August 24, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cordarro Law (47) causes Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel (7) to fumble in the third quarter of the game at Arrowhead Stadium. Seattle won 44-14. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

KC Chiefs Offense: What We’ve Learned (Part Deux)

Fourteen points later, we’re back to discuss what we’ve learned since the Chiefs lost the coveted Governor’s Cup to the St. Louis Rams. I wish I could gush over the Chiefs’ offensive effort in Friday night’s loss to the Seahawks. Unfortunately, it looks as though there are more questions than answers heading into the last week of the preseason. That’s not exactly reassuring after the most important preseason outing for the Chiefs offensive starters. It’s always difficult to know how much you can glean from football in August, but I think there are a few more things we can add to last week’s list.

1. Cassel will return to old habits under heavy pressure.

Matt Cassel spent the off-season working to improve his game. Between the time spent with pitching coach Tom House and quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn, he looked to be a slightly different quarterback. Friday night Murphy’s Law descended upon Arrowhead Stadium and it marked a return to Cassel’s old habits. Guards Lilja and Asamoah didn’t do Cassel any favors being shoved around by Seahawks defenders. Branden Albert contributed a few poorly-blocked pass plays of his own. The receivers dropped a handful of passes. Even the offensive gameplan seemed to be conspiring against Cassel’s preseason efficiency. I’m speculating here, but it occurred to me that limited carries between Charles and Hillis might’ve been Brian Daboll testing Cassel’s mettle. All of this lead to a jumpy Cassel who looked quite uncomfortable in the pocket (when he had one). It’s no surprise that McCluster led all receivers with seven catches. I had been impressed with Cassel’s ball placement through the first two games, but in Game 3 several of his passes sailed. He did respond with just over 9 minutes to play in the second quarter though, leading the Chiefs on a 17-play drive that ended in a Dexter McCluster touchdown.

2. McCluster’s maturation could hurt Cassel’s progress.

McCluster has put it all together this off-season with an impressive camp and a very productive month of August. Through three preseason games he leads the team in receptions and receiving yardage. #22 can be dangerous in Daboll’s offense, but he can also help Cassel solidify the title “Captain Checkdown.” Relying too heavily on outlets will do a grand disservice to his top three receivers (Bowe, Breaston, and Baldwin). McCluster being productive is good for this offense so long as he doesn’t keep Cassel from looking up field. Daboll wants to attack defenses. We can’t do that if pressure forces Cassel to lock in on his diminutive safety valve.

3. The Tight Ends will be a productive platoon.

I’ve heard arguments all off-season about which tight end will separate himself from the pack. Tony Moeaki, the founding member of the ACL3, has been the favorite among these watercooler conversations. Free agent acquisition Kevin Boss brings a slightly different skillset to the table and currently leads the group in receptions. Converted offensive tackle Steve Maneri quietly had a solid camp and opened the preseason with a three-catch, 69-yard game against Arizona. In each preseason contest a different tight end has stepped forward. I doubt that Daboll will play any offensive favorites, and it’s likely that there won’t be a singular hero at the position. I expect to see a committee approach in the mold of the New England Patriots.

4. Brian Daboll will experiment.

The one thing that impresses me the most about the Chiefs new offensive coordinator is his ability to adjust. The offense has struggled at times during the preseason, but in each game they’ve rebounded and found ways to get into the end zone. Kansas City’s offense had no rhythm the first twenty minutes of the game against Seattle. Daboll got them going on a 17-play drive that culminated in a touchdown pass from Cassel to McCluster. Throughout the preseason he’s consistently found ways to get his sluggish offense moving. That’s a welcome change in Kansas City. Former head coach Todd Haley knew how to beat a dead horse.

The preseason finale on Thursday night likely won’t tell us much, but there are a few roster spots still up for grabs. Nate Eachus went off for 98 rushing yards in the fourth quarter of the Seattle game. The offensive starters will be pulled early so it’ll be interesting to see what he and Shaun Draughn make of the the remaining three quarters of football. Eachus is a long shot, but he could very well play his way onto this roster with another game like the one he had this past Friday night at Arrowhead. The race for the final two or three WR slots will also be something to watch. I’m also hoping to see some consistency from the offensive line in protecting the quarterback. When we reconvene next week we’ll have final preseason answers, a shorter roster, and a good idea of what we can expect in the regular season opener against Atlanta.

