After 50 years of waiting for the Lombardi Trophy to make its way back to Kansas City, it finally happened in 2019. In a season full of ups and downs for the Kansas City Chiefs, it all came together at the right moment and they found themselves 12-4 and the end of the regular season and AFC West Champions. After three come-from-behind victories in the playoffs, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs were able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy and call themselves Champions of the NFL. Now let’s turn to the future and look at what is to come in the reigning Super Bowl Champions 2020 season.
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The Chiefs started their offseason rather quietly making some depth and rotational moves in signings like defensive end Taco Charlton and running back DeAndre Washington. Former New York Giant Antonio Hamilton was another early depth piece that the Chiefs grabbed. However, defensive tackle Chris Jones was slapped with the franchise tag early in the offseason.
The 2020 NFL Draft for the Chiefs was one with exciting early picks taking former LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Heliare with the 32nd overall pick and also drafting linebacker Willie Gay Jr out of Mississippi State in the second round. Both of whom should be seeing starting reps in 2020. After that, they selected offensive tackle Lucas Niang who has opted out of the 2020 season due to Covid-19 concerns. From there it was depth selections in defensive back L’Jarius Sneed, defensive end Michael Danna, and cornerback Thakarius Keyes.
Then the money started flowing for the Chiefs. After restructuring a few contracts the Chiefs signed Mahomes to a ludicrous 10-year, $410 million contract worth up to $503 million with incentives. After this massive signing, the Chiefs then went out and signed Jones to an equally ludicrous four-year, $80 million deal with $60 million guaranteed. While the Chiefs offseason started quite it ended with a massive bang.
Despite two opt-outs in guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and running Damien Williams, this offense is still loaded with weapons. Edwards-Helaire will likely step into the starting role at running back with Darrel Williams and free-agent signing Washington stepping in as needed. This trio along with second-year back Darwin Thompson will provide a solid run game to help balance this offense and provide Mahomes with the support he needs out of his backfield. Edwards-Helaire had a phenomenal final year at LSU putting up 1,867 yards from scrimmage along with 17 total touchdowns.
Speaking of support, all four key receivers from 2019 have remained with the Chiefs going into 2020. Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, and Demarcus Robinson make up the Chiefs “legion of zoom” after re-signing Robinson to a one-year deal and restructuring Watkins’ contract to allow for some big-name signings. While his involvement on special teams has been crucial, Hardman will look to get his big break on offense this season after putting up 538 yards and six touchdowns on just 26 receptions in 2019. Travis Kelce will also likely be sticking around for a while with his new contract and the signing of Ricky Seals-Jones provides a somewhat versatile backup behind him.
The only question for this Chief’s offense remains to be the interior offensive line. Mitchell Schwartz has proven that he is one of the best tackles in the game but the interior has several question marks. Austin Reiter did not perform up to standards at center and left guard saw several names cycle through due to injury. Sophomore center Nick Allegretti could potentially even take Reiter’s place if his play does not improve, and Kelechi Osemele does have some concern due to injuries last season. However, if healthy, Osemele will be a valuable asset for a young Chiefs interior offensive line.
While the interior offensive line is a big question, the biggest question of all is how will this defense perform in their second year under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo? While the Chiefs were able to get decent pressure on the quarterback totaling 45 on the year, the secondary struggled early and weren’t able to find their groove until late into the season. To add to this, defensive back Kendall Fuller is now back with the Washington Football Team and cornerback Bashaud Breeland is facing a four-game suspension. Players like Charvarius Ward and second-year veteran Rashad Fenton will have to step it up big time here in the early weeks.
Despite the lack of depth, the Chiefs have a leader at all three levels of play. Frank Clark is a huge emotional leader in this locker room and if it weren’t for being ill for several games in 2019, he likely would have put up large numbers on the field. Despite not being at 100%, Clark still put up eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Charlton will be a nice depth piece who Spagnuolo really likes and could even potentially challenge Alex Okafor for the starting role by midseason.
Anthony Hitchens has been a solid mike linebacker and adding Gay Jr to the linebacker room brings some much-needed youth and quickness. Then, of course, Tyrann Mathieu will provide the support that the secondary needs and will likely be tasked with several roles while they are short on depth. While some feel that the secondary is in shambles, the safety duo of Mathieu and Juan Thornhill is top-notch, Ward is underrated, and Fenton showed some flashes late in the 2019 season.
Predicting the 53 Man Roster
With the newly extended Mahomes leading the charge for the Chiefs at quarterback, the only question is who is going to back him up. Henne went down with an injury early in 2019 leading to the team signing Matt Moore and re-signing him again this offseason. The Chiefs also brought in Ta’amu from the XFL. It’s been a while since the Chiefs kept three quarterbacks, but after Mahomes’ scare last season and the potential variety that Ta’amu could bring, the Chiefs could pull the trigger this season with Moore or Ta’amu.
