WPI Roundtable: Time for Croyle?

In this edition of the WPI Roundtable, we focus on defense, receivers, the Colts, the Texans and Chiefs Kingdom's favorite topic: Matt Cassel and Brodie Croyle.

It's been asked before, but one last time: any chance we see Brodie Croyle soon?

Nick Athan: Over Scott Pioli's job. Seriously, if Cassel struggles again this weekend, Haley might not have a choice but to turn the offense over to Croyle. I've been criticized and nobody seems to believe me, but the seeds of Cassel's current struggles were born shortly after Weis was hired.

Weis isn't a fan of Cassel. He's trying to make him into a starter and he might not be one at this point in his career. There have been plenty of rumblings in regards to the Chiefs trying to acquire Brady Quinn and Kevin Kolb. But thus far, it appears that either Cassel has to step up his game or they have to give Croyle an opportunity before the team jeopardizes its chance to win the AFC West and, more importantly, bring a home playoff game to Arrowhead.

C.E. Wendler No. The Chiefs are committed to Matt Cassel and they'll give him every chance to prove he's worth the money this year.

There's really no point in turning over the reigns to Croyle, anyway. Everyone knows he's not starting material. Even if he stays healthy, he's never really showed anything more than average quarterback play, despite his talent. At this point he looks like a career backup, if a popular one.

Michael Ash: We'll see Brodie every week, standing on the sideline – which is exactly where he's going to stay unless Cassel gets injured. I think I'm as critical of Cassel as anyone, but people are calling for him to get benched like he threw four picks against the Colts last week.

That's not how Cassel has played, and until he does start playing like that – and starts playing like that consistently – any talk about Croyle is just silly.

With Bowe's chronic dropsies and Chambers being invisible, are we going to see any changes to the wide receiver depth chart? Is there any chance we trade for a receiver before the deadline?

Nick Athan: There really isn't much on the open market. Unless a team like the Bengals wants to dump Chad Ochocinco or the Panthers move Steve Smith. Kansas City blew their opportunity to add Patrick Crayton by refusing to give up a seventh round pick to the Cowboys. Though he's been mostly a non-factor in San Diego, he could have helped the Chiefs. And Pioli whiffed on Randy Moss.

Larry Fitzgerald could be dealt before Tuesday's trade deadline.
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But I think the Chiefs receiver woes can be fixed. They have yet to give Jeremy Horne an opportunity and I'd be shocked if he doesn't get a chance soon. The problem, though, is that Todd Haley has a man-crush on Terrance Copper. He is the Chiefs' best special teams player, but in my view, he's not the receiver that Horne is at the moment.

It just seems to me that Bowe's problems will eventually correct themselves. But I'm not sure Chambers is going to find an easy path out of Weis's doghouse. So to answer the question, the pickings are might slim for any additions.

C.E. Wendler:It's too early to malign Bowe for dropping the ball just yet. While he had butterfingers in 2009 and dropped back to back passes in Indianapolis, he showed a commitment to improving his game in that area all throughout training camp and preseason. Based on that fact and that the Chiefs' issues in the passing game really stem from quarterback play more than anything else, I don't think you'll see the Chiefs make a move.

They may try to get Jeremy Horne involved at some point, but they also want to develop Dexter McCluster. Against the 49ers, he actually ran with the starters in the I-Formation quite a bit, so you may see that more as the season continues.

Michael Ash: A trade looks pretty unlikely. No big-time receivers are known to be on the open market, and even if there was any truth to the Larry Fitzgerald rumors that have been on Chiefs' message boards this weekend, the team can't afford to be trading away first-round draft picks when they're going to have to look long and hard at a quarterback.

As for the depth chart, what can they really do? Bowe's career is officially headed down the path to "disappointment" territory, but he's still the Chiefs' best option. The only real change they could make is putting Horne in Chambers' spot, but given the way the receivers have performed this year, you'd think Horne would already be seeing more action if the coaches thought he was ready for it.

Scott Pioli has to do something about the QB position over the offseason, right?

Nick Athan: As we told you when Cassel signed his contract in 2009, it was basically a two-year deal. Remember, Cassel was the Patriots' franchise player. After he was traded to the Chiefs, Pioli kept that tag on him. Thus, he was due to earn some $14 plus million, and if Pioli tagged him again in 2010 that would have rose to $16 million and change.

The only way Cassel can quiet his critics is to light up the Texans secondary on Sunday.
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After finalizing his new deal, Cassel received roughly $33 million in guarantees. So it was really a wash. Either way, Pioli was going to spend that money. But there is a significant roster bonus that Cassel is set to receive March 3rd and unless he leads this team to the playoffs and wins at least one game in the postseason, he'll end up with another team in 2010.

