Daboll makes Red Zone offense a priority in OTAs

Posted Jun 8, 2012

New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll places emphasis on Red Zone snaps following Chiefs struggles in 2011

New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll wants to attack. It’s the way he defined his offensive approach when he was first hired and it’s the way he described it again this week.

When the football is inside an opponents’ 20-yard line, that mindset won’t change.

The Chiefs have spent a significant amount of time on Red Zone snaps this offseason and it’s no secret as to why. Kansas City finished 2011 ranked 32nd, dead last, in Red Zone scoring at just 3.58 points per Red Zone trip.

“When you get into the Red Zone you want to score points and our philosophy is touchdown/check-down,” Daboll said following OTAs this week. “We’re out here and we’re working new plays. We’re working some vertical plays that take shots into the end zone and if we’ve got them, we’ll try to stick them in there. If not, we’ll check-down and live to see another play.

“But the mindset that I want all of us to have on offense, both players and coaches, is that we’re on the attack. We want to score seven points and we’re going to try to do that.”

Matt Cassel, Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi all tallied Red Zone touchdown passes during the team’s competitive team period on Thursday and Cassel even added another end zone visit with his legs.

There have been some struggles as well. Cassel fired a Red Zone pass high that got tipped and intercepted by safety Travis Daniels, but overall the quarterbacks have taken to the new Red Zone instruction and emphasis during OTAs.

“We’ve put a lot of time into it, emphasis, not only (on the field), but in the classroom, making sure we’re right on with how we’re going to read things, how we’re going to attack,” quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn said. “Our receivers are doing a great job pushing themselves down the field, getting themselves into a position where we can complete them, and the quarterbacks have been making the throws.”

One of the more impressive offensive series of OTAs came last week during the two-minute drill when Stanzi calmly led his offensive group toward the end zone using his scrambling ability and the check-down discipline Daboll and Zorn have lectured.

Stanzi capped off the hurry-up drill with a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to receiver Jamar Newsome.

Red Zone passing played a significant role in Kansas City’s success during a 10-6 division championship season in 2010. With 18 Red Zone touchdown passes, the Chiefs finished in the NFL’s top-10 and carried an overall passer rating of 90.6 inside the 20-yard line.

Last season, Chiefs quarterbacks combined for only eight Red Zone touchdown passes and a 72.3 quarterback rating.

“Things happen so much faster so the decision-making is much faster for a QB when we’re inside the 20-yard line,” said Zorn, who played 11 NFL seasons and passed for more than 21,000 yards and threw over 100 touchdowns over his career. “He’s just got to make a great decision. We have to be right on our technique. We have to know what we’re seeing and then have confidence that our receivers and himself – that quarterback – is going to make the right decision.”

Kansas City’s offensive struggles extended to inside the 30-yard line last season as well.

Though quarterbacks threw just three interceptions and took only one sack in the condensed field, only 45.5% of pass attempts were completed and the Chiefs finished the year ranked 30th with a 77.1 quarterback rating inside the 30-yard line.

This offseason the Chiefs have been particularly mindful of working on new, Red Zone specific play-calls.

“There are some Red Zone specific plays, but there are also plays that we’ve had since Day One and it depends on situations throughout that area of the field,” Daboll said. “A second-and-two on the 15 might be a lot different than a second-and-two from the five, so you have to sort through those plays and make sure you’re trying to call the best ones in that situation.”

“Some are very specific to Red Zone and some are open-field patterns that are very capable of running in the Red Zone,” Zorn added. “I think most teams have both designed type of plays – open-field plays that can be run down there, but then specific plays that are designed right for the red zone.”

Dexter McCluster has been especially active in Red Zone work as a slot receiver and was the recipient of a Cassel touchdown pass on Thursday. His ability to make short, quick bursts on defenders appears even more effective in a short field.

Between players coming back from injury and offseason additions, the Chiefs offense should have plenty of weapons at its disposal in 2012. Red Zone decision making could be a deciding factor in what projects to be a tight AFC West race.

It was last year.

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