Posts Tagged ‘Matt Cassel’

The AFC West was a wild division a year ago. The Kansas City Chiefs went from four wins to division champions. The Raiders went undefeated against its division mates, yet still ended up in third place. Philip Rivers was a one-man gang in San Diego much of the year, while the Broncos slipped to their worst finish in franchise history, and recalled John Elway and Tim Tebow to save them by the end of it all. It was a weird go around.

What the division returns as is a highly competitive mix, that will be one of the most exciting divisions in football. The Raiders and Broncos are rebuilding with defenses that have as much risk and they do promise. However, the real drama is at the top of the division, where two of the most balanced and explosive teams in the entire NFL will face off for top honors.

The Chiefs and the Chargers are getting ready for sixteen weeks of war, and the West will be won with nothing less than blood, guts and a ton of hatred by the end of it all. Can the Chiefs keep holding the throne they so aggressively snatched a year ago, or will the Chargers show they have what it takes to come from behind in the West as well as they worked ahead for so long?

 

ALL-DIVISION TEAM

QB: Philip Rivers RB: Jamaal Charles, Darren McFadden FB: LeRon McClain WR: Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson, Brandon Lloyd TE: Antonio Gates OT: Ryan Clady, Marcus McNeil OG: Kris Dielman, Ryan Lilja C: Nick Hardwick

Bowe's 15 touchdown catches led the NFL in 2010.

DE: Elvis Dumervil, Tyson Jackson DT: Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly OLB: Tamba Hali, Shawn Phillips MLB: Derrick Johnson, Rolando McClain CB: Champ Bailey, Brandon Flowers S: Eric Berry, Eric Weddle

K: Nate Kaeding P: Shane Lechler Returner: Jacoby Ford

 

DENVER BRONCOS (4-12 in 2010)

Offense: B. Lloyd-WR, K. Orton-QB, K. Moreno-RB, R. Clady-OT (C+)

Defense: E. Dumervil-DE, C. Bailey-CB, B. Dawkins-S, V. Miller-OLB (C)

 

The Good: New coach John Fox will bring a gritty approach that includes an emphasis on the run that could get the best out of Knowshon Moreno finally, as well as redzone star Willis McGahee. On defense, after a year of being ran at and passed over, the return of Elvis Dumervil and selection of Von Miller will give a unit that could put no pressure on the passer two blazing rushers capable of double digit sacks. This will help save the secondary from being tested non-stop.

The Bad: They got better at a number places, but still are shaky at defensive tackle and middle linebacker. They are undersized along the defensive front, and it shows in how bad they stand up to the run. They gave up the second most rushing yards in the League last year at just over 154 yards per game, and this is a plague that will follow them into this year.

Miller will have an instant impact in John Elway's attempts to bring the Broncos back from a franchise record low season.

X-Factor-Elvis Dumervil: The NFL’s 2009 sack leader’s absence last season was felt early and often. No one stepped up to fill the void created after he tore his pectoral muscle and had season ending surgery. This season Dumervil will return to his most comfortable position of defensive end after beginning his career as a stand up rusher, and the result across the entire defense will be clear.

Fearless Prediction: Oak (W), CIN (W), @TEN (L), @GB (L), SD (L), @MIA (L), DET (L), @OAK (L), @KC (L), NYJ (W), @SD (W), @MIN (L), CHI (W), NE (L), @BUF (W), KC (L)

In The End: Even with a number of positive steps forward, there is still a good amount of work to be done in rebuilding this club. There could still be more drama to come surrounding the quarterback spot, as well as still holes in the defense. Even a vast improvement this season still lands them on the bottom half of the division. Record: 6-10

 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10-6 in 2010; Division Champs)

Offense: J. Charles-RB, D. Bowe-WR, M. Cassel-QB, S. Breaston-WR (B)

Defense: E. Berry-S, T. Hali-OLB, B. Flowers-CB, T. Jackson-DE (B+)

 

The Good: The offense has expanded. Last season, they employed a pretty basic, yet successful approach: let either Jamaal Charles or Dwayne Bowe score and just find a way to work it other otherwise. This worked well, with Bowe leading the league in touchdown catches and Charles eating up yards at a staggering rate. However, they understood they had to make changes to go to the next level as a team, and the additions of Steve Breaston, Jonathan Baldwin and LeRon McClain represent that.

The Bad: Is Matt Cassel able to guide them over the hump? He made the Pro Bowl a year ago, but the Chiefs still ranked 30th passing yards a game. He manages the game well, but there is still an air of restraint around how much he can shoulder on his own, as well as being injury prone. The Chiefs as a team are in great shape over the long-term, but in the end, having a quarterback that can win games over manage them is essential.

Taking the leash completely off Charles is overdue, and the Chiefs could ride further than ever with him. But will they?

