Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Personnel Preference

I've been kind of slacking on Chiefs roster updates and other happenings, so let me try to get all caught up in one post.

Last week, a couple of ex-Chiefs found new teams. One being the ever controversial Larry Johnson. Apparently the Dolphins see something in Johnson that no other team since the Chiefs have, and have decided to offer LJ a contract. Johnson will be deep in the depth chart with little to no hope of seeing significant playing time this season behind rookie Daniel Thomas and free agent acquisition Reggie Bush. The other ex-Chief is Brodie Croyle, who is taking his 0-10 NFL record down to Arizona, where he will be a back up to new Cardinal Kevin Kolb.

Now for some recent activity, the Chiefs have had to cut their roster to 80 players, which means nine players had to go. The players that have been cut are: LB Eric Bakhtiari, RB Tervaris Johnson, DB Javes Lewis, WR Chris Manno, WR Josue Paul, DB Mario Russell, WR Chandler Williams and K Todd Carter. RT Ryan O'Callaghan was sent down to Injured Reserve. As you can see, a high number of wide receivers were cut, which shows you just how many were on our roster to begin with. And with O'Callaghan being sent down, more importance is being placed upon Jared Gaither to get healthy by the start of the season.

One more thing, ex-Patriots safety James Sanders, who was cut by New England just this week, might be attending a work out with the Chiefs if he does not get a deal done with the Atlanta Falcons. The Chiefs already have starting (Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis) and back up (Jon McGraw and Sabby Piscitelli) players at those positions, but Sanders could be a welcomed upgrade to either one of our back ups. I don't think he'd push for starting time against Lewis, but you know how Todd Haley loves competition within his team.

Friday, August 26, 2011

And It's Gone ... Notes from the Chiefs-Rams Game

Just as quickly as it came, it is now gone.

The Governor's Cup is now in the hands of the 'other' Missouri football team. The Chiefs had plenty of opportunities including two possessions within St. Louis's 10 yard line, but just couldn't convert more than a measly field goal. In fact, it's these missed opportunities and mistakes that the Chiefs made that upsets me much more than losing the Cup.

What the Chiefs Did Right

Just like with all preseason games, you have to look at what's important, and that is staying healthy and giving every player a chance to prove himself. The latter is especially stressed because of the roster cuts that have to be made. The first cut being August 30th, in which the roster has to be reduced to 80, and then on September 3rd, where the final 53 man roster has to be determined.

With these prerequisites, the Chiefs were successful. Only one player left for injury - rookie Jalil Brown - but he would return later to re-enter the game. And as far as playing time, everyone on both teams seemed to get some sort of playing time. And although the Chiefs seem determined to not win a game, we have to remember it's not necessarily for the fans, these games are for the players.

Outside of that, I like the depth the Chiefs have at OLB. Cameron Sheffield had a QB hit late in the fourth to force an incompletion, and Justin Houston continues to impress, with a pass deflection and a tackle for no gain on third and short to force fourth down, not to mention the pressure he put on Sam Bradford to force an incomplete pass that was very close to being a sack/fumble. Outside of Tamba Hali, I think that Justin Houston has the most talent at the OLB position and I'd have no problem with him starting over Andy Studebaker (although I know that's a long shot at this point).

Speaking of talented linebackers, Derrick Johnson had the best game of anyone on the team in my opinion, finishing with 8 tackles, a sack, and a goal line interception. Johnson and Dustin Colquitt (probably because he's unfortunately gotten lots of practice) look to be in mid-season form, and Ricky Stanzi, given the opportunity to work with the second team offensive line, looked like the best QB on the team. Stanzi would finish 8 of 14 for 121 yards and the team's lone touchdown (and a 109.5 QB rating). Although Stanzi was 1/4 on third down with a couple of drops.

What the Chiefs could have done better

Well, they could have won, but that aside, there were plenty of areas the Chiefs didn't look good at. And like the game of modern day football, it all begins with the quarterback. Matt Cassel, who has perpetually struggled in the preseason, continues this trend with a 6 of 13, 59 yard performance (59.5 QB rating). He was also 1/3 for 2 yards on third down. These are not numbers you want to see from your starting quarterback. At no point during this preseason have I thought that our offense has looked in sync and that's mostly because Cassel hasn't been sharp, forcing a lot of passes that shouldn't be made. He did avoid a couple of sacks which was impressive, but his completion percentage continues to be below 50%, which is not where anyone wants it to be.

Once again, the Chiefs offense was given the ball in the opposing team's red zone, and once again, the Chiefs squandered their opportunity and had to settle for a field goal. The most depressing part is that both times it occurred with the Chiefs starters on the field. If we can't punch it in from within the 10, what can we do?

I'm not going to say that the playcalling was bad, but it wasn't good. Whether it be to questionable calls in the first half, to three straight passes in a goal line situation which lead to a blocked field goal attempt. I know that the Chiefs have bigger concerns than winning preseason games, and they might not be scripting out their playcalls yet, but it just seems that we are either not wanting to show much during preseason regarding our new offense, or we just haven't figured out how to use it.

While our first round draft pick didn't play in the game due to a injured hand as the result of a fight, St. Louis's first round pick, Robert Quinn, finished with 3 tackles, a sack, and a blocked field goal attempt.

