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Rating your Kansas City Chiefs panic: The drops, o-line depth and run defense

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Postgame: Five takeaways from Pete, plus your comments and questions

Posted by Arrowhead Pride: For Kansas City Chiefs Fans on Friday, August 25, 2017

Well, that was gross.

It’s always such a letdown when the Chiefs perform poorly. I think the worst part, for me, is that I spend an entire week looking forward to seeing them play (at least for the last few years I have. It was a tad different in 2012, when it was more like “well, I gotta watch I guess”). So when all that anticipation turns into three hours of inaccurate throws and drops and penalties and penalties and then a few more penalties ... it’s enough to make you want to throw your hands up and walk away for a few days.

Of course, I can’t do that, as I have a job to do. So instead, I tried to make funnies out of the rather disgusting level of play we saw from the Chiefs in Seattle.

I think the final number was something like five drops or so, and it could’ve been higher. Seriously, when I use the word “gross,” I’m not kidding. It was like the time I was holding my one-year-old above my head as a game and he smiled and laughed ... then threw up all over my face. Gross. Yes, that’s the level of play we saw from most of the Chiefs against Seattle: baby-throwing-up-on-your-face level.

Anyways, I’ll get to reviewing the film later in the week (which will be gross again. It’s times like this the job feels a lot more like work than fun), but for now, I figured it was a good time for us to get all of our panic and concerns out in the open.

I asked Twitter what they were worried about, and I will assign it “legit worry level” based on nothing more than my opinion. Consider this an emergency worry mailbag. There were a lot of worries, so let’s get started. Hopefully, by the time we’re done we’ll be back to “it’s just preseason” and stuff.

So remember, all of the tweets we’re about to see are in response to, “What are you worried about?” Let’s go...

Legit Worry Level: holy crap this is concerning (numerical value 9.6/10)

There are very few issues with the Chiefs that keep me up as much as the backup offensive linemen, particularly the tackles. I try to comfort myself with the idea that Witzmann will likely be a backup tackle once Ehinger is healthy (rather than the starting LG), but it does little to assuage my panic because, well, Ehinger ain’t healthy yet.

The only thing keeping this from being a 10/10 for me is that these are the BACKUP tackles (and OL outside of Fulton) we’re talking about. They may well not see the field. Mitch Schwartz is a machine who doesn’t miss games (even when he had a sprained ankle last year he gutted it out, though he was much less effective). Eric Fisher has played every game for the last three years. These are not guys prone to injury.

But if they DO get hurt and Witzmann isn’t the one to take the reins ... man, it could get really, really ugly out there. I have confidence that Zach Fulton can take over at guard or center without torpedoing the offense. Not so with the backup tackles. They’ve been getting worked over by backups all preseason. I shudder to think what Von Miller or Khalil Mack or Joey Bosa would do to them.

As of right now, this issue is one of the issues that has me screaming internally. Totally legit worry, so it was given a little longer treatment than some others will get.

Legit Worry Level: Eh ... I’m not panicking yet (4/10)

This is a worry that isn’t a worry for me just yet. Tyreek Hill demonstrated last year that he can make tough catches as well as basic catches. He’s had a rough preseason with his hands, but I tend to believe guys will get that under control if they’ve shown the ability to do so previously. Conley has good hands, he just didn’t see the ball (for some reason) against Seattle. I definitely worry about Albert Wilson, who again dropped multiple passes, and Travis Kelce had another “I was thinking about running before catching” drop. Those are a tad more concerning (especially Wilson if they want to rely on him at all), but still not critical.

Overall, the receivers have had good hands this preseason and last year. This looked more like a sloppy night. It IS something to keep an eye on moving forward, though, hence the slightly raised worry level.

Legit threat level: I’m amazed it hasn’t already happened (10/10)

Sweet Moses, that was ugly.

Too many. We’re sticking with one at a time. I’m going with Alex Smith, and we’re gonna say legit worry level: We Know What He Is, and He is Who He is (5/10).

Alex looked like Alex on a rough Alex night against the Seahawks. It’s irresponsible to blame him completely when there were at least 3-4 inexcusable drops while he was in, but he wasn’t accurate and didn’t seem to settle in throughout the game. Seattle’s defense will do that, but his lack of accuracy was puzzling in a preseason where he’s been on the money consistently.

I do worry about Alex, because I feel like we saw him regress last year despite having superior weapons and pass blocking. I’d hoped (being an optimistic guy) that we’d see the best version of him this year, and we still could. But it’s also pretty logical to say, “I know Alex, and Alex isn’t going to drag the team up on an off night.” You can point to this game as Exhibit A. Alex is a decent QB, but when the rest of the offense is struggling he’s going to struggle. That’s who he is.

Legit Worry Level: I’m Good For Now (3/10)

We’re a single game removed from watching the run defense eat Cincinnati for lunch, so I’m not ready to freak out just yet. Having Justin Houston and Eric Berry sitting out was an issue, and it was clear Houston’s replacement (Zombo) was getting exploited around the edge at times.

There were enough flashes of solid run defense from the first team that I’m still confident we’ll see a drastically improved unit. But man, Berry and Houston are important to this defense. Of course, All-Pros tend to be that way. Like I said, we’re a week removed from watching them stuff Cincy into oblivion on most snaps, so I’m still OK here.

