Kansas City Star Chiefs beat writer Terez Paylor analyzes the four victory keys and his prediction for Monday's Washington at Chiefs game at Arrowhead Stadium. David Eulitt and Terez A. Paylor The Kansas City Star
Kansas City Star Chiefs beat writer Terez Paylor analyzes the four victory keys and his prediction for Monday's Washington at Chiefs game at Arrowhead Stadium. David Eulitt and Terez A. Paylor The Kansas City Star

Red Zone

The Chiefs and NFL by beat writer Terez Paylor

Red Zone

Chiefs-Washington scouting report, key players to watch, and a prediction

By Terez A. Paylor

tpaylor@kcstar.com

October 01, 2017 5:25 PM

Here’s The Star’s weekly game preview detailing the key players and matchups for the undefeated KC Chiefs’ (3-0) game against Washington, 2-1, at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Arrowhead Stadium. The game will air on ESPN.

Scheme

Washington’s coach: Jay Gruden (23-27-1) is in his fourth year on the job. The 50-year-old Gruden is a former Arena League quarterback and is known as an offensive-minded coach. He has appeared to do a nice job handling the circus that comes with being Washington’s head coach.

Offense: Matt Cavanaugh, 60, is in his first year as Washington’s offense coordinator. He was promoted in January after his predecessor, Sean McVay, was hired to lead the Rams. Cavanaugh was Washington’s quarterback coach the last two seasons, helping engineer Kirk Cousins’ breakout campaigns. Washington ranks 12th in passing offense (237.3 yards per game) and sixth in rushing offense (136.3). Washington has been balanced this year, passing at a 53 percent clip.

Defense: Greg Manusky, 51, is in his first year as Washington’s defensive coordinator. He was promoted to the position in January after Joe Barry, his predecessor, was dismissed along with two other members of the defensive staff following a disappointing defensive campaign in 2016. Manusky runs a 3-4 defense that ranked 12th in the league in pass defense (209.7) and sacks (eight) entering Week 4. Washington’s run defense ranks second in the league (62.3).

Special teams: Ben Kotwica is in his fourth season as Washington’s special teams coordinator. Kicker Dustin Hopkins has made five of seven field goals, with both his misses coming from 50-plus yards. Punter Tress Way has dropped seven of 13 punts inside the 20, the fifth most in the league. Washington ranks 24th in kickoff returns (18.6) and 25th in punt returns (4.9). It also ranks ninth in kick return coverage (18.8) and eighth in punt return coverage (4.7).

Four keys to a Chiefs victory

1. Get Kelce involved early

Washington’s defense is tough, so the Chiefs will need all three members of their playmaking triumverate –– tight end Travis Kelce, running back Kareem Hunt and receiver Tyreek Hill –– to be operating at peak efficiency. A good way to make sure that’s the case is to target Kelce early (he was targeted just once last week) and see how Washington is defending him. If he’s attracting a lot of attention, that will open it up for Hill or Hunt. Speaking of Hill...

2. Find Ty and protect Alex

A defense is going to be able to take away Hill and Kelce. It’s not doable. The trick is keeping quarterback Alex Smith upright long enough to connect with Hill on the deep ball. No one on Washington’s defense can run with Hill, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them try to hit Smith hard and early in an attempt to discourage the big play to Hill. If Smith gets time –– like he did against New England in Week 1 –– he could find some big plays downfield against this team.

3. Get the play action going

Washington’s defense was terrific last week, holding the Raiders to a miserable 0-for-11 on third down. Washington also boasts the league’s second-best run defense, which means Hunt might not have much space to roam. That means the Chiefs could try some play action to create space for the short-to-intermediate passing game, which is coach Andy Reid’s baby.

4. Win on first and second downs

Gruden is a respected offensive mind, but like so many former quarterbacks, he’s shown a tendency to give up on the running game prematurely when defenses take it away early. If the Chiefs can snuff out the run on first and second downs and force Washington into third-and-longs, it could give them some opportunities to tee off on quarterback Kirk Cousins, a very dangerous player when given time to throw.

Four Washington players to watch

No. 8, QB Kirk Cousins, 29 years old, 6-3, 202, sixth season

Ranked No. 70 on the NFL’s top-100 list for 2017. Has completed 66 of 97 passes for 784 yards, five touchdowns and an interception this season. Completed 67 percent of his passes for 4,917 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season. Proven winner with good pocket presence and command of the huddle. Pocket passer who should be motivated in a contract year. Good decision-maker with accuracy to most parts of the field.

No. 71, LT Trent Williams, 29, 6-5, 320, eighth season

Ranked No. 47 on the NFL’s top 100-list for 2017. Big-bodied blocker with quick feet and impressive power for his size. Has leadership traits. Moves well in space and is effective on screens. Aware in pass protection and has strong hands. Punishes defenders with combination of physicality and nastiness. Elite, blue-chip player at his position.

