From the FanPosts. -Chris
OK, maybe I don't actually know 5,000 ways to make the Chiefs a better team. And quite possibly, although I can't be sure, Todd Haley does not have a sugar coated petticoat. But he does have his hands full in turning this team around and you cannot sugar coat that. My Boss always tells me to bring him solutions, not problems. So I wanted to talk about what I consider the most glaring problems that we must address, and how I think we should go about fixing them.
From losing an up and coming Pro Bowl Safety, to better play calling, this team has some serious issues, but ones that good teams can overcome.1. The Strong Safety position. I think most of us can remember how bad our defense was Pre-Berry, so we could probably surmise what will happen without him. But good teams historically find someone else on their roster to step up and make a contribution. Our current group of safeties seem to be a step slow to be completely respected by NFL quarterbacks, and while speed is something that is valuable to good secondary play, it is not the only thing that can make a good Safety. Reading and reacting to what the offense is doing, handling your responsibilities, taking good angles to the ball carrier, etc., can all help make up for a lack of God given talent.
With Pioli bringing Reshard Langford back to the 53 today, he adds a young player that was known to bring the wood in Training Camp. I would throw Langford in Berry's spot immediately and see what it is that they saw in him these last couple of years.
But my guess is that Haley will be conservative and start the old vet John "Slow Draw" McGraw Sunday. McGraw is valuable as a team leader, and I think he does a couple of things fairly well in our defense; he is decent playing at the line of scrimmage in our Nickel and Dime defenses, and is fair at covering tight ends. But the guy is not a starting NFL caliber safety. I was extremely surprised that McGraw even made the team this season, special team ability or not.
Who are the other options in house? Donald Washington and Sabby Piscitelli. Last I checked Piscitelli was still getting burned on simple out routes (it is still Thursday, right?), so that cannot be good. Washington has loads of physical talent, but not the first clue on how to cover a wide receiver. Come Sunday we will probably see a couple of guys get some playing time as this position is seemingly up for grabs.
We can't keep having Lewis play deep middle in a nickel all the time, can we? Hopefully Romeo has some tricks up his sleeve.
*Complete and total out-of-left-field prediction: Travis Daniels or Jalil Brown get some playing time at Safety if no one else steps up, or Pioli signs a veteran Safety off the street who will immediately be proclaimed our savior by every able-bodied AP-ite.
2. Offensive Line Play. It is hard for me to believe that we were the #1 rushing team last season when I see this group play. So far this season, I have been extremely worried about the play of Barry Richardson, but last Sunday that worry was completely overshadowed by the play of our elderly center, Casey Wiegmann. Maybe Marcell Darius is for real, maybe the Bills D-Line is more than good, or maybe Casey is losing a step.
Don't get me wrong, I was estatic when he announced that he was coming back, because you know what you get with Wiegmann. I assumed that he could bridge the gap until Hudson was ready. But if Casey has another game where Cassel is pressured up the middle as bad as he was against the Bills, then what do we have to lose by playing Hudson? I know that these are hard decisions the Coaches have to make, but at the end of the day, the best players should start, period. If that is Wiegmann, so be it. But I would be willing to bet he struggles with more than a few hefty D-lineman on the schedule this year.
As to the Right Tackle spot, let's see what happens. One thing at a time, and honestly Richardson was not the biggest problem with the line last Sunday. I think "IF" Gaither gets healthy, it is only a matter of time until he wins a spot on the line. Albert, despite what anybody says, has been a better than average LT, which is saying something. I love Lilja and Asamoah is a flat out beast. Can we stop the game against the Lions Sunday and watch Suh and Asamoah go one on one in the Oklahoma Drill? I would pay to see that.
The truth is we may potentially have a couple of holes in the line, but they need more time to gel and play as a unit before I can say that with conviction. Coaching and reps will help this, but I think we may just miss a little bit of Brian Water's heart (miss you Big Guy). These guys need to get mad, play mean, and have each other's back. Come 'on guys!
3. Fundamentals. I know that this one is, I don't know, OBVIOUS. But yeah, the Coaching staff all get an F on this one. I don't care how you spin the preseason, but whatever they did, we were completely unprepared to play football. I have a pretty good guess that the practice yesterday was as physical as they could make it. But this issue brought back some thoughts that I glossed over during training camp. Last year we had some viscous two-a-day practices by a team that had gone 4-12 the season before.
That team was used to hitting and were already conditioned to what football does to your body by the first game. This year I kept reading practice reports that made me think many of the practices were much softer than what we experienced last year. I could be wrong, but that is definitely the impression that I had. Combine this with a team that seems to already feel as if they have "arrived", and maybe we are missing something. Desire, work ethic, chip on your shoulder? I am not calling everybody out, but just saying, you play like you did last Sunday and people are going to question what you've been doing.
I know that we will improve our fundamentals, but can we see a dramatic improvement in one week? I honestly don't know. We need to block better, tackle better, know our playbook better, and execute better. You know, all the usual stuff that make you a better football team.
4. Play Calling. When Bill Muir was announced the Offensive Coordinator this past off season, I was truly surprised. Why didn't Todd Haley just go ahead and put that responsibility on himself? You know he is dying to do it, and ultimately it is his butt on the line this year if they continue to lose games anyway. Once Muir called the exact same play one play later, I knew that his uncanny ability to keep the defenses guessing would propel him to greatness...not. Whether or not Haley can handle the double duty or not, we can't continue to promote this kind of inept play calling. Muir just seems just like the perfect scapegoat to me. It is probably killing Haley that our current play calling mediocrity makes Weis look like a genius. Pride messes with a man.
5. Leadership. This one hurts me the most. What I saw last week was a team that did not know who to turn to. Nobody stepped up and showed them the way to stem the tide, turn it around, or just plain play with enough pride to not get blown out 41 – 7 in our home season opener. This team knew last season that leadership was a needed quality as evidenced by the team captains they drafted. Where were these guys?
But how can I talk about leadership without talking about our Head Coach. Todd knows that where we are as a team right now is his responsibility. And from what I have seen in him so far, he strikes me as a guy who will take on the challenge of turning this around with a fire that we haven't seen in a Kansas City Head Coach since Marty. That's right, I invoked the name of the last coach who brought an undeniable toughness to our team. I am hoping that he can bring that same attitude back again. If he can, I don't think we will lose a game in such a humiliating fashion ever again.
Looking back, last year does feel a bit like a mirage. We parlayed a very weak schedule, along with no injuries and plain old good luck to a Division Championship. This year, we obviously won't experience that same amount of good karma, so let's earn it. If this team can pull together, find some heart, and play their guts out, they can still be the team that I thought they could be. It ain't over yet.