Legit Worry Level: Yeah, I Don’t Like This (7.1/10)

The Chiefs have some young, talented receivers. And I think Conley will be a bigger part of most gameplans than he was against Seattle (he’d better be, at least. He’s a much better option than Wilson).

But MAN, you could see how a a good veteran WR could help the team. You know, a guy you can look for on third and long and know he’s more likely than not to get open and bring it home if you target him. A guy who can tell younger WR’s to calm down and trust their routes (or finish them, Kemp. Especially deep routes to the end zone). I guy who will tell his QB “I got this, find me and I’ll catch it.” Someone who runs good routes and has good hands and is a leader.

Man, if only a guy like that had been readily available a few months ago.

(slams head into table multiple times)

This is another multiple choice one, so I’m gonna pick two this time: penalties and Ware’s knee.

Penalties: Legit Worry Level: We Should Be Fine (1.2/10)

Generally speaking, during Andy Reid’s tenure with the Chiefs they’ve been a disciplined team that doesn’t beat itself ... outside of one or two games a year, when they kinda throw up all over themselves and collapse in a heap. This was one of those games. But the Chiefs have done well not shooting themselves in the foot over the last few years, and I don’t see a reason (based on one preseason game) to think they’ll start now.

Also, keep in mind that preseason is generally called tighter than the regular season, as refs are trying to send messages and teams are getting used to playing again. I’m not worried here.

Spencer Ware’s Knee: Legit Worry Level: That One Hurts a Bit (6/10)

The Chiefs are pretty deep at running back, but Ware is a talented multipurpose back who can move the chains, pass protect well, catch out of the backfield, make guys miss, and create yardage on his own. He’s a good player. In my opinion, Charcandrick West and C.J. Spiller are both more limited than he is by a decent margin.

Which brings us to Kareem Hunt. I like Hunt, and I think he’ll play very well in Ware’s absence (which is hopefully not too long). But I don’t like seeing running back depth already getting more shallow, and I’m disappointed that we won’t be able to run an offense that consistently has either Ware or Hunt on the field (interchangeable, versatile backs). It takes away a playmaker, and the Chiefs really look like they could use playmakers.

Legit Worry Level: Is it Hot in Here? (8/10)

I’m concerned. We’ve seen a lot of yardage given up by our corners not named Marcus Peters this preseason. All of them, really, after Steven Nelson got in on the act against the Seahawks. There’s been a real issue with some big plays being allowed OR corners not getting their heads turned around and committing penalties.

Some of this is likely schematic, but I really am not comfortable with Phillip Gaines (given what’s happened recently with him) or Kenneth Acker or DJ White seeing significant snaps. Terrance Mitchell’s hamstring needs to get better. The secondary was a major strength of the team last year down the stretch with the CB group of Peters/Nelson/Mitchell. I definitely worry that Peters/Nelson/Whomever is a recipe for someone to get picked on.

I’m addressing the dink and dunk football issue here, since we’ve already talked about WR’s. Legit Worry Level: Yeah, That’s Disappointing (6.5/10)

We’ve been here before. That offense I saw against Seattle looked brutally familiar. In fact, I’ve seen it pretty recently ... at Arrowhead against the Steelers in January.

You can argue all day about chicken or egg with Alex and Andy Reid, but the fact is the offense looked right back to dink and dunk after a few games of being a bit more challenging to defend. Sure, it’s preseason. But I’m quite leery of this offense as a whole, and have been since Maclin was released and little seemed to be done to improve it besides natural player development.

Until defenses feel like they need to defend the entire field rather than simply read prepackaged play calls (with varying options) correctly, I fear the offense will often look stilted and will stall in the red zone, where space gets tighter and misdirection isn’t always effective.

Legit Worry Level: Nah, it’s Cool (2/10)

All defenses that have All-Pro level players depend on those players to be great if the defense wants to be great. That’s just the way it is. It’s like offenses relying on their stars to be stars. That’s what they’re there for. I just want all three to be healthy for a full season.

Legit Worry Level: Not Actually Happening (0.1/10)

I’ve heard people say this before, and considering the way the Chiefs do their play calls I can see why it COULD be a concern, especially given Alex’s reliance on presnap reads.

But I was unwilling to assume this was actually happening. So I went back and re-watched the first half snaps of the offense, writing down how much time was left on the play clock when the offense was COMPLETELY lined up and Alex was surveying the field. Occasionally I couldn’t see the play clock or when exactly they lined up due to the broadcast, so I had to guesstimate but always went lower than I actually thought in order to make sure I was as kind to this theory as possible.

What I found was that, on average, Alex was surveying the defense with the offense fully lined up with 17.2 seconds remaining. The shortest time Alex ever had was 11 seconds (only happened three times out of 30+ snaps). In fact, in the 35 plays I charted, Alex had under 15 seconds on the clock when surveying the field only eight times (14 twice, three three times, 11 three times).

I don’t know what other games would show me, but I do know that in this particular game, that was a complete and total non-issue. 17.2 seconds is an eternity to survey a defense for an NFL quarterback (remember, I waited until they were completely lined up). So no worries here at all. Only reason it’s not a 0.0 is because there’s a possibility this game was the exception to the rule.

I think that’s as good a place as anywhere to stop. I’ll likely be reviewing Alex and Patrick again this week because, well, QB is the name of the game. But in the meantime, let’s all take a deep breath and remember, it’s only preseason. Let’s save our A-game panic for a few weeks from now.