Kansas City Chiefs: 8 Things We Learned Through Week 3 of Preseason
Last Saturday, Andy Reid notched the first Kansas City Chiefs victory under his plus-sized belt.
The red-and-yellow-clad visitors surpassed a 10-point deficit en route to 26-20 comeback in the form of an overtime thriller.
OK, let's come clean. The only "thrilling" aspect of preseason overtime is the final play. Not because edge-of-your-seat excitement is rewarded with a euphoric finale or gut-wrenching climax, but because your eyes are no longer held hostage by the prolonged torture known as preseason football.
The coaches want the W for positive reinforcement: Victories prove that if players buy into the coaching philosophy, the coaching philosophy pays dividends.
Athletes chase wins because weekly bragging rights stroke their competitive egos and warrant every bead of sweat dripped onto the practice field.
But from the outside looking in? This time of year is borderline masochistic for NFL fans.
Preseason games are akin to McDonald's Monopoly: Every year, enthusiasts are giddy with anticipation at the start, but in the end, you never win anything of value and are left sulking in disappointment with a barbecue-stained shirt (at Arrowhead, at least).
All of that being said—or spewed—the preseason does serve a purpose. It's a teaser trailer that gauges expectations for the final product. Three weeks of exhibitions have revealed eight clues about the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs.
Statistics provided by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Kansas City's Passing Game Is More Effective Without Jon Baldwin
Bon voyage, Jon Baldwin.
As a member of the 2013 Chiefs, Baldwin failed to snatch a single reception in two preseason games, so he was shipped to the City by the Bay in exchange for A.J. Jenkins.
Donnie Avery replaced the former first-rounder and by the end of his debut as a starter, stringed together six receptions for 54 yards.
Addition by subtraction.
Converting Baldwin to tight end would've capitalized on his strengths (frame, vertical) while camouflaging his weaknesses (route running, agility).
As a wideout, he's an ideal target for fade routes in goal-to-go situations. However, in virtually every other scenario, Baldwin's cons outweigh his pros.
Cornerbacks with moderate quickness cling to Baldwin like a shadow. His hands rival Tim the Toolman's in terms of reliability, and his breaks are as sharp as Craig Sager's wardrobe.
Make no mistake: Avery's gloves aren't exactly dripping with Elmer's, but he brings experience in the slot and on the outside, and the 29-year-old routinely creates separation with ease.
In 2012, Jon Baldwin caught a league-low 43.5 percent of his intended passes.
The Chiefs Are Teeming with Young Talent at WR
UPDATE: Tuesday, August 27, at 5:12 p.m. ET
According to Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star, the Chiefs have released wide receiver Jamar Newsome.
---End of update---
On (or by) August 31, the Chiefs will unveil their final roster trimmings, and the scrutinized list is sure to include a handful of talented pass-catching prospects.
There are four surefire locks to make the team: Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, Dexter McCluster and Devon Wylie.
A.J. Jenkins, Junior Hemingway, Rico Richardson and Jamar Newsome will enter the preseason finale as favorites to fill the last slot(s).
In the case of Jenkins, the absolute worst-case scenario would entail him being demoted to the practice squad. He's undeniably gifted, and the playbook is still relatively fresh to him. Jenkins isn't packing his bags.
While Hemingway added to his personal highlight reel with a touchdown against Pittsburgh, he currently has two drops and a fumble to his name as well.
Richardson is a vertical threat with trustworthy hands and keen awareness. And snagging last week's game-winning lob will only further his case.
Newsome offers the most experience of the foursome, grabbing five regular-season passes for 73 yards in 2012.
At Pittsburgh, Alex Smith and Chase Daniel completed passes to 14 different Chiefs receivers.
The Chiefs Will Enlist Help at Cornerback
Vince Agnew and Neiko Thorpe have already been dismissed from the team. Agnew currently represents Pro Football Focus' lowest-rated cornerback after a trio of exhibitions. Thorpe has also been victimized on a routine basis and allowed the San Francisco 49ers' game-winning highlight.
Jalil Brown has a fighting chance to survive the final cut, but it's only by default—there's no competition threatening to supplant him as the fourth cornerback.
When Sanders Commings recovers from a broken collarbone and makes his rookie debut, Brown can consider his days—or in his case, snaps—numbered. However, Commings' road to recovery just recently entered the second phase: individual drills.
Compared to rosters of preseason past, the Chiefs actually flaunt a healthy amount of defensive depth—just not on the edges.
After the initial wave of releases, look for John Dorsey to grant second chances to other cornerback castaways from around the league.
Vince Agnew has been exploited for a league-leading 210 receiving yards.
Familiar Faces Are Finding Themselves in Unfamiliar Places
Let's play a round of word association.
First word(s): Ricky Stanzi.
What popped in your head? 'Merica? "MMMBop?" Teenage hipster with enough persuasion skills to coax Eric Berry into playing Paramore?
Regardless, "quarterback" probably didn't top the list, which is why Stanzi was released over the weekend.
He wasn't alone, though. The team's official website, KCChiefs.com, lists 14 casualties, ranging from longtime favorites such as Terrance Copper to no-brainers like Vince Agnew.
Stanzi's tenure with the Chiefs has come to an end, but his memes will live forever.
07.04.1776: Ricky Stanzi's Social Security Number.
