Last week I had 10 things I would watch for in the Chief's first preseason game. What were the results?
Maybe the most frustrating thing about preseason is that you can walk away from a game excited about the team... But still have to look at a loss on the scoreboard. Thanks, Victor Agnew. But we'll get around to that later. Prior to the game I made a list of 10 things I was watching for (why 10? Because 9 isn't enough and 11 seemed like overkill. Or something). With that first game under the belt (and with 1 time re-watching it), let's look back at what we learned.
Also, before we start, I cannot emphasize enough how little this all may mean in the end. Because seriously, remember the Cardinals.
1) Pass Rush and Press Coverage
I'm going to have to give this a "TBD" (To Be Determined). There just wasn't enough to see from the 1st team. I DID like the way they looked to be attacking the Saints' offensive line rather than sitting back on their heals. But overall there wasn't enough film to make a determination. Any time you can force the Saints to punt, that's a win. BUT... It required a drop where Flowers had been beaten. The 1st team overall did well though. They got pressure on Brees to end the drive on 3rd and 8 (more on that later).
The 2nd team was playing off more than pressing as far as I saw, and there wasn't much pressure put on Brees. Of, course, when your 2's can hold Drew Brees and the Saints to a FG, that's impressive.
Beyond that, it's really tough to judge Sutton's defensive scheme. Because Victor Agnew had the worst performance I have ever seen out of a corner. Remember last year when Jalil Brown looked bad against the Seahawks? Brown looked like Revis Island that game compared to what Agnew was doing. Once he'd been identified as a weak spot, it didn't matter what the rest of our defense did. If we're going to learn anything about our defense in the remaining preseason games, Agnew needs to be replaced or he needs to play roughly 17x better than he did Friday.
2) Dontari Poe
Again, the Chiefs 1st team defense only played one series, so we've got a small sample size alert. But...
-Snap 1: Stands up the center then throws him aside, pursues all the way down the line and makes a great tackle on the RB for a 1-2 yard gain. Uh oh, don't get my hopes up, Dontari. Don't do it.
-Snap 2: Gets doubled and gives a yard or so, contributing to a 5-6 yard gain by the RB. However, they couldn't pancake him, and the RB had to go around the mass of 3 bodies as opposed to running right by a pancaked NT. Not terrific, but not awful.
-Snap 3: Poe not in, interestingly enough.
-Snap 4: Poe not in again. This was the long ball that was dropped.
-Snap 5: Poe single-teamed by the C. Gives zero ground, the defense as a whole steps up well. 2 yard gain.
-Snap 6: Poe in this time on an obvious passing down (3rd and 8). Just DESTROYS the center, slapping him out of the way and getting by before the C can recover. Brees has zero time to go through progressions as he desperately sidesteps a charging Poe, who misses Brees by about .3 inches. This gives Hali time to abuse the guard (yes, the G. Berry was rushing from the outside and drew the tackle and the RB. REALLY nice play call to get Hali matched up individually) and hit Brees, who intentionally grounds the ball but doesn't get called because he's Drew Brees.
I'm trying really, really hard not to read too much into a few plays. But in 4 snaps, Poe made not just solid but exceptional plays. The center he was matched up against was completely and utterly overmatched. If Poe plays like that this year, our defense is going to be ROUGH on opposing teams. Very encouraging stuff.
3) Allen Bailey
I have been all over the map with this guy. I was excited when we drafted him, disappointed by his rookie season, excited by what I THOUGHT was improvement when I reviewed the tape, disappointed by his lack of development in his second year... It's been a rough ride.
Now people are telling me that Bailey will be a contributor in our "new" defense. I'm skeptical. Fool me once, and all that. So I refuse to take anything out of the fact that Bailey seemed a lot faster off the snap. I also refuse to take anything out of the fact that he was getting more push and one really nice run stuff.
You're not fooling me, Allen Bailey! Unless, of course, you do it two weeks in a row. Then I have no doubt I'll start to believe. I'm easy that way.
4) Knile Davis, Shaun Draughn, Cyrus Gray
Mostly a giant bowl of "shrug" when it comes to Gray and Draughn. With Donald Stephenson out, our backup OL were not doing a good job. At all. So it's tough to say anything about those two.
Knile showed, in one game, both the "boom" and the "bust." He danced around way too much for my sake, hesitated before he hit holes, and dropped an easy pass. He also had a couple runs where his burst allowed for a decent gain, and had one absolutely spectacular kick return where he shook a defender so hard I think it transported the poor guy back in time. The 2nd team offensive line wasn't overly impressive, so I can't hammer the guy completely. But I'm not seeing a consistent producer there.
