Thank god it’s over. One of the worst, most nonsensical preseasons I have ever absorbed — not just as a Chiefs fan, but as a fan of professional football. Any strategy that was supposed to exist was mashed up in multiple degrees of mixed signals, head scratching signal calls, and an absurd decision to bring the starters along at a glacial pace.
It all culminated in last night’s crap fest, and crap is about all we have to show for it. We played tons of our starters deep into the fourth quarter in the last preseason game. Not just Asamoah and Urban, but the meat ‘n’ potatoes of our offense, Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles. This is something that, to this extent, has simply never been done in NFL history before that I know of, so before you go taking the word of Todd Haley as gospel, please keep that in mind.
Once again, we played our starters almost the entire game. And we lost. If the insanity of that doesn’t strike you in the face like a Louisville Slugger, you’re either high or a homer.
It’s a damn near shocking development, but at the very least it gave us the clearest window we’re going to have to preview what we have in store for 2011. And at this point, it’s not pretty. The team is out of shape, out of focus, and out of sync. This isn’t a problem that the preseason could solve — matter of fact, with Haley’s roster patchwork all month, I think we may have exacerbated them. It’s going to take multiple weeks into the season for us to make these parts a whole. In the mean time, San Diego is in midseason form.
So I distracted myself from focusing on the next seventeen weeks by replaying tonight’s game three times, taking notes as I observed virtually anything that I think could serve as a window into our upcoming season. Turns out, I have a truckload of them. So I have stashed these observations from an ugly, ugly game that was sadly the most informative we have to work with from this preseason, after the jump.
Don’t say I never gave you anything.
- Rodney Hudson continually got his ass kicked during the first couple of series lined up against NT B.J. Raji, whom the Packers lined up across from him for the opening series. Especially in pass blocking, where after the initial punch, Raji was able to swim or spin himself past the rookie on multiple occasions. Hudson also looked considerably gassed by the end of the game. That is a serious problem, and clearly some of the conditioning has not worked in this shortened offseason. Hudson’s poor double-teaming was also the reason why Cassel was pancaked by the Jolly Green Giant in the second quarter.
- Our first-string defensive line got their asses handed to them against the Packers first-string offensive line. All three players were repeatedly pushed off the line of scrimmage. At least they commanded double-teams most of the time, our defensive line is showing leaps and bounds in that department thanks to Kelly Gregg. But commanding those doubles doesn’t mean much if they continually blast the team several yards off the ball. It is entirely possible Glenn Dorsey has regressed in this shortened offseason. He has been a completely non-factor.
- Our special teams LOVE blocking for Javier Arenas. He shows a serious blast and an absolute refusal to go down that forgives many of his teammates for occasionally inadequate blocking downfield. You LOVE to block for a guy like that, and in my opinion Arenas deserves to return kicks at all times.
- Matt Cassel’s quick slants are wince-inducing. All too often his windup takes far too long, which is why defenders seem to be continually jumping the routes. In the first quarter, Bowe was somehow able to reel it in despite a defender in his face.
- Shoot-Me-In-The-Face Alert: Dexter McCluster was drafted in 2010 to play the slot with occasional carries out of the backfield. He didn’t really show up in the passing game, but his rushing out of the backfield was pretty good. So the Chiefs, in 2011, decide to commit him as a running back who occasionally runs routes, and sign Steve Breaston out of Arizona to a decent sized contract to specifically play the slot. However, as Trent Green reveals in the broadcast, Breaston wants to primarily line up as a wide-out, not in the slot. Meanwhile, McCluster looked absolutely wonderful today receiving the ball. I honestly don’t know if the Chiefs know what they’re doing with the slot position right now.
- Tony Moeaki may be in for a really tough season. He came into camp trying to shake off an undisclosed injury, and suffered an aggravation of some sort in the game today. Moeaki was such a bright spot in 2010, that the Chiefs largely built their offseason under the assumption that Mo will show up. Well the returns in the preseason has been modest — he doesn’t seem to have any rapport with Cassel whatsoever. His blocking remains top notch, however. But his ability to stay healthy is atrocious — he limped off the field in the 2nd quarter after doing nothing other than falling out of bounds. I fear he’s going to miss some time this year.