And I will end with the play of our offensive line. Our offensive line was getting called with holding penalties the entire game, one that took away a Jamaal Charles touchdown run was the result of rookie Rodney Hudson. Hudson was filling in for Ryan Lilja in the game and is a rookie, but what isn't excusable is Barry Richardson. He was called for three holding penalties, two of which occurred on third down. And those last two were against second string players. I'd say he better be concerned for his job, but Jared Gaither was also flagged for a holding penalty; Gaither of course having the possibility of moving over to the right tackle spot and supposedly upgrade the position over Richardson.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Governor's Cup: Chiefs vs. Rams

Tomorrow evening, the Chiefs play their in-state rival (not really much of a rivalry), the St. Louis Rams. Whenever these two teams meet, it's always a special occasion because the much coveted Governor's Cup hangs in the balance. Will it go to the established team whose roots are older and deeper or the newer franchise that found success early but has struggled as of late? Both teams are on the rise, one making the playoffs last season and one barely missing after a loss in the last game of the season. However, these thoughts are not the focal point of tomorrow night's game; the importance of tomorrow is shining a light on a city about 2.5 hours away from Kansas City and a little over 4 hours away from St. Louis.

That city is the one that I call home: Joplin. We are all aware that a F5 tornado touched down in Joplin back on May 22nd. Everyone heard the staggering death tolls, were told the amazing stories of heroism or the sad tales of devastation, and saw the carnage daily on their television. What many people don't realize is that it doesn't look much better. The debris has only recently been completely removed but rebuilding is still a future project that has yet to be started.

Both the Chiefs and Rams (and the Colts but they are irrelevant for this post) donated money, supplies, and time for the rebuilding of Joplin in the wake of the tornado. And much like the Royals and Cardinals commemorated their inter-league series to the rebuilding of Joplin (and at all the Royals games I've been to since then they are still creating awareness and asking for donations so good job), the Chiefs and Rams are taking this preseason opportunity to shine a light on a city that needs all the help it can get.

So thank you, to both the Chiefs and the Rams.

Now that I've addressed that issue, let me talk some football. These two teams met last year in the regular season, the Chiefs winning it 27-13. You might remember the game for something other than a win; it was the first game that Matt Cassel played in after his appendectomy and probably sealed the deal for Cassel in the eyes of the fans.

Also, if you weren't following my blog back then, there was a bit of a controversy leading up to the game. I'll let this link fill you in on what was going on. 

Governor Cup aside, I'm more interested to see what the Chiefs starters can do. We know they looked good the last time these two teams met, but I want a break out performance by these guys. Our starters haven't scored a touchdown all season, something that not many other teams in the NFL can say this preseason. I know preseason doesn't matter, but I still want to see something that instills confidence in our offense before the start of the regular season against the Bills on September 11th.

And if you're interested in the Governor Cup standings, the Chiefs are 5-0 against the Rams in the regular season but only 5-6 in preseason games, the last preseason game being a 17-9 loss in St. Louis back in 2009.

This year, we will be going against the rookie sensation Sam Bradford, who seems to be the franchise quarterback (I guess that's what you would call him, I've never seen one myself ....) the Rams have been looking for to revitalize their franchise. The Rams also have one of the youngest and most talented defenses in the NFL, finishing 7th last year in sacks.

Is there a reason to be concerned as a Chief fan? Sure, but if this guy can win us a Governor's Cup, then I'm not too concerned that the Cup will be leaving Kansas City.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Player Profile: Jerheme Urban

Say hello to the Chiefs number two wide receiver.

That's right. Jerheme Urban looks like he's no longer just a temporary filler for the position, which everyone thought he'd be. Instead, he now looks like he could legitimately be the opening day receiver opposite Dwayne Bowe.

The reason for this isn't necessarily because of his performance in practice or preseason. It's because the Chiefs first round draft pick, Jon Baldwin, ticked off the wrong person and injured his hand (whether it's his wrist or thumb has yet to be determined). How it happened we can't be sure since the Chiefs have not addressed the situation, but what we can be sure of is that Baldwin will be out for a little while and someone will have to take his place. And who better to take his place then the guy that was ahead of him on the depth chart in the first place?

Jerheme (pronounced Jeremy) is a 6'3" 207 lbs veteran out of the small Trinity University. He was originally an undrafted free agent that signed with Seattle in 2003. Since then he has been with the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals (where he played under Todd Haley), before he signed on as a Chief on March 11th, 2010. He looked good last training camp and preseason before tearing a flexor tendon in his right hand in the final preseason game of the year, causing him to be put on injured reserve and miss the entire 2010 campaign.

I find it ironic that Urban now has this opportunity with the Chiefs because of a hand injury to another player.

At the times I attended Chiefs training camp in St. Joseph, I thought Urban was outperforming Baldwin, or at least, being more consistent. This hasn't really shown up during the preseason, however, where he's only been targeted twice and has no catches. The more worrisome thing is that he seems to be having trouble getting open, and that is reflected by both his targets having been deflected. Whether it's just rust from missing last season or if it's his 30 year old legs having trouble getting open, Urban needs to show me more before I gain confidence in him starting the position.

For his career, Urban has 87 receptions for 1,231 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Game Notes From Chiefs vs. Ravens

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
Well, the game might have ended in a 31-13 loss, but that doesn't mean that there isn't plenty to talk about. Quite contrary, yesterday's game left us with a lot to talk about if you know where to look.

