Well, Kansas City fans, at this point during the week I’m sure we’re all a little exhausted of hearing about the the Chiefs’ failure against the Rams Saturday night. The Chiefs secondary was lacking in some things (to say the least), the injured status of Kendrick Lewis and Brandon Flowers has us all concerned and Ricky Stanzi performed miserably. To boot, we all have questions pertaining to just what caused Tamba Hali’s suspension. But let’s try to brighten up here. Bowe is back, Cassel is continuing to do well in Daboll’s offense and, at the pace he’s going, Peyton Hillis is looking to be a strong candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. Further, the Chiefs are better off seeing the weakness in their D now instead of, say, the fourth preseason game; the two remaining preseason games should provide us fans with a good litmus test for what to expect from our Chiefs at the start of the regular season now that Crennel knows just what kind of adjustments need made that could hamper some of the better QBs in the league, several of which the team’ll be facing right off the bat.
Before making my predictions last week, I considered how I saw the Chiefs’ 53-man roster fleshing out and drew the following conclusions:
ST: K – 1, P – 1, LS – 1
OFF: QB – 3, RB – 4, WR – 7, OL – 8 or 7, TE – 3 or 4 (8 OL & 3 TE, or 7 OL & 4 TE)
DEF: DL – 7 or 8, LB – 8, DBs– 10 or 9 (7 DL & 10 DBs, or 8 & 9, respectively)
When considering this structure, I felt a few position group numbers were a little high, but a quick look at last year’s roster, courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference, assured me that I’m pretty well in the ballpark. And, yes, having a minimum of nine guys in the secondary and a possible ten still seems a little excessive, but when you consider that last year’s active roster, at one point or another, included Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr, Eric Berry, Kendrick Lewis, Jalil Brown, Travis Daniels, Javier Arenas, Reshard Langford, Jon McGraw, Donald Washington & Sabby Piscitelli, I’m not too far off base. Of the nine or ten DBs I expect to make the roster, do I expect all of them to be on the active roster come game day? No; just as I don’t expect the 7th WR, 8th OL, 8th LB, or 3rd QB to be on the active roster. Remember, though it’s a 53-man roster, only a maximum of 46 players may be active on game day (up from the previous CBAs 45-man limit), which leads us to this week’s predictions:
1. With Flowers and Lewis out for an indeterminate amount of time, Crennel will take a hard look at the DBs on roster (I know, I’m friggin’ Nostradamus, right?). Chalking up Saturday’s problems to a secondary that is “young”, “inexperienced” and lacking “maturity”, Crennel will focus mostly on filling out the roster with the more veteran players. Though some of these players’ ceilings may not be as high as some of the newer guys, their consistency and reliability in the short term will prevail over longer term, but potentially better, developmental projects. As I see it the roster will consist of : 1. Flowers; 2. Routt; 3. Berry; 4. Lewis; 5. Abram Elam; 6. Travis Daniels; 7. Jalil Brown; and, 8. Javier Arenas. This leaves one maybe two spots to take on either Jacques Reeves and a project player, or two project players, with the likely candidates being Dequan Menzie, Terrance Parks and Tysyn Hartman. Dequan Menzie may be in the same boat as Junior Hemingway; an injury plagued camp may spell practice squad, but I think the odds of that are worse than with Hemingway, and choosing Menzie and either Parks or Hartman over Reeves to fill out the bottom of the roster wouldn’t be too surprising. That being said, I could somewhat understand if Reeves was chosen to stay on roster with the other candidates being practice squad eligible. In any event I would not be shocked to see all three of Menzie, Parks & Hartman keep ties with the team, even if one or two is/are kept in the capacity of practice squad player(s). The remaining options (Fenner, Fanor, etc.) just don’t strike me as making the cut in any capacity. That includes Donald Washington, who despite being a veteran and “more mature”, seems to me to be too costly of a save at this point.
