In 2008, Matt Cassel was sacked 47 times in 15 starts with the Patriots. In 2009, he was sacked 42 times in 15 starts with the Chiefs. One of those teams had a solid offensive line and one of those teams did not but the sack number didn't change much so clearly there's some sort of issue there.
Cassel recognizes that and says heading into 2010, that's something they'll be working on.
"You go out there as a quarterback and you're just trying to compete," Cassel told Soren Petro of 810 WHB on Tuesday. "There's time when a pocket breaks down and you're trying to make a play, or you go outside the pocket trying to make a play and you get sacked. That's not exactly what you want to happen. You want to continue to put yourself and the team in a good and manageable position in second and third down situations where you're able to make first downs."
For his size, Cassel is fairly athletic and shifty so he has used his legs to his advantage. Remember that 2008 Pats game where he rushed for over 60 yards and threw for over 400? That's the good part of having his legs. The downside is what he describes above.
"The second part of the year we cut down on the sacks," Cassel continued. "A lot of that had to do with getting the run game going and then we became more consistent in the pass game because play action was set up getting ourselves in manageable third down situations. Now we have the run/pass option versus just going third and 8 and third and 9 like early in the season sometimes and having to throw the ball down field. With these guys the way they rush these days it's difficult to do that on a consistent basis."
The Chiefs enter 2010 with much higher expectations for the running game so that should provide some comfort for Cassel and those sack numbers. He had significantly less sacks down the stretch last year and it wasn't a coincidence that Jamaal Charles was breaking out at that point.
"For me this year it's also about playing smarter. I need to know when the play is over and throw the ball away and move onto the next play."
I imagine this is one of the toughest parts of being a quarterback -- learning when to throw the ball away. You make it to the NFL because you're a competitor (buzz word alert) and your ability to make something out of nothing. It's probably hard to flip that switch and recognize when you're better off giving up on a play.
Cassel wouldn't predict any numbers for himself this year but did say he thought the TD:INT ratio would improve in 2010. My personal prediction would agree with that though I think the focus this year should be on not necessarily making more plays but making less mistakes instead.