Every year you read a thousand winners and losers articles. Some of them involve individual games, some of them involve the draft or free agency, and some of them involve various sections of the season. Like, you know, preseason.
I read a blurb recently on Pro Football Focus talking about John Dorsey being one of the major winners of preseason this year. The reason was basically “Eric Fisher play good” with a bit more tacked on, but it got me to thinking ... and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Dorsey really has had a fantastic preseason.
Full disclosure here: preseason is, and forever will be, a fickle thing. It doesn’t tell us much about teams in general but it can give us at least brief glimpses of what to expect. So in no way am I trying to claim Dorsey is destined for GM of the year this season, but when you look at the Chiefs right now it’s impossible to not be stunned at the number of wins Dorsey has racked up this preseason.
Win No. 1: Eric Fisher
Eric Fisher was not necessarily a popular first round pick, and we have gone into the reasons why more times than I can count. Then, Dorsey seemingly doubled down on that pick by signing Fisher to a lucrative long term deal before the season started. At the time, even those of us (like me, as I wrote about here) who believe Fisher improved to a solid left tackle were raising our eyebrows.
Well, Fisher has made Dorsey look like smart man during the preseason, playing his best football to date and generally looking like ... well, a franchise left tackle.
Win No. 2: LDT and the rest of the offensive line
I was going to go player-by-player, but I realized it would be way too long a list if we did it that way, so we’re going to talk about this position group as a whole, with a special shout-out to one player.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, currently starting at RG, has been a much-maligned player during his tenure as a starter, and often for good reason. I spent a lot of time talking about LDT’s shortcomings as an offensive linemen, and felt like his continued presence along the line represented a failure by Dorsey to address a major problem.
Fast forward to this preseason, and LDT is playing like an animal. He’s improved on every aspect of his game and looks like a guy who could (seriously) compete for a Pro Bowl spot if he continues his current level of play. That’s a massive win for Dorsey, who found a guy from a tiny Canadian college and trusted his own scouting enough to wait through the growing pains.
And those wins extend to multiple other spots on the offensive line. Mitch Morse, who is basically the greatest thing since toilet paper, was a second round draft pick that many (myself included) were unsure about. Mitch Schwartz was a more obvious signing, but I didn’t believe there was any chance the Chiefs could land such a high-end right tackle for a bargain price. He’s been everything he was advertised to be since arriving, and has solidified a position the Chiefs haven’t seen solid play at since ... uh... I ... let’s just move on.
The offensive line has played really, really well, even with Parker Ehinger having some growing pains as a rookie (he played much better against the Bears than he had previously, which is nice), and also possesses solid depth at guard with Jah Reid and Zach Fulton in the wings (two more Dorsey guys). Swing tackle is worrisome, but overall Dorsey has done a fantastic job revamping the offensive line.
Win No. 3: Jeremy Maclin
This one is a duh, but it’s worth noting that Jeremy Maclin still looks like a really, really, really good wide receiver, and Dorsey landed him (yes, I know that was a Reid win as well, but we’re making it about the Dorse today) in free agency for what looks like a bargain now that Tavon Austin is getting paid nearly as much per year.
Win No. 4: Chris Conley
You can call this premature, but remember, we’re talking about PRESEASON winners here. As in, guys who have won the preseason. And there is no denying that this preseason Chris Conley has looked markedly improved from a non-eventful rookie season.
Conley’s route running looks crisper, he attacks the ball in the air, he’s shown a surprising amount of strength after the catch (he looks to have added a few much-needed pounds), and he still flashes elite speed to gain separation.
That is some QUICK separation Conley gets here. Definitely has the speed to get vertical. pic.twitter.com/LPGP5NfFGw— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 21, 2016
That’s pretty to watch, and word is it came after an audible when Smith saw Conley matched up one-on-one with a single high safety too far away to impact the play. That’s a lot of trust in the second year player, and Smith seems to have developed better chemistry and timing with the talented wideout. That’s a huge deal, as the Chiefs desperately needed someone to step up in the No. 2 WR role.
