Kansas City Chiefs: Separating Facts from Fiction After Week 2 of 2013 Preseason
For the second consecutive week, Kansas City Chiefs fans helplessly watched as their hearts were ripped from their chests.
The San Francisco 49ers, defending NFC Champions, spoiled Andy Reid's Arrowhead debut with a go-ahead touchdown seconds before the final two-minute warning.
Another game; another second-half debacle.
There's no denying that the roster has its share of question marks, but claiming there is cause for optimism would be an understatement.
After re-watching every snap of Kansas City's second preseason matchup, it's fairly easy to decipher fact from fiction for the 2013 Chiefs.
*Statistics provided by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Fact: There Are Depth Issues
In terms of depth, there are three glaring weaknesses on Kansas City's officially unofficial depth chart: cornerback, guard and center.
Obviously, Dunta Robinson's name doesn't apply to the former. Robinson was beaten once—which ended with an overthrow by Colin Kaepernick—but he made up for it with a pair of notable efforts in the passing game. Regardless, because of Andy Reid's soft spot for sub packages, his playing time will be more emblematic of a starter than second-stringer.
But after Robinson, the depth is fairly anemic. Quarterbacks have taken turns exploiting Jalil Brown, Neiko Thorpe—who allowed the game-winning reception—and Vince Agnew.
On paper, Brown fits the bill for Bob Sutton's defense. He's a tall, physical corner who's built for bump-and-run coverage. However, he doesn't have the agility to stick with quicker receivers, nor the straight-line speed to recover once his player gains a step on him.
The inexperience of Thorpe and Agnew shows on the field. The two corners display lackluster instincts and struggle in press coverage.
Geoff Schwartz is the exception from the void at guard. While he's well-versed at the position, his Friday night was spent at right tackle.
By backup standards, Rokevious Watkins has also performed sufficiently.
The same can't be said for Ryan Durand, Matt Reynolds, Tommie Draheim—who's listed as a center on the roster, but his snaps have come at right guard—and Eric Kush.
Draheim and Kush are bullied during rushes, Reynolds has issues in pass blocking and Durand is victimized in both facets.
If you subscribe to the theory that one play can decide an outcome, that play came on a 4th-and-2 with 11:24 remaining in the game.
Obviously, Reid would have elected to kick a field goal if in a regular-season scenario, but he trusted his reserves to move the chains while under pressure. Draheim whiffed and allowed his man inside, Durand was bulldozed into the backfield like a tackling dummy and Reid's trust was (un)rewarded with a turnover on downs.
Fiction: There Is No Depth at All
Knile Davis is slowly converting his skeptics (myself included) into believers. In the face of a stout 49ers defense, Jamaal Charles' replacement averaged 3.7 yards per rush and 10.4 yards per reception. His 79-yard kick return versus New Orleans already proved his worth as a special teams threat.
Travis Kelce and Tony Moeaki are both fully capable starters.
Devon Wylie, Rico Richardson and Jamar Newsome have all made noteworthy contributions in the receiving game. Wylie was all but guaranteed a spot on the roster, but his 52-yard punt return silenced the smattering of doubters. The shifty slot receiver has also averaged 15.5 yards in his two other preseason punt returns.
Allen Bailey, Jerrell Powe, Anthony Toribio and Austen Lane were all mentioned thanks to memorable plays in Friday's exhibition. Marcus Dixon was responsible for the nastiest hit throughout Kansas City's preseason thus far.
Zac Diles and Nico Johnson both posted sacks against the 49ers (although, Johnson's was an assist). Edgar Jones only has a pair of tackles to his name, but the special teams ace has forced three quarterback hurries in limited time.
Husain Abdullah has served as a relentless menace to opposing offenses. The free safety has tallied six total tackles while only allowing two receptions for six yards. He also batted a pass down while blitzing. If Kendrick Lewis falls victim to dehydration, it's because his job security is making him sweat more than Patrick Ewing near a campfire.
Quintin Demps has afforded one reception in 37 snaps and authored the Chiefs' sole touchdown via a 105-yard kick return.
Fact: The Defense Looks Refueled
This much is certain: Bob Sutton's defense is eye candy for football junkies.
Every snap is another round of mind games featuring pre-snap movement and disguised intentions.
Reliable man coverage unlocks the creativity in Sutton's playbook. Blitzers ambush quarterbacks from an array of angles and force dangerous misfires.
The con? When a defensive back is beaten, there's little—if any—backside help. If the defense deploys Cover 1, the free safety (normally) represents the last line of defense, and he's responsible for covering every bit of field between the sidelines.
Fortunately for Kansas City, Brandon Flowers and Sean Smith excel in press coverage. Dunta Robinson is also a starting-caliber corner, but his skill set is better suited for zone.
In short: The Chiefs are sure to create turnovers on a regular basis, but they're also more susceptible to big plays than a season ago.
Fiction: Tamba Hali Is One of the Top 3 Defensive Players
Tamba Hali is still a revered pass-rusher. Case closed. No questions asked.
