Photo via David Eulitt of the Kansas City StarFrom the FanPosts -Joel
Yet another failed preseason game down for the Kansas City Chiefs, but unlike the previous two seasons, not all hope is lost. This was as energizing a preseason loss as we've experienced in a few years, and it's mainly because the team that Pioli/Haley is trying to build is coming on strong. The formations all looked very distrinct on offense, the defense's three- and sometimes four-man push up front was occasionally successful, and the calls were all of a different shade than we're used to.
All in all, after watching this game, I think one post that addresses just one aspect of anything that happened in this game (which the Star will undoubtedly do) is unfair, because sooooo much happened in this game. I'm going to try to single out particular performers that deserve some recognition for their work and their foibles, and even then I can't fit everything in that I'd like to say about a whirlwind of a game.
Mental mistakes lost this game, as did the bizarre playcalling by Chan Gailey at crucial moments throughout the game. The defense bent, but rarely broke -- which is a vast improvement over a defense that broke constantly last year. The first offense faltered with mental mistakes, the second offense brought life back to the game but faltered with mental mistakes, and Thigpen was Thigpen -- at times dazzling, at times hauntingly dumb, but always never quite looking like a traditional quarterback. He brought us to within a chance, and lost it, much like he did throughout his 2008 campaign.
With that in mind, the lists follow after the jump.
The second string offensive line. As soon as Cassell went to the bench, bringing with him Waters, Albert, Goff, and Niswanger (and as the Texans retired their starting DL), this offense completely changed. The playcalls were roughly the same, but all of a sudden our quarterback, the Man of Glass who can't last a game, was picking apart the Houston secondary. And all of a sudden, the tiniest player on our team played once again like he had the biggest heart, as Dantrell Savage busted through holes time and time again. Croyle and Savage deserve credit for their work, but the second string OL allowed these moments to happen, flawlessly executing for most of their time on the field.
QB Brodie Croyle. For the very first time, the absolute very first time since Croyle was drafted, he looked like The Guy that Herm Edwards had his eyes on in the third round. First round talent with insane injury concerns, we were told. Well tonight he proved the praise while he disproved the criticism. He took decents shots to the body, but he was still able to find Bowe as he consistently tore up the second-string secondary. There were passes made tonight that were downright thread-the-needle placements, and his arm has scarcely looked better. Credit to Chan Gailey for finally giving him an actual playbook, too, rather than the handcuffs offense during the Herm Edwards era.
WR Dwayne Bowe. Yes, his work tonight was entirely done on second-string corners, but that's not why he's here. I list him here because he responded to the embarrassing plight of Todd Haley's demotion Not like a showboater, although there was a welcome glimpse, but like a man. He took the demotion and instead of pouting about it, he challenged himself with it. This is the kind of mental toughness that this team needs, and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe exemplified it. He's ready for the next level.
RT Barry Richardson. There were absolutely critical moments of this game where Richardson, at a right tackle position where his measurables seem to be exactly what the doctor ordered, just couldn't keep it together. And then there were less critical moments, where Richardson still couldn't keep it together. He gave up far too much on the right side, and was whistled for a pair of holds and was not whistled for offsides, when he definately should have, perhaps twice. Richardson doesn't have a lot of competition at backup right-tackle to fend off -- they've bumped Colin Brown inside, and Herb Taylor is now strictly left-side -- but any chance he had at McIntosh's position has been a disaster if this game is any judgment.
Any and all returnmen. A welcome change of pace was the fact that the special teams play was exemplary on defense. No big returns, and not just by accident; the Chiefs swarmed every play. It also doesn't hurt when both of your kickers play very, very well (way to go, Succop!). The one gaping hole was very obvious; we have nobody to return the ball. Quentin Lawrence is simply not ready, but I support giving him the job at this point. Savage will occasionally give you a 30-50 yard return but he will never get to the endzone, and Robert Wright was completely awful. Lawrence was awful, too, but at least we can give him a season of practice if nobody else is capable of returning the ball adequately...
QB Tyler Thigpen. Only in the desperate world of wishful thinking could we consider what Thigpen did tonight as effective quarterbacking. Standing back in the pocket on his limited time in the game, Thigpen had zero composure behind a leaky, overwhelmed third string OL. His accuracy was next to zero. And not once, but several times did he abandon the proven mechanics of passing to desperately heave a side-armed or over-the-shoulder or across-the-body haul. I don't care if some of them were effective, some of them will always be effective, but you can't win doing it. Outside of his incredibly entertaining scrambling ability, Thigpen is not in Cassel and Croyle's league right now.
ROLB Andy Studebaker. Studebaker was not just the guy who racked up a sack in the middle of the game off a four-man rush. He is a guy off the street who made himself look incredibly convincing as a strong-side rushing backer. His coverage, like every linebacker's coverage on this team right now (hello, season-long-Achilles-heel), left something to be desired, but he is a blue-collar animal on the line of scrimmage. He's developed enough moves to be disruptive and his push alongside whichever DE he ended up supporting was always pretty strong. Studebaker is fighting for a spot on this team and he deserves recognition for a great game.
WR Terrance Copper. Copper had the dream of a lifetime for any NFL scrub by getting to start on the back of Haley's reward-those-who-earn-it preseason program. Copper is a roamer who doesn't have a great size/speed combo, but you can tell that Haley loves him for working the field properly. Copper ran sharp routes (especially button-hooks) for much of the time he was in, and he drew Cassel's attention regularly. He only brought in one catch all evening but he created a couple chances for another, and drew a much-needed penalty.
C Eric Ghiaciuc. This is largely a result of the second-string OL mostly dominating in their time on the field. Ghiaciuc, a guy whose arrival was met by some jeers from Chiefs faithful, was the sargeant of this period of the game. Adding a feather to Ghiaciuc's cap was the fact that for much of the time he was playing, the Chiefs' gameplan was focused on running the team's smallest running back up the gut over and over. With his help, and his work calling out assignments to protect Brodie "Mr. Glass" Croyle, the Chiefs were largely successful. Ghiaciuc may start challenging Niswanger for starting center, in a weird-name brawl-out at the very center of the offensive line.