  • First, let's start at the very beginning of the game. The game, just like most this preseason, began with a touchback. Nothing strange about that right? Normally there wouldn't be, except for the fact that Ravens coach John Harbaugh had said the days leading up to the game: "In this game, we’re going to have to punch it down there because we need to train our guys to cover kicks. We’re not going to go through the whole season kicking touchbacks. That would be foolish. Right now, they can know that they’re going to get a chance to return kicks in this game because we need to cover them.” Out of 31 points worth of kickoffs, plus the opening of the game, only twice were they not touchbacks; and out of those two, one was six yards deep in the end zone. So, looks like Harbaugh didn't mind being a little "foolish."
  • Next, I want to talk about Justin Houston. I jump to Houston because he was the first Chiefs player to make a big play, forcing the fumble after the Chiefs had to punt after their first series. Houston would finish with two sacks, which each happened in the second half, three tackles, and two QB hits. Houston, of course, should have had a third sack in the fourth quarter, but instead got juked out by the athletic Tyrod Taylor who then ran in for the touchdown. Besides that lapse, I thought Houston had a very good game, even if it was against second and third string players.
  • Most of the Chiefs starters played into the second quarter. And in the opening series, we saw something we didn't see last week; we saw Cassel throw and Charles run. Although Cassel lead the Chiefs to two field goal attempts (one being no good), he didn't have all that great of a night, finishing 6/14 (43%) for 73 yards and a 59.5 passer rating. I should say that three of Cassel's incomplete passes were dropped (Bowe, Moeaki, Jones), three were deflected, one was thrown away and one was nearly intercepted. On third downs, Cassel was called upon to attempt four passes. He completed two of those four (with one drop), gained one first down, and took one sack (although McCluster blew his chop block and left Cassel with no protection). Third down is something I'd like to see Cassel improve at, so hopefully he's just knocking off the rust.
  • Our first team defense looked a little rusty at times, giving up a twelve play field goal on the Ravens opening series, but really buckled down after that. Our second team defense kept up the good work, although they did give up a touchdown before halftime with starters Joe Flacco and Ray Rice going up against the likes of Sabby Piscitelli and Jon McGraw (which is my sarcastic way of saying I wasn't impressed with the Ravens offense). Our defense didn't start getting scorched until the last seven or so minutes of the fourth quarter, when our depth had been exhausted and the Ravens still had many of their second team players still in. Something I think our defense could improve on is rushing yards on first down. When Flacco and Rice were in the game, they averaged 3.3 yards per carry on first down, which is a little high then I would have liked, but most of those numbers came against our backups, so I''m not too concerned.
  • Here's our backup situation: it's not good. And here's why. Tyler Palko might have been 8 of 13 for 95 yards and a touchdown, but he was also extremely lucky. I don't know if Jim Zorn's drills have gotten to Palko, but he seemed more than comfortable attempting passes from his back foot. I noted on at least two occasions he tried this, and one was his touchdown pass. Palko is no Brett Favre, and nothing good can come of Palko having success with these type of fundamentals. And as far as Ricky Stanzi is concerned, he is clearly a rookie. Besides that delay of game penalty late in the game, Stanzi looked off. I'm afraid he might be suffering from the David Carr effect: when a good quarterback gets no pass protection, suffers from numerous sacks, and starts rushing throws and not being very accurate. And Stanzi was indeed sacked numerous times and threw an interception. It might be time to start making some phone calls.
  • Here are some player notes I thought worth noting. Is Mike Cox seriously our reserve running back? Can we not do better than putting a full back in as tail back? I found that humorous. And Jalil Brown, who had been looking good in training camp, gave up a deep pass and was flagged for pass interference in the game. So in other words, he didn't look very good in last night's game.
  • If you watched the entire game, then I am sure you had an opinion on the very last drive of the night. After Stanzi failed to convert of fourth down with 1:18 left, instead of kneeling it down, the Ravens went above and beyond to score a touchdown, even calling two timeouts to ensure they would have enough time to score. The Ravens were already up 24-13 at this point. After the game, it looked like coach Haley wasn't the happiest person in the world. After the game, Harbaugh said "The idea in that situation is to give those young guys who work hard and who are trying to make a football team -- this football team or another football team -- to play the whole 60 minutes and give them a chance to show what they can do." I wouldn't mind this at all, but I'm not sure if Harbaugh is being completely sincere, since he decided to leave his second QB in until the final series, when he finally let Hunter Cantwell enter the game. If he was truly concerned about getting to see what his guys can do, he would do what the Chiefs do and make sure all their players get plenty of playing time. It was almost as if Harbaugh intended to run up the score, wanting to embarrass the Chiefs. Harbaugh had this to say about Haley and his discussion following the game: "I think he said something like, 'I don't know about that,' "I understood, and I just said, 'Preseason, preseason for the young guys.' He said 'OK.'" Not sure if I totally buy this and it makes me wonder, what did we do to upset the Ravens?
  • Three tuck rule incompletions in one game! Very strange.
  • It was reported that the team would address the Jones-Baldwin fight after the game. That didn't happen, at least not from Haley. When asked in his press conference, Haley seemed surprised by the question and refused to disclose any information on the topic. Looks like the mystery of Baldwin's hand will go on a little longer, but here's some insight via Jamaal Charles' twitter: "Real talk...RT @Dangerzombie: @jcharles25 Thomas Jones is my hero..lol. Respect is earned by hard work. Blood,sweat,and tears." Not sure if this has to do with Baldwin, but I got to think so.
All-in-all, just another typical Chiefs preseason game. 

Friday, August 19, 2011


I almost didn't want to write this post. I almost just wanted to wait until the preseason game tonight to see for myself. I wanted to deny that something like this happened to the Chiefs. But unfortunately it has, and although I'm a big proponent of ignorance being bliss, I felt like I had to address the situation.

Jon Baldwin has injured his wrist in a locker room scuffle with veteran teammate Thomas Jones.

And after receiving Nick Wright's tweet, Nick Wright being the one that broke the story, frustration immediately set in.

Many wondered why Baldwin was absent from practice on Wednesday, especially since he should get more reps in this week's preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. Well now we know, and it gets worse. According to Wright, Baldwin will miss the remainder of the preseason and possibly even the first week or two of the regular season. And although Wright couldn't confirm this 6-8 week injury absence, he's been right so far so we're in no position to question what he's said.