2. Stanzi will still make the roster, but as the No. 3 QB and only for the purposes of continued development. He’s just not looking that good right now, and if a playoff berth is still in the cards and push comes to shove (Cassel and Quinn are unable to play), Pioli has enough sense to make a powerplay for a much better QB. The three I could see getting the most consideration in this hypothetical situation are Matt Moore, Matt Hasselbeck and Mark Sanchez. Moore has the most (and recent) experience in a Daboll-driven offense and could slide in and understand the terminology, assignments, etc. the easiest. Hasselbeck, on top of the reasons Paddy pointed out, not only provides consistently good play, but given his age would not be perceived as a threat to Cassel. And I think Sanchez is simply better than he’s given credit for: he’s actually improved every year he’s been in the league, he has playoff wins under his belt, and given a more stable locker room and stronger supporting offensive cast, I think he would surprise. Obviously, this hypothetical scenario also takes place later in the season where Moore, Hasselbeck and Sanchez may be seen as expendable for the right price. In any case, I don’t see Stanzi taking the field if the Chiefs still have a shot at the playoffs; until he shows us significantly more than he has, I think I’d rather see Zorn suit-up and take the field.
3. Following another lackluster game performance, Josh Bellamy’s stock has dropped some, but he should still be counted as a candidate for the last WR slot (though arguments for Markshausen and, as KCMikeG pointed out, Jamar Newsome have gotten stronger). Bear in mind that a) the last WR isn’t likely to sniff the active roster, b) injury to Bowe or Baldwin will be overcome by Breaston resuming the role of the No. 2 WR, a role he held for most of his career (remember: Boldin played out of the slot in Arizona), and c) an injury to McCluster will result in Breaston, and eventually Wylie, being able to fulfill the role being carved out by Dex. If Breaston or Wylie get injured, it’ll be a blow, but likely not a humongous one. If any two of Bowe, Baldwin and Breaston get injured, the Chiefs would definitely be in trouble, but unless both of those injuries were expected to be long-term, I’d anticipate we’d see Daboll calling for more 2-TE sets until one of the guys returned.
4. I’ve grown quite fond of Kendrick Lewis. As last year wore on after Berry’s injury, Lewis started to improve by leaps and bounds, and I firmly believe he is a better player now than he otherwise would’ve been at this point in his career had Berry not been injured. In the face of adversity, Kendrick rose to the occasion, and how can you not love a player capable of that? But that being said, I agree with AA’s own Lyle Graversen that the loss of Flowers is greater than the loss of Lewis. Abram Elam will provide adequate temporary replacement of Lewis until Lewis can heal up; however, one of the greatest disappointments concerning Kendrick’s injury is that the newly implemented defensive scheme of putting Lewis and Elam in at safety and letting Eric Berry roam freely and wreak havoc is in danger of not being utilized until his Lewis’ return. Enter Travis Daniels. I’ll admit, I was pretty indifferent to Travis Daniels prior to this season (didn’t love him, didn’t hate him), but since he switched to taking on safety duties, I have a little more hope in his capability to make significant contributions to the team. There are two preseason games left, and I would not be the least bit surprised to see Daniels tested harder at safety to see if he can provide suitable replacement for Lewis in the new scheme so it can start being effectively used before Lewis heals up and returns. With Tamba a certain loss in the Atlanta game, and Flowers and Lewis uncertainties as to whether or not they’ll play, Daniels being coached up enough so that the new scheme isn’t a liability may be integral to a Chiefs victory on opening day. That may be a lot of faith to put into Daniels, but a roving Berry may be the team’s best hope for a victorious pass defense without Flowers, Lewis and Hali in the mix.
Thus concludes my predictions/observations for this week, Addicts. If you disagree with anything I’ve said or proposed, or think that there’s a player I’m not giving enough credit to (or giving too much credit to, for that matter), let me hear it in the “Comments” section. And as always, Go Chiefs!!!!!