Q: There is going to be a lot of attention focused on him this week. How has Romeo Crennel impacted the team's defense?
Nick Athan: He's been a steady influence with his players since training camp opened in July. I had thought he'd be more fiery, but honestly he's been very calm with this young defense. In talking to the players on defense, they have an unbelievable amount of respect for the former Browns Head Coach and they know that he demands a lot from them.
Against the Chargers Monday night, it was no fluke that defensive ends Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey had their best game as Chiefs. Crennel came to the conclusion early on that neither would be dominating pass rushers. So he's unleashed his linebackers to move forward and told them they are going to be the playmakers for this defense.
However, all that's possible because the Chiefs are blessed with two solid cover corners in Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr. Add rookie safeties Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis into the mix and Crennel has the luxury of using press coverage on the outside.
And I think Sunday you're going to see how much his players believe in him. They want to win this game for Crennel.
Q: Scott Pioli came into a pretty bad situation in KC, but a lot of Browns fans remember him as a guy who teased Cleveland relentlessly by considering taking a job here. I remember you as being somewhat critical during his first year there - what's the sense of Pioli's job so far?
Nick Athan: To be honest, Pioli never really considered taking the Browns job a year ago. That was a lot of media hype and misinformation that made for some great but inaccurate fodder. There was only one place that he was going to go and that was Kansas City. The wheels were set in motion regarding Pioli coming to the Chiefs within days after Peterson resigned.
A, yes, I was very critical of Pioli a year ago. But he was so handicapped in 2009 that I felt his true measuring stick would be what he did in his second off-season with his player personnel staff – not the one left behind from Carl Peterson's tenure.
He hit several home runs in January when he landed Crennel to run the defense and former Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis to run the Chiefs offense. He was very prudent in March by landing four players that he felt could help this team not just on the field, but in the locker room.
Running Back Thomas Jones came over from the New York Jets, Shaun Smith from Cleveland, Center Casey Wiegmann from Denver and finally Guard Ryan Lilja from the Colts. Those four players set the tone in the locker room.
However, his crowing achievement thus far has to be the 2010 draft. The additions of wide receiver/kick returner Dexter McCluster, nickel safety/return man Javier Arenas, tight end Tony Moeaki and the aforementioned safeties, could make this draft the best in team history.
Q. Matt Cassell had that spectacular season in New England, and helped Josh McDaniels get a head coaching gig. Now he doesn't seem to doing nearly as well, and Weis didn't seem to be showing a lot of confidence in him Monday night (68 yards!). What happened to him in KC? How's his confidence?
Nick Athan: If he can get into triple digits in passing yards, the Chiefs offense will be become more balanced. Cassel is a quiet leader and we really can't see how driven he is at this point. Though he stood up the media a year ago and took full responsibility for the failures of the offense, he still needs to play better.
In New England, he was blessed with better receivers than what he had to work with in Kansas City last season. But this year with the addition of McCluster, the Chiefs quarterback has weapons that can run after the catch.
You add the fact that his running game is one of the best – if not the best – in the NFL, Cassel has no excuses.
If Cassel can manage the offense like he did at New England, the Chiefs are going to score lots of points.? But he's still very shaky in the pocket, misreads his intended targets and doesn't throw the ball deep with a much confidence. That's why his passing yards are low.
As far as McDaniels is concerned, he owes Cassel every dime he's stealing in Denver.