Baldwin, who many questioned as the right pick in the first round, had been changing fans' minds with his training camp play but it all seems to all be coming down on him. After an extremely shortened offseason, Baldwin's progression will now be even more hampered because of this dumb injury.

But it's not only Baldwin that looks bad. Thomas Jones just injured our first round draft pick. Haley couldn't control his own team enough to prevent this from happening. Pioli's selection of Baldwin in the first round will now be questioned and scrutinized more than ever.

This is not the hopes Chiefs fans had for their first round draft pick or the beginning of the season.

An Unforgettably Forgettable Draft

Matthew Stafford Detroit Lions #1 draft pick Matthew Stafford poses for photographers with his family after his selection in the 2009 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 25, 2009 in New York City  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Matthew Stafford

The year 2009, by all standards, was a bad year for the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite being the first year for the Haley-Pioli combination that we fans have come to like, the season was a disaster and the Chiefs only finished with 4 wins. Between those twelve losses was the Larry Johnson debacle, the Dwayne Bowe suspension, and the Chan Gailey firing, but before all of that, we had the 2009 draft.

The reason I reopen this wound is because of the recent release of Aaron Maybin, the 11th overall pick of the 2009 draft. 

After just two seasons of extreme disappointment, the Bills of all teams figured that they were better off without Maybin than they would be trying to give him a shot at redemption in his third season. Many people in football tell you that you can't judge a player until after his third season, which is usually indicative of the type of player he'll turn out to be. Maybin, who recently signed with the Jets, will get that chance of redemption, but not with the team that drafted him.

So were the Bills in the wrong for cutting their top 2009 draft pick?

It was probably premature on the Bills part, but I'm not sure if I can necessarily blame them. In fact, I'm not entirely sure if I could blame a lot of teams if they cut their 2009 first round draft picks. That's just how bad the whole thing has been so far.

Just look at the number 1 overall pick: Matthew Stafford. The guy came out of Georgia with the most upside at the QB position and has looked good in the games he has played in. Unfortunately for the Lions, he's only played in 13 games in two seasons and has been overshadowed by the other two QB's taken in the first round that same year (Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman). Stafford was nearly flawless in his first preseason game this season, going 6 of 7 for two touchdowns; but talent was never his problem. So far in his first two seasons, I think it's fair to say Stafford has been a disappointment. 

Disappointment is a word you hear a lot when talking about this first round.

A friend of mine who is a Chiefs fan says that instead of taking the player we did (which I will address later on), we should have taken linebacker Aaron Curry, who went right after the Chiefs picked to the Seahawks. And I ask why? Because we would complain about Curry slightly less? Curry, the number 4 overall pick, had 73 tackles and 3.5 sacks. This is only 2.5 sacks more and 11 tackles less than undrafted free agent Jovan Belcher, who also joined his first NFL team in 2009 but for a lot less money.

In fact, six linebackers went in the first round and of those six, only three have had good seasons (Brian Orakpo - #13, Brian Cushing - #15, Clay Matthews - #26). The other three linebackers - Aaron Curry (#4), Aaron Maybin (#11), and Larry English (#16) - combined for 96 tackles and 6.5 sacks last season. That combined number is still 38 tackles shy of Brian Cushing's rookie number of 134 and 4.5 shy of Orakpo's rookie sack total. So in their sophomore season, a season that should show improvement, these three high draft picks have failed to live up to their status.

A high number of wide receivers were taken in the first round that year: Darrius Heyward-Bey (#7), Micheal Crabtree (#10), Jeremy Maclin (#16), Percy Harvin (#22), Hakeem Nicks (#29) and Kenny Britt (#30). Of these six wide receivers, only Nicks has a 1,000 yard season (in 2010) and only Maclin has a double digit touchdown season (10 in 2010). And the top pick of these, Heyward-Bey, has only 490 yards and 2 touchdowns in two seasons combined.

And don't even get me started on running backs - Knowshon Moreno (#12), Donald Brown (#27), and Chris "Beanie" Wells (#31). None have a 1,000 yard season, none have more than 7 touchdown runs in a season, and out of the 6 combined seasons of opportunity, only twice have these backs played an entire season. 

Now I will address the issue that every Chiefs fan is tired of hearing: Tyson Jackson. Jackson was the third overall pick of the 2009 draft and has been underwhelming ever since. Every Chiefs fan has heard the old cliche about this being a make-or-break season for Jackson. And while this is true, this is also true for all the other first round picks that have yet to prove themselves from that same draft. We've come to learn that other options might have been better for the third pick (B.J. Raji at #9), but hindsight is 20/20. 

So let's just see what Jackson, and the rest of his underachieving class, can do this season before we throw them under the bus completely. After all, haven't their salaries garnered such patience?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ain't Gonna Be No Rematch: Chiefs vs. Ravens

For those Rocky fans out there (which should be everyone), you might recognize the title of the post as a famous quote from the first Rocky movie. After Apollo Creed won a split decision contest against the underdog Rocky Balboa, a fight that wasn't even supposed to be close, Creed says these famous words to Rocky as a sign of respect.

In a way, I think the 2010 Chiefs were a lot like Rocky in that first movie. Virtually unheard of, disrespected, an underdog in every sense of the word. And because of this role, the Chiefs were able to sneak up on opponents, taking them by surprise. Despite their heart and effort, the Chiefs season didn't end up as the miracle that all of us wanted it to be. But neither did the Rocky movie.

What I'm trying to say is that Rocky wasn't a one-hit wonder and neither are the Chiefs. And just like Creed and Rocky met again, the Chiefs have the opportunity to play the team that took any hopes of a championship away from us. The reason it's not going to be a rematch, however, is because it's only a preseason game; slightly less epic than a meeting again in the playoffs would be.

