Four lessons rose above the rest during the Chiefs’ 2022-23 regular season. KC saw progress in many places but left work to be done elsewhere.
The Kansas City Chiefs wrapped up the 2022 regular season last Saturday with a win against the Las Vegas Raiders. For the Chiefs, that victory secured the No. 1 seed in the AFC and a bye during Wild Card weekend. During this week off, it’s an excellent time to reflect on what the Chiefs showed throughout the regular season and how those lessons may project into the future.
Four takeaways best explain how the Chiefs landed at the top of the AFC once again and how they can maintain that position for the foreseeable future.
1. Patrick Mahomes is still Patrick Mahomes
Before the season even began, contrarians were hard-pressed to find an argument against Patrick Mahomes being the best quarterback in the NFL. Now, after his second MVP season in five years, there shouldn’t be a conversation about who is atop to quarterback rankings. The main argument against Mahomes was that he had “too many weapons.” Well, this year he led the league in passing touchdowns and yards while leading the Chiefs to the best record in the NFL after Kansas City traded away All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
If the Chiefs end up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February, the conversation and doubts about Mahomes should be put to bed. Instead, stop and appreciate the greatness we are witness to.
2. Offensive tackle is still an issue
According to Pro Football Focus, the Chiefs starting offensive line (plus sixth lineman and backup guard Nick Allegretti) surrendered pressure on 171 dropbacks. Of those 171 dropbacks, Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie combined for 96 of them, which is over 55% of the total pressures surrendered. Having your two starting tackles give up half the pressure is a cause for concern, especially when one of them is looking for a big contract this offseason. While Brown has improved his play as the year has gone on, how can the Chiefs trust him to be consistently good for an entire season?
The interior trio of left guard Joe Thuney, center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith help mask some of the issues, but if the Chiefs’ offense has one weakness that can be exploited by opposing defenses in the playoffs, it is the tackles in pass protection.
3. The defense hinges on Chris Jones
In the Chiefs’ three losses this season, defensive lineman Chris Jones had one sack and eight total pressures, averaging 2.67 per game. In KC’s 14 wins, Jones had 14.5 sacks and 69 total pressures, averaging 4.93 per game. Having a player like Jones is incredible, but the Chiefs rely too much on him. When Jones doesn’t play well, the defense has a hard time impacting the opposing offense.
One statistic that keeps coming up around All-Pro conversations is the fact that Jones has zero career playoff sacks. For the Chiefs to achieve their goals this year, he will have to get his first playoff sack and, most likely, his first few. Rookie defensive end George Karlaftis is a start to building a strong defensive line around Jones, but the Chiefs need to continue adding pieces if they want to maximize Jones’s prime.
4. Brett Veach’s stock continues to rise
During the course of the season, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach isn’t discussed as often as KC’s players and coaches because he’s not on the field on a weekly basis. However, Veach’s recent moves and decisions have built a strong foundation for this upcoming offseason. The Chiefs finished seventh in the NFL in rookie snaps and have one of the youngest rosters in the league. The foundation of young players, tied in with Kansas City’s incoming cap space and excess of draft picks, puts them in a great position moving forward.
Veach has evolved during his time in the front office, which looks to be another excellent sign. Honestly, when Veach first took over the job as general manager, he was not good. From his first draft class full of misses to the enormously promising ’22 class, a steady improvement through the years has Veach ready to prove why his name belongs in the conversation with the top general managers in the league.