Five and Five Rewind

Posted Aug 14, 2010

Day-after reflection on five pre-game focus points

Prior to kickoff in Atlanta, we outlined five things to watch in Five and Five. Let’s revisit those five focal points and see what we can take away from Friday night’s preseason game.

Five Things to Watch

1)      Poise and Leadership

Leaders began to emerge in the Chiefs locker room this off-season. Matt Cassel put in countless hours of extra work in the film room, Mike Vrabel re-signed, Thomas Jones was acquired and Chris Chambers opted to return as well. There was a sense of complete bye-in to the organizational goals set forth by head coach Todd Haley.

Tonight offers a chance to show fans a distinct difference from 2009; even if it’s only for a handful of offensive and defensive sets.

We weren’t able to witness more than a quarter-and-a-half from most of Kansas City’s front-line players on Sunday, making this a difficult focal point to get a grasp of. Specific to some of the names listed above, Jones played just a few offensive snaps and Vrabel was rotating with Andy Studebaker by the game’s second series. Brandon Flowers was also among starters who took an early exit from the Georgia Dome.

On the field, the Chiefs did show that they were a much faster team than year ago; that much was evident in itself by solely watching new additions Dexter McCluster, Javier Arenas and Eric Berry take the field. Until the regular season arrives, the extent of Kansas City’s off-season progress will be a tough area to judge. Hopefully we’ll see a distinct difference from 2009 when the Chiefs line up on September 13th.

2)      Front Seven

The Chiefs made player development a priority to help fix a lot of issues from 2009. One of those issues was run defense. There may be times tonight when four former first-round picks make up the Chiefs front seven. Position battles excluded, this is the first opportunity for a handful of young defensive linemen and linebackers to show what progress they’ve made this off-season.

Kansas City’s front seven was carved apart by Michael Turner with basic run plays during the game’s first series. As Todd Haley put it, “they were sucking bananas.”

That’s about as nice of a way to put it. But to their credit, Kansas City’s front seven found a way to toughen up on third downs and in the Red Zone. Turner’s fast start included, Atlanta went on to average just 2.7 yards per carry on the evening.

As for getting pressure on the quarterback, the Chiefs were able to get in the backfield numerous times throughout the contest, but were unable to bring down the quarterback. On some plays, the rush was a step too late and on others the quarterback escaped from the result of missed tackle.

The front seven wasn’t the most impressive group on the field Friday night, but there were positives to build off of.

3)      Key The Tackles

If Falcons right defensive end John Abraham and his 89.5 career sacks are able to go head-to-head with Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert for a few series, the matchup will offer a good first test in protecting Matt Cassel’s blind side. Although Albert and right tackle Ryan O’Callaghan are expected to start, focusing on their backups is worth a look as well.

The Chiefs are giving two young players with minimal gameday snaps an opportunity to seize key backup positions along the offensive front. How will Barry Richardson and Colin Brown respond?

Matt Cassel played in four offensive series and was sacked twice. When a pair of DEs close in on Cassel for a sack-and-strip in Kansas City territory, it’s not going to leave the best first impression for Chiefs fans (DE Kroy Bierman logged the sack and forced the fumble around the right edge, while DE John Abraham notched the recovery from the left side).

While the play of Kansas City's starting tackles will certainly be a focal point for fans throughout the preseason, a bigger issue (at the moment) might be the health of Barry Richardson. Richardson, who has a chance to earn the club’s top reserve post at tackle, left the game with a leg injury on Tyler Palko’s fourth-quarter TD hop. The Chiefs depth at tackle is already thin and Richardson had appeared to be progressing in camp. He’ll get the leg checkout on today in St. Joseph and we should learn more about the extent of the injury in the coming days.

4)      Gun The Gunners

With heavy competition for reserve roster spots in the defensive backfield and in the receiving ranks, the ability to effectively gun on punt coverage could help write the Final 53. For gunners, there is more than being fast and flying down the sideline. Getting a clean release off the line of scrimmage, finding the football and throttling down in the open field are all essentials; not to mention tackling.

Keep an eye out as to who runs with the first group at gunner and who fills in behind them. Quinten Lawrence and Maurice Leggett have received a lot of reps at the position during training camp, though there are many vying to put gunner on their preseason resume.

The Chiefs lined up as they did in camp with Lawrence and Leggett getting the first crack at gunner duties. The “starting nod” was a good sign for Lawrence, who has been putting in extra time learning the craft this off-season and is trying to earn a roster spot in the backend of the Chiefs wide receiving corps. Leggett returns as a gunner from 2009

Do Lawrence and Leggett have a leg up on the many receivers, defensive backs and running backs vying for gunner duties? It’s probably too early to tell, how the Chiefs rotate their gunners in Tampa could help bring some battles into focus; particularly if you’re trying to handicap what the Final 53 is going to look like.

5)      The Draft Picks

Tonight is the first opportunity to see Kansas City’s 2010 Draft Class in game action. All are expected to play, with the exception of third-round pick Tony Moeaki. Moeaki missed all of practice this past week after suffering an injury during Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage.

The Chiefs Draft Class did a nice job of living up to its preseason hype. As expected, Moeaki didn’t play, but the other six members of the class received considerable play-time.

The two rookie safeties, Kendrick Lewis and Eric Berry, both seemed comfortable on the back line, while Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas obviously stood out with their speed and ability to create plays in space. Cameron Sheffield was part of a position group (outside linebacker) that seemed to perform consistently from top-to-bottom. Jon Asamoah looks the part of having a future in this league.

The challenge for these rookies will be to stay consistent performers week-in and week-out. The request can be a tall order for first-year players, but the ones who played on Friday looked to lay a nice foundation.

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