In December, it begins to look a lot like Christmas in Kansas City. In July, it begins to sound a lot like Halloween—at least if you're Matt Cassel.
In a celebrity softball game at Kauffman Stadium, Cassel was hounded by boos like he just tweeted a duck-faced photo with Robinson Cano.
Multiple reasons. Since he jogged out of the tunnel for the second half of 2010's wild-card matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, Cassel's performance has been...sub-par, to put it mildly.
In the wild-card blowout, the Chiefs quarterback completed a measly 9-of-18 passes for 70 yards, compounded by three critical interceptions that unplugged Kansas City's life support. In 2011, his touchdown and interception totals were nearly neck-and-neck (10 TD, 9 INT), while his quarterback rating (QBR) dropped to 76.6.
But before his QBR skydived in 2011, Cassel was relaxing with his feet up and using cloud nine as a headrest.
During 2010's regular season, he earned a trip to Hawaii after tossing 27 touchdowns to only seven interceptions.
The difference: Jamaal Charles.
Cassel's never going to surgically dissect defenses for 500-plus yards. In his aforementioned Pro Bowl season, he attempted the least amount of passes in his career as a starter (excluding his nine-game 2011 season)—it's not a coincidence that there's a correlation.
Charles covers Cassel's blemishes; when No. 25 went down a year ago, Cassel's weaknesses were exploited, and his comfort zone shrank quicker than a Slinky.
Charles is back, and Scott Pioli added Peyton Hillis and Cyrus Gray to complement Dexter McCluster as backfield backups. Play-action is Cassel's best friend, and Pioli virtually assured that it won't abandon him in 2012.
But that's not the only welcomed sight in training camp. As quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn explained to Randy Covitz of the Kansas City Star:
I really feel that he is further along than he was last year. He’s really taking charge. He’s working on things that he wasn’t working on last year at this time...We’ve really improved a lot of things sooner than we did last year. Matt is throwing the ball better. He’s throwing with more speed and more accuracy.
With a returning, revamped rushing attack headlined by Jamaal Charles and a full offseason, expect Matt Cassel to mirror his 2010 form.