Until then, Addicts…

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  • Patrick Allen

    The offensive game plan was really strange. I really do think they planned to take as many shots down field as possible. The outside receivers had almost no receptions in the first two games and yet the Chiefs moved the football. Daboll is smart enough to know this team will never win throwing like that.

    I think the plan was to throw and to throw down field. Once the team fell behind, there was no reason to quit doing it.

    I know it was bad but no way do we see a game plan like that in the regular season.

    • Shannon Thompson

      I honestly think Dabol was hoping to test Cassel on the hi caliber passing offense. I belive Dabol wanted to see Cassels limits. Its my belief that even if Cassel puts together a decent year, if he can’t live up to the hype of changing the Chiefs game from Run first to pass first on occassion then Cassel will be gone next offseason or atleast a high draft pick spent on a franchise qb with less limitations. I mean think about it, if you were the Offensive Coordinator, would you want to have to lean on the running backs all the time, I would want to be able to lean on my QB and recievers too. Preseason game or not, this was just Dabol seeing what he can and can’t do with his QB.

      • huckdaddy

        That very well could be – testing Cassel. And it seems obvious that Daboll must now know what we all have known for a while. Cassel has no deep ball! He just doesn’t! This has been proven time and time again. As far as next year goes, I am praying for a QB with our first or second rounder. I was praying this year! Look at what some of the rookies are doing in the preseason – not just #’s but ball placement, taking control of games. We just do not have that with Cassel.

        • Danny W

          I would say there are five rookies that could have walked in and played from day one if the competition was open and honest.

      • tm1946

        Testing Cassel? for what? Daboll has tons of film somewhere in Arrowhead. Hard to make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear. Cassel works ok if he gets protection and his receivers can catch the ball, put the game on his shoulder and you lose. He is not terribly accurate, especially under pressure. He has no deep game for the most part…..test over.
        Run the damn ball, Daboll.

  • ArrowFan

    Can Cassel block, catch, and pass at the same time? I know the argument is the same old one. But honestly the early drops while not perfect passes hurt, not to mention when the Chickens figured out what we where doing he didn’t have much time. I think the TD pass to MCluster shows how much he has progressed that TD was only possible due to Matt extending the play, much like he did last week to pick up a hard fought first down.

    • HuckDaddy

      True. I agree he looks like he has more control over the offense this year than previously. And there were some drops that killed drives. To be honest, when I watched and re-watched the game, I didn’t think we looked all that bad. There were a handful of plays and penalties that really killed us. That being said, when a team starts putting up points on us, be it 20 or 30 or 40, Cassel has shown time and time again to be unable to keep up. I know it is the same old argument and I have been on the Cassel bandwagon and then off again, but unless he can stretch the field he will continue to limit the team. There are too many weapons for any excuses this year.

      • tm1946

        It is the preseason but Cassel has been doing a ton of checkdowns at the line of scrimmage. Good thing or bad, we will see.

        • Huck Daddy

          I guarantee that will continue. That’s what he does best man!

      • Danny W

        Oh the excuses will come from the wood work. It’s pretty hilarious! Some love Cassel so much they will try and offend you personally if you point out his flaws. Some 40 year old men on here act like their 11 when you attack there hero that is half their age. I don’t know if I should be angry or sad for them. Cassel has no deep game and by deep I mean 20yd throws. He can get a hook route thats right in front of him but anything else and theres no touch.

