KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When considering teams in free-agency, tight end Anthony Fasano chose the Chiefs for three reasons.
Andy Reid. Alex Smith. Arrowhead Stadium.
Fasano, who spent the last five seasons at Miami, was eager to play in Reid’s tight-end friendly offense and catch passes from new Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.
“Looking back at coach Reid’s past with tight ends and their success is definitely a positive,” Fasano said, “and Alex seems to like the tight end.”
As for Arrowhead, here’s what Fasano did in two games in Kansas City while a member of the Dolphins: five catches for 85 yards and four touchdowns.
Two of those touchdowns came in the Dolphins’ 38-31 win over the Chiefs in December 2008 in a game played in minus-12 degree wind chill. The other two came in a 31-3 rout of the Chiefs in 2011.
“It’s been a pleasant experience coming to Arrowhead,” Fasano said. “Not only from my times playing against the Chiefs, which for an opponent was pretty intimidating … but it’s a great atmosphere.”
The Chiefs need Fasano’s magic touch to continue at Arrowhead. Fasano, 29, is the only tight end on the roster who has caught a pass in an NFL game.
The departure of veteran tight end Tony Moeaki left the position in the hands of Fasano, who has 205 career receptions, including 24 touchdowns; third-round pick Travis Kelce, and newcomer Sean McGrath, who was claimed on waivers from Seattle, where he appeared in two games last season.
“I’m still excited about our group,” Fasano said. “We have a lot of potential, and we’re going to create some mismatches for defenses. We’ve got some young guys, but we have a nice mix, and we’ll get better and better as time goes on.”
The combination of Moeaki — who caught 33 passes in 2012 and 47 as a rookie in 2010 — and Fasano and Kelce provided roles for each.
Moeaki was a threat whether he lined up next to the tackle, in the slot or flanked wide. Kelce, a strapping, 6 feet 5 and 260 pounds, was impressive lining up wide and making plays downfield in training camp but still needs to refine his blocking. And Fasano was the most polished in-line blocker of the three and was adapt at running intermediate routes.
Now, Fasano and Kelce will have to do the work of three, until McGrath gets up to speed.
“I don’t know if my role changes too much,” said Fasano, who caught eight passes for 69 yards in three preseason games. “I definitely have to be a leader in that (tight-ends meeting) room. That’s one of the biggest hats I’m going to have to wear.”
Kelce, who was hampered by a knee injury the last two weeks, is taking his cues from Fasano.
“He is a professional’s professional,” Kelce said. “He knows what he’s doing. He’s been around for a long time. He has one of those minds where he gets it, and he can also relay the message. That’s what good leaders do. They not only can do it themselves, but they can get into the younger minds and influence them to do the right things that need to be done.”
Kelce, who caught 45 passes for 722 yards and eight touchdowns last year at Cincinnati, believes he has the versatility to perform in the Chiefs offense.
“In this offense, no matter whether you’re the first string tight end, the second string tight end .. the different personnel we have in the game, you’re going to have to be able to do everything on the field,” Kelce said. “As a tight end, we’re going to have to do what wideouts do and what linemen do and what fullbacks do in terms of blocking. It’s a universal offense, and the skill sets are going to have to be used everywhere.
“You can tell tight end in this offense is a focal point. It’s exciting because you know you’re going to get those one-on-one blocks where you can spring runs, and you’re going to get the ball thrown your way.”
McGrath, 6-5, 247, spent most of the 2012 season on Seattle’s practice squad after missing most of his senior season at Henderson (Ark.) State because of a foot injury. He caught 55 passes for 656 yards and four touchdowns in 2011.
“I like his size, I like his ability to block, I like his hands,” said Chiefs general manager John Dorsey. “He can play on special teams. He has a little deep-snapping ability for an emergency guy.”
If Reid is concerned about the position in the wake of Moeaki’s injury, he’s not showing it.
“Fasano does everything very well,” Reid said. “Kelce is a young kid … sky’s the limit for him. He’s working hard to get himself to where he is consistent at everything. He was getting better and better, and then got hurt. In our early practices, he was one of the young guys who jumped out at you. It’s a matter of him working through his knee, and he’s doing that.”