JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2019 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Kansas City Chiefs beat writer Adam Teicher of ESPN Nation on the Chiefs' matchup with the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.
Question: The Chiefs came within a few plays of the Super Bowl last season, and they enter the 2019 season with hopes of winning the title. How do you assess the Chiefs' aspirations as '19 begins?
Answer: They came so close last year and lost in overtime in the AFC Championship Game. They spent a lot of money and a lot of resources to fix their defense, and they actually may have more offensive capability than they had last year. So, absolutely: Anything less than a Super Bowl this year would be a disappointment. It looks like they have something pretty solid built for the long-term, but you just don't know. This might be the year they have to get it done. There are really no excuses. They're as good as any team – at least on paper – in the AFC, so it's time to get done.
Q. That's the book on the team from a national perspective. From your perspective, what are the potential weaknesses?
A.There's a lot new on defense. They have a new defensive staff with a new coordinator (Steve Spagnuolo). They have a new base defensive system; they've gone to a 4-3. They have as many as seven new players who are going to play significant roles – if not starters, in one of the sub-packages. There's a lot new to pull together in one year. I'm not sure they're there yet. We'll find out more Sunday in Jacksonville. It's going to have to be a defense that grows, but the thing to remember about the Chiefs defensively is they probably don't have to be great to get the Chiefs where they want to go. If they can get into that 15-to-20 range from 31st last year … is that reasonable? I'm not sure it is, but we'll find out. But that's the one thing I'm wondering about and that everybody's wondering about with regard to the Chiefs.
Q:Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was such a huge story last season that people understand how good the Chiefs are offensively. Is there anything different about that unit entering '19?
A.The big thing to me is their speed. [Wide receiver] Tyreek Hill is maybe the fastest player in the NFL. Sammy Watkins is fast for a 210-pound wide receiver, but now they've added a couple of elements – particularly their top draft pick, [wide receiver] Mecole Hardman from Georgia. He ran a 4.33[-second] 40]-yard dash]. He's fast. He's not Tyreek Hill fast, but you could tell in training camp that he's fast. They're mixing him in, so they can come at you with a lot of speed. When they have all these guys on the field, it's going to be a real problem for people. That's why I think they may have more offensive capability than they had last year, believe it or not. It will be a tough challenge for them to beat 565 points, but I think they have a shot at it. I really do.
Q:Mahomes had a Most Valuable Player season in 2018 – his first as a starter. Some young players fall off after a season like that, but that doesn't seem likely here.
A:I've not talked to anybody either with the Chiefs or not with the Chiefs who feels he's going to come back to earth in any kind of significant way. No one's predicting another year of 50 touchdowns and 5,100 yards, but if the Chiefs' worst problem is their quarterback throws only 42 touchdown passes and 4,500 yards, they'll take that. He probably won't live up to the statistical bar he set last year, but I don't see any significant step down in his level of play.
Q: People know about Mahomes and Hill and the offense, but is there an intangible that makes this team good that many people don't see?
A: I don't think people appreciate what kind of program [Head Coach] Andy Reid runs. They see him on game day, and they see that his clock management isn't very good sometimes. That stands out, but that's not who the real coach is. Guys love to play for him. [Running back] LeSean McCoy couldn't wait to get back with Andy Reid. [Quarterback] Alex Smith cried when he had to leave Andy Reid. Pat Mahomes loves Andy Reid. All these guys love playing for Andy Reid. I've covered the Chiefs for a while, and I've covered some teams that you knew when the regular season started they weren't going to be ready. They were goofing off in camp or fighting; they weren't being very efficient. This is Andy Reid's seventh training camp and every one of them has been efficient. When the Chiefs left camp, they were a better team than when they started. He knows how to run a camp and knows how to get that stuff done. That's maybe the thing you have to see on a day-to-day basis to really appreciate about the guy – how efficient everything is. The Chiefs are a talented team, no doubt. But if they had some of their previous head coaches instead of Andy Reid, they would be wasting that talent like they did with some of their teams in the past.
Q:Finish the sentence: The Chiefs win the Super Bowl if…
A: If their defense can get to above, say, 20th in the league. I think their offense is primed for another big year – maybe not as big as last year, but they're going to be a significant presence. If they don't lose games scoring 51 points and 40 points like they did last year in the regular season … if they can avoid that kind of thing … if they can have what for them is a slow day offensively and still win a game … that's the kind of thing I'm looking for: Can they get that done? They really didn't get that done last year. They just have to get that defense up to speed, get it to where it's more competitive last year. That's the challenge.