Well, to quote the Spartan warriors of 300... Hell of a good start.
The Chiefs first team took it to the Cardinals last night. Hard, fast, and repeatedly. Does that sounds a little dirty? Sure... but it's the only way to describe the first couple of series last night. That wasn't even a contest. It reminded me of something... what was it again... I'm racking my brain here.
Oh, right, I remember now! It was like watching the reverse how the games went this time last year! So THAT'S what it feels like to completely impose your will on another team. I gotta say, I'm a fan.
There are lots of things to say about last night, but in my (totally unprofessional and uninformed) opinion some things are more important than others. So let's look at some of the mini-first-steps that came with our First Big Step towards being a team to reckon with this year. Following that, a special treat... mini-breakdowns of Rodney HudsonFor starters, welcome to Kansas City, Brian Daboll. Call plays like that every week and we'll love you forever (or until you leave us, at which point we'll hate you for eternity. Sorry, that's just how it goes). I mean crap, look at those first team stats...
Drive 1- 12 plays 57 yards (plus one 15 yard penalty), 6:51 minutes taken off the clock, and a TD pass to Hillis on an absolutely fantastic call that was executed so beautifully Hillis practically walked into the endzone.
During this drive my two oldest sons became Chiefs fans watching their dad become stupidly happy. Nice execution (other than the busted screen to JC that would've worked had it been executed), nice playcalling, great OL play... this drive made me dream of a good season. Of course, then...
Drive 2- 4 plays, 72 yards, 1:45 off the clock, a TD run by Draughn.
It was during THIS drive that my "excitement-o-meter" busted. Talk about moving the ball at will. I mean seriously: 11 yard screen, 28 yard run, 29 yard pass, 4 yard run for TD. THAT'S a drive!
But you want to know what has me almost as pumped? The fact that over the course of the entire game, the Chiefs had a grand total of THREE drives that netted less than 10 yards (granted, one of those drives was a complete waste of Wylie's great punt return, but I digress...). Average yards per drive? 31.9 yards.
Last year the offensive woes went beyond the Chiefs inability to score (although the 2011 Chiefs epically bad at that as well). We were constantly going three and out, putting the defense in a rough spot over and over. The Kyle Orton-led offense, despite putting barely more points up than the season average, seemed like a juggernaut to us because it moved the ball a little. Given the way the team is built, the Chiefs absolutely have to win the field position battles. So far, so good. As long as we're hovering around the subject...
Welcome to KC to you as well, Peyton Hillis
Two drives, 5 touches, 52 yards, and a TD. With 28 of those yards coming on one run where he brushed off two tackles (in particular, he took Darryl Washington's dignity and put it in his back pocket).
I'm gonna guess conservatively and say that Hillis averages that production per quarter for us. Which means, of course, that it's only logical to assume that he's going to average 208 yards and 4 touchdowns per game. It's just science, really.
All completely accurate statistical analysis aside, I've been wondering since we signed Hillis whether or not we were going to get "Thomas Jones 2.0" (as some claimed) or something much, much better. I'll tell you what... those of you who believe this guy is TJ 2.0, please show me a single clip of TJ's entire stay in KC where he broke two arm tackles in one run. Yeah... the Chiefs are going to run the ball well.
Quick Hitter Observations
-Dexter McCluster might have a spot on the team. I mean, maybe. It almost looked like a guy who is really quick fits well in the slot. What a concept!
-I don't have an educated opinion on Dontari Poe. He looked like he was eating lots of double teams early and playing well, then faded down the stretch against inferior competition. I believe others are doing a breakdown on him, so I'll leave it to them.
-Jerrell Powe (my BOY!!!) confuses me. He looked to be getting some great push, but it seemed like every play he was trying to collapse the pocket. The problem is that a few times at least this left GAPING holes for RB's to run through. I really, really, really like his strength though, and hope he gets a spot on the roster.
-Justin Houston is ready to pick up where he left off. As a matter of fact, the entire defense looks ready to pick up where it left off, and then some. Through their first two drives, the Cardinals had managed... negative yardage (thanks to a swarming team effort sack and a couple of run stuffs by DJ (shocker) and Toribio (an actual surprise)).
-Devon Wylie, while promising, is NOT going to start off as a world-beater. Our annual, "Right... the draft DOESN'T usually work like that" moment. Loved his speed, though.
-The Chiefs overall running back depth is phenomenal. I was really impressed with Shaun Draughn's toughness and Cyrus Gray's burst. Both look like guys who can move the chains better than Jacki Battle or Thomas Jones. I really like how our present and future look at RB.
-I didn't watch as closely as I did with other players, but Jeff Allen looked good out there to me. He played like he belonged on the field. Of course, so did Ryan Lilja, the starter he'd have to unseat. On that note...
