By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – Alex Smith has never been the NFL’s Mr. Popularity, even
when his on-field performances far outweighed his critics’ complaints.
So when he signed a four-year contract extension worth $68 million in the
offseason, it only stood to reason that those naysayers would be at the ready
at the first sign of a falter – which he’s gone ahead and provided through two
winless weeks thus far for the Kansas City Chiefs.
The former No. 1 overall draft pick is the league’s lowest-rated passer at
63.6 and failed to connect on a touchdown pass last week against Denver – in a
seven-point road loss – even though the Chiefs were inside the Broncos’ 35-
yard line six times. And to cap it off, he misfired on a game-clinching throw
from the 2-yard line with 18 seconds remaining.
Add in the reality that running back Jamaal Charles is questionable for this
week, and perhaps beyond, thanks to an ankle injury, and it’s hardly
surprising that Smith is answering the tough questions already.
“It’s not where you hoped to be two weeks ago,” he said. “It’s a long season,
though. The mentality is let’s win this week, put some things together and you
If anyone can commiserate with Smith these days, it’s Miami’s Ryan Tannehill.
The third-year passer is four slots behind the 30th-ranked Smith in yards per
pass attempt – 5.17 – and is 29th in the league in passer rating at 76.1.
Tannehill was sacked four times in a loss at Buffalo last week, which
effectively took the shine off the season-opening win over visiting New
England in Week 1.
“I haven’t been at my best,” he said. “It has got to change, and it has got to
change fast. I look forward to going out Sunday and changing it.”
Center Mike Pouncey is on the mend from offseason hip surgery and could arrive
Sunday in time to stabilize what’s been a porous line through two weeks,
though it’s not been determined whether Pouncey will actually start or just be
on hand to spell substitute starter Samson Satele as needed.
His matchup with the Kansas City defense hinges to some extent, too, on the
health of Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who is iffy with a sprained ankle.
Cornerback Ron Parker filled in for Berry immediately after the injury and
would presumably do it again if Berry is indeed unable to go or significantly
“We have a few injuries but we don’t slow down on that,” Chiefs coach Andy
Reid said. “Football is a joint effort. It’s a team sport. Everyone’s got to
step up and do their job just a little bit better, coaches included.”
Charles left with a high ankle sprain in the first quarter of the Denver game
and was spelled by second-year man Knile Davis, who racked up 82 yards on 23
carries and scored twice, in addition to seven catches for 29 more yards.
“When I go in, I know my job has been all week to pay attention to what Jamaal
does,” Davis said. “I’ve been doing good film study, watching him and what he
does so if unfortunately he went down I would be able to step in and help
Miami felt a similar pain when offseason acquisition Knowshon Moreno
dislocated an elbow on his one and only carry in the loss to the Bills. He’d
been a huge part of the defeat of New England seven days earlier while running
for 134 yards, but is expected to miss at least four weeks.
Lamar Miller left the stadium in an ankle boot and put the No. 2 running back
position in some doubt early in the week, but he’s since participated in
practice. Miller was battling with a dinged-up Moreno through training camp
for the top role, and has gained 105 yards on 22 carries thus far.
Daniel Thomas was re-signed this week after being released in August. The
other two running backs on the roster are Damien Williams and Orleans Darkva,
both undrafted rookies.
“It hurts because No. 1, (Moreno is) a productive player and has proven that,”
offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “No. 2, anyone who watches the game can
see the emotion Knowshon plays with.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Hey, Don’t I Know You?
Miami’s Branden Albert will look across from his offensive line position and
see familiar faces, considering he was with the Chiefs before signing with the
Dolphins as a free agent in the offseason. His first encounter with ex-allies
should bring a one-on-one match with linebacker Tamba Hali. Hali has one
sack through two games in 2014, while Albert has allowed a half-sack in two
games with his new team.
An Uneasy Reintroduction
Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe missed the season-opener while serving a one-
game suspension and returned last week against a Denver secondary replete with
names like Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. He caught three balls for 40 yards
against the Broncos and lines up opposite Miami newcomer Cortland Finnegan
this week. If Charles is indeed unable to play to positive effect, Bowe will
be a needed tool.
It’s a similar look for both teams heading into Week 3 – both have injuries to
key producers and both are coming off losses in which quarterback play was on
a level less than stellar.
The Dolphins return home this week, which should help, and they could be
closer to where they need to be given the positive results in Week 1. Expect
Tannehill to spread things around and the defense to help him out as well.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Dolphins 24, Chiefs 14