Jeff Herr, a finalist in the 2011 Big Gig Contest on 610 Sports Radio, was born and raised in Kansas City. Following the Chiefs, Royals, and Jayhawks all his life has led him to blog about all three extensively at the-jeff-report.blogspot.com. He has also spent time covering the Royals for the blog site kingsofkauffman.com as well as serving for a period as the lead editor of throughthephog.com a blog covering the Kansas Jayhawks. When not writing about the local sports scene, he pays the bills by serving as an accountant.
Jeff Herr: Looking at the Chiefs First Preseason Game
by Jeff Herr,posted Aug 13 2012 11:30AM
Here’s the thing, it’s the preseason. Just as we would be defending the Chiefs with that mantra if they did poorly, the same theory applies that they did well. That said, boy did they do well. The Chiefs came out with a solid plan, they worked it to perfection, and by the time the number one offense left the game they had a 14-0 lead.
The entire point of preseason is why the Chiefs performance was exciting. Preseason is there for evaluation, not only amongst your own team but the others as well. Regardless of how good the Cardinals are or will be, the Chiefs should be better than them. In many ways a team like the Cardinals is a very good litmus test of where the Chiefs are in their process.
The last few years while the Chiefs have been “rebuilding” I like to plot out a few that will really tell me how far along this team is. I usually pick the teams who I think aren’t as good as the Chiefs on paper. How they stack up against those opponents is a good gauge of where they are.
It is for this reason that how the Chiefs handled the Cardinals is a good sign. The Cardinals probably aren’t going to be all that great this year. They surprised a lot of people to go 8-8 last year, but that might have even been playing above their heads a bit.
The Cardinals aren’t going to scare most people and if the Chiefs are truly going to contend for anything they should be able to handle this team. And handle them is what they did. The Chiefs drove down the field with relative ease on their first two drives, got into the red zone, and scored.
It did not look like a fair contest. The Cardinals were overmatched. Now, it’s preseason for them too, but the Chiefs came out and looked poor last year and we all know how that went. Fact is, this is the most impressive that the Chiefs have looked in years in the preseason. Ultimately, it doesn’t mean much. But it is a good amount of positivity surrounding this team now, and that is sorely needed.
There were quite a few items I was pleased with watching the game and some I wasn’t so pleased with.
Offense – The most obvious positive from this game was the offense. In the first quarter the first team offense was moving around like a well oiled machine. Dexter McCluster might have looked the most impressive making three receptions for 45 yards and getting the Chiefs into position to score on their second drive.
The offensive line looked about as impressive as they look on paper. The holes were there for the running game, Cassel had plenty of time, and it made for smooth sailing on offense. Depth might be a small concern as the majority of the backups are young and inexperienced, but this front line will be put up against just about any O-Line in the league.
Peyton Hillis looked good, he had a 28 yard rumble late in the game and had some solid runs against the Cardinals number one defense as well.
Matt Cassel, much maligned by Chiefs fans had himself quite a game. The first noticeable change on the offense wasn’t even about him as much. The offense was routinely getting to the line of scrimmage with plenty of time, which was a rare sight these past couple of years. This allowed Cassel to survey the defense, make possible audibles or offensive line adjustments, and just be more comfortable. The more comfortable Cassel is, the better this Chiefs team will be.
Everything wasn’t all positive though. There were a few areas the team could have been better.
Defense – The defense didn’t play horrible, but they weren’t quite as sharp as you’d like. This unit is what many think will be a huge strength of this team and I would tend to agree. Nobody is worried yet because defense usually takes a little bit longer to get acclimated and different units progress at different rates. However, they looked a little sluggish on run defense and they allowed a little bit more than I would have liked in the passing game.
The flip side of that is Brandon Flowers, the unanimous top cornerback on this squad, was out for the game and this was Eric Berry’s first game back since week 1 of 2011. With Flowers back and as the weeks go on with Berry improving, that will no doubt help the secondary. As the defensive line continues to gel together and get in game shape, they should only improve as well. Despite the small concerns, this unit still has the opportunity to be elite.
Somewhere in between the positives and the negatives lies the “I’m not sure” which can be popular in the early preseason.
The biggest area that most would probably agree with, and really only area from Friday’s performance, is Jamaal Charles. Coming off the ACL injury Charles has the toughest road back. Berry and Tony Moeaki both have to recover as well, but neither position will likely put as much stress and test out their rebuilt knee as much as Charles will.
There have been many success stories of players coming back from ACL tears, including running backs, with the main example being Jamal Lewis in the early 2000’s. Lewis was a bit of a different runner than Charles and didn’t put as much emphasis on cuts and quickness, but it’s still a solid example.
Charles didn’t seem to hit the holes like he did in 2010 nor did he have the burst we’ve come to expect. The road to ACL health is a long one and he still has a ways to go. That said, if he never gets back to 100% he still showed that he can be a productive player, even if he’s not what he once was.
Overall, it was a very positive showing from the Chiefs. I haven’t left a preseason game and felt that good about this team in a long time. The good feelings around this team are swirling and things could build on themselves to create one of the best teams we’ve seen here in a quite a while.