The Kansas City Chiefs are 0-3 this preseason, and I can understand why some of you are a little upset about that. There have been a lot of losses these past few years, and this must seem like more of the same. When the preseason started most of us probably would’ve said we didn’t care much about wins or losses. But then, we assumed we wouldn’t be losing all our games. Sitting at 0-3, its easy to get nervous.
I’m not nervous. Preseason record is just not a good indicator of regular season success. It’s a nice chance to get a look at players in pads, that’s all. I wouldn’t be celebrating if we’d won, so I’m not going to cry in my Smirnoff Ice* about a loss. I don’t blame other people for being mad, I’m just saying I’m not.
*Smirnoff Ice actually makes my stomach hurt, but I’ve enjoyed a Zima or two in my day. With a jolly rancher.
In fact, I’ll do you one better. I came away from Friday’s contest extremely encouraged about two things:
1) Andy Studebaker
2) Jamaal Charles
We’ll start with The Student Baker. The fact that he recorded two sacks is thrilling. I seriously can’t overstate how happy I am about that. We already know the run defense will struggle, so the pass defense has to be strong if we’re going to stop anyone. The secondary should be good. Now we need to find someone other than Tamba Hali to get to the quarterback. A good secondary alone can’t stop an NFL offense. No matter what Pioli and Haley say, pressure is still key. Our pass rush has got to get better.
It appears Studebaker can rush the passer. That fact alone should guarantee him significant playing time. If it were up to me he’d be penciled in as the opening day starter at OLB. Of course, it isn’t up to me (nothing ever is), and you know Vrabel is gonna start until he chooses to retire. He’s got intangibles and veteran leadership! And, uh, how about a little thing called mentoring? What, you think Vrabel can do that from the bench?
Just clownin, gang. I’ve got nothing against Vrabel. In fact, he still looks like a decent player. He just can’t really rush the passer anymore. When you’ve got Sweet Ronnie Edwards and the LSU Block Eaters (band name?) up front, you need linebackers who can get to the quarterback. If Studebaker can do that, then full steam ahead, get him in the lineup.
I’ve heard the Chiefs have experimented with moving Vrabel inside on the nickel package. They should consider that for the base package, as well. Haley needs to be flexible with linebacker positions in order to get the best guys on the field. But that’s another post for another day…
I was also encouraged by the fact that Jamaal Charles finally got the start. I know many of you think I’ve made too much of this issue, and perhaps you’re right (that remains to be seen). It really doesn’t matter who “starts” as long as the carries are distributed correctly.
My problem is, I thought (and still sort of think) Haley actually prefers Thomas Jones to Charles. You can make the case that they’re two different backs with two different styles, but then it becomes an issue of which style Haley wants to use the most. I don’t think we’re going to move the chains pounding Thom Jones between the tackles. He’s old, he had A LOT of carries last year, and this line isn’t built for a straight-ahead attack.
Charles’ style, on the other hand, has proven to be successful behind this line. just like Conan O’Brien makes Andy Richter look funny, Jamaal Charles can make Ryan O’Callaghan and Rudy Niswanger look like decent blockers. Jones makes them look like what they are: backup-caliber players thrust into a starting role due to a lack of better options.
Thom Jones should be used enough to switch it up and limit wear-and-tear on our best player, but this offense needs to feature Charles. I think we can all agree on that, right? I mean maybe I’m just a Jamaal Charles fanboy, but to me he is obviously the most talented player on this team. Any success our offense has will be because of him. Him, and my boy D-Bowe (had to sneak that in there).
I’m glad Haley started Charles friday, even if it is just a title. He had me worried there for a while. The most legitimate knock on Haley last year was his inability to recognize what he had in Charles. We can’t see that mistake repeated. The best players, particularly the ones with upside, need to play.
My Chiefs statue of liberty reads, “Give me your Studebakers, your Gilberrys, your Kendrick Lewis’ yearning to breathe free.”
We have young players with actual upside (as opposed to Tin Man upside, or “Tinside” as I like to call it). They need to be in the lineup. It’s as simple as that.