No. 91, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, 29, 6-4, 259, seventh season

Has eight tackles, 2  1/2 sacks and three quarterback hits. Also has a pass deflection, an interception and a forced fumble. Finished last season with 33 tackles, 11 sacks and 20 quarterback hits in 16 games. High-effort player who plays the run well –– he sets the edge consistently –– and can get after the quarterback, too. Overall strength and technique makes up for lack of elite athleticism. Smart, aware player who isn’t great in space but is terrific overall.

No. 24, CB Josh Norman, 29, 6-0, 200, sixth season

Ranked No. 59 on the NFL’s top-100 list for 2017. Has 12 tackles and three pass deflections this season. Had 67 tackles, 19 pass deflections and three interceptions in 2016. Super-competitive and physical. Doesn’t have elite top-end speed (4.66 40-yard dash as a rookie) but plays the game with his eyes, understands route concepts and boasts good ball skills. Willing, physical tackler who plays his tail off. Plays with swagger and toughness and never backs down from a challenge. Understands the nuances of man and zone coverage and is one of the game’s very best.

Projected Chiefs two-deep depth chart

KEY: Bold=Player to Watch, C=Captain, PB=2016 Pro Bowl, AP=2016 All-Pro, Q=Questionable

QB

No., Name, Ht., Wt., Years

11 Alex Smith (C, PB), 6-4, 220, 13 | 15 Patrick Mahomes, 6-3, 230, R

RB

27 Kareem Hunt, 5-11, 208, R | 35 Charcandrick West, 5-10, 205, 4

FB

42 Anthony Sherman, 5-10, 242, 7

X-WR

17 Chris Conley, 6-3, 205, 3 | 14 Demarcus Robinson, 6-1, 203, 2

Z-WR

10 Tyreek Hill (C, PB), 5-10, 185, 2 | 80 Jehu Chesson, 6-3, 203, R

Y-WR

12 Albert Wilson, 5-9, 200, 4 | 13 De’Anthony Thomas, 5-9, 176, 4

TE

87 Travis Kelce (C, PB, AP), 6-5, 260, 5 | 84 Demetrius Harris, 6-7, 230, 4

LT

72 Eric Fisher (Q), 6-7, 315, 5 | 75 Cameron Erving, 6-5, 313, 3

LG

70 Bryan Witzmann, 6-7, 320, 3 | 79 Parker Ehinger, 6-6, 310, 2

C

73 Zach Fulton, 6-5, 316, 4 | 75 Cameron Erving, 6-5, 313, 3

RG

76 Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, 6-5, 321, 4 | 79 Parker Ehinger, 6-6, 310, 2

RT

71 Mitchell Schwartz (AP), 6-5, 320, 6 | 75 Cameron Erving, 6-5, 313, 3

DEFENSE

LDE

95 Chris Jones, 6-6, 310, 2 | 95 Rakeem Nunez-Roches, 6-2, 307, 3

NT

96 Bennie Logan, 6-2, 315, 5 | 98 Roy Miller III, 6-2, 318, 8

RDE

97 Allen Bailey, 6-3, 288, 7 | 94 Jarvis Jenkins, 6-4, 300, 7

LOLB

50 Justin Houston (C), 6-3, 258, 7 | 92 Tanoh Kpassagnon, 6-7, 280, R

WILB

56 Derrick Johnson, 6-3, 242, 13 | 57 Kevin Pierre-Louis (Q), 6-0, 230, 4

MILB

53 Ramik Wilson, 6-2, 237, 3 | 45 Ukeme Eligwe, 6-2, 239, R

ROLB

51 Frank Zombo, 6-3, 254, 8 | 92 Tanoh Kpassagnon, 6-7, 280, R

LCB

22 Marcus Peters (PB, AP), 6-0, 197, 3 | 23 Phillip Gaines, 6-0, 193, 4

FS

38 Ron Parker, 6-0, 206, 7 | 21 Eric Murray, 5-11, 199, 2

SS

49 Daniel Sorensen, 6-2, 208, 4 | 30 Steven Terrell, 5-10, 197, 5

NCB

23 Phillip Gaines, 6-0, 193, 4

RCB

39 Terrance Mitchell, 5-11, 190, 4 | 25 Kenneth Acker, 6-0, 195, 4

Projected Washington two-deep depth chart

KEY: Bold=Player to Watch, C=Captain, PB=2016 Pro Bowl, AP=2016 All-Pro, Q=Questionable, *=See “additional notes” section below for more info on player

