yards and also improve on rushing defense while creating more turnovers. This is also the contract years for TE Travis Kelce and LB Justin Houston. It will be interesing to see how the veterans produce.
The Chiefs brass had some high expectations last year and several objectives that they wanted to accomplish. They wanted to make an impact in the AFC West, make the Playoffs, get depth at key skill positions, and turn the defense around. At the end of the season the MBL saw a team on the rise. Finishing with a 10-5-1 record, the Chiefs have a solid fountation to build on for the future.
Drako Defense is back bay bay!!!
The Chiefs had one of the worst passing defenses a couple of years ago. The additions of Cliff Avril, DT Haloti Gnata, LB Keenan Robinson made a huge difference. Th team went from the #28 passing defense to the #1 ranked defense in the MBL. That's not the only #1 rank the unit had as they also were tops in the leaague in yards allowed and points allowed. This unit wouldn't be worthy of the Drako Defense moniker without the turnovers and they were top 3 in the league with 41 interceptions and 3 fumbles recovered. 51 sacks helped put QBs on edge to throw those picks. This season they Chiefs hope to keep the momentum going by signing DE Dante Fowler and moving Chris Jones to the inside to help on run defense. Veteran FS Ron Parker tested FA allowing second year man Angel Marshall to take over the staring spot.
Battle for the West
The Los Angeles Chargers and the Oakland Raiders are clearly the teams to beat with the Chiefs trying to rise to their level. Last season they did just that as they swept the Broncos and split the series with both Raiders and Chargers. The team out of Los Angeles is the powerhouse the Chiefs seek to overthrow. Last season they proved they are no pushover and punched them in the mouth. This season veteran Jay Cutler is the signal caller there. This is the opportunity or a new champion to come up in the West.
If there was one thing that didn't go the Chiefs way last season it was the uncertainty at quarterback. Patrick Mahomes struggled with both injuries and turnovers. He looked wildly inaccurate as clearly time off the field had him looking completely cold and not at all in the same page with his receivers. Veteran QB Alex Smith did a great job leading the team, but he is not the future of the team. During the MBL Draft there was no surprise for the Kansas City faithful as the team selected QB James Strzelczyk in the 1st round. Mahomes will be challenged by the rookie. It is his last chance to lead this offense. On the ground HBs Kareem Hunt and Treveon Marshall split the carries about 50/50. The surprise there was that Treveon Marshall was clearly the superior HB and proved it by outgaining Hunt by almost 300 yards and scoring 5 more TDs. He did suffer a serious injury late on the season and he missed the Wildcard game vs the Chargers. It is something the team is a bit worried about. The team also signed veteran WR Julian Edelman to help make those tough catches in traffic and in case Chris Conley gets hurt as he struggled with multiple injuries.
This season is a bit more dificult to predict. The team has a major question mark at QB. This is Mahomes' 3rd year in the league and he is still an enigma. Rookie Strzelczyk has talent, but is sure to have some growing pains. The skill positions are there at HB, TE, and WR. This is also a contract year for Tyreek Hill. It's a safe bet that QB play will be major factor in him signing long term as Chief. On the defensive side Chris Jones is also ona contract year and playing a new position. Will he like playing DT for the Drako Defense or will he want to return to a more familiar role as a 3-4 DE? If either QB plays around the same level as last year then this team is primed to make another playoff run and have a real opportunity to supplant the Chargers at the top of the AFC West.
New Look Chiefs
Coming into the new season the Chiefs had a couple of obejectives: better depth on offense and switch the defense into the 4-3. Last season the offense took mahor hits after they lost WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce for extended periods due to injuries. The result was a bland and ineffective offense with many turnovers, especially in the redzone. The defensive players struggled to execute the Drako Defense. It's no secret that Head Coach Drako consistently fields a stingy unit that creates turnovers, doesn't allow big plays, and is top 5 in pts allowed. That...did not happen last season. The Chiefs chose to let plenty of players test free agency. It is a big risk, but one that can have the team steadily improve as the new players find their role and trust the system.
The defense was the priority this offseason. The team lost All Pros in MLB Derrick Johnson (Retirement) and Tamba Hali. Decided to let DTs Bennie Logan and Roy Miller, and DE Alvin Bailey leave to free agency. The vaunted Drako Defense looks to make a comeback in year 2 as the transition to the 4-3 can be considered a success with the signings of cover LB Keenan Robinson, DT Haloti Gnata, DT Larry Ogunjobi, and DE Cliff Avril. Four impact starters. Gnata and Avrill bring Super Bowl winning experience. Inexplicably the talented 2nd year pro Ogunjobi was let go by the Browns. If he's anything like the then rookie CB Howard Wilson, who was signed from the Browns practice squad, then he'll be an instant playmaker on the dline.
The offense will see a familiar face in the returning Jamaal Charles. Kareem Hunt is still the lead back with Charles seeing the field as the third down back. TE Travis Kelce missed 6 games last season and the drop off in talent showed on the field. Enter newly signed Crockett Gillmore and 2nd year pro Adam Shaheen (also inexplicably cut by the Bears). The pair of TEs can catch the ball and can run block effectively. Shaheen, who was a 2nd round pick, has major upside and the Chiefs see him as a potential replacement for Kelce down the road.
