It is time to throw Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Cassel a bone.
If you’ve been reading this site for more than a couple of weeks, you know that I have been highly critical of Cassel. I have particularly been hard on him about his completion percentage which has spent more time on the wrong side of 60 percent than I would like. However, now that we are halfway through the season I think it is time to give the Chiefs signal caller another look.
After giving it much thought, I think that Matt Cassel is in a very tough position with this year’s team. He is a quarterback with no receivers.
Scott Pioli has had a lot of his bets pay off this season but one of his failures has been the resigning of WR Chris Chambers. I think even Pioli was worried about Chambers which is why he waited so long to resign him and in the interim, tried to trade for Anquan Boldin. It came down to the Chiefs and the Ravens battling for Boldin’s services and in the end, the Ravens were willing to give up more draft picks than the Chiefs. For the record, I think Pioli did the right thing, especially considering the talent level of his 2010 draft class. Boldin would have helped out a lot this year but these rookies will be more valuable in the long run.
After failing to make the trade for Boldin, Pioli resigned Chris Chambers. He also drafted WR Dexter McCluster who he figured could be a solid outlet for Cassel in the slot.
He was kind of right.
McCluster is a dynamic weapon but he wasn’t ready to step in and be an impact receiver from day one. Most of the damage McCluster has done this season has come when he has lined up in the backfield. That doesn’t mean that McCluster isn’t going to turn in to a good receiver, it simply means he is a rookie who wasn’t that experienced at receiver to begin with, learning to play the position at the NFL level. It was always going to take time.
The other side of the Chambers/McCluster bet, however, is what has hurt the Chiefs and Cassel the most. Chambers is a bum. I don’t know if he got old or if he really does just quit once he gets paid. I’m not sure what goes on in the head of a guy who would get a restraining order against a woman and then marry her a few months later. All I do know is that the guy hasn’t shown up this year and it doesn’t appear he is going to show up any time soon. He is dead weight but unfortunately, he is all we’ve got.
Before being overly critical of Cassel, you have to look at what the dude is working with. He’s got Bowe and then…er…
Look, the way Chambers is playing he would probably get cut by most NFL teams. Tuker and Copper wouldn’t even BE on other NFL teams. Maybe Copper would sneak on a squad as a special teamer but you can bet your behind he wouldn’t be lining up at receiver.
Cassel is doing the best he can with what he has to work with. The last two games he has had three targets:
The team’s best receiver is actually having a pretty decent season. He has a few drops but for the most part, he has been very productive.
Moeaki is the team’s second best wide receiver and he is a freaking tight end!
The team’s third best wide receiver, Jamaal Charles, is also the leagues best second string running back.
When McCluster comes back, he’ll slide back in to the #3 slot and Charles can go back to being a backup running back again.
And before you all start going gaga over Verran Tucker, remember that his spectacular TD catch from Sunday is his ONLY catch in the three weeks that he has been active. This isn’t an indictment on Tucker. The dude has potential but he isn’t getting open and right now, that is what Cassel needs.
The reason the Chiefs threw so much against the Raiders is because Oakland was in single coverage all day long with no safties. People have been talking about how Oakland’s strategy was an indictment on Cassel. They’ve been saying the Raiders didn’t believe Cassel could beat them. I disagree with this. I think the Raiders believed the Chiefs receivers couldn’t beat them and they were right. Look Bowe has never been a burner but are you telling me not Chambers, Copper or Tucker could put a good enough move on their man to blow by them and get wide open over the top? If the Raiders tried that kind of crap on the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning would throw for 37 touchdowns. Every time Cassel completed a pass Sunday, his man was pretty well covered. There were very few passes that went to wide open receivers.
While watching Sunday’s game, the guy across from me kept bemoaning that Cassel wasn’t throwing the ball. He wasn’t holding on to the ball because he can’t see wide open receivers. He wasn’t throwing it because there were no open receivers. It is obvious that the Chiefs and Cassel have made it a priority to take care of the football. Cassel is under strict instructions not to force passes and to get rid of the ball if he senses trouble, even if that means throwing it away. He has been doing that and the results, for the most part, have been positive.
Cassel is doing a fine job of hitting Moeaki and Bowe when they are open. He is fairly efficient at hitting Charles when he comes out of the backfield. Before Dexter McCluster got injured, Cassel started finding him more down field as well. He just doesn’t have the tools he needs in the receiving game. Philip Rivers might be able to succeed with receivers off the street but Cassel is no Philip Rivers. I think the Chiefs passing game is going to continue to struggle until they get Dexter McCluster back. I think the presence of McCluster helps both Bowe and Moeaki. It will also keep Jamaal Charles in the backfield where he belongs. With the absence of McCluster, the Chiefs have been using Charles a little more in the passing game because they know they need another threat out there.
The Cassel lead Chiefs will likely never be a passing team but if they don’t get some more help at the WR position soon, KC’s air attack will stay grounded.