1800 comments? In one preseason game, by a team most project will end the season under .500 and have no prayer of a playoff birth? Yes, in the second preseason game, in which the starters played less than a half, Arrowhead Pride racked up 1800 comments over the course of the entire game. You guys are animals for Chiefs talk, and I don't see a passion like that hardly anywhere on SB Nation's other NFL sites. Certainly nothing like 1800 comments stacked up over four open threads for a meaningless preseason game. No other Chiefs site on the internet can match that tenacity.
So in addition to being animals, you guys are also being treated to the most exciting rebuilding effort this town has seen in my young lifetime. I was nine years old when Schottenheimer drafted Derrick Thomas and changed this town. His rebuilding job was by far the most intriguing of the bunch up to this point; his defense not-so-slowly ascended to heights the franchise had only dreamed of for the Dark Ages that preceded. But the Schottenheimer rebuilding period depended on past-their-prime veterans at QB. I was about 20 years old when Vermeil came to town and declared it takes three years to build Super Bowl teams. But instead of rebuilding, Vermeil just brought in a slew of veteran talent on offense and never produced squat on defense. I was 25 years old when Herm Edwards was traded here. His rebuilding effort, a complete destruction of the previous regime so that the complete construction of his regime of youth could begin, was clouded by the fact that Herm was very poor at his job. The reliance on stopgap QBs of Schottenheimer, the impatient veteran importation of Vermeil, the incompetence of Edwards... these rebuilding efforts were exciting in their own ways, but incomplete.
Well I'm 28 years old now, and Haley is presenting us with the most exciting rebuilding process we've seen, in that he leans on the Draft but does utilize veteran acquisitions. He does lock down QBOTFs, but loves to hedge his bets. This is the most complete rebuilding effort this town has ever seen, and games like today underscore that. There are negative things to be said about today, as there will be for virtually every preseason game imaginable, but the biggest positive is that across the entire team, you can see a vision forming. Whether it's going to be realized is another question altogether, but there's no denying that it's there and it's the most satisfying one we've seen since Marty, if not since the days of Stram (which is what I'd argue).
My top threes are after the jump.
CB Maurice Leggett. Leggett actually played four quarters today, and he was the best player on the third string defense, a great player on the second string defense, and a damn good player on the first string defense. This is not Tyron Brackenridge -- Leggett is as good as he is because of aware coverage, solid fundamentals (oh the tackling!), and because when he is asked to get in the backfield, he gets there in a hurry. There may not have been a better tackler on the field tonight for the Chiefs.
K Ryan Succop. Justin Medlock is giving Herm Edwards nightmares up in Canada, I'm sure. Only on Arrowhead Pride can you follow how a rookie kicker who only lasted one game is doing two years down the road, and the fact that he's tearing up the CFL with stunning accuracy only further proves Herm's ineptitude. But Chiefs fans aren't kicking themselves now that Succop's in the mix. Sure, he drilled mid-rangers today, but he's 3/3 this postseason with kickoffs that are landing in the endzone (at times deep in the endzone). I'm starting the nickname for him now: Ryan Succop shall hereby go by the name Mr. Relevant. Make it happen, AP.
QB Matt Cassel. His performance was not spectacular today, but aren't we all just a little relieved that this kid can play? Despite the fact that the offensive line was giving Cassel lemons all day, he created lemonade regularly. Cassel has physical limitations, but his head is 100% in the game and aware of the situation at all times. He can read pressure as well as any Chief QB since Trent Green, and unlike Green he actually has the wheels to elude. If he can do this well when he's not given protection, imagine what he'll do when he is.
The first string offensive line. It cannot be overstated that Cassel played well. He was given worse protection against the Vikings than he was against the Texans, and still played better. Rudy Niswanger's unit was, shall we say, inconsistent on run-blocking -- but it's pass protection was dreadful. And not just RT Barry Richardson, who I've criticized as having cement feet when it came to lateral movement. No, the line was leaky from Richardson all the way to our franchise left tackle, with Brian Waters as always serving as the only exception. That they would give up two sacks on our new franchise QB to a defensive line missing two of its stars is embarrassing.
The second string offensive line. The Vikings pride themselves on brilliant defensive line play, especially up the gut, and the depth they have there is as good as it is anywhere in the league. But this does not excuse the second-string OL getting beat just as bad as the first. Eric Ghiaciuc's unit was strong yet again with their interior run-blocking, but Herb Taylor is having himself a mess of a preseason at LT. Too many clean shots were taken on Croyle, in particular one nasty helmet-to-head where it appears the defender was untouched. Much to my surprise, Croyle survived. If the second string wants to survive themselves, they gotta keep the QB clean.
The third string offensive line. There is probably no more embarrassing feat for an offensive line than getting a first and 1 on the opposing team's goal-line and getting zero points in four tries. Twice the Chiefs tried Javaris Williams and Jackie Battle up the middle, both times Brian De La Puente's unit got manhandled, with Battle's attempt going hilariously awry, as every single Vikings lineman simply got under their Chiefs counterparts. The third unit had two series on the field, and both were underwhelming in pass protection and run-blocking, but it's that particular standoff that seals the deal.
ILB Javon Belcher. This one's as big a no-brainer as anybody listed here today. Belcher has earned a spot on this team due to outstanding special teams play, but his work on the field with the second-string defense was exemplary as well. His tackling was sure (he led the team), and his penetration into the backfield was fairly consistent. His weakspot is the entire LB corps' weakspot: coverage. The 3-4 asks linebackers to cover quite often, and I think this is going to be the defense's weakness all season.
QB Matt Gutierrez. God, what will Chiefs fans do now that this team actually has a chance to be legitimately three-deep at QB? Cassel, Croyle, and Gutierrez all played great by preseason standards, but Gutierrez's performance came with a weak offensive line and just a couple weeks with the playbook. It's becoming obvious now that Gutierrez is outplaying Tyler Thigpen, and is in the driver's seat for the third quarterback slot. The blame for the botched four attempts at the goal line at the end of the game were decidedly not his fault. They were the result of two up-the-gut runs that were stuffed by the Vikings' dominant DL, and two awful pass plays called by Gailey.
WR Ashley Lelie. This seems to be an odd selection, but in terms of stock-raising, few of the scrubs on this team can equal what Lelie did in a single series. First of all, Lelie is marked down as 6'3", but he's got a Randy Moss lankiness to him that makes him look at least 6'5". But Lelie's blocking downfield was a welcome addition to a WR corps that, under Herm Edwards, rarely did so. But more importantly, he made plays. The pass from Gutierrez to the back of the endzone resulted from Lelie creating interest in the endzone and drawing a pair of pass interference calls. Lelie also pulled in a good pass to the corner from Gutierrez -- before he was pushed out of bounds, further proof that Gailey's playcall was awful. Due to the rule change allowing defenders to push receivers out, fades to the outermost corner of the end zone are no longer possible. I called Lelie a "warm body" a few days ago, but his limited reps after only a week with the team signal that he could be headed up the depth chart, especially as Copper continues to fall with all his drops.