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Tampa 5 Rewind

Posted Aug 22, 2010

Buc Ball? Reviewing five to watch vs. Tampa.

Prior to kickoff in Tampa, we outlined five things to watch. Let’s revisit those five focal points and see what we can take away from Saturday night’s preseason game.

“Tampa 2” is a familiar term to Chiefs fans. We witnessed it for three seasons not too long ago. Surely you remember the 4-3 defensive scheme predicated on the safeties playing deep halves and aggressive gang tackling underneath?

Today, we’re bringing back the term “Buc Ball” as well, but we’re transitioning from the “Tampa 2” into the “Tampa 5”…as in five things to watch tonight when the Chiefs take on the Buccaneers.

Start Fast

The Chiefs struggled in adjusting to the tempo increase out of the chute in Atlanta. Through two offensive series, the Falcons ran 20 plays, gained 85 yards and had gotten on the scoreboard, while the Chiefs had only run six plays for negative six yards and turned the football over once. Starts were an issue for the Chiefs in 2009 and starting fast has been a message point in camp over the last week.

After one quarter, the Chiefs held an 8-2 advantage over Tampa Bay in first downs, nearly doubled the Bucs offensive production and were 100% in both third-down and Red Zone efficiency. Take away the first series fumble and the Chiefs start to the game was excellent.

Core Four

Looking to handicap the Chiefs Final 53?

In each week of the preseason we’ll key something in the special teams game to help give us an idea of where various roster competitions may stand. Last week, we took a look at the gunners on the punt team; this week, it’s about keeping an eye out for members of the “Core Four.”

Members of the “Core Four” represent those players who appear on all four of the core special teams units; punt, punt return, kickoff and kickoff return. In 2009, WR Terrance Copper and OLB Andy Studebaker were both part of the “Core Four.” Both of those players played reserve roles on their respective side of the football last year as well.

Will Copper and Studebaker return to the “Core Four” this year? Will there be any surprises that hit for the special teams cycle tonight?

The following players were “Core Four” first-teamers; put this list in the back of your mind until the preseason concludes…

FB Tim Castille

LB David Herron

*Three-of-Four: RB Jackie Battle, WR Terrance Copper; OLB Cameron Sheffield

Big Plays

The Chiefs did a nice job against Atlanta in preventing the big play. Big plays hounded the defense a year ago as the Chiefs gave up 59 plays of 20 or more yards. In the Georgia Dome, Kansas City’s defense only gave up one such play (a 22-yard pass to RB Michael Turner out of the backfield).

Eliminating the big play was a point of emphasis throughout last season and the Chiefs showed beginning signs in Atlanta that they might have the overall team speed to improve upon that category for 2010.

On the other side of things, the Chiefs longest offensive play was only 19 yards last week (a 19-yard pass to RB Kesthan Moore). It would be nice to see some of the Chiefs offensive play-makers break a few 20+ yarders tonight…and for the Chiefs to win the battle of big plays vs. the Bucs.

The Chiefs lost the battle of big plays vs. Tampa Bay. WR Michael Spurlock’s 53-yard TD put seven points on the board and RB Carlos Brown’s 26-yard scamper set up another TD. The Chiefs longest play was a 21-yard run by RB Jackie Battle.

Succop vs. Barth

Touting a kicking competition between Ryan Succop vs. Connor Barth is a little bit of a stretch (ok, it’s a gigantic leap), although the two did duel throughout Todd Haley’s first months of the job for the rights to the Chiefs place-kicking job. Barth is now in Tampa, battling with rookie Hunter Lawrence for the Bucs field goal duties, while Succop is coming off a rookie season that was record-setting by NFL accuracy standards.

Tonight, it’s not about Succop out-kicking Barth; it’s about Succop getting back into the gameday groove. Although the Chiefs were quick to dismiss any worries about their second-year kicker following a one-for-three performance in Atlanta, it’s something that is at least in the back of the fans’ mind.

Succop was on the right track earlier this week, going three-for-three in Wednesday’s night practice. It’s time to transfer that success into Tampa Bay. Last week’s 33% make percentage will quickly be forgotten with a nice showing.

In other things to watch in the kicking game…I wonder if Barth still grows out his “lucky mustache” during training camp?

Not much more could have been asked from Succop. He boomed two kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks and was a perfect two-for-two on field goal attempts (28 and 29 yards). As for Barth, he had a nice game too, hitting both of his kicks (31 and 36 yards). Unfortunately, Barth wasn’t sporting the lucky training camp mustache.

Palko Show?

We know that starter Matt Cassel is going to play “a little more” tonight. Last year, that meant the entire first half of preseason game two.

 In the likely scenario that Cassel plays a maximum of two quarters, and that Brodie Croyle doesn’t play due to injury tonight, that leaves Tyler Palko and Bill Stull as your second-half quarterbacks.

Haley indicated that Stull will likely play tonight, but the rookie QB only has four practices under his belt. How much time can we really expect to see out of him?

The Chiefs quarterback situation leaves Palko with quite an opportunity to prove something this evening. He was able to unseat Matt Gutierrez for the third quarterback job this spring and has held that position throughout training camp. But nothing is guaranteed; not with post-camp waiver wire transactions still to come (see Tyler Thigpen in 2007) and a fourth quarterback now in camp.

Even if it’s just trying to stake his claim as the Chiefs third QB in 2010, Palko should have a stage for show at Raymond James Stadium.

As expected, Matt Cassel played the first half and Brodie Croyle was held out. With newly acquired Bill Stull not getting in the game, Palko got the entire second-half to showcase his stuff.

Palko had a decent night. His numbers look atrocious from a box score perspective with two INTs resulting in a 34.4 QB rating, but those who watched the game know that those INTs weren’t a good measure of his overall performance (one was a drop and the other was a late-game desperation heave). Palko looked comfortable when the team went into Red Ball (no huddle) and he converted three third-down attempts during the Chiefs 18-play fourth quarter drive that ended on the Buccaneers two yard line.

He did some nice things.

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