How The Chiefs Can Right The Ship


The Kansas City Chiefs had a rough go of it a week ago when they got their clocks cleaned 25-0 at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Now they find themselves in a relatively hostile environment on the road against a deeper team in the Baltimore Ravens.

After such a pathetic showing, what can the Chiefs do to salvage their preseason (aside from the catastrophic preseason mistake of playing your starters too long)?

Keep your eyes on the prize.  Don’t over-react to last week’s suckfest.  It’s very easy to do so, and there are a couple poisonous ways you can do it:

1. The Chiefs were roundly criticized last week for not trying to win.  While I’d probably agree with that criticism, it’d be a foolish error to respond this week by taking this game too seriously, and treating it as a must win.  The natural inclination is to silence your critics by playing your starters too much, or by playcalling this game as if it were last winter’s playoff rematch.  Don’t fall into that trap; at the end of the day, this is about shaking off the rust of your first stringers, and evaluating everybody else.

2. The Chiefs were also criticized for seeming lacksidaisical against the Bucs.  Again, I’d probably agree with that too, but you don’t want to overreact by getting too intense for a game that doesn’t matter.  We’ve actually seen this happen all week, sadly, with the Chiefs breaking out into a handful of fights on the practice field, and now WR Johnny Baldwin’s out for the preseason for scuffling with RB Thomas Jones.

No more isolations-by-design.  I absolutely hate it in the preseason when teams try to force-evaluate a player by running an overly-obvious play designed specifically for that player, and the Chiefs did that a ton last week.  They opened with a direct handoff to FB Shane Bannon up the gut.  They did it later on with a slant to Baldwin from QB Tyler Palko that was poorly thrown.

These plays are lazy and meaningless.  They usually aren’t successful because defenses usually sniff them out in a half-second.  And they aren’t good for evaluating anything because they’re not natural representations of what happens in a game.

Tell you what: run your natural offense the way it’s intended to be run, and if this player you’re wanting to evaluate is as good as you hoped, than he’ll naturally become a part of it and you can realistically see what you have in your players.

Tons more suggestions, after the jump.  Your own suggestions are invited in comments.

Tonnnnnnns more plays designed for the Y receiver.  The Chiefs are loaded with smaller slot receivers now that they want to make this more of a three-wide offense.  Trading for WR Steve Breaston was an example of this after the RB Dexter McCluster experiment failed to produce (although he can still play the slot in spot situations). 

But there was virtually no slot work against the Buccaneers.  Let’s give these guys a chance to see what we have!  WR Chandler Williams, WR Chris Manno, WR Zeke Markshausen, WR Keary Colbert, WR Josue Paul… we’ve got a serious logjam after Breaston.  Let’s see what we have.

Limit the third string offensive line to the fourth quarter.  In my evaluation of last week’s game, I included a relatively extensive review of QB Tyler Palko’s play but made zero mention of QB Ricky Stanzi.  In part, that’s because the Chiefs depth at offensive line goes only to about the second string.  The third string is horrendous (although now that we have OT Jared Gaither at second-string left tackle, OT Dave Mims becomes our third string LT, which improves the unit over the abomination of Butch Lewis). 

Here’s our second string offensive line: LT Jared Gaither, LG Darryl Harris, C Rodney Hudson, RG Bobby Greenwood, RT Ryan O’Callaghan.  That’s actually a sturdy unit that can give the QB some time, especially if Gaither can stay on the field (it goes back down a notch if Mims has to man LT).  Palko got at least some time behind this line against the Bucs.  Stanzi, however, had zero time.  I’m amazed he went 4-8 considering the disaster of a line he had to stand behind.

Give both QBs plenty of time to play behind the second-string line.  My recommendation would be:

1st quarter:  Cassel with the first-string OL
2nd quarter: Palko with the second-string OL
3rd quarter: Stanzi with the second-string OL
4th quarter: Stanzi with the third-string OL

That way we can at least get a decent look at Stanzi, and the 2nd and 3rd lines have plenty of opportunities to show what they’re worth.

Try more nickel and dime packages in the second half.  The Chiefs have another logjam at backup safety, and I’m not terribly encouraged by the acquisition of S Sabby Piscitelli, who missed a couple pretty sad tackles against the Bucs, which he was known for after the Bucs released him.

But the main reason I’d like to see more sub packages is because I want to see more passrushing from the defensive line.  I want to put DEs like Allen Bailey and Brandon Bair in and see what they can do when we tell them to pin their ears back and go.  OLBs Justin Houston and Erik Bakhtiari showed really well against the Bucs… let’s see what they can do in this type of scenario.

The most underrated package in professional football is the prevent package when you’re trying to retain a lead.  Fans hate it, and for good reason; a lot of teams aren’t very good at it, the Chiefs included.  To have an effective prevent package, you need to be able to get some spot rushing on the QB from one or two down lineman.  So let’s see who can step up to the task!

RETURN ALL KICKS.  Seriously, I know this will put the Chiefs on their own 8 yard line way too often, but let’s at least see if someone other than McCluster and CB Javier Arenas can do it for us if we need them to.

Trash the vanilla, and try to scheme a little bit.  I know you don’t want to give away much of your playbook before the season starts, but how much of your playbook do teams already know by Week 4?  Seemingly a ton.

So while I understand the generic playcalling in preseason games, let’s not forget we have YET ANOTHER first time offensive coordinator for this offense, and let’s give him a couple games to stretch his wings so to speak.