Oh wow...What a preseason for the Kansas City Chiefs. It started out in the best possible way it could and ended in the exact opposite way. So time for me to look back at what I've learned from the Chiefs over the past four weeks.
1. Are you there QB God? Its me the Chiefs?
Question: If your starting QB isn't one of the NFL elite or a young rookie or second year guy what do you have? The answer is Matt Cassel and that is where the Chiefs find themselves as the preseason ends. For better or worse this is the best option for the Chiefs at the QB. And if you ask most fans its for the worse.
Leave it to the Chiefs to find themselves in this position. They are the only team in the NFL who is just kind of 'there' when it comes to the quarter back. They sure as hell don't have an elite QB but they also don't have a crappy one. Their QB has not earned the job due to stellar performance like Russell Wilson or Jake Locker have for their respective teams. The Chiefs QB earned his job because the franchise wanted him to have it. They have made that competition for the Chiefs starting QB job stays very far away from 1 Arrowhead Drive.
There is no use getting angry about the current state of affairs when it comes to the starting QB position with the Chiefs. I am fine with it. Not because I think it is the smartest move or because the job was earned do to Cassel's performance. I am fine with it because there is nothing you can do about it. You can't change it. The Chiefs clearly want no part of trying to upgrade the position. So if they aren't going to take it seriously why should I?
Matt Cassel as the starter was such a forgone conclusion that the only topic surrounding the Chiefs QB position during the preseason was who was going to be the back up QB. The narrative around the back up QB centered around Ricky Stanzi and if he could wrestle the back job from veteran Brady Quinn. Stanzi was handed a great opportunity to prove that he was ready. Well apparently he was nowhere near ready. He sent that chance back quicker than an old man sending back soup at a deli.
So what does all of this QB talk mean in the long run for the Chiefs? It means they have no long-term solution for fixing the position. That is the scariest thing hanging over the head of Chiefs GM Scott Pioli. He has had four off-seasons and has yet to find a difference making QB. Pioli first move as Chiefs GM was to trade for Matt Cassel. And what the Chiefs have got from Cassel is an extremely average player. And the one thing the recent Super Bowls has taught us is average QBs are not the ones collecting the rings.
2. Run KC Run!
Well that previous post was kind of a downer. You know what isn't a downer? The Chiefs running game and the return of Jamaal Charles. He did not bust any long runs during the preseason but he did show signs that he did not lose his quickness and that the knee is capable of making the Jamaal Charles type cuts that he made in 2010.
Charles wasn't the only impressive running back during the Chiefs preseason. Free agent Peyton Hillis followed Charles lead by showing flashes that reminded me of the Hillis who rushed for over 1,000 yards with the Cleveland Browns in 2010. Hillis looks like the running back the Chiefs hoped they were getting when they signed Thomas Jones two years ago with Hillis being about 463 times better.
The Chiefs success in the running game was not limited to just the front line stars during the preseason. Shaun Draughn and Nate Eachus were able to take part in the Chiefs rush party this preseason. It is clear that the Chiefs can at least do one thing very well and that is running the ball. Speaking of the offense...
3. The Killer B's earn D's:
Remember who the Chiefs wide receiving group was going to be a giant strength this season? Remember when Jonathan Baldwin was becoming the second coming of Dwayne Bowe? Remember how Steve Breaston's impact would be seen because he had an entire off season to work with Matt Cassel? Those were fun days. I remember them like they were just a few weeks ago.
The biggest impact the Chiefs starting receiving core had on the entire preseason was when Baldwin caught his first pass of the preseason (in the second game of the preseason) and promptly fumbled it away. It would of probably helped if Matt Cassel actually attempted and completed passes to said receiving core. Since they are one of the strengths of the team.
I am not overly freaking out about the lack of productivity of the wide outs this preseason because it is just the preseason after all. But I am worried that there seemed to be a lack of continuity between Cassel and his WRs. Chiefs players, coaches, and upper management went out of there way to talk about how quickly this team was able to gel under the new offensive system. They talked about all of the extra work the receivers were putting in during the off-season in order to build that relationship with Matt Cassel. That did not come across during these past 4 preseason games.
