Terez Paylor: ‘Smith Needs Better Protection’

The Kansas City Chiefs came within one game of the postseason last year, ultimately finishing 9-7 and falling short of a Wild Card berth. If they hope to get back to the playoffs for the second time in three years, they’ll need to shore up their offensive line – and fast.

Alex Smith was sacked 45 times last year – fourth-most in football – and has been running for his life in the preseason as well.

“That’s the big question surrounding this team,” Kansas City Star Chiefs writer Terez Paylor said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “They got some questions at the tackle positions. Eric Fisher looks a little better this year, but he’s hurt right now. And at the other tackle spot, Jeff Allen, who’s a guy who was getting the first-team reps, he’s hurt, too. The good news is that both guys are expected to be back by Week 1, but there’s still a hole at guard. They still don’t know who the starter is there, and you got a rookie center. So that’s the thing. You’ve signed Jeremy Maclin, you got Alex Smith some new toys – but if this offensive line isn’t better this year, you’re going to see the same dink-and-dunk offense you got a year ago.”

Maclin, 27, should give the Chiefs some explosiveness in the passing game. The 27-year-old had career-highs in catches (85), targets (143), yards (1,318) and touchdowns (10) last season in Philadelphia.

“Maclin’s outstanding,” Paylor said. “I’ve watched him three weeks now in camp. This guy’s the best receiver they’ve had in awhile here. He’s always a little nicked up. You always worry about his health, but outside of that, this guy’s got everything they kind of need for this Z position, which is the feature position in the West Coast offense. He’s fast, he’s difficult to cover, he runs good routes, he has good hands, he only had like two drops last year – this is the guy who’s definitely fit to be kind of the feature receiver in this offense. He’s somebody who you can tell Alex Smith is already starting to build a lot of trust in. He targeted him five times in the last game. He’s going to get his looks. He really is, especially if teams try to take away Travis Kelce and Jamaal Charles. Maclin’s going to get his looks, and I expect him to have a nice year.”

Ultimately, though, the success of the offense likely hinges on Smith, whom Brandon Tierney contends would be a dink-and-dunk quarterback even with a good offensive line. Smith, 31, completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 3,265 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions last season. A low-risk passer, Smith has 41 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions in two seasons in Kansas City.

“That’s kind of who he is,” Paylor said. “But at the same time, he went up top a little more in 2013 when the offensive line was better. So he did take some shots and he took a few more shots then. Last year he was running for his life. He had a lacerated spleen by the end of the season. So listen, he’s not a gunslinger. He’s not out there chucking it downfield. He’ll never be that. Guys kind of are how they are after their few years in the league. But he’s certainly a guy that would throw downfield more with better protection. We saw that in the playoff game against Indy. He was letting it rip. He was chucking it. We really didn’t see that at all last year. You get him better protection, he will chuck it a little more.”

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