Remember that time I said preseason is meaningless? Wait... that wasn't me. That was everyone, ever. We all got a harsh lesson in that cold reality last year after the Kansas City Chiefs first preseason game when first team looked ready and willing to eviscerate all defenses in its path. That didn't exactly work out.
For that reason, I made a solemn vow to myself to never, ever, EVER get my hopes up based on the first preseason game. That vow has worked out about as well for me as my high hopes for last season did.
Because I'm excited. I'm very excited. I'm Jesse Spano on caffeine pills excited (I'm also a little scared, too, so I feel like that analogy holds up well). Except I don't have Zack Morris here to calm me down and tell me it'll be OK. So I guess I'll just stay excited.
Lots of things went right for the Chiefs first team units last Friday. Now, when you're dealing with a VERY small sample size it's impossible to say if you're looking at an aberration or a trend. But who cares about all that "rational analysis?" I do enough of that crap at work. And really, if these four things go at all the way they went in Friday's game against the Saints, this year could be a fun ride.
Your Preseason Week 1 KC Chiefs power rankings
1) Dontari Poe
Kalo already dropped a giant knowledge bomb on all of us regarding the first team snaps. Obviously, they were only in for a few plays. And Dontari Poe was only in for a grand total of four of those plays. So it's not as though he went out there and dominated for an entire game.
But out of those four snaps, Poe had two PHENOMENAL plays. That's how quickly he was able to impact the game. Better yet, he had an impact against both the pass and the run. And both showed how he could be the difference between "solid" and "great" for the Chiefs on defense this year.
The very first play of the game, Poe shucked the center off him like child, sprinted down the line, and made a great tackle to stop the running back after a very short gain.
Every single thing I like about Poe came through on this play. Well, just two things really; his freakish size/strength, and the even more freakish athleticism that comes with it. The man is a monster. Last year, Poe didn't make very many plays like this, and I was OK with that. The guy was learning to hold his own in the NFL. On that play, he didn't just hold his own. He destroyed that play.
The other play, of course, was his near-sack (and should've been an "intentional grounding") of Brees (with the assist to Tamba Hali).
In that play, Poe again showed his ridiculous strength by tossing the center aside AND his athleticism by being through the gap caused before the center could recover. He was on Brees so fast that there was absolutely zero chance of a pass being completed. That's what a pass rush up the middle can do. It can make a great quarterback powerless.
On Poe's other two plays, he did have one rough play where a double team knocked him aside. His other play he stood the center up easily on a run. But it's those two "flash" plays that stand out to me, because we just weren't getting plays like that from the line last year.
2) Special teams coach Dave Toub
On Friday, the Chiefs returned six punts for 106 yards (and that's with the Chiefs only having the likely punt returner Dexter McCluster returning one of them. You know, for 55 yards.). The opponent returned three punts (Dustin Colquitt, you are the man) for a total of 24 yards.
That's 242 yards vs. 44 yards. Like I always say, I'm mathematically challenged. But even I can see what a MASSIVE advantage the Chiefs had in this area of the game.
When the Chiefs signed on David Toub to coach the special teams, many of us were excited. But that excitement was somewhat muted. After all, can a special teams coach REALLY make that big a difference? Wasn't Toub just propped up by Devin Hester being All-Universe? Can one new coach solve the problems in coverage and blocking that have just killed the Chiefs over the last few years?
Apparently, yes. The blocking on kick returns and punt returns was phenomenal on several plays, and very good on almost all of them. And the coverage units (albeit aided by Dustin, who I think may have been underrated due to his coverage unit's poor work over the last few years) did not allow opposing returners to breathe.
Special teams isn't the sexiest part of the game. But when you rack up 200 extra yards of field position it changes the course of the game. We've long bemoaned our punt returners and kick returners and their inability to make big plays. Then we go out and get Toub and get multiple big returns in the very first game. Maybe the problem wasn't with Dexter McCluster and the rest of our returners. Maybe the problem was the fact that we weren't blocking anyone.
Of all the things we saw on Friday, this one is the most likely to be consistent week in and week out. Having the ST advantage will be a stark change for the Chiefs. And I really won't be surprised if it directly swings a game or two in the Chiefs direction this year (while quietly having a huge influence an a few more).
Now that everyone has confirmed that Jamaal Charles has not, in fact, been ripped to pieces in a zombie attack, we can all breathe easy. Because Jamaal Charles is about to have the biggest year of his career.
Hang on a second...
(Knocks on every tree within a five mile radius)
All right, now that we've protected JC, let's think about the implications here. For the first time ever, Jamaal Charles has a competent offense that is completely revolved around what he can do as a runner AND as a receiver.
The passes thrown his way Friday were nothing special. They're the kind of passes a RB will often see. The problem for opposing defenses is that if you give JC any room whatsoever, he's going to gain yards. More than a few. A simple catch on a quick dump-off that might be a four-yard gain with another RB is a nine-yard first down when it's Jamaal Charles catching the ball.
I have absolutely no idea how defensive coordinators are going to game plan for Charles in Reid's offense. He can line up anywhere and do anything. He's a nightmare. And the fact that Reid will take full advantage of that will FORCE defenses to use 2-3 guys to contain Charles. Because one guy isn't going to cut it. Coaches will have to neglect other players to focus on JC. Which in the past would've been fine for them, as we never made teams pay for keying on JC.
Except that may well be different now. Because of...
4) Alex Smith
Since it was only one drive, I'm going to add a giant qualifying "if" to what I'm about to say. IF what we saw Friday is indicative of what we'll see from him this year...
The Chiefs offense is going to be tough to stop. Because suddenly there's a Chiefs quarterback out there who can make smart decisions. There's a Chiefs quarterback who has the accuracy to fit the ball into a tight space for a first down. There's a Chiefs quarterback who can make up his mind quickly and get the ball out of the pocket before the defense has a chance to get pressure. And there's a Chiefs quarterback who can HIT RECEIVERS IN STRIDE.
I'm sorry for the all caps, but I couldn't possibly be the only person who was stunned by those very basic throws Smith made. It's a basic rule of quarterbacking; let your receivers make plays. Now after years of watching receivers have to stop, turn, dive, reach, etc., we get to see receivers reach out and snatch the ball while running. It's a beautiful thing.
Does the play from Friday make Smith an All-Pro? Not even kind of. But it absolutely makes him (and the Chiefs receivers) dangerous enough to force defenses to do more than clamp down on Charles and Dwayne Bowe. Smith will make teams pay for that. And so will Andy Reid.
This game might turn out to be as meaningless as last year's 1st game. But for right now... there are things to be very encouraged about. Especially these 4.
(Email mailbag questions to MNchiefsfan@hotmail.com or tweet @RealMNchiefsfan)