Development. Evaluation. Winning.
Those seem to be three of the top priorities for the Chiefs as the team enters its preseason opener tonight in Atlanta.
In reality, the Chiefs probably have a list of a million different things that they want to accomplish in one way or another, but developing a football team full of second and third-year players, making an evaluation towards the 53-man roster and emerging victorious over the Falcons are some of the themes that have sprung out of Chiefs camp.
Forget the 19 rookies that make up the Chiefs 80-man roster. Kansas City’s roster is comprised of 53 players with three years or less of NFL experience. Though a few veterans skew the average age of the team upward, this is a roster filled with developing players; talent that the Chiefs hope is ascending.
Part of that development process is getting these players familiar playing with one another in game situations.
You get the point. Rookie, veteran and everything in between; tonight is part of developing the 2010 Kansas City Chiefs as a whole.
“For me as the head coach and for our overall development as a team, playing together as a team, learning how to do things as a team and react to situations, they’re very important,” head coach Todd Haley said. “As far as the preseason goes, at least for the time being, it’s going to be very important for me that everybody that can play is playing and working with their teammates to make progress.”
Every year we see various types of players on the preseason roster.
There are the “workout warriors” who look amazing in non-contact drills, but digress when the pads come on. There are the “gamers” who churn out rather anonymous practice sessions, only to blow up the stat book when the lights turn on. Then, of course, there are the players who are consistent in workouts, practices and game situations; they are the same guy every day.
Ultimately, the final grouping of players make up the individuals most likely to call themselves “Chiefs” after the preseason concludes. The evaluation process is a culmination of games, practices, workouts and film sessions. Tonight is just another step in the evaluation process; albeit a very public one.
“I don’t think there is a specific formula in terms of how you weight things,” GM Scott Pioli said. “The games are important, every practice is important, every walk-through is important.”
Want to make the roster? Show that you’re the same guy year-round.
Here’s what Pioli says that he’s specifically evaluating tonight…
“Seeing who can execute, who knows their assignments,” Pioli said. “That is one of the biggest things this time of year. What is easy for everyone to see is the physical performance. You are not always able to see as a fan or in the media who is taking care of their assignments, who is doing the right things, who is in the right place at the right time, who is being dependable. This is a time now where there is a lot of pressure on these guys and they are trying to make the football team and we are going to see how they respond under pressure along with all the other things we are looking at on the field.”
The Chiefs haven’t finished over .500 in the preseason since 2003. That season also happened to be the last time that the Chiefs won the division as the squad rocketed out of the gates to a 9-0 regular season start.
Kansas City went winless during the 2005 preseason, but finished the year at 10-6. There is plenty of evidence to support the importance/non-importance of a winning preseason; it’s just a matter of which side you choose to take.
But for the 2010 Chiefs, the preseason situation is relatively easy to understand. This is a team that has won just 10 games over the past three years. Finding ways to grab a “W’s” are important, even if they come in the form of an exhibition contest.
“When you haven’t won a lot of games you need to learn how to win,” Haley said.
Of course, many of the team’s projected front-line players won’t be on the field if tonight’s game is on the line in the fourth quarter. Putting an emphasis on winning in the preseason also requires being rational. Still, finding a way to emerge victorious is a point of emphasis for the Chiefs tonight.
“Winning is critical to us but at the same time everyone needs to understand that, myself included, what determines some of these games is a little different situation,” Haley said.
The approach to exhibition play differs from team-to-team across the league, but winning out of the gates can only boost the confidence in a younger team coming off of a very successful off-season program. Tonight offers a chance to reap a small reward for all of the hard work put in since the 2009 season finale at Denver.
“I know we need to go out, we need to take some of these things that we’ve been doing in practice well into a game because ultimately to be a good team you have to play well when the lights are on and when the game is going,” Haley said. “This is our first opportunity to do that.”