Our offense has been decent, but it could be a lot more than that.
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Andy Reid is a man who knows offense. I don't think anyone with a brain would debate that. Additionally, the Chiefs are undefeated, so we're obviously doing something right.
The problem is that our offense, while not nearly as life-threateningly terrible as it was last year (at least, it threatened MY life every Sunday), has yet to really hit its stride. People will say this and that about Alex Smith and the offensive line. However, some of the issues we've had are, in my opinion, more related to the types of plays we've been running during the first 3 quarters of every game.
The evidence is both statistical and anecdotal. First, the statistical. Here are the stats for Jamaal Charles by quarter.
1st Quarter: 14 rushes for 47 yards (3.4 YPC)
2nd Quarter: 13 rushes for 37 yards (2.8 YPC)
3rd Quarter: 14 rushes for 45 yards (3.2 YPC)
4th Quarter: 29 rushes for 160 yards (5.5 YPC)
Now obviously, something is different about the 4th quarter. Not only are we running the ball much more often, but we're running the ball much more effective as well.
But you knew that already just by watching the games, especially the last two weeks. Against both the Eagles and the Giants, the Chiefs were unable to do anything running the ball for 45 minutes. Then, suddenly, in the 4th quarter, despite the fact that we were milking leads and the other team KNEW we were going to be running the ball, we were suddenly incredibly efficient at it. It's a major reason we've closed out games so well in the 4th quarter.
So what gives? What are we doing differently in the 4th quarter that is allowing us to run the ball so well, even when the other team is expecting it? Well, if you watch the games, you'll see a significant uptick of I-formation in the 4th quarter, as well as a dramatic increase in the number of snaps we're seeing for Anthony Sherman (who is playing very well). I believe that though our OL is struggling with the more standard "stretch" runs we're executing in quarters 1-3, they're acquitting themselves pretty nicely in basic, smashmouth formations.
Additionally, it's worth noting that we haven't had our best blocking tight end (Anthony Fasano) the last several weeks of action. I love Bloodbath McGrath as much as anyone, but he's not the blocker Fasano is. That is quite likely playing into our early struggles running the ball as well.
So what can be done? How can we improve our offense from "ok" to "good?" I believe several steps would help a great deal
1) Use more formations incorporating Sherman early in the game
As I said, our rushing attack is clearly more effective when Sherman is in the game. He's an excellent lead blocker. And in the type of power formations a fullback is used in, our OL as a whole seems to be blocking better. We need to take advantage of this.
Additionally, it's not as though Sherman is completely useless when he's not lead blocking. While he hasn't gotten a ton of chances in the receiving game, he's shown himself to have good hands and is very good at powering through tacklers and gaining extra yards. So it's not as if we'd have to abandon Reid's pass-happy gameplan with Sherman in the game. Rather, we'd just be adding another dimension to the passing game while maintaining a legitimate threat to run the ball.
2) Incorporate more double-TE formations
To be fair to Reid, this hasn't been much of an option with Fasano and Travis Kelce injured. While The Beard (still going back and forth with his nicknames) has done quite well, Brock is not a guy you want on the field at the expense of a receiver.
However, it's looking more and more like Fasano will be back against the Titans. With McGrath's emergence, this is the perfect chance to start running with two TE's. Both Fasano and McGrath can catch as well as block, so it leaves the defense with no clues as to what type of play we're going to run. In fact, I'd love to see double TE formations with Sherman in the backfield (so basically a Power-I). I can see us running right through and over teams with that personnel group.
3) Establish the run before trying play action and bootleg plays
I really, really like that Reid is using play action and bootleg plays as much as he is. The bootleg play in particular is a great use of Alex Smith's athleticism. And with Jamaal Charles as a threat in the backfield, play action is always a good idea.
The only problem is that these plays aren't effective if you haven't established the threat of the run already. Play action and bootleg plays take more time to set up than standard pass plays, and are thus a little more vulnerable to a strong pass rush. The idea is that rushers will hesitate at the threat of a run, which will allow the extra time for the play to be set up.
This isn't happening, though. Mostly because we're trying play action before we've made the opposition afraid of our run game. So all we're doing is putting a target on Smith's back and asking a struggling OL to protect for a half-second longer with nor real benefit. JC needs to get involved earlier. If that happens, we're going to start seeing teams over-committing on bootlegs and freezing on play action, which means big play potential.
These are three simple, easy steps that hopefully we see Reid take this week and moving forward. In my opinion, we have the personnel to have a potent offense. We just need to use them a little better to unlock the potential.
Oh, and also, MOAR Anthony Sherman!
Seth Keysor is NFL Website Coordinator for PFS as well as a Chiefs Team Journalist. He also writes for Arrowhead Pride under the guise of MNchiefsfan. Follow him @RealMNchiefsfan