Five Things to Watch
1) Poise and Leadership
Leaders began to emerge in the Chiefs locker room this off-season.
Tonight offers a chance to show fans a distinct difference from 2009; even if it’s only for a handful of offensive and defensive sets.
We weren’t able to witness more than a quarter-and-a-half from most of Kansas City’s front-line players on Sunday, making this a difficult focal point to get a grasp of. Specific to some of the names listed above, Jones played just a few offensive snaps and Vrabel was rotating with
On the field, the Chiefs did show that they were a much faster team than year ago; that much was evident in itself by solely watching new additions
2) Front Seven
The Chiefs made player development a priority to help fix a lot of issues from 2009. One of those issues was run defense. There may be times tonight when four former first-round picks make up the Chiefs front seven. Position battles excluded, this is the first opportunity for a handful of young defensive linemen and linebackers to show what progress they’ve made this off-season.
Kansas City’s front seven was carved apart by Michael Turner with basic run plays during the game’s first series. As Todd Haley put it, “they were sucking bananas.”
That’s about as nice of a way to put it. But to their credit, Kansas City’s front seven found a way to toughen up on third downs and in the Red Zone. Turner’s fast start included, Atlanta went on to average just 2.7 yards per carry on the evening.
As for getting pressure on the quarterback, the Chiefs were able to get in the backfield numerous times throughout the contest, but were unable to bring down the quarterback. On some plays, the rush was a step too late and on others the quarterback escaped from the result of missed tackle.
The front seven wasn’t the most impressive group on the field Friday night, but there were positives to build off of.
3) Key The Tackles
If Falcons right defensive end John Abraham and his 89.5 career sacks are able to go head-to-head with Chiefs left tackle
Matt Cassel played in four offensive series and was sacked twice. When a pair of DEs close in on Cassel for a sack-and-strip in Kansas City territory, it’s not going to leave the best first impression for Chiefs fans (DE Kroy Bierman logged the sack and forced the fumble around the right edge, while DE John Abraham notched the recovery from the left side).
While the play of Kansas City's starting tackles will certainly be a focal point for fans throughout the preseason, a bigger issue (at the moment) might be the health of Barry Richardson. Richardson, who has a chance to earn the club’s top reserve post at tackle, left the game with a leg injury on
4) Gun The Gunners
With heavy competition for reserve roster spots in the defensive backfield and in the receiving ranks, the ability to effectively gun on punt coverage could help write the Final 53. For gunners, there is more than being fast and flying down the sideline. Getting a clean release off the line of scrimmage, finding the football and throttling down in the open field are all essentials; not to mention tackling.
Keep an eye out as to who runs with the first group at gunner and who fills in behind them.
The Chiefs lined up as they did in camp with Lawrence and Leggett getting the first crack at gunner duties. The “starting nod” was a good sign for Lawrence, who has been putting in extra time learning the craft this off-season and is trying to earn a roster spot in the backend of the Chiefs wide receiving corps. Leggett returns as a gunner from 2009
Do Lawrence and Leggett have a leg up on the many receivers, defensive backs and running backs vying for gunner duties? It’s probably too early to tell, how the Chiefs rotate their gunners in Tampa could help bring some battles into focus; particularly if you’re trying to handicap what the Final 53 is going to look like.
5) The Draft Picks
Tonight is the first opportunity to see Kansas City’s 2010 Draft Class in game action. All are expected to play, with the exception of third-round pick
The Chiefs Draft Class did a nice job of living up to its preseason hype. As expected, Moeaki didn’t play, but the other six members of the class received considerable play-time.
The two rookie safeties,
The challenge for these rookies will be to stay consistent performers week-in and week-out. The request can be a tall order for first-year players, but the ones who played on Friday looked to lay a nice foundation.