Five Titans Questions with Chiefs Journalist Seth Keysor
1. Does Alex Smith really look that good, or is he just being a great game manager?
Smith has been impressive. So far this season he's in pace to absolutely shatter his previous highs in touchdowns and yardage. People get hung up on the "game manager" moniker, but overall that's actually been a GOOD thing. Smith keeps the team in games, avoids mistakes (despite the 2 INTs against the Giants. One was a miscommunication on a slant, the other was a dropped pass), and seems to keep his cool in every situation.
What's more, Smith's been getting it done when it counts. Here are some split stats for Smith:
3rd and 9+ yards to go- 9/15, 10.1 YPA, 1 TD, 0 INT, 116.3 rating.
4th quarter- 16/22, 7.86 YPA, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 125.8 rating.
So you see, Smith has been a little bit of both. He's been a "game manager" when that's what we need, and he's been making plays when that's what we need. Our offensive line has STRUGGLED in pass protection so far this year, and Smith's ability to get it done despite that is a huge reason we're 4-0. He hasn't been great, but he's definitely played (in my opinion) in the top 10 as far as QB's go this season (no, I'm not saying he's necessarily a top 10 QB. We're talking about just one season, here). He will never take over games the way Rodgers will. But he's efficient, can make all the throws, can run when he needs to, and never seems rattled.
2. What is the biggest weakness on this Chiefs team- offense and defense?
Our offensive line, and it's not even close.
Chiefs' fans were afraid of the WR group coming into the season, but so far that hasn't been too much of an issue with Donnie Avery playing above expectations and our TE's contributing nicely (despite injuries to our top 2 TE's). But the OL has been mediocre at best and terrible at worst. Smith has been running for his life way too often.
Even worse, the run blocking hasn't been good either. This is where things get weird, though. To close out games, we've been shifting to a lot of I-formation and power runs, and our line (along with Jamaal Charles and Anthony Sherman, our FB) have been doing a wonderful job moving the chains. Prior to that? Nothing. It's the strangest thing. A lot of us are curious if it's just a matter of gelling or scheme when it comes to the OL. Regardless, both run and pass blocking need to improve quickly.
On defense... look, I don't want to come across as too much of a homer. I'm more than ready to talk about areas of the team that need improvement (see above, our OL has played awful). But our defense, as of this moment, hasn't shown much of a weakness. I mean a real weakness.
The only offense that has had anything resembling success moving the ball has been the Eagles. So I guess you could say we have a weakness for LeSean McCoy and Mike Vick's legs. But as of right now, there isn't an aspect of the defense that genuinely worries me. The pass rush has been insane. The run defense (again, outside of Vick/McCoy) has been very solid. Our secondary is deep and talented, with Eric Berry playing phenomenal football and newcomer Sean Smith playing wonderfully physical football.
I think the one concern I had (depth at corner) was addressed Sunday. I'd worried about veteran CB Dunta Robinson playing speedy WR's, and Victor Cruz confirmed that by burning him for a 60+ yard TD early. Our DC adjusted by throwing the rook (who had been impressing in practice) out there, and the kid responded by allowing 1 reception in 6 targets for 9 yards. At this point, we run 4-deep at CB without a guy I really worry about.
I'm sure at some point the defense will reveal a weakness. But as of right now, it's a top 3 unit at least and doesn't have any genuinely weak spots.
3. Who is the under-the-radar player that's been really impressive?
To go REALLY under the radar... I'm rolling with Anthony Sherman, our fullback. He was traded for in a pretty unpopular move this offseason, but has played extremely well. As I mentioned, when Reid has gone to I-formations Sherman has done a great job blocking. Additionally, he's caught almost every pass thrown his way (granted, it's only been 7) and has shown an ability to shed tacklers and move the chains. I really hope to see more of him as the year continues.
Bonus under-the-radar guy has been Sean McGrath. The Beard was signed from Seattle in the last round of cuts and was pressed into action when our top two TE's went down. He's caught 11 of 12 passes thrown his way for over 120 yards and contributed a touchdown on Sunday. It's going to be tough for rookie Travis Kelce to get playing time when he gets healthy, with how well McGrath has been playing.
4. Will the Chiefs receivers be able to beat Cornerback Alterraun Verner, who didn't allow one reception against New York and picked off two passes?
Maybe. Dwayne Bowe has never been affected by the guy covering him. Some of his best games have come against Bailey and Asomougha at their peaks. With him, it's more an issue of "what Dwayne Bowe are you getting today?" That's the great thing about him and the terrible thing about him. He'll abuse great CB's one game then be relatively quiet against inferior competition the next. That said, I doubt he gets shut down completely. He's just too big and strong for CB's to handle.
Donnie Avery, on the other hand, is almost entirely dependent on separation to get catches and can be messed with by solid coverage. So Verner could give him fits. Dexter McCluster is unlikely to see much of Verner, but it could be interesting to see how Dex handles himself after his best game of the year.
5. If the Chiefs lose, why will it be?
I think it would be a combination of over-aggressive pursuit leading to a couple of big CJ2K touchdowns and our offense not being able to get it done against your very stout defense. So far, our offense has improved every game. But it's still not where it needs to be. Our defense has been dominant, but it's still early enough in the season that one can't take such things for granted. And whenever you run as aggressive a scheme as the one Bob Sutton is running here in KC, there's a risk of a guy like Johnson making one guy miss and taking it to the house because the rest of the D got carried away and lost contain.
Until our offense shows it can move the ball and score as well at the beginning of games as it has at the end of games, I'll be concerned. Especially against a team playing solid, physical football like the Titans are. It should be a great game.
Big thank you to Seth Keysor! You can follow him on Twitter @RealMNchiefsfan and stay tuned to Pro Football Spot for coverage on this big AFC game!
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