The Chicago Bears last played the Kansas City Chiefs in October 2015, in a game that Kansas City was heavily-favored. The Bears arrived at Arrowhead Stadium still trying to get rid of the sea legs created by the disastrous 2014 season, with the Chiefs feeling good about the 2015 season that would end up seeing them all the way to the divisional round of the playoffs.
You may remember that remarkable 4th quarter, with Jay Cutler's grit standing out and leading the Bears to an unexpected victory (click HERE for a reminder), which was headlined by statements such as "Who are these Bears, and where did they come from?"
The Chiefs have done a great job since that loss, and have done well in continuing to stabilize their roster. As the Bears and Chiefs prepare to square off this weekend in Preseason game #3, we chatted with Joel Thorman of Arrowhead Pride to see what we can expect.
WCG: Andy Reid is entering his fourth season now as head coach of the Chiefs, and has done a good job at turning that team around after many years of mediocrity. He's made the playoffs twice in his first three years, and the team should compete again in 2016. But Reid has never won a Super Bowl, and some are saying this is the best he can do with the Chiefs. Have we seen peak-Reid, or can he get the Chiefs into the upper-echelon of the NFL?
Thorman: "After the Patriots and Steelers, I would argue the Chiefs are already right there in the AFC. They have as good of a shot as anyone behind those two. It's possible they make a run in the postseason. It's not a stretch to see it. However, until they draft or acquire a quarterback significantly better than Alex Smith, this is probably as good as the Chiefs will get.
They've been in the system for four years. The defense has been elite before (but won't be this year). The offense looks pretty good this year. The Chiefs brought a few veterans back this year (Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali) with the idea that they're in as good of a position to win right now as they have in years. So, yes, this is peak-Reid for now. But that could be enough."
WCG: The team's execs are Clark Hunt (Chairman/ CEO), Mark Donovan (President), and John Dorsey (GM)... What is the team dynamic like from that senior leadership, and what is the relationship with Reid, Dorsey, and Donovan?
Thorman: "Donovan doesn't really do anything football-related. When you see him speaking publicly, you know you're about to cough up more money for parking or tickets. Reid and Dorsey seem to get along pretty well. They have a relationship dating back to their Green Bay days. It feels like grownups are running the Chiefs. There aren't those petty fights that seemed to crop up under the previous leadership. If there are problems between the two we don't see it. They both fit really well in Kansas City. It also helps that the Chiefs have been winning since they've been here."
WCG: Who are the rookies that will make the biggest impact this season?
Thorman: "DT Chris Jones was a second round pick and while the Chiefs already have a solid defensive line he has an added dimension and that is his pass rushing. Jones is a freak athlete who is very strong and as Andy Reid said he spent a lot of time in the backfield so far this preseason. He'll be able to sub in on some passing downs and rush the passer. WR Tyreek Hill is a fifth round pick who has incredible speed. He's a little bulkier than a guy like De'Anthony Thomas so the hope is he can be more of a receiver and not a gadget player. The Chiefs will find a way to use him."
WCG: Who are some second-year players for the Chiefs that should really contribute in 2016?
Thorman: "Chris Conley is one we're excited about. He seems to have taken a jump this year, at least from what I've seen in training camp. He is one of those Combine freaks who tested really well. It's starting to translate to the field as he's more aggressive in catching the ball and seems to have a better understanding of the offense. He spent time this offseason working with Jeremy Maclin which seems to have paid off.
Defensively, the Chiefs' Marcus Peters is now the top corner after an impressive eight-interception rookie season. He probably won't be targeted as much with Sean Smith not on the opposite side anymore but he's so aggressive he'll make his plays in year two."
WCG: What are the two biggest strengths, and two biggest weaknesses, for the Chiefs this season?
Thorman: "The two biggest strengths are the defensive line and the depth on the roster as a whole. The d-line appears to be the team's best position group right now. Rookie Chris Jones would start on most teams but he'll be a subpackage player this year. The depth on the roster as a whole is a big strength. You saw it last year when Jamaal Charles went down (remember that, Chicago?) and the Chiefs rattled off 10 straight wins with Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware.
The biggest weakness right now appears to be the pass rush. The Chiefs are really, really hoping that Justin Houston is back from his ACL surgery within a reasonable timeframe. The other weakness so far appears to be cornerback. The Chiefs threw numbers at this position group this offseason. They have a bunch of young corners so this position could turn into a strength quicker than others."