Is lack of a vertical passing game still Chiefs' biggest deficiency?

For those with ESPN Insider access, Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders has an interesting look at the biggest remaining roster deficiency for the four teams in the AFC West.

For the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s not a position group, as it is for the other three teams. It’s their downfield passing game.

There’s no question the Chiefs and Alex Smith were horrible in getting the ball down the field last season. For all of the attention focused on the fact that Chiefs wide receivers failed to score a touchdown last season, a bigger problem was that the Chiefs completed few long pass plays. That was the deficiency that prevented them from making the playoffs.

Kacsmar suggests it’s the unwillingness and inability of Smith to go down the field with the ball that will continue to hold the Chiefs back. He points out that Smith was 4-of-21 with three interceptions last season when throwing more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage.

But Smith didn’t have a deep threat the caliber of Jeremy Maclin to throw to last season. Using Kacsmar’s stats, Maclin last season for the Philadelphia Eagles had eight catches on passes thrown more than 20 yards downfield last year, with five going for touchdowns.

In Travis Kelce, the Chiefs have a tight end capable of beating coverage down the field. He averaged almost 13 yards per catch last season, an impressive number for a tight end. The Chiefs also did a decent job in 2013 of getting big pass plays with Smith as their quarterback.

It’s definitely an issue for the Chiefs to watch. But they should be getting more big pass plays than they did last year.