OFFENSE

QB

No., Name, Ht., Wt., Years

**8 Kirk Cousins (C, PB), 6-3, 202, 6** | 12 Colt McCoy, 6-1, 215, 8

RB

20 Rob Kelley (Q), 6-0, 233, 2 | *25 Chris Thompson, 5-8, 191, 4

WR

11 Terrelle Pryor, Sr., 6-4, 228, 5 | 18 Josh Doctson, 6-2, 206, 2

WR

18 Josh Doctson, 6-2, 206, 2 | 83 Brian Quick, 6-3, 218, 6

SLOT WR

80 Jamison Crowder (Q), 5-9, 177, 3 | 14 Ryan Grant, 6-0, 204, 4

TE

*86 Jordan Reed (Q, PB), 6-2, 246, 5 | 85 Vernon Davis, 6-3, 244, 12

LT

**71 Trent Williams (C, PB, AP)** | *69 T.J. Clemmings, 6-5, 309, 3

LG

77 Shawn Lauvao, 6-3, 308, 8 | 68 Tyler Catalina, 6-6, 325, R

C

61 Spencer Long, 6-5, 318, 4 | 73 Chase Roullier, 6-4, 317, R

RG

75 Brandon Scherff (PB), 6-5, 319, 3 | 68 Tyler Catalina, 6-6, 325, R

RT

76 Morgan Moses, 6-6, 335, 4 | *9 T.J. Clemmings, 6-5, 309, 3

DEFENSE

DE

95 Jonathan Allen, 6-3, 288, R | 97 Terrell McClain, 6-2, 302, 7

NT

90 Ziggy Hood, 6-3, 305, 8 | 92 Stacy McGee, 6-3, 341, 5

DE

92 Stacy McGee, 6-3, 341, 5 | 98 Matt Ioannidis (Q), 6-3, 305, 2

SLB

94 Preston Smith, 6-5, 265, 3 | 52 Ryan Anderson, 6-2, 253, R

MLB

54 Mason Foster (Q), 6-1, 250, 7 | 51 Will Compton (Q), 6-1, 235, 4

MLB

53 Zach Brown, 6-1, 251, 6 | 50 Martrell Spaight, 6-0, 243, 3

WLB

**91 Ryan Kerrigan (PB), 6-4, 259, 7** | 58 Junior Galette, 6-2, 254, 7

CB

26 Bashaud Breeland, 5-11, 195, 4 | 47 Quinton Dunbar, 6-2, 197, 3

SS

22 Deshazor Everett 6-0, 195, 3 | 39 Stefan McClure, 5-11, 205, 1

FS

*36 D.J. Swearinger (Q, C), 5-10, 205, 5 | 35 Montae Nicholson, 6-2, 216, R

NCB

29 Kendall Fuller, 5-11, 198, 2

CB

**24 Josh Norman, 6-0, 200, 6** | 29 Kendall Fuller, 5-11, 198, 2

SPECIAL TEAMS

K

3 Dustin Hopkins, 6-2, 203, 4

P

5 Tress Way, 6-1, 216, 4

KR

25 Chris Thompson, 5-8, 191, 4

PR

80 Jamison Crowder (Q), 5-9, 177, 3

LS

57 Nick Sundberg, 6-0, 256, 8

Additional game notes

Running back

Chris Thompson

is an offensive threat to keep an eye on. This year he’s rushed for 119 yards on 14 carries –– an absurd 8.5 yards per carry –– and has caught 13 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns. He can hurt the Chiefs as a receiver out of the backfield and is someone who needs to be contained.

Tight end

Jordan Reed

is a player who will present a huge matchup problem if he plays. He’s a smooth route runner with special run-after-the-catch ability, and he’s got good hands, too. He’s another player the Chiefs need to contain.

If Washington has any injury issues at the tackle position, expect the Chiefs to go after the replacement,

T.J. Clemmings

. Washington’s typical third tackle,

Ty Nsekhe

, will miss the game with an injury.

Ryan Kerrigan

gets a lot of attention, but

Preston Smith

actually leads Washington in sacks (three) and quarterback hits (five). After facing two teams with two good edge rushers (Philadelphia and Los Angeles), the Chiefs –– who

–– now face a third.

Safety

D.J. Swearinger

is a hard-hitter who loves to light up receivers, when possible. Chiefs receivers need to be wary.

Prediction: Chiefs 31-24

Washington presents a dangerous challenge for the Chiefs, who are the league’s last undefeated team. Washington can run the ball and stop the run, which is a pretty good formula for success. Problem for them is, the Chiefs don’t have many weaknesses, and Reid has traditionally dialed up some of his best stuff as the Chiefs’ coach on Monday Night Football. As long as the Chiefs don’t beat themselves, they should be able to push their record to 4-0.

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