In the preseason opener, the Kansas City Chiefs didn't just make a statement, they made five of them.
Arrowhead Stadium was electrified as familiar faces executed a new-look system to perfection in the first quarter. The Chiefs' 27-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals was a reassuring introduction to the Romeo Crennel era.
If Kansas City's victory holds a sign of things to come, tomorrow's headlines will be yesterday's news.
2011 Injuries Won't Be a Factor in 2012
The question that asphyxiated the Kansas City Chiefs' offseason is finally answered, and fans can now breathe a sigh of relief.
No, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry aren't brittle-boned shells of themselves—they haven't lost a step. The same goes for Matt Cassel, Tony Moeaki and Kendrick Lewis.
Now back to regularly scheduled programming.
4 Position Battles Are Neck-and-Neck
If Friday's game is indicative of the future, Romeo Crennel and Co. will be splitting hairs when configuring the next depth chart. The backup quarterback, third-string running back, backup defensive tackle and starting inside linebacker jobs are up for grabs, and they're being scrapped for like a garter tossed between gold-diggers.
Quarterback: The well-documented tug-o'-war between Brady Quinn (7-13, 89 YDS, 1 INT) and Ricky Stanzi (2-7, 42 YDS) was publicly showcased. Both endured their share of valleys and peaks, but any disparity remained minimal. However, Quinn will maintain a slight edge heading into next week.
Running Back: The City of Fountains is overflowing with talent in the backfield. The names of Shaun Draughn and Cyrus Gray repeatedly echoed over the Arrowhead PA system. Draughn (12 CAR, 26 YDS, 1 TD) was slotted as the third tailback on this season's initial depth chart, and Gray (15 CAR, 65 YDS, 1 TD) rushed like he took exception. Following last night's performance, Gray temporarily leapfrogged his closest competition.
Defensive Tackle: Any skepticism surrounding Anthony Toribio quickly dissolved—he's the starter, and Dontari Poe isn't within shouting distance. As expected, Poe's learning curve has proven to be extremely steep. It's early. Too early to be condemning the first-round behemoth.
But while Poe adapts to the NFL's demanding standards, Jerrell Powe is looking over his shoulder. Powe produced one sack against Arizona, which is something to write home about for a team that continually inks obituaries for defensive tackles.
Inside Linebacker: Jovan Belcher made his presence felt in limited action as a member of the first-team defense. Brandon Siler—who was recruited to compete with Belcher before tearing his Achilles last year—only managed one tackle, but No. 52 was constantly swarming around the ball. While Belcher is still the clear-cut starter, Siler is gaining traction.
Steve Maneri Will Make the Team
Jake O'Connell has some serious ground to make up.
Maneri finished the exhibition as Kansas City's leading receiver with three receptions for 69 yards. The former offensive tackle illustrated surprisingly soft hands and relatively nimble feet throughout the night. Considering Tony Moeaki's history of injury problems, the Chiefs could use a reliable playmaking alternative to line up opposite of Kevin Boss. Last night, they found one.
Defense Found Its Long-Lost Pass Rush
Friday night, Kansas City nearly tallied one-fourth as many sacks (7) as it did all of last season (29).
Romeo Crennel has obviously made pass-rushing a point of emphasis throughout the offseason—it's beginning to pay dividends. While Justin Houston was the only starter to bring the quarterback to his knees, the majority of first-teamers only participated in two to three series. Tamba Hali also drifted around the edge to cause a John Skelton interception.
Cameron Sheffield and Jerrell Powe were among the other notable pursuers to boost the sack total.
Brian Daboll's System Made a Stellar First Impression
Despite the conservative play-calling—courtesy of the preseason—Daboll's unveiling of the new offensive system garnered rave reviews. And for good reason.
Kansas City hadn't eclipsed the 27-point mark in a preseason contest since 2003 (Seahawks 42, Chiefs 31). Daboll accomplished the feat in his debut.
Although Chiefs Lite was on display for most of the night, fans were given a free preview of the full version during a fourth-and-1 decision. The offense lined up in an expected bunch formation as Cassel crouched under center.
As the Arizona defense looked primed to missile head-first into the Kansas City wall, the Chiefs abruptly shifted like a Transformer and laterally spread toward the sidelines. As a discombobulated defense shuffled to combat the evolved threat, Cassel snapped the ball and plowed ahead for the conversion.
The zone-blocking scheme shined as well. It opened the door for impressive first-half performances from Peyton Hillis—which included a 28-yard thunder-stomping scamper cleared by Eric Winston—and Dexter McCluster.
Perhaps the most telling sign? There wasn't a single sack attributed to the Kansas City Chiefs line.
On Friday, a healthy Kansas City Chiefs team reflected a 2010 playoff contender and took a major step in proving that the injury-riddled 2011 season was a case of smoke and mirrors.
What a difference a year makes.