With the Williams opt-out, Edwards-Helaire looks to be the feature back in this Chiefs offense. While Edwards-Helaire will likely see a majority of the reps, expect Washington and Williams to get a decent amount of reps throughout the season as well. Fortunately, with Damien opting out, this means Thompson is almost guaranteed to make the roster, however he is still buried on the depth chart but should see a lot of special teams reps. Sherman also will retain his role as the team’s versatile fullback.
The “legion of zoom” makes their return in 2020 with Hill, Watkins, and Hardman serving as the primary targets for Mahomes. Robinson has plenty of chemistry with Mahomes and Pringle showed some flashes late in 2019 and the playoffs. Gehrig Dieter, Jody Fortson, and rookies Kalija Lipscomb and Maurice Ffrench are all viable candidates for developmental roles on the practice squad. Deiter should be the first call-up should the Chiefs face injuries.
After Kelce, the door is wide open at the tight end spot. Seals-Jones and Yelder seem to be the more plausible choices to back up Kelce but players like Nick Keizer and recent signing Daniel Helm could offer up some competition for the third spot and special teams play.
The offensive line lost two big pieces to opt-outs related to Covid-19 in starting right guard Duvernay-Tardif, and recent draft pick Niang. Both players likely would have seen a considerable amount of snaps in 2020. However, the signing of Osemele fills a big hole at guard. Schwartz and Fisher will remain the starting tackles, however, competition inside will be interesting with Reiter and Allegretti at center, and Wylie competing with newcomers Remmers and Senat along with undrafted free agents Yasir Durant and Darryl Williams.
The interior defensive line is set with Jones and Nnadi serving as the starters with the young but talented Saunders backing them up. Late season star Mike Pennel is serving a two-game suspension in 2020 so the Chiefs likely will keep some fresh legs on the team while he is away. This gives players like Lawrence and Tim Ward a chance to earn the final depth spot for the first couple of weeks.
Clark and Okafor should remain the starters at the beginning of 2020. Kpassangon was a serviceable rotational player along with Harris and the free agency signing of Charlton only adds more fresh legs for crucial third down plays. Charlton could find himself challenging Okafor for starting reps by midseason. Speaks will need to have a strong camp to ensure that Spagnuolo keeps him on the roster this season after missing 2019 with an MCL sprain.
Hitchens, Wilson, and Gay look to be the starting trio with Gay replacing now Detroit Lion Reggie Ragland. While the starting trio is set, the competition for backup and special teams should be fun to watch. Neimann saw a fair amount of reps in 2019, and while O’Daniel has seen little to no defensive snaps, linebacker coach Matt House has spoken highly of him. Omari Cobb will be in competition with several other UDFAs for a practice squad spot in 2020.
The Chiefs will be without Bashaud Breeland for the first month of the 2020 season. This opens the door for several of the young corners in this defensive backfield to show what they got. Fenton being the only other corner, besides Ward, with previous experience in the Chiefs system, likely will see several reps. Hamilton will likely compete with Fenton for starting reps outside with Sneed, Keyes, and Lavert Hill fighting for the last couple spots on the roster.
While the corner spot is a mess, the safety spot will definitely help out with the versatility of Mathieu who can likely slide into the slot when necessary. Pairing Mathieu with Thornhill, who is returning from injury, will be one of the best safety duos in the AFC if not the entire NFL. Sorenson will likely stick around due to some late-season heroics along with youngster Watts and free agency signing Thompson will serve as a solid backup and rotational player. With Breeland out for a month, secondary depth will be very crucial for this defense.
The only shakeup that was seen in the special teams’ department this offseason was the punter role. Longtime Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt was released after spending 15 seasons with the team. After signing undrafted free agents Townsend and Tyler Newsome, the former appears to have won the battle after the Chiefs released Newsome. Townsend spent the past two seasons punting for the Florida Gators. The young phenom Butker remains the kicker, and the veteran Winchester remains as the team’s long snapper.
2020 will likely be very similar to 2019. The offense will continue to be one of the most explosive in the league and no matter the score, will never be out of a game. While the defense might struggle early due to Breeland and Pennel both facing suspensions, most players are now adjusted to the Spagnuolo system and will look much better early this season than last. The Chiefs have it all, a future hall of fame coach, a winning culture, a franchise quarterback, and the youth to carry this team to another Super Bowl. 2020 should be a great season for the Chiefs.
Season Prediction: 12-4 and Win the AFC West.
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