- Jamaal Charles’ fumblitis? I am not concerned with it. It comes with the territory with small scatbacks like him. I just really wish it would come at less opportune times. It killed a very promising drive in the first quarter of this game, but obviously the more devasating one came in a brilliant drive against the Ravens in last year’s playoff game.
- It is no accident anymore, people. Nobody is targeting Brandon Carr this preseason. QBs are challenging Brandon Flowers instead. I don’t know exactly what’s going on with Carr’s coverage, because so much of it happens offscreen. But no QB is even looking his way. He could quietly be having a Pro Bowl year if he keeps this up.
- Speaking of Pro Bowlers, Derrick Johnson looks like the guy the Chiefs drafted in 2005. My goodness, there are no holes in his game right now. His coverage downfield is fantastic for a linebacker, he hits a hole as violently as Belcher despite playing the other linebacker position. And his passrushing is damn near peerless for an ILB in this league.
- The fact this team keeps racking up so many flags is evidence that Todd Haley simply hasn’t brought the proper level of discipline to this offseason. You can make an argument either way as to whether he should have (although if you’re arguing that he’s handled this offseason proplerly, you’re just being stupid), but the result is a penalty problem that’s going to plague us all year. I’m predicting we end the season in the league’s Bottom 10 in penalties.
- Ditto for Cassel calling timeouts for two straight weeks because the team can’t get in the right formation. We have looked totally lost.
- Steve Breaston is a talented receiver. He really is. But talent doesn’t mean squat if you don’t have any chemistry with your quarterback. Breaston has exhibited no chemistry with Cassel this preseason, but fortunately that changed at least a little bit during last night’s game. We desperately need a 50-70 catch season out of him, but he’s played this preseason like a 30-reception season might be more realistic.
- It’s in Barry Richardson’s head now. His three holds and overall lousy performance this preseason has officially penetrated his skull and has shattered his confidence. He’s missing blocking assignments that he was nailing all year last year, and his pass defense was at least halfway adequate last year, whereas this year he’s getting beat like a rented mule. If Jared Gaither can take the reins, it might be time to do it at the soonest, most immediate moment. Richardson needs a season as the backup swing tackle.
- LOL @ the Chiefs fan in the stands with the white #89 jersey that says “Baldwinning” on the back. Classic.
- Cody Slate has officially passed Jake O’Connell on the depth chart. This became official when O’Connell lined up in the wrong formation in the first half, and Slate was given the go ahead shortly thereafter to come in for Tony Moeaki. My guess is that Slate makes the team, and O’Connell gets cut.
- Brilliant play by Dwayne Bowe on his non-reception work. He has really come around, thank Haley. Upon catching a long-crossing route, a defender punched the ball out of his arms. Bowe’s first instinct, since the ball was on a trajectory to bounce out of bounds, was to launch into the defender to prevent Green Bay from recovering the ball. Also, late in the 2nd half, he must have sprinted back about 70 yards to catch a defender who intercepted Palko. In doing so, he saved a touchdown. Not for nothing, but Bowe has blocked superbly well.
- Jon Asamoah plays with a fire that cannot be ignored. It shows not only in plays, but after plays as well. After McCluster leapt to the second floor to pull in Matt Cassel’s first touchdown pass this preseason (ugh), Asamoah was one of the first players to get to him and leap into the air for a chest bump. Love his passion.
- Alex Magee is just not getting it, and that’s okay. We knew he was raw when we selected him. He’s going to take a season or two to groom, as most at his position do. He is going to play a very important role in whether this defense can get to the next level, because as of now, we do not have a single three-down defensive end that can get to the QB (Gilberry is more of a 3rd down specialist), and that can be an area he excels. But he is so far behind on technique, he is simply a nonfactor on passing downs. Rushing downs, he’s far more spotty, but usually he’s moved a few yards off the ball before he can anchor properly. That will change with time, but kudos to the coaching staff for giving him a lot of time on the field this preseason to endure some trial by fire.