And because it's a preseason game, don't expect to see the starters for very long, although John Harbaugh has said that the Ravens starters will play "into the second quarter."

How long are the Chiefs starters going to be in? Nobody but the coaches know that answer. The game got ugly last week between the Chiefs and the Bucs when Tampa Bay decided to keep their starters in into the second quarter and the Chiefs pulled their after just a couple of overly conservative series (Matt Cassel attempted no pass, Jamaal Charles didn't carry a ball). Despite the coaches knowing that the game could get ugly fast, they didn't hesitate to pull their starters, not caring what Tampa Bay did. So don't be surprised if this is the same strategy the Chiefs use tomorrow, not being coaxed into playing their starters longer than they planned because of Baltimore's intentions.

Do I want to see the Chiefs starters play against the Raven's starters for over a quarter? Absolutely. I'm a fan and I'm not fond of blowouts. But will I blame the coaching staff for pulling the starters early? No, it's their call and imagine how upset we would be if Cassel or Charles was lost for the season because of exhibition aggressiveness.

I've already talked about some of the players we got from Baltimore this offseason (just scroll down a couple of posts until you find it), but here are some of their acquisitions: running back Ricky Williams from Miami; full back Vonta Leach from Houston; wide receiver Lee Evans from Buffalo; strong safety Bernard Pollard (sound familiar).

What do I expect from tomorrow night's game? Cassel throwing the football, Charles getting some carries, Jackie Battle not playing all four quarters, and the first score of the Chiefs preseason. These aren't very high expectations, but if you saw last weeks game, you understand. So does Rocky have what it takes to take down Apollo Creed? I guess we'll find out.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Throwin' Benjamins: How To Spend Money in the NFL

There are a lot of differing opinions on how to spend money in the NFL. Some GM's like to bring in the big name free agents every year, even if they don't fit into their team system, overpay them in contract and guaranteed money, and then cut them a year or two later (Washington Redskins). Some GM's aren't afraid to let go of veteran talent that wants more money in exchange for more cap space for other players or for a future draft pick or two (New England Patriots). Some GM's don't delve into free agency, instead electing to concentrate on resigning their own players before anything else (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

There are, of course, other strategies about how to conduct one's business in the NFL when spending money on players. For fans, however, there is only one way to be successful in an offseason: SPEND, SPEND, SPEND!

If teams don't spend almost every single bit of their cap space, fans are always complaining. "Why aren't we spending more?" "Why aren't we bringing in so-and-so?" "We're never going to be a contender if we keep being cheap!"

These are statements that fans make every year about their team of choice, but these are statements that are especially prevalent if you are a Kansas City Chiefs fan. True or not, many fans have come to think of the organization as cheap. Not because of their lack of activity in free agency, not because the free agents they sign are ineffective, but because they are usually near the top of the available cap space list.

Yesterday, NFL.com came out with the updated cap space numbers for all the teams and the Chiefs were on top, being $32,984,542 under the new cap. Some fans will see this number and immediately think that we squandered our opportunity to bring in good players and that we won't stand a chance to beat San Diego in the division this season; after all, San Diego is only $2,864,800 under the cap.

Despite what Drew Brees thinks, spending money doesn't guarantee wins. Ask Dan Snyder in Washington. Spending money can help improve your chances of winning, but is in no way indicative of success. We can talk about the extreme examples of teams going hard at it in free agency and succeeding (2007 Patriots, 2010 Jets). We can even talk about the Eagles going Miami Heat on us and making a huge splash in free agency (even though their success can't be determined by their spending alone so far). But there are plenty more examples of teams spending equally and having very disappointing seasons.

While it's true that the Chiefs only spent 67% of their cap in 2009 and finished 4-12, they spent near to that same amount in 2010 and went 10-6. So throwing around money to try to fix immediate problems is not necessarily what is required to improve your team. For the Chiefs it was the draft.

The Chiefs current team has almost primarily been built around the draft. You look on offense and defense, and the majority of the players we count on were acquired through the draft, and although free agency and trades is a way to get good players, to sustain a franchises success requires good drafting.

The Chiefs haven't been silent in free agency. We have improved our team with the additions of Steve Breaston, Le'Ron McClain, Kelly Gregg and Jared Gaither. All but Steve Breaston, however, only received one year contracts, ensuring that the future of the team still rests in the hands of its draft picks. And because our future success depends on our draft picks, having this much cap space is a good thing.

Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr are both going to need new contracts after the season if the Chiefs are hoping to keep them. Dwayne Bowe is also on the final year of his contract. The Chiefs, with their extra money, now find themselves in the right situation of being able to sure up their own playmakers instead of allowing them to leave via free agency. And although we haven't done it yet, remember that Pioli gave out a few new contracts in the middle of last season (Derrick Johnson, Jamaal Charles, and Andy Studebaker). Don't be shocked if Pioli & Company do the same thing this season.

So every team has their own method; some work some years and fail other years. Do I as a Chiefs fan wish they would go out and sign every free agent on the market? Sometimes. But at the end of the day I know what the Chiefs are doing is a plan, and their plan is better than any plan I could formulate (because we're not the Redskins). And if you do want the Chiefs to spend more, then you only have a couple of years left until they are forced to spend about 90% of their salary.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Buy 'Em.

As we all remember, the Chiefs were viciously beat in their home playoff game last season. Since that time, a lockout has occured, a new salary cap obtained, and necessary cuts made to ensure each team is under that cap. One team that was over the cap was the very team that ended playoff run hopes in Kansas City, and when the lockout ended, immediately cut four popular players: Willis McGahee, Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, and Kelly Gregg. All those players have found new homes, and one of those player's homes is now in Kansas City.

