While Running Game Is Certain, Passing Game Is Anything But
There are two safe assumptions we can make about the 2010 Kansas City Chiefs:
1) They will run the ball well
2) They will struggle to stop the run
Neither of these statements are at all controversial. We know Jamaal Charles can run behind this line because he did it last year. If anything, this year’s line should be better suited to him. Free agent acquisitions Casey Weigmann and Ryan Lilja are both small, quick linemen. Gone is the pathetic “power running game” of the Herm Edwards regime. The Jamaal Charles ground attack will likely focus on speed and his uncanny ability to use blockers who can get out into the defense.
Not that we’re limited to that approach Jones provides an ideal between-the-tackles candidate. I’m not going to gush about Jones like some have, but he makes a good complement to Charles. Throw in our boy Dexter for the chicanery and we should have just about every type of rushing play well covered.
Of course, so will almost every team playing against us. I know some of you don’t want to believe this, but our rush defense will probably be at least as bad as our rushing offense is good. Again, we need look no further than last year for evidence of this. The front seven couldn’t stop the run last year. Given that these are the same guys, there’s no reason to think they’ll be able to this year, either. We still don’t have a nose tackle. Our entire linebacking corps is back, and it‘s not exactly a group full of up-and-comers. People point to Dorsey and Tin Man, and maybe they will improve, but they aren’t suddenly going to put this run defense on their shoulders and make it respectable. This D is going to give up a lot of yards on the ground. It is unavoidable. It is their destiny.
That’s what we know. We will run, and we will get run on. The key to our season, then, is how the passing game shakes out. Who will move the ball better through the air, the Chiefs or our opponents? The answer to that question is anyone’s guess.
We’ve spent much of these past few months reassuring ourselves that Matt Cassel is going to be fine, but maybe he won‘t. It’s possible he just isn’t a good quarterback. What have we seen from him so far? One good season, one bad. When the personnel around him was good, he was good. Hardly surprising. So I guess the question is, what can we expect from the personnel around him?
Will Branden Albert develop into a legitimate left tackle? Will Chris Chambers phone it in now that he’s got his final contract? Is there a reason Ryan Lilja was cut by Indianapolis? What kind of impact will Dexter McCluster have? Can either Tony Moeaki or Brad Cottam stay healthy? Is Dwayne Bowe anything close to a # 1 receiver?
These are all legitimate questions, questions we don’t yet have the answers to. If most of those situations go our way, Matt Cassel will probably have a pretty good year, and our passing offense will excel. If even half of them don’t, Cassel could be in trouble. I have some preliminary guesses as to how this will play out, but the educated guesses will have to wait. Regardless, even the biggest homers would have to admit that a productive passing game is far from a foregone conclusion. I’d describe my overall feeling right now as cautiously optimistic.
Our passing defense is just as much on an enigma as the offense. The Chiefs have acknowledged that this is a pass-first league, and they drafted accordingly. But was focusing on the secondary and ignoring the pass-rush really the right move? There may be many relevant questions concerning our passing offense, but for our pass defense it really boils down to one: can we rush the quarterback? Last year we couldn’t. And even if we assume a modest increase in sacks, we’ll still be below average. That doesn’t bode well.
There is one big reason for optimism for the pass defense, and here it is: almost all of our ascending defensive players from last year are predominantly pass defenders. Think about it: Hali, Magee, Gilberry, Flowers, Carr and Studebaker all figure most prominently in the passing game. Even Dorsey was originally drafted as an attacking defensive tackle. The rush defense, on the other hand, hinges on the likes of Ron Edwards, Shaun Smith, Corey Mays, Demorrio Speedwagon, Jovan Belcher and The Tin Man. Not exactly a murderer’s row. If this defense gets better, virtually all of the improvement figures to come in the passing game.
This is a pass-first league, there is no doubt about it. Given that both our passing offense and defense could go either way, it’s really hard to tell what kind of team the Chiefs will be. If we pass well but can’t get after the QB, there are likely to be plenty of shootouts this year. If our secondary excels, the pass-rush improves but the passing offense falters, scores will probably be pretty balanced. If Cassel struggles and we can’t rush the passer, we’re in trouble. If Cassel’s numbers improve, our pass-rush jumps to league average and the focus on the secondary pays off, look out. That’s our sweet spot. It might not be likely, but its possible. Winning football in Kansas City is possible. I haven’t been able to say that for a long time (single tear).
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a plane ticket to buy. Your boy Big Matt is comin’ home for the Monday night madness. Me and my crew are getting in on that Chiefs/Royals double-header. As excited as I am, I’m actually a little worried about spending 12 straight hours at the Truman Sports Complex. Despite the moniker, I am not a large man. There’s only so many beers I can drink before the memory gets a bit fuzzy. I need to be lucid for the Chiefs, but three hours-plus at The K and four hours in the parking lot in between games in a sure-fire recipe for creating a sloppy, embarrassing fool come kickoff.
Does anyone have any suggestions here? Is there some kind of pill I don’t know about? I’d really rather not have to exercise any restraint. There’s only so much dignity a white guy in a headdress can conduct himself with.
Article by Big Matt