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Arrowhead Report: Thursday, October 28th

Posted Oct 28, 2010

Is Ryan Fitzpatrick the most underrated quarterback in the NFL? Plus, there's still time to vote Thomas Jones as the FedEx Ground Player of the Week!

Kansas City continued its preparations for Buffalo on Thursday afternoon with a common theme: “Buffalo doesn’t look, or play, like a winless team.”

Throughout the week, Chiefs players have been very complimentary Buffalo’s personnel; particularly on offense. They’ve talked about the dangers of a healthy Fred Jackson and the big-play ability rookie RB C.J. Spiller and WR Lee Evans. Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has perhaps drawn the most praise inside Arrowhead following his 374-yard performance in Baltimore last weekend.

While some teams may look past the NFL’s only winless team, Kansas City’s veteran players are making sure Buffalo isn’t being taken lightly; and why shouldn’t they be on guard? The Bills have come into Arrowhead each of the last two seasons and left win a win.

“Anybody that would be taking these guys lightly is not going to help us on Sunday, that’s all there is to it” LB Mike Vrabel said following Thursday’s practice.

Is Fitz The Most Underrated QB In NFL?

Ryan Fitzpatrick is currently making a strong case as being the league’s most overlooked starting quarterback. If opposing teams haven’t already begun to take notice, they’d better do so quickly.

Entering each season of his six-year NFL career as a backup quarterback, and playing in places like St. Louis, Cincinnati and Buffalo, Fitzpatrick has been an easy player to forget. He’s started 27 career games, but they’ve always come following either an injury to, or the general ineffectiveness of, the quarterback in front of him.

This year, however, Fitzpatrick is staking his claim for permanent status as a starting quarterback in the league.

Fitzpatrick became the first Buffalo quarterback in 59 games to throw for more than 300 yards when he threw for 374 with four TDs last Sunday in Baltimore. That performance generated national headlines, but Fitzpatrick has been excellent since taking over for Trent Edwards on September 26th. His numbers have rivaled that of the perennial Pro Bowl quarterbacks around the league.

Since becoming Buffalo’s starter, Fitzpatrick’s 102.2 quarterback rating is better than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers (one of the few QBs he doesn’t beat in that time-span is Matt Cassel’s league-leading 108.9 rating). In that same timeframe, Fitzpatrick also ranks in the top half of the league in passing yards and is tied with Drew Brees for the most TD passes of any NFL quarterback (11).

“The more you watch him, he is playing at a very high level in a number of different areas, specifically situationally,” Chiefs head coach Todd Haley said. “Whether it’s personnel groups, receiver sets, he’s up at the top of the list in most categories: versus the blitz, in third down, he’s showing up in the top 10 in most categories as far as how they rate quarterbacks.”

A major factor to Fitzpatrick’s success has been his quick release and athleticism. Fitzpatrick has taken 8.0 sacks in four games as a starter, while Edwards took 7.0 sacks in two games playing behind the same personnel.

“It’s going to take everybody to get after him,” LB Mike Vrabel said. “It’s going to take the guys covering and it’s going to take the guys rushing. When our coverage gets better, the pass rush gets better and when our pass rush gets better, the coverage gets a little better. It’s all about everybody working together. Sometimes (the ball) comes out low and sometimes is comes out high. He’s unorthodox, but he’s effective.”

Under Fitzpatrick, the Bills have gone to New England and hung 30 points on the Patriots and under they put 34 on the board in Baltimore last weekend. Half of Fitzpatrick’s starts have generated more than 30 points per game, on the road, against AFC contenders.

This isn’t a team that looks like your typical winless foe and their quarterback certainly doesn’t look like a winless passer either.

Waters Sees Chiefs Identity

Speaking of underrated, on Wednesday morning we took a look at the “underrated” Chiefs offensive line. This is a group that has yielded the fewest amount of sacks in the league (5.0 sacks) and churned out the most rushing yards (176.5 avg.) of any other team as well. Statistically speaking, this is the best offensive line in football.

Compared to last season, when the Chiefs gave up 30.0 sacks through the first eight games and didn’t record a rushing touchdown until mid-November, the speed of the progression has been incredible.

Pro Bowl G Brian Waters has been here for it all. He’s been at the peak of offensive line play in the early 2000s and he’s seen the club’s lowest points from 2008-09. Now, Waters is part of the upswing again.

“I don’t know if it was really a quick cohesion as far as the line,” Waters said. “I think we were doing some of these things the past couple years, but it just hadn’t been as consistent. I think there has been some fundamental change to what we do and in the approach to what we do.”

For the first time since the Dick Vermeil era, the Chiefs have a clear-cut identity on offense. They run the football and try to use a complimentary passing game. Waters believes that having a clear offensive identity has helped in the transition.

“I think we’ve basically fallen into the fact that we like to run the football and we are very good at it,” Waters said. “But that being said, there are some things in our passing game that continue to keep people from really stacking the box even more. If we continue to have success in our pass game, it’s going to help our run game even more.

“It’s important, because the first thing is to do whatever you have to do to win,” Waters continued. “You do whatever you have to do to be productive. The second part of it is to be able to hang your hat on something and that’s where the identity comes in. Being able to say that when push comes to shove we’re able to do this and let’s do it because that’s what we do best. I think there are a lot of teams that are doing that and being highly successful with it.”

Injury Report

Not much changed on the injury front for Kansas City on Thursday. WR Dexter McCluster (ankle) and G Ryan Lilja (hand) continue to do more watching than participating and were both limited in their workload. S Reshard Langford (ankle) was also limited.

Vote for TJ

There’s still time to vote Chiefs RB Thomas Jones as the NFL’s FedEx Ground Player of the Week. Jones is up for the nomination over at nfl.com/FedEx after his Week Seven bull rushing performance in Kansas City’s 42-20 win over Jacksonville. Jones finished the day with 125 rushing yards and a touchdown.

If Jones can edge Oakland’s Darren McFadden and Atlanta’s Michael Turner for the award, it will represent the fifth individual in-season honor for the Chiefs this season. Last year, Kansas City players earned a total of four in-season awards.

2010 In-Season Awards

Week 1 vs. SD: WR Dexter McCluster (AFC Special Teams POW)

Week 1 vs. SD: WR Dexter McCluster (NFL Rookie of the Week)

Week 3 vs. SF: LB Tamba Hali (AFC Defensive POW)

Week 3 vs. SF: TE Tony Moeaki (NFL Rookie of the Week)

2009 In-Season Awards

Week 10 at OAK: S Mike Brown (AFC Defensive POW)

Week 11 vs. PIT: RB Jamaal Charles (AFC Special Teams POW)

Week 17 at DEN: LB Derrick Johnson (AFC Defensive POW)

Week 17 at DEN: RB Jamaal Charles (FedEx Ground POW)

Hats off to reader "Ben" for this reminder...

Don't forget...Eric Berry is also up for Rookie of the Week award: VOTE HERE!

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