Kelly Gregg is that player, and a welcomed addition to our defensive line. He is an upgrade at the nose tackle position from last season, and has looked good in training camp. Many fans wanted Aubrayo Franklin, but Gregg was cheaper, more of a mentor, and more experienced in the Chiefs type of system.

He was the first player we plucked from the Ravens.

Then came Le'Ron McClain, who the Ravens had decided not to pursue because of the emergence of Ray Rice. McClain, although a full back by position, wanted to be used as a running back more like he was in 2008; the Ravens didn't want him for that role, so they let the two-time Pro Bowler find a new team. And Kansas City was glad to have him. Not only did he bring experience to the best running game in football, he also brought size and versatility.

He was the second player we took from Baltimore.

Just when it looked like the Chiefs were done with free agency, then came Jared Gaither to save the day and strengthen our tackle positions, a point of concern for many fans and analysts. Gaither played left tackle for Baltimore before an injury knocked him out for the rest of the 2009 and 2010 seasons, when he was replaced by Mr. Blindside himself.

While I'm talking about Gaither, I would like to address something. Gaither has the talent to play left tackle if healthy, but having his good friend Branden Albert there, I'm not sure where Gaither will end up on the offensive line this season. Right now, he's listed with the second string as a left tackle. I can understand the reason for wanting Gaither to come in and compete for the left tackle position, but we've already played one preseason game and if Gaither's as good as many of us hope, the Chiefs need to decide very soon if they want to keep him at left tackle and move Albert over to right, or vice versa. No reason for two good tackles to compete with each other for the same position when one can simply be moved to the right tackle position and replace Barry Richardson, a player many people, and possibly one coach, want to see replaced.

He was the third player we got from the Ravens.

And let's not forget about Jim Zorn. Although he is not a player, he was the quarterbacks coach for the Ravens last season and when the organization decided not to keep him around, Joe Flacco spoke out against the decision. For someone who doesn't talk much, I think Flacco's outburst was probably indicative of how important he believed Zorn to be for his development. And if that's the case, I'm glad the Chiefs got him. Although his methods are unorthodox, Cassel has spoken about how he is learning a good deal from Zorn, which is good since quarterbacks have been known to have their best seasons under his tutelage.

Put it down as another one we got from Baltimore.

Players leaving one team for another in groups isn't uncommon. It keeps familiarity with teammates and allows the players to adapt quicker to their new team. And although this isn't a preached practice, it happens quite often whether it be because of coahcing changes, through free agency or via trades (Tarvaris Jackson and Sydney Rice went from the Vikings to the Seahawks this offseason; Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel from the Patriots to the Chiefs; etc.).

Despite the title of this post, I doubt the Chiefs have a "if you can't beat 'em, buy 'em" attitude. But I don't think it's necessarily a coincidence that we have reaped the Ravens free agent harvest. They are a good football team.

And if it is because they beat us in the playoffs last year, then more power to Pioli.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I'd Rather Not Talk About It, But if I Must ...

Kansas City Star
If you read this blog, then I am certain you would have taken the time to watch the Chiefs opening preseason game of the 2011 season. And since you watched the opening preseason game, I'm also certain that you probably have very strong feelings regarding the performance of your beloved team. And if you have strong feelings regarding the Chiefs performance, then I recommend taking a deep breath, check your blood pressure, and remember that the Chiefs won the AFC West last season.

And one poor preseason performance shouldn't remove all the good, warm fuzzy feelings we have left from last season.

Have fans overreacted? Probably. I was at the game and I wasn't the happiest person in the world when exiting Arrowhead. I was upset that the Bucs had left their starters in against our second and, at times, third string players (what exactly does that prove?); I was upset that Palko looked so awful; I was upset that Ricky Stanzi garnered zero pass protection from his offensive line; I was upset that Matt Cassel didn't even attempt a pass; I was upset that Quinten Lawrence tried to return the opening kickoff from deep in our own endzone; I was upset that I had gone to the game with a Bucs fan; I was upset that the Chiefs looked like an inferior team; I was upset that the game reminded me so much of the last game I saw the Chiefs play (back in January); I was upset that we kept turning the ball over; I was upset that I saw a couple of people wearing Raiders jerseys; I was upset at the playcalling; but most of all, I was upset about how plain sloppy we were.

[The above thoughts are listed out of order; I just thought I should note that to ensure I'm not a crazy person.]

Areas of frustration began feeding off one another, until on the final possession of the game with two minutes left, we decide to run the football and thus run out the clock. The frustration of the crowd climaxed, and as the players were waiting for the clock to read zero, Chiefs fans began booing. Their once beloved AFC West Champions were now nothing more than a disappointment, a realization of all of our fanhood nightmares.

And so the overreaction began.

I, too, was a victim of the initial overreaction that accompanied the blowout loss. And as fans, it is our right to overreact whenever we please. It is also our duty, however, to be able to handle such overreaction and put it into perspective, even a positive light if the team has earned it (which, because of last year, I say it has). So, here's some perspective:
  • No one was injured. This is the main goal of any preseason game. From starters to undrafted free agents, coaches don't want to see players suffer injuries in a meaningless game.
  • Let's go back to the above sentence, more specifically, the second to last word. These preseason games are meaningless. In no way can they predict how the season will go. Last year, the Chiefs barely won one preseason game, and the year the Lions didn't win a game, they were undefeated in preseason.
  • Both turnovers occured due to non-starting players. The fumble on the snap was when Darryl Harris was in at center, and the fumble that occured down field was because of Jackie Battle. It's not like Wiegmann or Hudson screwed up and Charles put it on the turf.
  • If you were unsatisfied with the playcalls, it was Bill Muir who was calling the plays. I'll admit that he's no Charlie Weis, but I'm sure he was given a short leash. And if you were so unsatisfied beyond the point of consulation, then there's always Todd Haley waiting on the sideline.
  • This should go without saying, but the depth charts we saw for the game probably won't be the same depth charts we see at the beginning of the season. A lot of our starters didn't play, or weren't used when they were in, and a lot of guys that were starting, we won't see starting in September.
I hope my bullet points of perspective have helped calm your nerves a little bit, or as much as they can be after a 25-0 beat down. We play the Ravens this week, and hopefully our starters will be in a little longer so we can see how well (or bad) they do on a more realistic scale.

