Thou Shalt Not Take Preason Too Seriously. It’s a commandment the football gods have bestowed upon us for years.
Every year, you almost can’t help but violate the rule. It’s too tempting to freak out when your offensive tackle position looks dire (which it does), and to celebrate when your backup QB looks like he can handle the offense (which he does). But do not take it seriously. At least that’s what the mantra is and should be. I suppose it’s useful to remember when the infamous Third Preseason Game is upon us.
However, what transpires on the field shouldn’t be ignored, either. Every team can categorize their confidence levels about the upcoming seasons in the following ways: there are (a.) things you know, (b.) things you think you know, and the (c.) things you can’t know. Preseason isn’t about (a.) or (c.), it’s about evaluating that “(b.)” category of things you can kind of foresee and for which you can try to anticipate.
So much like we did when we evaluated the first preseason game together, let’s look at this preseason through the lens of the coaches, and try to evaluate what we think we know about the upcoming season for the Kansas City Chiefs.
I’ll start with a few nuggets, and you can take it from there in comments, something in which you guys are getting more and more impressive at.
OLB Justin Houston is a better linebacker than OLB Andy Studebaker. I would argue that the MVP of last week’s game against Baltimore was Tyler Palko. Palko learned right in front of our eyes how to become productive under pressure, completing something like five straight passes with a defender in his face. But a close second had to have been Justin Houston, who abused anybody who tried to block him off the edge. I lobbied hard for the Chiefs to select Houston, not in the third round, but in the first round (this was before he tested positive for pot), and you’re all starting to see why. His burst off the edge is damn near unmatched in players his size.
Studebaker, meanwhile, remains an enigma. Good enough to deserve playing time but he’s been far less impressive than just about every OLB that’s taken the field so far. My feeling is that we’re going to see a changing of the guard by the end of the season.
NT Kelly Gregg is just a flat-out difference maker for this defense. Was I wrong or was I wrong? My initial reaction to the signing of Kelly Gregg was pessimism. I thought this was a signing from the bargain barrell, and to a certain extent it was. But what I completely misunderestimated was Gregg’s ability to bring it. He absolutely does not let blockers through, he just absorbs them and swallows them, and displays a willingness to chase a play down from whistle to whistle that is clearly catching on with NT Jerrell Powe.
CB Brandon Carr is simply not to be messed with this year. We saw the first team defense for nearly a half last week. We’re probably going to see them a little more tonight. And in the one half of play we’ve seen from them so far, we saw nothing but consistent challenges to CB Javier Arenas and CB Brandon Flowers. But the one corner Joe Flacco never messed with was Brandon Carr. Now, I don’t know what the reasoning was — maybe the Ravens were just more interested in testing out certain receivers — but there doesn’t seem to be any question that Carr could be headed for a banner year, and may start surpassing Flowers as the #1 corner on this team.
OLB Erik Bakhtiari and ILB Amara Kamara have outplayed their peers at the backend of the LB roster. In my eyes, anyway. I know it’s just garbage time, but Bakhtiari has done pretty darn well at the primary responsibility of his position: harassing quarterbacks. Bakhtiari has been good for at least one or two pressures a quarter of playing time. And Kamara has made a number of plays that involve the kind of things you need from your thumper: he’s excelled at blowing up running lanes when the hole is opened by the DL, and he’s exceptional at getting from sideline-to-sidelin, cleaning up plays and clogging up run lanes.
FB Shane Bannon is a long ways off from figuring it out. I just do not see anything redeeming this 7th round draft pick by GM Scott Pioli. Bannon is the player I’ve been specifically targeting and rooting for, as he hails from my gradeschool stomping grounds in Southbury, Connecticut. Plus, it’s a freaking fullback from Yale. But to hear Pioli tell it, Bannon was brought on board because he offers versatility in the passing game, runs well, and blocks with great technique.
But the coaching staff doesn’t even give him wheel routes to run out in the flat, presumably because he hasn’t shown he can do it well in practice, and his effort running the ball has been downright terrible (granted, it’s only been what, two carries?). And when RB Jackie Battle went down with injury, the Chiefs elected to feed FB Mike Cox the ball, not Bannon. As for his blocking? Well… it hasn’t been pretty. He doesn’t blow up any run lanes, and as far as I can tell, that’s the fullback’s primary responsibility. Bannon is destined for the practice squad, or just getting cut outright.
Our most troublesome positions this year with be offensive tackle. I have defended the Chiefs’ returning bookend tackles all offseason. I’ve pushed against the Chiefs drafting Russell Okung, Bryan Bulaga and Trent Williams in 2010, and against the Chiefs drafting Gabe Carmini and Anthony Sherrod in 2011. Give them time, I’ve argued. RT Barry Richardson just needs to make a few tweaks. LT Branden Albert has stalled a couple years under OL coach Bill Muir, so I figured this must be the year he flashes.
Neither are flashing. Matter of fact, there’s been a number of plays in both preseason games where they are outright embarrassed. While both are unmistakable reasons for the Chiefs’ phenomenal rushing figures, it’s quarterbacks that make teams win in this league, and neither tackle is locking down the edge to keep Cassel clean. And let’s face it: Cassel needs all the help he can get. Meanwhile, OT Jared Gaither simply cannot get healthy (there’s a reason two teams passed on him), David Mims is just now learning the position, Butch Lewis and Mike Ingersoll are horrific, and Ryan O’Callaghan… well, he’s Ryan O’Callaghan. And injured.
This is going to be an Achilles heel of this team all year, and I was mistaken in not fretting over it more during draft season and the offseason. Especially considering some of the elite passrushes this team will be facing.
OG Jon Asamoah is a perfect fit for replacing OG Brian Waters. Brian who? Ha. That might be a little sacreligious to say as a longtime Chiefs fan and lover of Everything In The Trenches, but Asamoah is proving my anticipations true. He is playing mean, with great leverage, and from whistle to whistle. Even when he’s pancaking Haloti Ngata, he’s putting a knee on him until the play is over.
Speaking of which, what on earth happened to Brian Waters? Surely he’ll get picked up sooner than later.