X-Factor-Dexter McCluster: Charles gets the headlines as the biggest game breaker on the club, but the team really took a step forward when McCluster was effectively deployed. He can eat yards like few in the NFL; from anywhere on the field plus on special teams. Using him more often in a style similar to Darren Sproles would give this offense another real terror to account for.

Fearless Prediction: BUF (W), @DET (W), @SD (L), MIN (L), @IND (W), @OAK (L), SD (W), MIA (W), DEN (W), @NE (L), PIT (W), @CHI (L), @NYJ (L), GB (L), OAK (W), @DEN (W)

In The End: The Chiefs are better than they were a year ago. They’ll feature more Jamaal Charles than ever before, and the defense should be among the most aggressive in the league. However, they have a five week run unlike any other team, visiting New England, Chicago and the Jets, as well as hosting the Patriots and Steelers. It will be a better team, but one that is victim to a nightmare scenario, and it will cost them a repeat run as champs. Record: 9-7

 

OAKLAND RAIDERS (8-8 in 2010)

Offense: D. McFadden-RB, J. Campbell-QB, J. Ford-WR, S. Janikowski-K (C-)

Defense: R. Seymour-DT, K. Wimberly-OLB, R. McClain-MLB, S. Routt-CB (B)

 

The Good: McFadden finally lived up to his billing, consistently. After seemingly being doomed to being a glorified platoon back his first two seasons, he put it all together, got tougher and became the centerpiece of the Oakland effort. He ran the ball over 200 times and also was second in receptions as well. Having an encore season is a must for an offense that will need him even more this time around.

The Bad: They lost a lot at the wrong time. Nnamdi Asomugha, Zack Miller and Robert Gallery were all important pieces of the resurgence of the Raiders last season, and they looked to be on the right track as a unit. Now they have big issues in the absence of each. There is no clear target on offense, the o-line is vulnerable again and the entire defense will have to change their approach without Nnamdi putting fear in opposing QBs.

2010 was a coming out party for McFadden. Now he returns to a scenario that will need even more of him.

X-Factor-Kevin Boss: Zack Miller long represented the only dependable chain mover out the receiving group, and his departure makes an already weak receiving group look even worse. Enter the former Giant Boss, who will be targeted more than he ever was in New York. While there’s no expectation of his becoming his predecessor, he is a big key to keeping the entire offense on balance.

Fearless Prediction: @DEN (L), @BUF (L), NYJ (L), NE (L), @HOU (L), CLE (W), KC (W), DEN (W), SD (L), @MIN (W), CHI (L), @MIA (W), @GB (L), DET (L), @KC (L), SD (W)

In The End: They will take a step backwards after going undefeated in the West a year ago. There will be a big struggle to overcome their losses, but they will be a tough matchup each week on defense. The defense will still be tough, but the offense will continue to struggle due to no legit playmaker in the passing game. Record: 6-10

 

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (9-7 in 2010)

Offense: P. Rivers-QB, A. Gates-TE, V. Jackson-WR, M. Tolbert-RB (A-)

Defense: S. Phillips-OLB, Q. Jammer-CB, E. Weddle-S, L. Castillo-DE (B+)

 

The Good: The offense around Philip Rivers is running at full capacity again. Last season, they never played at full strength until it was far too late. Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd and Marcus McNeil are periods in the mix instead of question marks. Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews are both running well, and in harmony. A year ago, Rivers had his finest year with his worst cast; the potential for a perfect storm with all of them back could have the Chargers atop the NFL in total offense.

The Bad: Can the defense do it again? A year ago, they surprisingly gave up the fewest yards in the league and got after the quarterback frequently. However, they still don’t have an elite edge rusher, and the linebackers group is thin as well. They got it done as a complete unit a year ago, but there is still a need for an individual to step up to be accounted for.

Rivers mad much out of a little last year, and stands to do much more with a full-speed unit this time around.

X-Factor-Vincent Jackson: An ugly contract dispute held him out of the mix for all but four games last season, but what a four games they were. In limited use, he brought in 14 catches at averaged 17 yards a grab, and caught three touchdowns in one contest. A full, focused season awaits him, and he stands to join the elite pass catchers in the league in a major way.

Fearless Prediction: MIN (W), @NE (L), KC (W), MIA (W), @DEN (W), @NYJ (L), @KC (L), GB (L), OAK (W), @CHI (L), DEN (W), @JAX (W), BUF (W), BAL (W), @DET (W), @OAK (W)

In The End: The Chargers have looked good on paper forever, but it hasn’t paid out. For much of last season, they didn’t even look good there. At the end of the year however, they became the best team in West down the stretch, winning six of eight and showing flashes what they could be at close to full strength. The team that ended last year instead of started it returns now, and they’ll return to the top of the division at the end as well. Record: 11-5

 

o see how right, wrong or in-between this all works out, and me living with it, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and @STLSport360.

