JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars’ 2013 season -- and with it the Gus Bradley/Dave Caldwell era -- finally begins on Sunday when they play host to Kansas City. The Jaguars and Chiefs were two of the worst teams in the NFL last season, but there’s optimism in both cities that 2013 will be better.
In Jacksonville, it’s because of the energy and enthusiasm of Bradley, who spent the past four seasons as the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive coordinator, and the presence of Caldwell, who spent his formative years in the NFL under two of the league’s top executives in Bill Polian and Thomas Dimitroff. In Kansas City, it’s because of the addition of Andy Reid, who led Philadelphia to nine postseason appearances in 14 seasons, and quarterback Alex Smith, who seemed to turn a corner and become a consistent player for San Francisco before being injured and eventually replaced by Colin Kaepernick.
The Chiefs also have a new general manager in John Dorsey, who spent the past 12 seasons as the director of college scouting for the Green Bay Packers.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. EST and the game will be televised on CBS with a broadcast team of Spero Dedes (play-by-play), Steve Beurlein (color) and Steve Tasker (sideline).
Here’s a look at the Chiefs:
2012 Record: 2-14.
Coach: Andy Reid, first season; 14th season overall (130-93-1).
Offensive coordinator: Doug Pederson.
Defensive coordinator: Bob Sutton.
Series record: Jaguars lead 6-3.
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW ON OFFENSE
RB Jamal Charles: The Chiefs were fifth in the NFL (and tops in the AFC) in rushing last season and were paced by Charles’ 1,509 yards. His 4,536 career rushing yards is fourth on the Chiefs’ all-time rushing list and he’s 361 yards shy of third place (Christian Okoye, 4,897 yards) and 1,536 yards shy of tying all-time leader Priest Holmes (6,070). The 5-foot-11, 199-pound Charles is a capable between-the-tackles runner, but he’s also a big-play threat, having recorded four touchdown runs of 80 or more yards in his career.
QB Alex Smith: He may not be a dynamic passer, but he has been careful with the football. Since 2010, Smith has thrown the fewest interceptions (20) among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 1,000 passes. That’s four fewer than Tom Brady, five fewer than Aaron Rodgers, and seven fewer than Ben Roethlisberger. One of the Chiefs’ biggest issues last season was turnovers. Kansas City turned the ball over 37 times, including 20 interceptions by Chiefs quarterbacks.
WR Dwayne Bowe: Bowe is one of the league’s most dangerous receivers but was hurt last season by inconsistent quarterback play. He caught 59 passes for 801 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games, which were his lowest numbers since he caught 47 passes for 589 yards in 11 games in 2009. He’ll be a tough player for the Jaguars’ secondary to handle, especially considering the Jaguars will be starting a pair of rookies in cornerback Dwayne Gratz and safety Johnathan Cyprien.
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW ON DEFENSE
OLB Justin Houston: The third-year player from Georgia had a team-high 10 sacks to go along with 66 tackles last season. He emerged as one of the league’s top young defenders and was voted to the Pro Bowl. The Chiefs want to pressure the quarterback more this season and Houston is a big part of that plan, but he’s also athletic enough to drop into pass coverage. He’ll likely be matched up against Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis.
S Eric Berry: Berry is a Pro Bowler who will sometimes be used as a linebacker in Sutton’s defensive scheme. He bounced back last season with 86 tackles and 10 passes defensed after missing all but one game of the 2011 season with a torn ACL. Expect Berry to be all over the place as the Chiefs try to take advantage of the athleticism and playmaking ability of one of the league’s top young defenders.
OLB Tamba Hali: Nobody has been more reliable and consistent for the Chiefs than Hali, who has missed just one game in eight seasons. Although his sack production has slipped the past two seasons (12.0 in 2011 and 9.0 last season) from 14.5 in 2010, he is still a solid pass rusher off the edge and he was voted to the Pro Bowl last season. He’ll be matched up against Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe, who is coming into his own as one of the league’s better tackles.
Kansas City has lost six of its last seven season openers. … The Chiefs’ special teams were impressive during the preseason. They blocked two kicks and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Kicker Ryan Succop made all nine of his field goal attempts. … The Chiefs have 30 new players on the 53-man roster, but among the 23 returning players are six Pro Bowlers from 2012. … Punter Dustin Colquitt put 45 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line last season.