Chiefs-Texans: Breaking Down Kansas City's Preseason Opener by Positon
The game gave Chiefs fans a taste of what's to come this season—some good and some bad.
Let's break it down, position by position.
Matt Cassel started and played the first four series of the game. During that time, the Chiefs called nine rushing plays compared to just five passing plays. On the 15th offensive play, Cassel fumbled the snap, and the Chiefs failed to recover.
Despite completing only two passes, Cassel was accurate with his throws. If he would have been given more opportunities (or if Dwayne Bowe had been on the field with the first team offense), Cassel's box score would have looked much more encouraging.
Brodie Croyle was impressive with his throws in the second and third quarters, completing 12 of 18 passes for 145 yards.
Tyler Thigpen showed why he was successful last season, making plays with his feet and even throwing a one-yard touchdown on the run.
He also showed, however, why he is no longer the starter, completing just seven passes on 14 attempts for 40 yards and one INT. Thigpen tended to shy away from downfield passes, yet was inaccurate with his short throws.
Larry Johnson failed to show anything special, rushing four times for 12 yards. It was nice to see offensive coordinator Chan Gailey get LJ the ball on the outside, as Johnson's cutback ability allows him to thrive when he's got room to run.
Dantrell Savage had a few nice runs late in the game, though he also killed a good-looking drive at midfield with a fumble. He led all Chiefs rushers with eight carries for 39 yards.
Jamaal Charles rushed the ball twice for two yards. Javarris Williams, a seventh round pick out of Tennessee State, ran four times for only nine yards, including a goal-line carry when he tried to run backwards into the end zone.
Despite playing with the second team offense, Dwayne Bowe stole the show with five catches for 70 yards, including a few eye-popping grabs. Mark Bradley, the Chiefs' projected No. 2 wideout, caught two passes for 36 yards. Slot receiver Bobby Engram did not play.
Terrance Copper and Devard Darling started the game and combined for two catches for 15 yards. While this was a good opportunity for these two unknowns with the first team offense, neither got much of a chance to prove himself.
Quinten Lawrence, the Chiefs' sixth round pick out of McNeese State, caught three passes for 14 yards but dropped a sideline pass on a big third down.
Starter Brad Cottam caught the only ball thrown to him, a one-yard pass from Thigpen, which resulted in the Chiefs' only touchdown.
Sean Ryan, a fifth-year player out of Boston College, dropped the only ball thrown to him, a wide-open sideline route on third down.
The starting unit was good, but not great. Cassel was well protected but was forced to scramble from the pocket on one particular play.
Branden Albert and Herb Taylor were both called for false starts, while Damion McIntosh and Barry Richardson were flagged for holding, though Richardson's penalty was declined.
The offensive line only allowed one sack the entire game, an obvious blown assignment by Herb Taylor.
While Cassel, LJ, and Bowe get all of the attention on offense, the key will be the Chiefs' offensive line. Without consistent play from the big men up front, the offense will struggle. This will be an area to keep an eye on in the next three preseason games.
It was exciting to see the Chiefs' first round picks in each of the last two drafts, Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson, on the defensive line together. Jackson was credited with half of a sack in the second quarter on Dan Orlovsky.
Alex Magee, the Chiefs' third rounder out of Purdue, continued his impressive streak, recording four tackles—the most among defensive linemen.
Derrick Johnson led the team with six tackles, giving Chiefs fans hope that 2009 just might be his breakout campaign. It appeared as though Johnson had a chance for a goal-line interception, though instead he went for the big hit and successfully broke up the play.
Demorrio Williams, in his second season with the Chiefs, also got his hands on a potential INT but failed to haul it in.
Corey Mays, a fourth-year player out of Notre Dame, was impressive, showing intensity and ball awareness while recording five tackles. Andy Studebaker, a 2008 sixth rounder, also showed promise while recording a tackle and half a sack while playing with the first team defense.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign on defense was converted defensive end Tamba Hali, who looked very quick on the field. He was credited with two tackles. On bootlegs and other misdirection plays, Hali (and others) showed good discipline, staying at home to make the play—something the Chiefs have failed at miserably in recent memory.
At times Saturday night, the Chiefs secondary looked similar to what it has been in previous seasons. Kansas City's zone and cover two coverages were pathetic, allowing receivers to run to an open spot and complete big gains of 15, 16, 11, 20, 20, 19, and 10 yards. This is not the bump-and-run, man-on-man coverage that Chiefs fans were hoping to see.
Maurice Leggett, a second-year undrafted free agent out of Valdosta State, recorded a third-down sack on a corner blitz in the first quarter, forcing Houston to punt. In addition to the sack, Leggett notched three tackles, strengthening his position as the Chiefs' nickel back.
Hard-hitting safety Bernard Pollard made his mark on the game, recording five tackles, good enough for second on the team. Pollard's ball-hawking skills were on full display, even making a touchdown-saving tackle near the goal line.
Second-year cornerback Brandon Flowers impressed as well, recording 1.5 tackles and defending two passes. He nearly snatched a pick six as well but was a split-second late on the ball.
Punter Dustin Colquitt was what Chiefs fans have come to expect, booting six punts with a 48.2 average, including one that was downed inside the five-yard line.
This year's Mr. Irrelevant, kicker Ryan Succop, nailed his only field goal attempt, a 47-yarder in the pouring rain as the first half expired. His kickoffs were equally impressive, reaching the goal line every time.
Kansas City's punt coverage team failed to get any pressure on punter Matt Turk. In the fourth quarter, Turk dropped a snap in the wet conditions but was able to run for a first down.
The Chiefs' punt return team had several chances but were forced to call for a fair catch on six of Turk's seven punts. The kick return team has room for improvement, averaging 16 yards per return on five returns.
Looking forward to next week's game at Minnesota, the Chiefs will look to improve on their rushing attack, a potentially tough task against the Williams Wall on the Vikings' defensive line. In addition, the offense will attempt to increase their third-down success rate of just 23 percent.
The defense showed loads of intensity against Houston but failed to force a turnover. Next week in Minnesota, the Chiefs' defensive unit should focus on attacking the ball in an attempt to win the turnover battle.
On special teams, the Chiefs need someone to step up and take the kick and punt return jobs. Quinten Lawrence is the sexy pick but has yet to prove himself. This is one area, among others, that I'll be watching closely next week as the Chiefs travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings.
Nick Kappel is a fantasy baseball writer for BaseballReflections.com. In addition to this, he writes about the Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Cubs for BleacherReport.com. Starting in the fall, his work will also be featured on FanHuddle.com.
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