    • KCMikeG

      Wow! Amazing how fast the Cassel haters came out of the wood work. Reality check – Cassel has taken control of the offense, is reading defenses and calling audibles. He has gone through his progressions, spread the ball around to the WR, TE & RB. has him ranked as one of the top QB’s (#8 of QB’s with avg 14/att/game) He has completed 63.8% of his passes even with 10 drops through 3 games. If those balls are caught Cassel is over 80% completion. WTF do you want?? Seriously? Super Manning (#10) has looked like shit and finally threw a couple TD’s, to go with his 3 picks, in the 3rd game when he had NO pass rush at all (outside of the one hit he took), Palmer (#12) has 4 picks and NO TD’s – go read the stories about his struggles by Rivers isn’t even ranked as he has only thrown 20 passes and has ONE TD and 3 picks.

      We obviously showed SEA that we weren’t going to run the ball (8 carries for JC/Hillis) as they brought the heat every play w/ no worry of running. That’s why the line collapsed, Cassel had to run for his life and why Eachus was able to tear off 98 yards and a TD in a quarter. Bowe, his favorite weapon finally showed up and dropped 3 of the 4 balls thrown to him (Not worried he will be fine). Daboll wanted to see how this mix of receivers looked together and chose not to disguise anything. Cassel is overcoming all this while learning another new offense and still is playing his ass off. Wake up and smell the Cassel.
      For some reason some fans would rather start up the bitch and whine session. Really an enjoyable way to start the year – making up shit to complain about. Ignore the dart he threw to McCluster for a TD while running for his life to cap an 85 yard 17 play drive which was the only reason the defense didn’t give up 60 points. If you are really a fan then complaining / worrying about our injured and disjointed defense would be much better use of your negativism. Cassel WILL have his best year EVER and you haters are going to look very foolish.

      • Stacy D. Smith

        It’ll be tough to best the nearly 4:1 TD-to-INT he had in 2010. He could certainly improve upon his completion percentage though.

  • tm1946

    Was not a big McC fan, but he really showed up this training camp. As usual, I worry is that because he is better or the other recievers just worse than usual?
    As for Daboll, how does he experiment? Cassel is QB and is what he is. Never going to be the reincarnate of Dawson, Unitas, or any Manning. So much for experiments. If the lead player is operating with limitations (anyone need a list?), not a lot things you can experiment with. Guess you could try a single wing or veer.

  • Calchiefsfan

    Every year it seems we go through this with Cassel. Has he improved on the long ball? Let’s give him a try and find out. I think that was what this game was about. Tm is right, test over, better luck next year. We will have a strong running game, which is what we do, and 2 receivers, Bowe and McCluster who can break 15 yard passes into long TD’s. We can win with that. Cassel just can’t throw pick sixes and fumble the football. He was good at avoiding turnovers in 2010, if he does that this year we’ll have a winning season.
    I’m not going to be too hard on Cassel, 80% of the quarterbacks in this league fold under heavy pressure.
    The thing that concerns me is that I was expecting the new and improved o line to stand up to good d lines. That didn’t happen against Seattle. They will need to play better against the likes of Oakland, San Diego, Denver, Baltimore etc.

  • Tim A Miller

    The O Line was as much to blame for the horrific game plan, but I firmly agree with Stacy that Daboll wanted to see up close and personal what he has in Matt Cassel. Yes, there is a vault of tape, but not tape with this supposed fourth ranked O line and offensive weapons. Well, he now knows exactly what he has and the regular season game plans will ensue: run first and use run and play action passing. That’s it, case closed. Any games upcoming where the Chiefs get down more than 14 points you can likely chalk up a loss, because Matt just doesn’t have what it takes to stand in the pocket survey down the field. KC’s first rd draft pick regardless of what they do this season will be a QB. I’ll put my first born and 3 month’s mortgage on it.

  • BigGil

    I thought Cassel’s poise wasn’t too bad… then again, I may have just set my expectations low enough that he just looked better by comparison. I recall a pass or two being sent sailing wherein no one was open,there was nowhere to scramble, the options were hold onto it and take a sack, throw it into tight coverage and risk the pick or send it sailing close enough to a receiver that the officials wouldn’t call intentional grounding (though it obviously was intentionally an uncatchable pass). Sending it sailing was the best choice, and Cassel made a quick assessment to,make that choice. Doesn’t explain away every other pass sent sailing (save these two), but he’s impressed me thus far (again, compared to my lower expectations).