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Chiefs Team Report: Pass Blockers In the Spotlight

It has been nearly 20 years since a team has won back-to-back Super Bowl titles and the Kansas City Chiefs could be in place to make a run at a second straight championship. Any talk about the Chiefs begins with quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kece as they continue to make NFL news.

There were some key players headed elsewhere after the Super Bowl win. That includes offensive tackle Orlando Brown, receivers Mecole Hardman and Juju Smith-Schuster, safety Juan Thornhill as well as defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Frank Clark.

Chiefs Team Report: Pass Blockers In the Spotlight
Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs - Christian Petersen/Getty Images/afp

Even with those departures, the NFL predictions have the reigning champion Chiefs as the favorites in the odds to win the Super Bowl.

When looking at the NFL odds, Mahomes is the shortest price to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award.

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The offensive line lost Brown and Andrew Wylie, who both played at least 95% of the offensive snaps. The key is how offseason acquisitions Jawaan Taylor and Donavan Smith mesh with the rest of the offensive line. That will be crucial since giving Mahomes time to throw is pivotal for the defending champions.

Mahomes has been sacked fewer than 30 times in each of his NFL seasons despite averaging nearly 40 passing attempts per game over the last two seasons. Plug in the tape of the Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to see what happens when there are issues in the pass blocking and how that might impact the NFL picks.

Impact Rookies

Kansas City didn’t have to travel far to scout the player they took in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Felix Anudike-Uzomah had 19½ sacks and 25½ tackles for loss over the last two seasons at Kansas State. With George Karlaftis drafted by the Chiefs in 2022 and Anudike-Uzomah picked in April, the Chiefs are reconfiguring the outside pass rush position. With the attention all-everything interior defensive lineman Chris Jones gets, there will be plenty of chances for Anudike-Uzomah to face a single blocker after dealing with so many double teams in college.

 

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It doesn’t get much better for a rookie receiver than to join the Chiefs with Mahomes throwing the ball, so second-round pick Rashee Rice out of SMU has to be loving life. The fact that Kansas City traded up to select Rice is just one of the reasons why the NFL lines list Rice with the 16th best odds to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award as part of a new-look group of receivers.

Offseason Moves that Turned Heads

Brown has made the last four Pro Bowls and the Chiefs gave up multiple picks to acquire Brown from the Baltimore Ravens, so letting him go is a risky move. Smith was called for seven holding penalties last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and regressed during his time with the Buccaneers. He allowed six sacks a season ago and imagine what that number could have been without the quick release of quarterback Tom Brady.

Taylor had similar issues with Jacksonville as he allowed five sacks and committed seven penalties so are they going to be under plenty of pressure and not just the kind created by opposing pass rushers?

The departure of safety Juan Thornhill leaves Kansas City a bit susceptible at the final line of defense. Thornhill’s versatility in pass coverage will be tough to replace as he was second on the 2022 Chiefs with nine passes defended while also being the fifth-leading tackler.

Mike Edwards was brought in from the Buccaneers. Opposing quarterbacks had a 110.2 passing rating when targeting Edwards last season and that was his worst mark since his rookie season. That isn’t much different from Thornhill’s numbers, but Thornhill was asked to contend with the top pass catchers more than Edwards was, so it is worth keeping an eye on how Edwards adapts to the Chief’s defensive style.

Final Analysis

Kansas City is 26-4 in the regular season against fellow AFC West teams over the last five years, so it is not a surprise that the Chiefs are favored to win their eighth straight division title. There is a change at offensive coordinator with Eric Bieniemy now with the Washington Commanders and former Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy taking over as the offensive coordinator. Nagy was with the Chiefs as the quarterbacks coach a season ago, so he won’t be starting from scratch.

There is a reason why no team has won back-to-back Super Bowls in a generation and the Chiefs will have to take every team’s best shot. There are plenty of teams in the AFC capable of dethroning the Chiefs.

The season begins against two fast-rising teams with showdowns with the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars as the Chiefs don’t play their first division game until Week 6 against Denver.

Kansas City Chiefs Odds

Training Camp Info

  • Coach: Andy Reid (11th season with Chiefs, 25th season as NFL head coach)
  • Training Camp Reporting Dates: July 18 (Rookies); July 22 (Veterans)
  • First Preseason Game: Aug. 13, at New Orleans
  • Week 1: Sept. 7, Detroit
  • Bye: Week 10

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