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Once again, guest columnist Matthew Oates breaks down the good, bad and confusing of the Kansas City Chiefs in week 2 of his insight in to Arrowhead.

“Must win” games don’t always happen at the end of the road. Yesterday the Chiefs took to the field in their first “must win” of the year.

I know you’re probably thinking to yourself “But Matt, they only beat the Browns by 2 points! Its week 2, this is premature. 2 POINTS MATT!!!” You would be correct to feel that way. But I have a list for you; see if you notice a pattern:

2009: Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1)

2008: Miami Dolphins (1-15)

2006: New York Jets (4-12)

2004: San Diego Chargers (4-12)

2003: Baltimore Ravens (7-9)

2002: Indianapolis Colts (6-10)

Figured it out yet?

Those are all teams that made the playoffs, only one year removed from being in the bottom four teams in the AFC the year before (previous season record in parentheses). The NFL strives to achieve parity, and they’ve created a scheduling system that requires every team to play 6 games against their division, 4 games against a division from the other conference, 3 games vs. a division in their conference, and 3 games vs. the equally placed team in each division in their conference. That last stipulation explains why almost every year, one team makes the jump from basement to the penthouse.

(Full disclosure: I don’t expect the Chiefs to make the playoffs. I expect around 7 wins, give or take a win)

By taking care of business versus the Cleveland Browns, the same team that beat KC 41-34 last season, the Chiefs are satisfying the requirements for a decent season.

Speaking of satisfying, Jamaal Charles has apparently satisfied Head Coach Todd Haley’s wife. It’s the only legitimate explanation for why last year’s team Offensive MVP is playing backup to Thomas Jones. Charles only got 11 carries for 49 yards and 1 catch for 27 yards (Matt Cassel’s longest completion of the day), while Thomas Jones got 22 carries for 83 yards. Now, don’t get me wrong. Jones is a more than capable back, he should be getting snaps on 3rd/4th and short & goal line situations, but Jamaal Charles averaged 5.9yds/carry last season & had 92 yards on 11 carries last week! It got to the point that “Free Jamaal Charles” became a rally cry amongst local sports personalities and a trending topic on Twitter. In the post game interview, a sullen Jamaal Charles seemed resigned to his fate of backup RB.

Trapped out the endzone: Are there in (and out) house "affairs" Todd Haley isn't exposing?

It has been rumored before that GM Scott Pioli & Haley have been reluctant to play former GM Carl Peterson’s draft picks, only wanting “their” guys to play instead. This conspiracy theory has been supported by the release of Bernard Pollard, the aversion to all things Brodie Croyle and the struggle the Chiefs’ most talented players on either side of the ball, Charles and LB Derrick Johnson, have to even get playing time! If this is the case, then it’s beyond pettiness by Pioli/Haley.

The offense struggled again this game, failing to put a TD on the board. Even when given great field position, the Chiefs failed to string together plays for a TD, settling for field goals instead. Cassel played a very lackluster 1st half, throwing 2 INTs and appeared to have some trouble getting the play calls from the sideline. He had a much better 2nd half, finishing the game 16 of 28 for 176 yards, but there is still great concern about his abilities, especially to go downfield with the football. He ended the game with a 46.1 QB rating. Rookie TE Tony Moeaki had another good performance grabbing 5 catches for 58 yards including a couple of tough catches to extend drives.

Charles in Charge: The Arrowhead faithful are ready to embrace their stud RB, so why doesn't his coach share the sentiment?

The defense played solid. New defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel definitely has this unit playing good football. This is the same squad that gave up 286 yards rushing to CLE RB Jerome Harrison last year, a note I’m sure they were reminded of in practice this week. This time, Harrison only got 33 yards on 16 carries. The front seven, originally believed to be the weakness of this squad, has come through huge in the first 2 games. Constant pressure on the QB, with Johnson flying all over the field making plays. An interception for touchdown by CB Brandon Flowers was the team’s only venture into the end zone. Rookie S Eric Berry played well in run support (7 tackles) but continues to get sucked in on the play-action fake & blow a deep assignment. This time it led to a 65-yard TD catch by Joshua Cribbs. So far, we will chalk that up to rookie mistakes, but it is beginning to be a concern. The defense was aided by punter Dustin Colquitt pinning the Browns deep in their own territory all game. A great game for him after last week’s poor performance, more than likely due to the weather conditions.

Flowers is tied for the Chief in touchdowns...which is a problem since he doesn't play offense. Ever.

