Should the Redskins be more like the Chiefs?

Chiefs Coach Andy Reid talks to quarterback Alex Smith about which high-percentage play to run versus the Raiders. (Associated Press Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

Chiefs Coach Andy Reid talks to quarterback Alex Smith about which high-percentage play to run versus the Raiders. (Associated Press Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

openingkicklogoThe national game of the week has to be Chiefs-Broncos, and right away a couple of remarkable numbers stand out. First off … well, first off, there’s 16.7: number of grams of marijuana found in Dwayne Bowe’s car after he was pulled over for speeding Sunday night. That’s almost two-thirds of an ounce, which seems more than necessary for a night out, even if Bowe did have a couple of fiends friends along for the ride. And this is before he sets foot in cannabis-clogged Colorado.

But in terms of more NFL-related numbers, we have 8: the number of points oddsmakers are giving Kansas City at Denver (give or take a half-point either way). Which is pretty nutty when you consider another couple of numbers: 9, as in the amount of wins K.C. has, and zero, as in K.C.’s losses so far. And yet, the NFL’s only undefeated team will go into the weekend as its second-biggest underdog.

Of course, some of that disrespect from Vegas has to do with the team the Chiefs are playing. The Broncos have been nothing short of an all-time offensive juggernaut, averaging a ridiculous 41.2 points per game, while Kansas City sits in the middle of the pack at 23.9.

Plus, the Chiefs don’t exactly bring an impressive pedigree to the table, having gone 2-14 last season, and having feasted of late on the under-prepared likes of Jeff Tuel, Jason Campbell, Case Keenum, Terrelle Pryor and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that Andy Reid has done a remarkable job in his first season running the team; in fact, many would say he’s doing a coach-of-the-year job.

Reid, of course, is all too familiar to Redskins fans from his years (14, to be exact) roaming the Eagles’ sideline. In Philadelphia, he developed a reputation as one of the NFL’s most pass-happy coaches, and indeed, his teams finished in the top 10 in pass attempts seven of his last nine years there (they finished 11th and 13th the other years).

But in Kansas City, Reid has reined things in. One of his first moves was to trade for quarterback Alex Smith, arguably the league’s foremost “game manager,” which is code for someone not very interested in taking chances. Reid’s Chiefs are currently 22nd in pass attempts, and only 27th in passing yards, meaning that they don’t throw a lot, and when they do throw, they don’t throw it very far.

But it’s obviously working, which raises the question: Should the struggling Redskins emulate this approach?

Of course, it helps the Chiefs’ approach that they have a very good defense, certainly a superior unit to that of the Redskins. And, according to Football Outsiders, Kansas City leads the league in average starting field position, so it doesn’t need as many big plays to at least move into field-goal range (it won’t shock anyone who’s watched Washington’s wretched special teams that it comes in last in this category).

But it’s an NFL truism that the team that wins the turnover battle usually wins the game, and the Chiefs have excelled in that department, leading the NFL in turnover margin at plus-15. In fact, of the 14 teams with a positive turnover margin, 11 have winning records. The Redskins are right at zero, and have 11 interceptions (tied for sixth-most) to thank for not being in positive territory.

In general, good things happen when the Redskins run the ball  they are tied with the Eagles for tops in the league at 5.1 yards per rushing attempt. So even if they’re seventh in the league in rushing attempts per game, why not get the ball in the hands of Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. more often? The Chiefs’ running backs (primarily Jamaal Charles) account for 29.5 percent of the team’s passing targets. Compare that to the Redskins, who throw to their running backs only 9.2 percent of the time.

More targets for Morris and Helu  and does anyone think Helu gets the ball enough?  not only mean higher-percentage plays for the Redskins, they get the ball out of Robert Griffin III’s hands that much sooner, sparing him that many more hits.

On the other hand, anyone who has watched Alex Smith play has chafed at his almost pathological unwillingness to throw passes of longer than 10 yards, and the incremental nature of Kansas City’s offense may well be exposed when the team gets the explosive Broncos twice in its next three games.

Still, thus far, Reid has the Chiefs doing something right on offense. What do you think? Would you like to see the Redskins adopt more of Kansas City’s conservative mind-set?

Des Bieler is a page designer, artist and writer who contributes his NFL insights to Opening Kick on Fridays and the print edition’s game-day page on Sundays. Follow him on Twitter at @DezBeeWP.

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Around the Web:

Over at MMQB, Dan Daly reminds us that Slingin’ Sammy Baugh authored one of the all-time great individual seasons for the 1943 Redskins.

Sports on Earth’s Dan Pompei explains why, despite a generally uninspiring tenure in Chicago, the Bears have little choice but to show Jay Cutler the money.

ESPN fantasy analyst Matthew Berry tells of his own, painful experiences of being bullied before cluing us into who he thinks will exceed or fall short of statistical expectations this weekend.

What’s ahead:

At 8:30 a.m., Mark Maske on the Redskins’ return game.

 

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