Kansas City Chiefs: Why Chiefs' Preseason Games Matter More Than Ever
The Chiefs have three players returning from a torn ACL injury and a quarterback returning from a hand injury. All four of these players had their seasons cut short due to injury. This Friday will be their first time back in pads against another team.
But this preseason holds a lot of meaning for the Chiefs compared to past preseasons. The Chiefs went 1-11 in preseason games under previous head coach Todd Haley, which ultimately led to a 19-26 record under Haley.
This preseason, the Chiefs not only need positive outputs from their players, but they need to capitalize with some preseason wins.
Return of Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki and Eric Berry
It has not yet been decided as to how Crennel will handle Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki and Eric Berry, all players who suffered season-ending torn ACLs early in 2011.
Suffering their injuries early in 2011 benefits their status for 2012, giving them ample time to recuperate. Most NFL players returning from a torn ACL struggle the following season since that injury comes closer to the middle of the season or near the end.
For the Chiefs, Charles, Moeaki and Berry feel a lot better. But will they be limited in preseason games? If they can pull through and produce in the first half of games, it is a good sign that they will not only be ready for the September 9 season opener, but they will be ready to become impact players.
Matt Cassel Returns as the Chiefs Quarterback
Cassel is making his return and hoping that he can create an offensive chemistry with new and old faces. The Chiefs offense today looks far different than it did in Week 17 of last season.
This will also be Cassel's first time playing a game under Crennel as well as Brian Daboll, new offensive coordinator of the Chiefs.
The Chiefs Will Play Without Dwayne Bowe
The Dwayne Bowe saga has not been much of a topic by fans and the media lately, so I'll keep it short.
It is obvious that with Bowe's absence from training camp, he won't play in any preseason games. If the Chiefs offense manages to do well, they could be even better by the time Bowe returns to action. Hopefully, at that point, he will be in his 2010 form.
The Chiefs Will Look to See If Dontari Poe Will Shine
Dontari Poe may not start his first NFL preseason game. He hopes to be the nose tackle the Chiefs think he can be, and he has a chance to prove that this Friday.
The Chiefs have not had high production from top-five draft picks in defensive ends Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey.
Poe looks to come in and make a name for himself early and try to help the Chiefs defensive line and help the Chiefs fill that lone gap on defense.
Justin Houston Will Be a Key Factor on Defense
Chiefs fans were excited to see the emergence of Justin Houston, who racked up 5.5 sacks in the final five games of his rookie season to finish second on the team in sacks.
Now that the Chiefs have assured who is the top pass-rusher opposite of Tamba Hali, Houston must carry over his success to the preseason and then into the regular season. The Chiefs would like to see him apply more pressure on quarterbacks and go into the 2012 season with a high level of confidence in their defense.
Importance of Depth Will Be Noticed This Preseason
The NFL is no longer about the starters simply being good. The game has changed to a point where backups have been more important than before.
The Chiefs have Peyton Hillis at running back and Kevin Boss at tight end as complements to their respective positions on offense. Defensively, Kansas City's 3-4 system will experience players rotating in and out. Can the defensive backups play well in the preseason and do well when rotating in with starters during the regular season?
We once heard Scott Pioli, Chiefs general manager, talk about the "right 53." The Chiefs will watch all of their players carefully and make sure that they pick the right 53 players who can help them win in 2012.
Looking at the Detroit Lions in 2012
The Detroit Lions finished the preseason 4-0 and it translated to a 5-0 regular-season start and a playoff appearance.
This isn't to say that a 4-0 preseason record is required to play well in the regular season. In fact, the Lions went 4-0 in the 2008 preseason before going 0-16 in the regular season. But the game has experienced a big change in four years.
Last year, the Lions rushing game was not making any noise. Jahvid Best, the Lions top rusher, ran for 390 yards. Maurice Morris also ran for over 300 yards, as did Kevin Smith, who received limited playing time due to injury.
In the passing department, the Lions gained a lot of attention. Calvin Johnson reeled in 1,600 receiving yards and 16 touchdown catches. Behind him, Brandon Pettigrew, Nate Burleson and Titus Young all caught over 600 receiving yards as Tony Scheffler and Young caught six touchdown passes while Pettigrew had five.
Matt Stafford had no problem finding the pass-catchers while making his reads. With over 5,000 yards of passing and 41 touchdown passes thrown, the Lions finished fifth in total offense, thanks to their entire offense.
The Chiefs need to produce the same offense. In order for Cassel to lead an offense like Stafford did in 2011, he will need everyone on his offense to come together. Cassel will have a chance to work with a lot of those players in the preseason, hoping to blend with them before the regular season kicks off.