-Our 1st string offensive line was just fantastic out there. The Cardinals are considered a cupcake, but let's remember they've Campbell, Dan Williams, and Dockett up front. That is NOT a weak DL, and our boys not only held their own but won the majority of the battles.
-A few quotes from my wife as she watched the first couple series with me...
-(After the 4th down conversion, when the Chiefs spread out the formation)- "Wow, the other team had no idea what to do with themselves there. They were like, 'whoa'" (made me love that call even more. Way to cause confusion, Daboll).
-(After the TD pass to Hillis)- "Should it look that easy?" (again, great call)
-"I hope Cassel has a great year, so that one guy can suck it." (I'm not gonna say who she was talking about here... but here's a clue...she's on Facebook a lot :) ).
-"That McCluster guy seems flashy"
-"I don't think number 94 is wearing underwear" (Yeah... women see sports differently. I had no response)
Time for... MINI-BREAKDOWNS!
All right, I'd better move on here. I promised some mini-breakdowns, and I'm going to deliver. Two players I went into the game especially intrigued about were Rodney Hudson and Anthony Toribio. Hudson because I've got a gut feeling about him doing very well right away, and Toribio because NO ONE has been more surprised than me to see him emerge as a RAC favorite. So I went back and re-watched each of their snaps multiple times, and here's what I've got...
I could not be more excited about this guy as the Chiefs center. Remember, as I said earlier, Arizona's DL isn't filled with creampuffs. For much of the evening Hudson found himself alone going up against Dan Williams, who many here probably remember as an AP favorite to draft several years ago. He's a big, big, strong DL. And wanna know something? Hudson handled himself just fine.
I can point to one play where Hudson got beat in pass protection, when Williams got by him (throwing him to the ground in the process) and ended up hitting Matt Cassel in the knees (thus earning an unnecessary roughness penalty). Other than that, Hudson was STOUT when protecting Cassel.
When I did a breakdown on Hudson's play at G last year, I mentioned what a smart player he seems to be. If his first game at center was any indication, his smarts transfer over to that position quite nicely. When he's not matched up against a guy one-on-one, he really does a nice job helping his fellow OL with their protections. He also displays a great awareness of how to block on running plays. He doesn't necessarily block the guy right in front of him, but blocks whoever is in the way of the runner's lane. Just fantastic stuff to watch.
He almost moves very well in space. One of my principal concerns with him after watching his tape last year was that he seemed to take longer than he should to lock onto a defender when he was asked to pull and block in space. I'm happy to report I didn't notice this problem in the limited snaps he saw against Arizona. In addition to this, he seems to have shored up his technique and is no longer "over-lunging" (I have no idea what the technical term would be) to get a sold "punch" on defenders. Both great things.
After re-watching Hudson's snaps 3 times, I walked away even happier than I was when watching him play the first time. He's got power, intelligence, athleticism, and seems to enjoy delivering hits. He's the complete package at center. And that's after one rookie season in which his only real snaps came at guard. This guy's ceiling isn't "good center." This guy's ceiling is "multiple Pro Bowls."
I have to admit, I'm still on the fence about this guy. Even after watching his snaps all over again several times, I can't say I walked away with a clear idea as to whether or not he's someone I'd be excited about taking the majority of our NT snaps.
The good news is that RAC is not lying to us: Toribio does indeed seem to do the job required of a 3-4 NT. I was impressed with how often he was double teamed and held his own. He NEVER seems to turn sideways (a major no-no that both Poe and Powe commit from time to time). While his strength doesn't seem overwhelming, he holds his own. He's certainly a far cry from the abomination I remember last year.
His excellent "stuff" play where he just SLAMMED the Cards RB was his most noticeable play of the night, but it was more the exception than the rule for Torby (Torbs? Torbine? Tore Up? I can't think of a good nickname here). Most of the time he stood his ground, kept two blockers occupied, and created opportunities for those around him. Sounds like exactly what's required of a NT in RAC's system.
So what's the problem? Why am I not THRILLED at this unexpectedly solid player? Frankly, I have no idea. Maybe the fact that he's been in the league for years and never made an impact is making me skeptical. Maybe he doesn't make enough "wow" plays (although that's not really the point with a NT... but do we ever get over our obsession with "wow" plays?). Maybe I want so badly for Powe and Poe to succeed that I'm rooting against Toribio... Whatever the reason, I find myself lukewarm on the dude.
Again, I don't have a reason for this. Looking at his snaps, he seemed to be doing his job just fine. But there's something that's not sitting well with me here. Hopefully another game or two of seeing solid NT play will make that feeling go away.
I think we've covered it all here... from props to Daboll to quotes from the wife (I may use that one again. My wife has a very unique way of looking at football that helps me understand what's going on out there), those are some things that stuck out in our First Big Step. And make no mistake, that's what it was. We took another team's starting group and absolutely tore them apart. It may be nothing more than a step, but it's nothing less either. Here's to seeing it happen again next week!