But if your fanhood was questioned by unfulfilled exhibition expectations, then I recommend clicking here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chiefs vs. Bucs

Well, as pointless as preseason games are, this is the first glimpse of football that many Chiefs fans have had at seeing their 2011 team. And even for us who have gone up to Chiefs training camp, this is the first time that we are able to see our team in a competitive situation against another team.

And Lord Almighty I'm looking forward to it. My roommate and I (who is a Bucs fan) got tickets for the game via StubHub when the lockout was still going on and no one was sure if there would be a season or not. Thus, we got tickets super cheap.

Anyway, gloating aside, I want to treat this post just as I would any post about an upcoming Chiefs game. I want to break down the Bucs and show some of the matchups we can expect to see in the game.

On first team offense, the Chiefs are returning four of the five linemen from last year (the exception being Brian Waters), a Pro Bowl receiver - Dwayne Bowe, Pro Bowl quarterback - Matt Cassel, Pro Bowl running back - Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones, and all but one of our tight ends. The new additions to the starters are Jon Asamoah at right guard, Jerheme Urban at wide receiver, and Le'Ron McClain at full back. Asamoah and Urban were both with the team last year, but neither were in the starting lineups very much (and honestly, Urban seems to just be holding a spot for Jon Baldwin until he proves himself more to coach Haley) and are, for the most part, still unproven. McClain, however, is a proven commodity and it will be nice to see how he helps the running game.

On first team defense, there are only a couple of differences from the depth chart at the end of last season. We lost both Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith, but we did acquire Kelly Gregg for our nose tackle position (a vast upgrade in my opinion). With the retirement of Mike Vrabel, Andy Studebaker has been given the reigns for a starting OLB position, and it looks like Kendrick Lewis has taken over the free safety role for good. The rest of the team (Jackson, Dorsey, Hali, Johnson, Belcher, Berry, Carr, Flowers) remains the same.

The Bucs first team offense also returns most of its starters, which includes a young and very talented group of players: Josh Freeman, LeGarrette Blount, Kellen Winslow, and Mike Williams. No one on the Bucs team was selected to the Pro Bowl last season, but any of these players could make it this coming year and for many more years to come.

On defense, the Bucs lost starter Barrett Ruud at MLB, but also gained two highly thought of players in this years draft. Those players are Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers (although Bowers is not listed as the starter on their current depth chart). They also return players like Gerald McCoy, Aqib Talib, Ronde Barber, and Geno Hayes. Much like on offense, these players have Pro Bowl potential.

Now, starting players aside, these two teams are very comparable. The Chiefs and Bucs seem to be at similar stages in their rebuilding process and seem to be on the precipice of becoming a football power. Both teams went 10-6 last season, and both teams are very young (the Bucs being the youngest team in all of football). Although the Bucs did next to nothing in free agency, they seem to have the majority of players already in place to be a playoff team.

So this game between the Chiefs and Bucs shouldn't just be regarded as an exhibition game, it should be regarded as a preview of two possible playoff contenders, a look at two future forces to be reckoned with. Let's just hope the Chiefs don't get the short end of the stick like they did last year against the Bucs.

Am I over-hyping a preseason game? Perhaps. But man, I am excited.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Is Belcher Broken?

An area of concern that almost every analyst has with the Chiefs is our inside linebacker position; more specifically our strong inside linebacker. The player that currently holds that position is Jovan Belcher, and I'm a little confused on why nobody seems to think very highly of him.

I understand why people would want an upgrade at the position, but realistically, you could upgrade at every position on the team. For people to call SILB a priority improvement for the Chiefs should mean that Belcher is incompetent at his position.

I just don't see that.

Let me give you some of Belcher's stats from his last two (first two) seasons: In his rookie year, Belcher had 47 tackles. That was while only starting three games and sharing time down the rotation order. In 2010, earning the starting role, Belcher made 15 of 16 starts and recorded 84 tackles, 1 sack and 1 forced fumble.

Although it wasn't as impressive as his teammate's near-Pro Bowl season, Jovan Belcher isn't the first-round draft pick that Derrick Johnson was. In fact, Belcher was an undrafted player out of Maine. Players like Belcher usually don't last long in the NFL let alone acquire a starting role. The fact that Belcher has done this, and has shown improvement in each of his first two seasons, is why I question the thought that we need to improve at the position.

And yet, the Chiefs bring in Brandon Siler to compete for the role. Brandon Siler, who in two more seasons of work only has 30 more tackles than Belcher. The analysts say that Siler is more fundamentally sound and can help stop the run better than Belcher can, so he should see some playing time this season. I don't think, however, that Siler should replace Belcher.

But there are plenty of Chiefs fans and radio commentators that wanted to see Belcher replaced by a big name free agent. Some of these names include: Nick Barnett, Lofa Tatupu, etc. Let's look at the stats some of these players would have brought to the Chiefs.

Nick Barnett is coming off an injury year in which he only played in 4 games and had 24 tackles. Before that, he had 100 tackle seasons in 6 of his 8 seasons with Green Bay, including in 2009. It's hard for me to argue that this wouldn't have been a good signing, but Barnett is 30 years old.