What Knile looks to me is a guy who, with good blocking, will gain more yards than most backs because of his exceptional speed and ability to move well in the open field. He's very impressive in those situations. The problem is that with poor or even average blocking, he's not going to do well based on what I've seen. He hesitates and dances when there's not a clear hole to go through. So he may well be a boom or bust guy on every single play. I'm 90% sure I'm going to change my mind about him 174 times this season.
5) Alex Smith
Enough people have talked about this that it doesn't become necessary to go in-depth. Yes, he was efficient, and yes, he didn't go beyond 11 yards with his throws. So just a few quick points.
First, it was really weird seeing a quarterback play well for an entire series. I cannot describe how sad that sentence makes me.
Second, the throw Smith made that has me the most excited was the 3rd down conversion to Anthony Fasano. Fasano had the coverage "screened" off with his body, but the coverage was still right there. There was a TINY window to fit that throw into to allow for a first down, and Smith stuck it. Isn't it just amazing the difference it makes when a QB can hit someone in stride?
Third, people are complaining that the offense didn't test the deep ball out and/or get Bowe/Baldwin involved. The running comment I hear is that those short routes will get shut down by a defense eventually. I guess I don't necessarily understand that reasoning. Let's say a team went on a 10 play drive where every running play was right up the gut gaining 7 yards or so. The drive ends in a TD. Do you complain that they never ran to the outside? No. If the other team isn't stopping you, keep doing what you're doing until they figure out how. THEN you mix it up. People overthink this stuff too much. Also, when you re-watch you can see Smith going through progressions downfield. It's not as if he wasn't looking to make those throws. They just weren't there, so he made the throws that WERE there. When did this kind of play become a bad thing?
So far, so good on the Alex Smith era. Of course (and I'm sorry, I just have to), Matt Cassel looked solid in our first preseason game last year. Just saying. Do it two weeks in a row, Mr. Smiff!
6) Tyler Bray
It's tough to take much out of what Bray did Friday without taking into account our 3rd string line looking more like a sieve than a wall. That said, he made a couple of solid throws and looked like our 2nd best quarterback to me (that may have more to do with Chase Daniels not impressing than anything else). One of the things that I noticed the most was how absolutely, totally, and completely immobile Bray is. Other than that, there's a lot to be determined here.
Of course, my tune might be different had he not had a very nice throw dropped. But we'll get to that.
7) Nico Johnson
I liked what I saw from Nico. Unfortunately for him, I also liked what I saw from Akeem Jordan, the veteran he's trying to unseat. Nico moves better than I anticipated, can take on and shed blocks, and seems to have a nose for the ball. His awareness isn't where I'd like it to be in coverage, but he was MUCH better there than I expected. He absolutely has the athleticism to drop back, whether as part of a zone or individually. He looked to be the vocal leader of the 2nd unit as well. Overall, our SILB position is in much better shape than it was last year, or the year before.
8) Fisher, Allen, Hudson
Fisher had an OK day in my opinion. Not more, not less. He got some push in the running game, but nothing exceptional. His pass protection was overall pretty good. He did have one play in which he got shoved backward into Smith's lap, forcing him out of the pocket (the "loss of 1" run to the right by Smith). I'm a bit concerned that he keeps getting hurt, but so far he's playing through it. Nice job for a first time on the field as a rookie.
Hudson and Allen looked good to me. Hudson had one play where he was moved backward very quickly, but overall both did well. They both were getting out there in space to help with the screens. To be fair, the Saints' defensive line is nothing to write home about. All the same, I liked what I saw. I don't think Allen is going to be giving up that starting job.
9) Fasano, Kelce, Moeaki
Anthony Fasano showed why he won the starting job; reliable hands. Travis Kelce is clearly the best athlete of the three, and I'm not sure it's even close. The guy can MOVE. The Gronk comparisons genuinely don't look all that crazy to me. Of course, he also dropped what should have been a touchdown pass. So there's that.
While Fasano isn't the athlete Kelce is, clearly he's got good chemistry with Smith. The 3rd down conversion he grabbed wasn't impressive just because of the throw. Fasano caught it with a defender basically draped on him and showed the strength to move forward for the first down. I wasn't too impressed when we signed Fasano, but he looks to be a valuable addition.
I can also say, quite honestly, that even after watching the game twice I didn't see Moeaki do much of anything. Of course, he stayed healthy, so he's got that going for him. We know Moeaki can play, but with Fasano being solid and Kelce looking to be a freak of nature (seriously, re-watching the guy it's amazing how he moves at his size), To-Mo is going to have to fight for his snaps. Our TE situation just might be the deepest in the league.
10) Justin Houston
Nothing to report. I cannot wait for the defense to get a little more time on the field this next week.
There are a million more things that could be said about Friday's game (especially about the special teams. Holy crap, David Toubs was a good hire), but that'll come another day. For now, I'm cautiously optimistic about our guys this year. Now I can only hope that feeling doesn't come crashing down as quickly as it did last year.