- It’s possible that Jon Baldwin changes the entire look of our offense. I think as he starts catching on (which doesn’t look like it will happen until around Week 10, by the rate at which he’s progressing), we can finally start punishing defenses for throwing the farm at Bowe. As of now, we do not have a single receiver that would start on another playoff team other than Bowe. Baldwin isn’t that guy now, but he’s the only one on the roster who can be.
- There is not another defender on our team that can match Brandon Flowers’ sheer passion on the field. The Chiefs are fortunate that he will be the corner quarterbacks test all season, because he is the kind of guy that never feels defeated by pressure, even when he gets beat. His competitive fire catches on with his teammates, as well.
- Play of the game: mid second quarter, deep in their own territory, the Pack try running off the right tackle. As soon as the ball is snapped, however, Jovan Belcher barrels through the RG-RT gap as if the guard is standing still, and devours the running back, violently slamming him to the turf. Doesn’t sound like much, but it was a blast to watch.
- I agree with everybody else who’s watched this preseason sober: Studebaker is a missed tackle machine who can’t rush the passer and can’t defend the run. Justin Houston does both with aplomb. However, this is the year Andy Studebaker gets to receive some karma; he outplayed Mike Vrabel all year, yet Vrabel started over him due to his resume. This year, he is getting thoroughly outplayed by Houston, but he’ll get more snaps regardless because of his resume. Hopefully this changes by season’s end.
- Tyler Palko got the bulk of the snaps under center last night, and deservedly so; he’s the QB the Chiefs have to consider if they want to keep. After his performance, I can safely say that he’s only on this team as long as nobody releases an experienced backup onto the market. He flashes sometimes, and I really like his mobility. But his inaccurate passes rivals that of Tyler Thigpen levels of badness. His reads are slower than molassis, and he all too frequently telegraphs his passes. He makes risky decisions that he doesn’t have the talent to pull off, and his left-handedness makes Barry Richardson our de facto blindside blocker, which is a recipe for disaster. Worst of all, nobody on the team seems to have much confidence in him; he is the very definition of inconsistency, and his frequent bad reads will kill this team’s enthusiasm if he has to play any extended time in the preseason. His botched handoff to McCluster in the third quarter was his worst moment; getting stepped on by an offensive lineman is evidence of simply not being disciplined enough in what you need to do every single play. Palko’s only bright spots this preseason have been in two separate two-minute drills at the end of the half. This team needs more than that, however, if Cassel goes down. It needs a quarterback for 60 minutes, not 4.
- Jared Gaither sighting! His first series, the Chiefs handled him with kid gloves. He had Pope next to him for the first couple of plays, and Palko’s first pass was a quick three-step drop. He did miss a blitzer off the edge in that first series which blew up a play, but subsquent attempts to bullrush him were stopped cold; you cannot bullrush this man. His pass protection was clearly superior to the confidence-depleted Barry Richardson, and his run blocking was roughly comparable. I said this earlier in the thread, but the soonest possible time that Gaither can play a whole game, he needs to take Richardson’s spot and give Richardson time to recover as the team’s backup swing tackle.
- LeRon McClain is not the sledgehammer many Chiefs fans thought he was when we brought him in so much as he is a cunning blocker. He doesn’t level people very frequently, if at all. Instead; he typically seals off a defender or cuts them at the ankles. Either way, he gets the job done. He is also a good runner at finding a seam and rcracking up the torque really quickly to hit it. The Chiefs have more versatility running the ball now than we’ve had for quite some time.
- Like the rest of the defensive line, Tyson Jackson got his lunch money taken from him by the Packers’ starting offensive line. Against the bakcups, however, he was damn near an immovable object in the run game. Packers had zero success running the ball soon as the second string offense came in.