Really, we can just sum up one giant win for Dorsey this offseason...
Win No. 5: The Entire Chiefs Offense
The offense this preseason has looked very, very tough to stop, even with Jamaal Charles on the sideline.
Charles has been replaced in large part by Spencer Ware (yes, a Dorsey find and a huge win all by himself), who has shown himself capable of everything you want from a running back, from grinding out tough yards to showing soft hands and good movement in space as a receiver.
The first string offense has moved the ball well against every defense it has faced, including the Seahawks and the Rams. In particular, the passing game has looked very sharp, which is an odd thing to write as it’s usually the running game starring in Kansas City.
Alex Smith (a Dorsey and Reid guy) has looked solid, Travis Kelce (a Dorsey draft pick) has looked ready to pick up where he’s left off, and even Demetrius Harris and Ross Travis (both Dorsey guys) have flashed a bit.
In short, the entire offense looks like it could be the best the Chiefs have fielded in years, and it’s built around guys Dorsey has put in place. A huge win for him
I know what you’re thinking ... that the defense hasn’t looked nearly as ready for the season, and that’s black eye on Dorsey winning the preseason. Well, even if you set aside the demolishing of the Bears, it’s important to remember that the MAIN issue holding the defense back has been injuries, something the GM cannot control. But if you look across the defense, you still see wins all over the place for Dorsey.
Win No. 6: Marcus Peters is still Marcus Peters
Like Maclin, this is a year old but still worth noting. Dorsey took a shot on Peters and it’s paid off in a big way.
Win No. 7: Jaye Howard
Howard has looked like the Chiefs best defensive lineman on a lot of snaps this preseason. Given that he was recovered off the scrap heap by Dorsey and THEN signed this offseason to a ridiculously reasonable two year, $10 million contract, Howard represents one of Dorsey’s crowning achievements as a GM. Finding a talented guy like Howard without using an early draft pick is hard enough. Keeping him in town for a decent rate for a couple of years is borderline wizardry.
And of course, Howard isn’t alone on the defensive line racking up wins for Dorsey.
Win No. 8: Chris Jones
Here's a better gif of Chris Jones effortlessly manhandling a professional offensive lineman. pic.twitter.com/sNNgibRsUa— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 17, 2016
Jones has played markedly better than even the most optimistic of us expected and is starting to look like an impact player from day one. The fact that Dorsey snagged him in round two after trading back is ... well, it’s a win. A big win. Nearly as big as a 6’6, 305 pound monster who moves like a guy 20 pounds lighter and throws offensive linemen aside like they’re kids.
Win No. 9: Justin March
After a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth, March has finally been inserted into the starting lineup. His first outing against the Rams was marked by a lot of missed assignments and terrible decisions. He played out of control and many people wondered if the Chiefs had made a mistake.
Then March came back against the Bears and played significantly better and more disciplined football, while still demonstrating the sideline-to-sideline speed that had people pining for him in the first place. My theory on the quick shift? March was nervous during his first shot with the starters and tried to do too much. A week in cooled his jets and let him get back to playing football.
March was an undrafted rookie free agent, and he’s claimed a starting inside linebacker spot within a year of knee surgery and flashes considerable promise. Again, a massive win for Dorsey, getting contributors from the bottom of the barrel (much like Ron Parker, a guy who has been around awhile now but was another Dorsey find).
The only flies in the ointment for Dorsey this preseason has been the lackluster play of Dee Ford (a big one) and the defense seeming to miss the presence of Sean Smith. Of course, with Phillip Gaines back the second cornerback spot closed the preseason in much better shape than it started (no, he wasn’t the sole difference against the Bears, but he certainly helped. That and the Bears are terrible, of course).
And Dee Ford? I haven’t given up total hope yet, and he tightened up the run defense significantly against Chicago. But even counting Ford’s play as a loss against Dorsey, his wins stack up significantly higher than the losses.
It’s been a good preseason for a lot of people, but Dorsey is pacing them all. This is his team he’s built, particularly on offense, and it looks like a good one.