Andy Reid Part-Times as a DJ
One word has defined the new-look Chiefs offense: tempo.
Whether listening to interviews or reading sideline impressions, it's a term that you can't elude.
Andy Reid's offense is nothing if not unpredictable. On any given drive, Kansas City is just as likely to unfold a conventional, huddled approach as it is to bombard the defense with a barrage of hurry-up aerial attacks.
After the curtains closed on Alex Smith's body of work against the Steelers, he elaborated on the hectic pacing during a mid-game interview.
When former Chiefs quarterback Trent Green inquired about the offense's on-field communication, Kansas City's precise passer offered, "I thought the tempo was tremendously better than last week, similar to what we did the opening week against New Orleans."
Smith added, "I thought [that alternating between tempos] kept the defense on their heels, and we were able to execute in time."
Execute they did.
With only one timeout and one minute, 18 seconds separating the second quarter from halftime, Smith completed six of his seven attempts for 57 yards and a touchdown. A drive that began on Kansas City's 28-yard line spanned the field in exactly one minute.
Kansas City possessed the ball for five minutes and 39 seconds less than Pittsburgh but conducted eight more offensive plays.
Deacon Jones' Hatred for QBs Has Manifested Within Bob Sutton's Defense
This much is certain: You can bid farewell to the passive-aggressive Chiefs defenses of yesteryear.
To no surprise, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's gung-ho mentality sprouts its share of pros and cons.
Overloading a quarterback's protection tends to create havoc, and havoc tends to create turnovers. However, assigning additional pass-rushers normally results in man-to-man coverage—a recipe for lightning-quick scoring drives.
At this point in the preseason, Kansas City's starting defense looks markedly improved in comparison to the 2012 squad.
Throughout two quarters of playing time, Ben Roethlisberger managed to pin 10 points on the Chiefs. But the Steelers' lone touchdown was a byproduct of Kansas City failing to convert a 4th-and-1 from its own 21-yard line—a decision that obviously wouldn't have been echoed in the regular season.
Tamba Hali leads the NFL with four quarterback hits.
Trading for Alex Smith Has Been Justified
If you're still on the fence in regard to the Alex Smith trade, ask yourself one question: If not him, then who?
This preseason, Matt Flynn has tossed one touchdown but two interceptions. Matt Moore, another name mentioned around local water coolers this offseason, mirrors the same ratio as Flynn.
Geno Smith? Thanks but no thanks.
Meanwhile, Nick Foles has completed 21 of his 25 passes, but the second-year quarterback's one interception still outnumbers his touchdown total. Plus, he relieved Michael Vick and picked apart second- and third-stringers in two of the three exhibitions. The aforementioned turnover also traces back to his sole start.
Obviously, Foles and Smith could graduate to respected starters in given time (and the former of the pair looks destined to do just that). But a quarterback like the Philadelphia Eagles backup still has much to prove against first-teamers.
That brings us to Matt Cassel: the center of Kansas Citians' disgust over the past four seasons. Like his aforementioned cohorts, the vast majority of Cassel's attempts have been lobbed versus reinforcements.
The former Chief QB's cumulative Pro Football Focus rating (-5.5) ranks 96th amongst 97 quarterbacks. He has chucked one touchdown and interception while completing just 51.4 percent of his passes.
Despite being victimized by six drops (the second most in the NFL), Alex Smith has completed 64.6 percent of his attempts on 31-of-48 passing. If that number is adjusted to factor in the drops and exclude throwaways and spikes, Smith's completion percentage skyrockets to 82.2.
No. 11's 56 dropbacks are currently tied for sixth most amongst quarterbacks.
Dave Toub Is a Genius, Knile Davis Is His Brainchild
Before the first preseason contest, Andy Reid and John Dorsey's most significant signing was quarterback Alex Smith (and to be fair, it will probably revert to that by season's end). The most effective rookie was destined to be No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher (again, see the aforementioned disclaimer).
After the third preseason game? Special teams coordinator Dave Toub looks like the front-runner for best offseason addition, and Knile Davis has reigned as the most impressive rookie.
Thus far, the Chiefs have prevailed as the NFL's premiere special teams unit, and Davis has spearheaded the charge.
On the ground, the often-scrutinized third-rounder hasn't appeared to be a viable alternative to Jamaal Charles—he's only averaging 2.8 yards per rush. Davis seems so preoccupied with not fumbling the ball—which is a recurring issue that, once again, reared its head at Pittsburgh—that he's unable to spot cutback lanes.
He has sufficed as a pass-catcher, recording seven receptions (one drop) for 49 yards.
Davis, at his natural position, is experiencing growing pains that are common for the majority of rookies.
However, his game-breaking talent shines through at a position that was completely foreign to him in college: kick returner. Davis has stockpiled 208 yards on three kick returns. To strip that total to its roots: No. 34 is currently averaging 69.3 yards per return every time a kicker boots an end-over-end dare to him.
And in terms of the return game, Davis may not be the only ace up Toub's sleeve. Dexter McCluster has amassed 51 yards on two punt returns (25.5 average), while Devon Wylie has torched punters for 113 yards on five attempts (22.6).
Knile Davis' 69.3-yard kick return average is ranked No. 1 amongst players who have fielded multiple kickoffs; Quintin Demps' average of 52.7 yards currently ranks second.
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