The Chiefs have an excellent opportunity to go up 3-0 against next week’s opponent, San Francisco 49ers. The defense should have another good game but the Chiefs have got to stop depending on defense and special teams for TDs. Sooner or later, the offense will have to put together a long drive and score a TD or the Chiefs could be in big trouble. For now, the 2010 Chiefs can relish in the fact they are the first Chiefs squad to go 2-0 since 2005. I know I am.

-Matt Oates

Here at CHEAP.SEATS.PLEASE I strive to have as many voices speaking to the sporting community and culture as possible. I mean who likes to watch the game by themselves and that’s just it? Nobody likes an empty stadium. It’s about getting as many looks at it as possible. With that said, I’d like to welcome my first guest writer MATTHEW OATES to ranks of the site. An avid sports fan, and die-hard (for better or usually worse) Kansas City area supporter, he’ll be covering the Chiefs for us all year here. Tip your hat to the crowd Oates.

NEW BODY, OLD SOUL. That’s the theme of the 2010 Kansas City Chiefs, which alludes to the completion of $375 Million of renovations to Arrowhead Stadium. It also could be used to describe the performance at Arrowhead by the Chiefs’ defense, special teams & most importantly their fans.

The pregame started off pretty weak for many. KC police did a fine job of controlling traffic coming into the stadium, but the Chiefs parking staff did a horrible job once inside Truman Sports Complex. Some cars spent as much as an hour and a half driving around the parking lot guided by attendants who did not have a clue where or how to move cars. I’m quite confident sitting in a car for that long, surrounded by the sights, and more importantly, the smells of a Kansas City BBQ tailgate qualifies as some form of “Enhanced Interrogation”.

The new look Arrowhead still hosts all the tradition that Chiefs fans embody.

Once inside, it felt like you time-warped back to the Schottenheimer era of the Chiefs. The stadium atmosphere was electric! The fans had on their red & some even brought out the Zubaz pants (a strange phenomenon. The Chiefs had a special video presentation before the game that stoked the crowd into frenzy. It felt as if the ghost of Arrowhead-Past was reminding everyone in attendance that “Hey, This is still Arrowhead. Never forget.” Mr. Achy Breaky Heart-man himself, Billy Ray Cyrus dawning a Joe Montana jersey, led the crowd in the singing of the National Anthem which of course ended with a deafening “Home of the CHIEFS!” by the Arrowhead faithful. The fans were sending a message to both teams, this is the home of the Chiefs and you’re going to deal with us too.

When the game got underway, the Chiefs offense had a quick 3 and out. In the recent past, maybe that would deflate the crowd but no, not tonight. The defense stiffened up & the crowd forced San Diego to burn a timeout & a delay of game on their first drive. It was on from there. The Chiefs defense looked much improved, especially the play of Derrick Johnson (12 Tackles, Forced Fumble) & Glenn Dorsey (6 tackles & combined on a sack). Dorsey looked as impressive as I’ve ever seen him in a Chiefs jersey. Maybe it’s because of San Diego’s makeshift O-line or maybe Dorsey is finally getting the hang of the 3-4 defense. Only time will tell.

The Chiefs rookies & young players played key roles in the game. Javier Arenas & Dexter “Run DMC” McCluster provided electric punt returns, including a record 94-yard punt return for touchdown by McCluster. Chiefs 1st round draft pick, Eric Berry, had a solid game as well. His only mistake coming in the 4th quarter, jumping an under route leaving the Chargers’ Legedu Naanee open over the top for an easy touchdown. Jamaal Charles had 92 yards rushing on 11 attempts including a 56 yard TD scamper in the 1st quarter.

Cassel managed well enough for the Monday Night win, but he still left much to be desired in the process.

There were also many reasons for concern. Matt Cassel had an atrocious night going 10-22 for 68 yards. Perhaps that could be blamed on the steady rain & wind but Philip Rivers (22 of 39, 298 yards) played in those same conditions. The Chiefs offense remains stagnant & there is growing concern around Kansas City about Cassel’s ability to be an effective quarterback. McCluster & Arenas combined for more return yards (219) than total offense by the Chiefs (197). Only mustering 9 first downs & getting dominated on time of possession will probably throw a lot of attention on the offensive unit this week. The defense allowed Rivers to break contain many times & also failed to wrap up & finish tackles on many occasions. The normally dependable foot of punter Dustin Colquitt struggled with a 38.2 yard average on his punts including a 7 yard punt off a failed pooch punt.

The Chiefs would survive a couple of threats from the Chargers late and hold on for the 21-14 win. They caught a couple of lucky breaks with Rivers missing on passes to wide open receivers on their last drive, perhaps a small touch of that Arrowhead Monday Night magic.

Whatever is the case, here’s what we do know: the Chiefs have sole possession of 1st place in the AFC West. That’s definitely enough to make an old soul smile.