Lofa Tatupu, a Pro Bowler in his first three seasons, was a memorable part of that Seahawks Super Bowl team. However, Tatupu hasn't had a 100 tackle season since 2007, and it seems his career might be coming to an early end due to injuries. Tatupu still put up 88 tackles and 1 sack last year, but he is 5 years older than Belcher.

So, although there are upgrades available at Belcher's position, I want to see what the kid can do in his third year in the league. He seems to be only getting better and I think he's earned the right to prove to us he belongs as an NFL starter. So if it's not broke, why fix it?

Friday, August 5, 2011

"Welcome to the party, pal."

New Chiefs fullback Le’Ron McClain (left) got on the field with the man he will be blocking for this year, running back Jamaal Charles.

A signing I have not addressed yet was the acquisition of Le'Ron McClain on Wednesday. Not only is he the second Ravens player we have gotten in free agency this season (if you can't beat them, sign them), but he is a very solid addition to the reigning rushing champs.

Le'Ron McClain brings to the Chiefs something we haven't had since perhaps Tony Richardson: a very good full back. And the reason he is a very good full back is because he is very versatile. And for full backs, versatile means that he can block, run, and catch.

Versatile is something the Chiefs haven't had at full back lately. In the last two seasons, full backs Mike Cox and Tim Castille have combined for 61 rushing yards on 23 attempts and 197 receiving yards on 28 catches. In the last two seasons, Le'Ron McClain, by himself, has accumulated 165 rushing yards on 74 attempts and 275 receiving yards on 42 receptions. And, if we go back to McClain's 2008 season, we see the potential that McClain can bring to our team: 902 rushing yards (which is more than Thomas Jones had last season) on 232 carries (which is more carries than Jamaal Charles has ever been given during a season) and 123 receiving yards on 19 receptions.

What McClain also brings to the Chiefs is size. The Chiefs may have had the best rushing attack in the NFL last season, but they were worst in the NFL on 3rd and short situations, which is unacceptable. A reason for this could possibly be that they just didn't have the size or skill for such situations (which is probably why Shaun Smith ever got an opportunity). Charles is just 199 lbs and Jones just 212 lbs, so neither are a bigger back type. McClain offers that size, weighing in at 260 lbs, which is more than Cox, Castille, or rookie Shane Bannon.

Coach Todd Haley has already said that McClain will be used first and foremost as a full back, but knowing that McClain has the skills and size to come in and bring something to the table that the Chiefs lacked last season is a welcomed thought. Plus, it seems that McClain is a true team player; here's what he said to the KC Star:

“If I’ve got to block, I’ll do that,” he said. “If I’ve got to run, I’ll do that. I’ll do anything I can to get a W on the board for the Chiefs. It’s not about me.

"I’m a fullback, and I’m here to win. Two things. Just two things: Getting Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones 1,000 (yards) apiece, that’s what I’m here to do. Blocking linebackers, picking up linebackers, keeping them off Cassel. Anything I can do to help the team win.”

That's what you like to hear as a Chiefs fan.

St. Joe or Bust

Alright, I finally made it up to Chiefs training camp. I was able to make it up there on Thursday; nice and overcast day, although still through-the-roof humid. And although I was only able to stay for the morning walkthrough, I picked up on some valuable stuff.

  1.  Haley will be calling the plays. No, I didn't get an interview with the guy (although I did get to ask him a question about Steve Breaston after the walkthrough was concluded), but just watching training camp, it is evident that Haley is fully in charge of calling the plays. Bill Muir was out there, supervising the offense, but it appeared that he was just along for the ride. Haley was calling the shots, and I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with that.
  2. Jim Zorn can't catch. As good of a QB he once was, and as good of a QB's coach he now is, the man can't catch. When going through throwing drills with the three quarterbacks, Zorn was dropping more balls thrown his direction than the 2009 Dwayne Bowe. It's not that this information has to deal very much with the team, I just found it sort of humorous. 
  3. Jim Zorn is good at his job. Cassel, Palko, and Stanzi all seemed concentrated on what Zorn had to say. He was making them do throwing drills I'd never seen before (one I heard he did with the afternoon session was having the non-throwing QB's chuck big balls at the throwing QB to simulate a pass rush). 
  4. The number two QB job is up for grabs. There seems to be no clear difference between Palko and Stanzi right now. Both are decent, but both made their mistakes. If Stanzi is the future, like so many believe he is, than I wouldn't have a problem with making him Cassel's primary backup going into the season. Oh, and one more thing: 'Merica!
  5. Jon Baldwin was noticeably limping. That's right folks, our first round draft pick was at times hobbling after running routes and appeared to be wearing a brace of some sorts on one of his legs. Now, since he continued to practice, albeit, at a slower pace, I'm going to guess it's nothing serious. At least, that's what I hope since the kid can catch.
  6. The most important thing I learned at camp was that we have some classy people on our team. After ending the walkthrough, the players began marching up to the facilities for lunch and meetings; they did not stop for autographs. Kids began chasing after them, yelling for signatures, but to no avail. I had begun to follow the children (which is what anyone should do who wants autographs) but realized it would do me no good. When I returned to where I was sitting on the hill behind the endzone of the training field, I saw that Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel were signing autographs for the fans left. They were also explaining that they had told the players not to stop because they were running late and had to get into meetings. So I got their signatures and even got my picture taken with Haley (and no, although I wanted to, I decided not to reenact the Handshakegate between Haley and Josh McDaniels, though I was tempted). After getting their signatures, I began to leave the camp and saw that Eric Berry had come back down the hill from the facility to sign all the children's souvenirs. Berry is a class act, and even if he was a crappy player, I would be a fan of his after seeing that.