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Heartland Health Training Camp Preview: Quarterbacks

Posted Jul 16, 2012

Three questions surrounding the Chiefs quarterback position heading into training camp


1) Which Matt Cassel? The 2008/2010 edition or the 2009/2011 version?

Here are Matt Cassel’s numbers as an NFL starting quarterback:

Year

Team

Att

Cmp

Pct

Yds

TD

INT

Rate

2008

NE

516

327

63.4

3,693

21

11

89.4

2009

KC

493

271

55.0

2,294

16

16

69.9

2010

KC

450

262

58.2

3,116

27

7

93.0

2011

KC

269

160

59.5

1,713

10

9

76.6

Total

*55 games

1,728

1,020

59.0

11,446

74

43

82.8

*totals include 2008 season opener Cassel did not start, but replaced an injured Tom Brady for the majority of the game

There really isn’t much to add to the discussion at this point. It’s been the most debated topic surrounding the Chiefs this offseason.

Will Cassel perform like the quarterback who led the Patriots to an 11-5 record in 2008, and the one that captured an AFC West title with Pro Bowl production in 2010 … or will Cassel perform like the quarterback who combined to go 8-16 as a starter with the Chiefs in 2009 and 2011.

There are a lot of factors at play when comparing the four seasons. In many ways, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. There are two teams involved, five different offensive coordinators, injuries to factor in, evolution at the wide receiver position and varying degrees of run-game assistance.

Arguments have been made in both directions, but there’s no doubt this is Cassel’s offense heading into the 2012 season. It means the question will be answered through on-field production.

2) The QB rotation behind Cassel?

Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi rotated second-team reps throughout offseason practices, prompting most to assume that the competition for the primary backup job to Matt Cassel is wide open.

Will second-team reps remain equal when training camp opens next week or did one of the candidates differentiate themselves as a favorite during the spring? Quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn certainly didn’t tip his hand when the team concluded its mandatory minicamp in June.

“(Stanzi) is much-improved already this year with the capabilities of the offense, making decisions on the line of scrimmage with protections and runs and things like that. Things that we weren’t even getting to until midway through training camp, so this is a real plus for him,” Zorn said.

“I think Brady has done a great job because he’s been in this offense before. The terminology has come easy to him, and he’s moved right along as well.”

Quinn started nine games in Daboll’s offense during the 2009 season with Cleveland. He also made three starts during Romeo Crennel’s final season as Browns head coach a season before.

Stanzi didn’t see any snaps as a rookie, but that doesn’t mean the Chiefs are down on the former fifth-round pick. GM Scott Pioli re-iterated his belief in Stanzi earlier this offseason to Chiefs broadcast partner Sports Radio 810 WHB.

“We drafted a quarterback last year who I truly believe has good ability and has the potential to start in this league,” Pioli said. “I really do believe that.”

3) Can Tanney crack the roster?

When an undrafted rookie quarterback signs his first contract more than a month following the draft, it’s rarely a transaction that registers a media ripple. Not in the case of Alex Tanney.

Tanney’s signing was a discussion point on ESPN’s NFL Live and it was all because of this YouTube video that went viral last year.

The addition of Tanney is no doubt an exciting signing for fans. It also adds an intriguing storyline for the third and fourth quarter of preseason games. But can Tanney actually make the Chiefs roster?

The former Division III quarterback – who is also the NCAA’s career passing touchdowns leader – is playing from behind having arrived so late into the Chiefs offseason program. He also faces an uphill battle having to unseat either Brady Quinn or Ricky Stanzi for a reserve position (Quinn brings pervious starting experience under offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and the team is high on Stanzi, who is only in his second season).

 Could the Chiefs keep all four? It’s not likely, but it’s happened before.

Kansas City kept Cassel, Brodie Croyle, Tyler Thigpen and Matt Gutierrez in 2009 while the team was looking for a trade partner to deal Thigpen, but it was only a temporary arrangement. Miami became a natural trade partner in late September when Chad Pennington was lost for the season with a shoulder injury and the Dolphins dealt a fifth-round pick for Thigpen. The Chiefs then rode with Cassel, Croyle and Gutierrez for the remainder of the 2009 season.

A place on the practice squad could also be part of the discussion, but Tanney can’t afford to worry about the numbers game. You never know what could happen.

The best way to make the team is to force a roster decision with outstanding preseason play. Young players on the fringe often wind up on the practice squad, but who run a high risk of being claimed by another team end up on the 53-man roster.

 

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