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…