Chiefs mailbag: Holding down the fort until Sean Smith returns

The angst over cornerback Jamell Fleming, lack of production from the wide receiver corps and a head coach wearing two hats on the sideline are among the subjects addressed in this edition of the mailbag.

Cornerback Jamell Fleming drew a lot of fire following Week 2’s 31-24 loss against the Denver Broncos, especially on social media, which captured.

Given the scrutiny, let’s combine the initial question with the next one.

Fleming had a Thursday night to forget, surrendering the game-tying 19-yard touchdown catch by Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders with less than a minute to play in regulation.

Sept. 17, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) scores a touchdown in front of Chiefs cornerback Jamell Fleming (30) at Arrowhead Stadium. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
Sept. 17, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) scores a touchdown in front of Chiefs cornerback Jamell Fleming (30) at Arrowhead Stadium. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
The 5-11, 206-pound Fleming played off the line of scrimmage, allowing about a 7-yard cushion and bit on a stutter step, which allowed Sanders to break free inside for the score.

Fleming also dropped a potential interception and had the dubious distinction of being credited with allowing three of Denver’s 10 longest plays: Demaryius Thomas’ 17-yard catch in the fourth quarter, a 13-yard catch by Sanders in the second quarter, and, of course, the touchdown.

To the heart of the questions, here are the options.

The Chiefs have five cornerbacks on the active roster: Phillip Gaines, Jamell Fleming, Marcus Cooper, and rookies Marcus Peters and Steven Nelson.

Jeremy Harris is currently the only cornerback on the practice squad.

The Chiefs could turn to Cooper, who was inactive in Week 1, but also remember Fleming supplanted Cooper as the starter in Week 7 of the 2014 season.

Gaines starts at left cornerback and Peters starts at right cornerback in the base 3-4 defense, but the Chiefs move Gaines inside and insert Fleming on the outside in the nickel package.

Nelson, the second of two third-round picks in May’s NFL Draft, was inactive the first two games as he continues to develop. In a perfect world, Nelson would play the nickel spot and the Chiefs can leave Gaines outside.

But barring a roster shakeup, the reasonable option surrounds leaving Gaines outside and moving Fleming inside in the nickel package until Sean Smith returns from a three-game suspension.

Whether the Chiefs and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton are willing to do that remains to be seen.

Smith is eligible to be activated from the reserve/suspension list on Tuesday, Sept. 29, a day after the Monday Night Football game against the Green Bay Packers.

The trio mentioned have combined for 25 yards receiving on three catches, all by second-year pro Albert Wilson.

But even with Wilson, it is a good argument that rookie Chris Conley, Jason Avant and even De’Anthony Thomas have been virtually invisible through two games.

While it is extremely early in the season, here is a breakdown of production entering Week 3:


Conley has mostly contributed on special teams, totaling 33 snaps with the unit in two games.

Frankie Hammond Jr., the team’s sixth wide receiver, has been inactive in two straight games.

The answer depends on the person asked because opinions will vary.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who is often described as a detail-oriented coach, has called his own offensive plays since becoming a head coach in 1999. Based on his meticulous nature, Reid isn’t likely to surrender that responsibility anytime soon.

Can it be done effectively?

If considering records alone, Reid makes a case with 151 regular-season wins, which ranks 19th all-time and is fourth among active coaches behind Bill Belichick (213), Tom Coughlin (164) and Jeff Fisher (163).

The biggest issue, however, that has followed Reid over his career surrounds clock management. And to his credit, Reid will publicly accept full responsibility whenever something goes wrong.

Reid is one of 10 current head coaches known to wear two hats.

Cardinals beat writer Josh Weinfuss of ESPN has a good list of eight head coaches calling plays on offense. The group consists of Reid, Arizona’s Bruce Arians, Denver’s Gary Kubiak, Philadelphia’s Chip Kelly, New Orleans’ Sean Payton, Washington’s Jay Gruden, Houston’s Bill O’Brien and Tennessee’s Ken Whisenhunt.

The remaining two coaches, Buffalo’s Rex Ryan and Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer, call defensive plays.

Of that group, the Cardinals and Broncos are 2-0. The Chiefs, Bills, Vikings, Titans and Washington sit on 1-1. The Eagles, Saints, Texans are 0-2.

An emphatic yes and defensive tackle Jaye Howard’s performance through two games allowed the Chiefs to ease in Dontari Poe, who had back surgery in July.

Howard, who notched seven tackles against the Broncos, currently ranks second on the team in tackles (12) and drew praise from coach Andy Reid following Week 2’s game.

Something to remember with Howard: The fourth-year pro is in the final year of his contract.

Step off the ledge and take the over because this is a good Chiefs team capable of 10 wins and should be in position for the playoffs late in the season.

There is a risk, however, with the Chiefs becoming road weary when considering the team has just two bona fide home games – Oct. 11 against Chicago and Oct. 25 against the Steelers – at Arrowhead Stadium between now and late November:

A “home” game in London on Nov. 1 doesn’t truly qualify regardless how the Chiefs’ front office attempts to spin it.


Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.