4. You can't spell Bad without a D:
In the first preseason game the Chiefs defense look like a force and that other teams were being put on notice. Three blowout losses later and the pendulum has now swung in the other direction. This was going to be the identity of the 2012 Chiefs and the major strength of the team. This preseason it was neither of those.
The injury bug has not been kind to the Chiefs this preseason. Starting defensive back Brandon Flowers went the entire preseason without playing against anyone in a different colored jersey. His replacement is second year DB Jalil Brown who missed the final preseason game with a groin injury. Add that to the up and down impact of free agent DB Stanford Routt has made during the preseason. Then add that to Tamba Hali being suspended for the first game of the season. THEN Add that to Derrick Johnson hurting his ankle during last night's game vs. the Packers. And THEN add to that starting safety Kendrick Lewis has a shoulder injury that the team has yet to put a time table on.
The best part is the defensive line still sucks. At least it sucks when it is not playing the Arizona Cardinals. During the Packers game I am pretty sure I saw Packers' QB Graham Harrell read Kafka's Metamorphosis twice and add all seven books of The Walking Dead to Amazon wish list before he completed some bombs down the field.
My biggest problem with the Chiefs defense is it still lacks enough players who can go get the quarter back. To have a defense that can win playoff games and the Super Bowl you have to be able to attack and hit the QB. The Chiefs did not do enough to add players who can do that. They were content to rely on the players they already had in house. Actually they are relying on Justin Houston and Justin Houston alone. I guess they don't believe in the sophomore slump. God forbid you add a player to complement Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. I mean who does that. You know other than the New York Giants. But when was the last time they won anything.
Lets have a quick side bar about Scott Pioli.
Sometimes I worry that Scott Pioli suffers from Walter Whit-esis. For the non Breaking Bad fans that pretty much means that you have a constant need to prove to everyone that you are the smartest person in the room. You do not listen to what anyone else has to say because you know what you are saying and thinking is smarter than anything that could come from them. This bullish mindset appears to rear its head most with Scott Pioli when it comes to adding talent to the roster and Matt Cassel. A smart man once said if you are dumb surround yourself with smart people. If you are smart then surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you. The Chiefs front office greatly lack a diversity in opinions when it comes to building this roster. If never hurts to have some diversity when it comes to building a roster. And I am not talking about old wooden ships from the Civil War.
5. I'm going to show her my O-Line face:
I have had up and down feelings when it came to the offensive line play this preseason. I was really high on them during the first two preseason games. The blew open holes for the running backs and Matt Cassel was not sacked in the first two preseason games. Cassel had time and space to step up and make strong accurate passes. Then came the game vs. the Seattle Seahawks.
The offensive line got blown up and dominated when it was first string players vs. first string players. Eric Winston looked very far from being the best right tackle in the NFL. Jon Asamoah did an amazing tribute to Barry Richardson. I wasn't impressed with Rodney Hudson's performance when he was snapping ball in the shotgun. Your QB should not have to stand there and wait for your slow floating snap to come down in order to initiate the play. At least those things should not happen at the NFL level.
The silver lining for the offensive line is the running game. The Chiefs O-Line has been able to do almost everything they have wanted and even helped Nate Eachus burst onto the scene. This should prove very helpful considering that the Chiefs have Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis in the back field.
The Chiefs have invested a lot of draft picks and money into the offensive line since Scott Pioli became GM of the team. I do not have faith in many things when it comes to the Chiefs but I do have faith in this offensive line. Which is good because the only way Cassel can be an effective passer when it comes to throwing the ball further than 11 yards down the field is if he has space to step up in the pocket. The line should they could provide him with that. Now they just need to do it when the games actually matter.
Follow me on twitter @craig_a_brenner and until next we meet next week. Peace out.