The MBL Draft
Without a 1s round pick the Chiefs patiently watched as the rest of the league chose the players they had highest on their draft board. Wen it came down to their pick in the second round the Chiefs chose Guard Oscar Reyna. A powerful and physical run blocker who has quickly picked up the offense and looks to displace any of the current starters. With a name like Angel Marshall it was clear that the FS was meant to patrol the skies. He showed impressive range and ball-hawking ability during training camp and preseason. Another Marshall, this time HB Treveon Marshall is set to be the primary kick returner. The 5th round pick not only has incredible speed - he has power and runs with a chip on his shoulder.
The offense now has a lot more depth at every position. If injuries have key players sidelined for extended periods of time then guys like WR Chesson, TE Gillmore, DE Holmes, LB Ford, CB Nelson, and FS Murray are players that can pick up the slack and make sure this team keeps playing at the highest level. Ownership and the coaching staff have all the faith in the wolrd that QB Mahomes III will make a jump. This is his offense now. The defense, now replete with playmakers at every level are ready to be one of the top units in the league. The Chiefs looks to not only challenge for a playoff spot, but to wrestle the AFC West from the Chargers.
OVERALL RECORD: 10-6 DIVISIONAL: 5-1 CONFERENCE: 9-3
The first MBL Draft and FA period for GM Santana were pleasantly succesful. The Rams surprised the league with their 1st round pick selecting CB O.C. Odom. He became the #1 CB on the team almost immediately. Rams had two 2nd round picks and chose WR Tercel Burns and QB Aurel Powe. They hooked up for 10 touchdowns. Perhaps no FA was as game changing for the team as HB Corey Grant who became change of pace back and teamed up with Tavon Austin returning kicks. Great first offseason for the new GM.
Coming in to the season the number one priority for the Rams was to upgrade the passing defense. Last season teams could not run on the defense, but could pass at will. The team ranked in the bottom half for passinf defense. This season with the help from CB O.C. Odom, Safety Don Jones, cover LB Mike Morgan, as well as stellar preformances from starting safeties TJ McDonald and Rodney McLeod Jr the pass defense was 8th in the league. Rams had the #2 rushing defense, # 3 in total yards, and #1 scoring defense. Every player on defense is coming back next year. Will they upgrade again in the Draft or FA?
The defense had an amzing year, but the team wouldn't have had 11 wins plus including one in the Playoffs without the much improved QB play. Rookie Aurel Powe doubled the production of last season's signal callers Foles and Mannion while throwing less ints. Todd Gurley once again had a solid season and Corey Grant pitched in with 4 touchdowns of his own. The breakout rookie was WR Tercel Burns. The receiver provided clutch plays all season long and only got better each game. The problems for the offense all season were the untimely penalties and yes QB play improved, but they still have ways to go.
The Rams took a huge step in the right direction and even had some sports analist believing in them this season. They were a team that no one wanted to face. The Seahawks won the division, but the Rams believe they were the uncrowned champs. They swept Seatle and last season's division champs San Francisco 49ers. Rams also had notable victories over Panthers, Giants, and last season's MBL Super Bowl Champion Falcons twice. The Rams now believe they are close to something special. Can they make the right moves and overtake their division rivals? Are they contenders or was this season a fluke? This offseason will be even more important than the first.
YEAR ONE RECAP
What the Rams brass learned from year one in charge was that on offense Quarterback Nick Foles was not the answer. He could not put the ball where his receivers could make a play on it despite a solid running game from HBs Todd Gurley and Tre Mason. Brian Quick and Kenny Britt can make the tough catches, but they can't make the impossible ones that Foles threw their way. Defensively the unit was tough to run against. Opponents were often forced to air the ball out and they did so with astounding success. The team was always competitive losing close low scoring games and getting wins against both division contenders Niners and Seahawks.
In Free Agency the Rams picked up Full Back Jed Collins who is an outstanding run blocker and solid receiving option out of the backfield. Outside Linebacker Mike Morgan is a great addition and can cover the faster TE's in the league.
1st Round - CB O.C. Odom: Fast, tall, great acceleration, can play man or zone coverage. The cornerback from Miami gives the secondary more depth in a pass happy league. Team mate Janoris Jenkins had this to say about him, "The dude is a sponge. He's picking up everything so quickly. He's always around the ball..making plays. He's a special talent."
2nd Round - WR Tercell Burns: One of the fastest wideouts at the combine. Burns can not only make plays in space he can also make the tough catches in traffic. Something that fellow speedster Tavon Austin can't do. Look for him to be the slot wide receiver possibly even a starter early on in the season.
2nd Round - QB Aurel Powe: The Texas product fell from the first round. The Rams could not pass on him. Even with Sean Mannion impressing in the last four games the previous season it was clear the team needed to get a QB. Powe posseses the strongest arm the Rams have seen in a long time. He is accurate with the ball and has more athletic ability than either QBs on the roster. Many are predicting he will be the Opening Day starter.
3rd Round - DE Kirk Jordan: Another produc from the U. Jordan seems to be the one that will replace Chris Long on the vaunted Rams defensive line. He's is great against the run and has the ability to bull rush his way to the quaterback. He is faster and stronger than Long. It is only a matter of time before he is the starter.
The last three rounds in which the Rams had picks were not as kind. Maybe a player surprises coaches maybe not. This team is young, very young. And with the offense most likely starting a rookie QB, a sophomore season HB, and a rookie WR. Well there will be growing pains. The Rams have bet that those will play dividends quickly and this team will be even better despite the inexperience at key positions. It's a trial by fire with a tough schedule. Starting with the season opener vs the AFC champion Buffalo Bills. Year two is about to kickoff and fans, players, and coaches alike are very optimistic about how far this team can go.