Can the same be said for him against the run? Eh, not so much.
Pro Football Focus defines "defensive stops" as instances when an offense fails to gain:
40 percent of the required yards for another first down on first down
60 percent of the required yards for a first down on second down
A first down on third or fourth down
Hali was on the field for 424 rushing plays a season ago. He only accounted for a defensive stop on 3.8 percent of those snaps—fifth-lowest amongst 3-4 outside linebackers who regularly saw the field.
During San Francisco's first offensive snap, Frank Gore bounced to the right end of his line only to be greeted with a wall of run-stuffers. Then, he cut back and rumbled throughout 52 yards of open field because Hali over-pursued and failed to keep containment.
Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson and Brandon Flowers consistently perform at a high level. And if this preseason serves as an indicator, players like Dontari Poe and Eric Berry are primed to joined the aforementioned club.
When opponents air it out—and he's rushing—Hali is a force to be reckoned with. However, he's a liability when defending the run or dropping back in coverage.
Fact: The Chiefs Look Like an Elite Special Teams Unit
Through Week 2 of the preseason, a pair of Chiefs headlined two of the five longest kick returns in the NFL.
A separate set of Kansas Citians account for two of the seven longest punt returns.
Ryan Succop has sliced the uprights in all four of his field-goal attempts, including two between 40 and 49 yards.
Dustin Colquitt leads the league with eight punts downed inside of the 20-yard line—three more than his closest competition.
Fiction: Justin Houston and Dontari Poe Can Be Blocked One-on-One
Despite playing only a handful of series, Justin Houston currently ranks fourth in tackles amongst 3-4 outside linebackers. The three players eclipsing him have all participated in at least 14 more snaps.
Kansas City's Pro Bowler has only been targeted once while in pass coverage. In that single attempt, Houston fought through traffic, shoved a blocker away and spoiled San Francisco's screen with a three-yard loss.
At his own position, Dontari Poe is tied for sixth in tackles. Like Houston, the Chiefs' defensive anchor has played less snaps than every name ahead of him.
Poe only managed nine quarterback hurries throughout 757 plays as a rookie. If rounded, that amounts to one hurry per 84 snaps.
This preseason, No. 92 has amassed two hurries in just 39 plays, or one per 20 snaps.
On the rare occasions when he's not double-teamed, Poe's arms morph into flyswatters, and he stampedes through lines like he bullied an Italian plumber for his star.
Fact: Alex Smith Didn't Play as Poorly as His Week 2 Stats Indicated
Alex Smith's grudge match against his former team didn't unfold as planned.
The following morning, Sportscenter recapped the action in a segment entitled "Alex Smith Struggles."
Kansas City's starter completed just seven of his 16 pass attempts (44 percent) for 62 yards. However, if the drops by Jon Baldwin, Travis Kelce and Cyrus Gray are factored in, his completion percentage jumps to 63. And if the throwaway is subtracted? Sixty-seven percent.
The stat line also doesn't account for two sacks and four quarterback hurries.
Obviously, none of the above impacts the final results. But Alex Smith didn't struggle: His supporting cast collapsed.
Fiction: Eric Fisher Should Continue Playing Through the Pain
Just how difficult has this summer been for Eric Fisher? Let's take a breather from the signature stats and draw some analogies.
Task: Transition from left tackle to right tackle.
If you've played baseball or softball, you've stood on the side of home plate that's opposite of your dominant hand and foot (unless you're one of those bland ambidextrous people). If you're right-handed, you've hit from the left batter's box and vice versa.
On one summer afternoon, a Major League switch-hitter sends the ball on a one-way trip over the center-field wall. Curiosity pique: check. Five minutes later, a friend pitches an experiment while you're aligned in the opposite stance of your standard one. You whiff, the ball graduates to troll status and your ego deflates faster than the pitch.
Transitioning to the opposite end of an offensive line is likely every bit as awkward and challenging—all of your ingrained tendencies are U-turned.
Task: Jump from blocking the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers to NFL standouts while injured.
Let's stick with the sports analogies.
Imagine you're at middle school track practice, where hurdles normally measure 36 inches in height. You clear those and make the track your personal runway without breaking a bead of sweat. Air Jordans should embroider your silhouette instead of that one guy's.
Bragging ends with a dare that results in you staring at the 39-inch vasectomy known as a high school hurdle. One failed takeoff later, you're on all fours yelping out an expletive-laced run-on sentence that, if bleeped on FCC airwaves, would sound like Morse code for "Take me now, sweet baby Jesus (NSFW)."
Then, you're ordered to finish practice.
Fisher's injuries aren't comparable—not in the least. But I'm willing to bet—and let's call the person in above story "Brett"—that the pain from blocking a raging defensive behemoth, while nursing a thumb and shoulder injury, is. The No. 1 pick has only lined up for 44 preseason snaps, yet his four quarterback hurries are tied for the second-most amongst tackles.
Is Eric Fisher a subpar blocker? No, quite the opposite.
But if he's not allowed to fully heal, his play will encourage critics to continue adding insults to injury.
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