Preseason games are like candy corn – they’re pretty much garbage, you know they’re garbage, but every year you’re suckered into consuming them while actively thinking, “Man, this really is just unremarkable fluff.” This will be particularly true for Chiefs fans, who face a slate of three underwhelming NFC West teams before finishing at Green Bay. Purchase requirements for season ticket holders make these awful match-ups even more annoying, but such is the price we pay. Each of these games can offer something to learn, so let’s pretend preseason games will provide at least one full half of starters, open playbooks, and useful insight to a unit in question.
Preseason Week 1: Arizona Cardinals
Arizona doesn’t sport any strong areas and should not be able to hang with the Chiefs in a regular season game, making this an opportunity to test weaknesses rather than strengths. The Cardinals ranked 31st last season in sacks allowed at 54 and did little to remedy this problem over the offseason.
On the other side of the ball, one of KC’s most glaring weaknesses last year was the generation of a pass rush, tying for 30th in the NFL at 29 sacks. With the tank known as Dontari Poe clogging the middle, a season under Justin Houston’s belt, and the return of Eric Berry’s safety blitz, anticipate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. However, there’s still no proof KC’s defensive linemen will play together like three first round draft picks. If the front seven can generate more sacks and hurries this year, Brandon Flowers will look even more superhuman while any potential drop in quality from Brandon Carr to Stanford Routt will be masked. But if we can’t even pressure Kevin Kolb into unwanted plays, watch out, because it’s going to be another frustrating year for the defense.
Preseason Week 2: At St. Louis Rams
Whenever Chiefs fans start feeling bad about their plight, they sneak a quick glance East on I-70 towards Edward Jones Stadium. There resides the worst team in the league over the past five seasons with a mere 15 wins. As the only team to give up more sacks than Arizona last year, St. Louis truly is a sad franchise. However, I promised to give something to watch every game (and talking about generating sacks again would be Randy Moss lazy), so this is the game we learn how much of an upgrade T Eric Winston is over Berry Richardson and what immediate impact can be expected from rookies Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson.
The Rams defense is anchored by DE Chris Long and MLB James Laurinaitis and promises to keep its lackluster offense in several games. Their front seven will achieve equally potent penetration against the run and pass. Starters often play the entire first half in game two, and expect both Kansas City draft picks to see extensive time against the Rams number one defense.
Preseason Week 3: Seattle Seahawks
Providing a slight talent upgrade for week three, the Seahawks ranked 28th in sacks allowed at 50 in 2011, extending the theme of not getting too excited if the front seven generates good pressure while considering a lack of sacks as reason for major concern. The strongest part of Seattle’s defense is its secondary, which sports one of the league’s best safety duos (Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor) and a solid pair of aggressive corners (Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman).
This game will present the first challenge to the Chiefs’ receiving corps in however it manifests itself (as of this writing, Bowe remains a no-show at camp). The Seahawks played an aggressive man-cover defense last year that will force Cassell to make tight throws to receivers pressed to seriously fight for separation. Among the potential things to watch: how Baldwin performs as a number one receiver; if Devon Wylie’s quickness can translate into success on the professional level; and if Junior Hemingway was the seventh round steal many are hoping for. Starters often play a full half and sometimes into the third quarter during preseason game #3, and this test could provide quality information if Bowe remain MIA or if his current absence leaves him under-prepared at this stage in the season.
Preseason Week 4: At Green Bay Packers
The last week is the least week from a fan’s perspective, serving primarily as a final audition for marginal players to win a roster spot with vanilla play calls from the sideline. First teamers are typically pulled after one or two series (if they play at all) in anticipation of the regular season. However, the Packers are a group of warriors and should they be interested in playing their starters to extract a little revenge for last year’s upset, and should Crennel demonstrate his departure from the Haley regime by matching their intensity, watch the Chiefs’ secondary.
While Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson are superb talents, seven receivers caught at least 25 passes for the Packers last year. Aaron Rodgers will attempt to exploit Routt’s overly aggressive reputation and Berry’s ability to rapidly change direction while backpedaling will be tested (although this action relies more on hip fluidity than knee support, Green Bay’s sets demand Berry demonstrate more range than the three prior opponents). Both sides will put an array of exciting talent on the field, and if the Chiefs can shut down Green Bay’s receivers, Peyton Manning is in for a rough introduction to the AFC West.
Well Addicts, with this entry I complete my trial period for the website. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity over the past month to contribute my thoughts on what I anticipate will be an exciting and successful season while gaining a little more respect for the writers that provide consistent material for me to surf rather than finish the tasks my boss assigns me. I also maintain my rightness to anyone that disagreed with me. Except for the reader that called me out for describing Arrowhead Stadium as a sea of red and yellow – it is, for the record, red and gold (I blame Wiz Khalifa’s ‘Black and Yellow’ being stuck in my head at the time). Red and gold, Taz Mosis, red and gold.