But the team will not be able to take the next step unless it gets improvement from players already on the roster. We examine which players need to improve the most for next season.
1. Eric Fisher
It wasn’t the most impressive debut season for the first pick of the 2013 draft. He had his struggles, and overall, he graded out at a -17.8 for the year on Pro Football Focus. But I think he did improve as the season went on. Six of his negatively graded performances occurred during weeks one through nine, as well as 22 of his 36 quarterback hurries allowed. He settled in a little more during the second half of the season, only grading negatively twice.
One of the largest factors in Fisher’s improvement will be his size. General manager John Dorsey has already said Fisher needs to gain some weight. This may be even more important if he is switched to left tackle, which Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star writes is possible. The bottom line is Kansas City needs more results out of its big investment, especially if Branden Albert does not return to the Chiefs. 2014 will be key in the development of Fisher.
2. Dwayne Bowe
We have said before the Chiefs need to bring in help at wide receiver. But that doesn’t mean Dwaye Bowe can have a lackluster 2014 to follow his disappointing 2013.
Bowe put up his second lowest amount of yardage in his career, as well as caught five touchdowns for the third time in his career. He also caught the second lowest amount of receptions for his career. All of this does not add up to a guy who signed a five year, $56 million contract before the season started. That is the type of money given to a receiver who is supposed to change games. Bowe was that type of guy against the Colts in the wild card round, but Kansas City needs more of that during the season.
If the Chiefs draft some young receiving talent or bring in a marquee free agent, Bowe certainly does not need to be a number one receiver. But he needs to make more contributions and become a consistent playmaker.
3. Brandon Flowers
Obviously, we could list the entire Chiefs secondary as players who need to improve. But the leader of the corners is supposed to be Brandon Flowers.
Flowers graded out as the worst defensive player for the Chiefs this season at -5.9 on Pro Football Focus. His pass coverage grade of 9.8 was the 15th worst among corners who played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps. Among those same players, he was tied for 64th in passes defended with five. All of these do not reflect traits of a shutdown corner.
Kansas City pays Flowers way too much to produce like that. The Chiefs will definitely look to draft in this area or bring in a free agent, but even if they do, Flowers needs to step up for the secondary to shake off the 2013 big play woes.
4. Travis Kelce
We didn’t get to see Kelce on the field in 2013, as he underwent microfracture knee surgery and went on injured reserve before the season even started. The Chiefs selected him in the third round last year, and have faith that he can be an athletic playmaker at the tight end position.
In his last collegiate season at Cincinnati, Kelce had 45 receptions for 722 yards and eight touchdowns. That means he averaged 16 yards per catch in his final season as a Bearcat.
Anthony Fasano was the leading receiver at this position for Kansas City, catching 23 balls for 200 yards and three touchdowns. Fasano is not the type of tight end who can make plays down the field. If the Chiefs can get that type of guy in Kelce, the offense gets another dimension it desperately needs. He’ll have the opportunity to compete for the starting job.
5. Alex Smith
This is not to say Smith played badly in 2013. This is based on him getting the reported extension we have all been hearing about. If he gets paid as much as that, expectations will be raised.
Smith definitely improved in the second half of the season, grading positively in five of his last seven games on Pro Football Focus. His yards per attempt also improved from about six yards in weeks one through nine to about 7.8 yards from week 11 to the wild card game. If he can continue to attack downfield more often, we can see the offense evolve more and more.
We all know he can be efficient and not turn the ball over. But if he gets his payday, he’ll need to replicate more performances like we saw in the playoffs against Indianapolis.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid has received a coaching honor.