I know, the Chiefs still have one preseason game to play tonight against the Green Bay Packers. While any football game is better than no football game, the fourth preseason game is generally about as exciting as old reruns of the sitcoms you used to watch as a kid (Love Boat, anyone?), which just aren’t as fun anymore. So slightly prematurely, here are my 8 lessons I learned from the Chiefs’ preseason.
1. Wow, quarterbacks are important. Do you remember Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn? They used to play here. They were probably the two nicest individuals and most upright citizens in all of Kansas City. But remember that feeling you used to get in the pit of your stomach, just as they finished their dropbacks, as their arms got ready to release the ball? A number of things would normally happen then. Sometimes the ball would shoot out of their hands, headed in a beeline for an imaginary, 9 foot tall wideout. Other times, the ball would flutter, like a butterfly, on a beautiful summer day. And still other times, the ball would just fall out of their hands, rolling around on the ground as loose footballs do, until a defensive lineman would fall on it. Those days are gone. Alex Smith can throw the ball with zip, with accuracy and with confidence. And Chase Daniel is about a billion times better than Brady Quinn.
2. Jon Baldwin was really bad. Donnie Avery, in his first starting role, was targeted nine times and caught six passes for 54 yards. He refrained from getting in any locker room fights. He caught the ball with two hands. He got open, within a matter of seconds. I held out hope for Baldwin probably a lot longer than many of you and now I feel scorned. In his first game as a 49er, Baldwin caught one pass for 19 yards and another for four yard off of three targets. I really hope Baldwin succeeds, but as far as his Chiefs’ career, I say good riddance to you, Jon.
3. Anthony Fasano has hands. I’ve learned that Fasano is one of those guys that will just catch everything thrown his way. If I’m Alex Smith, I’m buying that guy a Rolex and some cashmere gloves to protect his hands today, as a downpayment on how Fasano is going to help Smith this year.
4. Giving up big plays is a problem to fix. In the first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, the Chiefs’ defensive backfield gave up 37 and 33 yard pass plays. Against the 49ers in week 2, San Francisco running back Frank Gore rumbled for 52 yards on their first offensive play. Last week, Sean Smith was burned on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first series for 49 yards on a blitz call. I understand with Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton’s attack-style defense, we’ll give up a few big plays here and there, but the Chiefs will simply not survive if they give up multiple big plays a game. On the positive side however, do you remember Romeo Crennel? He had that “bend but don’t break” defense that bended and broke all the time, so there’s that.
5. Edgar Jones gets my “sixth man” award. You’re probably sick of me raving about Edgar Jones each week, but I love the guy. He had three big tackles playing backup linebacker against the Steelers and once again, played stellar special teams, particularly on kick coverage. Jones has always been a star on special teams, and this year, he’s shown incredible improvement as a linebacker. If the NFL had a “sixth man” award, I’d give it to Jones.
6. The O-Line is almost almost there. You can just about feel it – the offensive line has been shaky, but you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The communication is getting better. Fisher looks a bit more comfortable at right tackle each game. Branden Albert is getting to be his mean self again. There are flashes of brilliance, like on Jamaal Charles’ eleven yard run in the first quarter against the Steelers. Will they be at full-speed on opening day against the Jacksonville Jaguars? All eyes will be comparing the Jags’ first rounder Luke Joeckel and the Chiefs’ very first pick, Eric Fisher. Pride alone will bring the O-Line where it needs to be.
7. We’re going to need a nickname for the Chiefs’ sackers. Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Dontari Poe and Eric Berry may all have double digit sacks this year. Tyson Jackson, any of a number of blitzing defensive backs and even Nico Johnson and Akeem Jordan will be good for a few sacks as well. Sutton’s defense will harass opposing quarterbacks so much they’ll make Philip Rivers look like a mature, emotionally stable adult. They’re gonna need a nickname.
8. Special Teams are on another planet. Much has been written already by Addicts about the Special Teams unit. Colquitt has mastered micro-control of the ball. I’ve never seen anyone land so many punts inside the five yard line. Ryan Succup looks fantastic. The Chiefs blocked their first field goal since I think the Albert Lewis days. And the return game is ridiculous. I think Clark Hunt should award the NFL’s first lifetime contract to Dave Toub.
Addicts, those are my eight lessons from the preseason. What are yours?!