As a side note, I do know for a fact that the Chiefs are heavily scouting future NFL quarterbacks in the college ranks.

C.E. Wendler: Only if he feels he has to. The issue to be afraid of with Matt Cassel is that he plays just well enough to earn the starting job next season and beyond. Let's face it - he's not Ryan Leaf. At times, he's had success.

With the easy schedule the Chiefs have, it's entirely possible he'll put up slightly above average numbers and lead the Chiefs to the playoffs. Why would Pioli make a move then? Even a lousy postseason performance probably won't be enough for Pioli to consider another quarterback this early in his tenure, which is unfortunate for Chiefs fans who are all too used to quarterbacks choking in the playoffs.

Michael Ash: At this early stage, I'd say yes, he absolutely has to do something. Cassel can stick around, assuming they drastically rework his contract. But his days of being handed the starting job should be over, barring some sort of miracle over the remainder of the season.

Pioli and company have to look into potential trades, if any are out there. I'm talking about trades for proven quarterbacks, not for some team's backup. And if necessary, they have to do what it takes on draft day. It doesn't look like the Chiefs will be picking terribly high in this next draft, but two years ago the Jets jumped up from the 17th spot to draft Mark Sanchez. It can be done.

Why isn't the "offensive weapon" Dexter McCluster getting more touches?

Nick Athan: Good question. He's not getting enough touches and he could be a matchup nightmare for the Texans on Sunday. I'm not sure what happen last weekend at Indy. But partially I think the reason that they lightened the load was based on the fact Javier Arenas had to play the entire game on defense against the Colts. Thus they wanted to rest McCluster for special teams duties.

Charlie Weis has to create more opportunities for Dexter McCluster.
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But Weis has to get the ball to McCluster, Tony Moeaki and Jamaal Charles if he expects to deliver success in scoring points against the Texans or anyone else for that matter.

C.E. Wendler:It's a twofold issue. First, the quarterback can't get the ball to the wide receivers. McCluster has approximately the same number of touches as Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers. Did you really expect more at this point?

Second, the Chiefs can't sustain offensive drives, or at least haven't in three of their four games. When you can't put together 10 and 12-play drives, everyone's touches go down, especially in a run-first offense like Kansas City's. Just be patient with McCluster. Rookie wide receivers take time. Two touchdowns in the first four games is more than most expected.

Michael Ash: I wrote an entire column on that topic a few weeks ago and I still don't have an answer. But last week's game against the Colts might have provided a clue.

The NFL Network broke down some film from that game, and they showed a pass play that appeared to be designed to go to an open McCluster. But Cassel didn't pull the trigger on the throw for some reason, and then he had to look elsewhere because the window had closed. I think that play happened in the redzone on the Chiefs' first possession, and if McCluster had gotten the ball and made one guy miss, who knows what would have happened?

Are there plays like that happening every week, and Cassel just isn't making them? I couldn't say. But if I were Weis, I would be calling more plays that are specifically designed to get the ball to McCluster in space. Has he caught a single screen pass this season?

I've been trying to think of another example where a bad NFL defense suddenly became good overnight, despite using almost all of the same players from the year before. But I can't think of another time when it's happened. Are you at all worried that the improvement on defense is just a mirage, and they'll eventually be exposed?

Nick Athan: Funny you should mention that, because I think Sunday could be the week that this defense falls back to earth. But not for the reasons you might think. Right now they are carrying this team. And eventually you'd have to believe that the missed opportunities by the offense, like those the Chiefs wasted against the Colts, will start to force the defense to be perfect.

Kansas City is in real danger of that happening on Sunday against Houston. Let's hope that mirage never materializes. And in reality, as long as Crennel is mothering the ship, I honestly can't see that happening for any prolonged portion of time.

KC's defense has been swarming to the ball.
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C.E. Wendler:That's a great question, and I can't think of an example, either. Certainly when the season began no one expected the Chiefs to be a top 10 defense. But the improvement is no mirage.

There are too many talented, high-round picks on KC's defense. This improvement was going to happen eventually, because some of them were going to develop. Under Romeo Crennel, it appears almost all of them have made strides, and when you do that at all three levels of the defense - Glenn Dorsey, Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers - the results aren't really that shocking. Especially when you throw in Eric Berry and a suddenly dominant Tamba Hali.

Michael Ash: I can't say it's not a concern, just because of recent events around the league. The Broncos started off last season with a great stretch of defensive games before they completely collapsed. Back around Week 5 or 6, nobody in Denver would have been predicting their defense to fall apart, just like nobody in Kansas City would be predicting it now.

But I don't think that will happen here. The major factor in the defense's success seems to be that several key players – Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Glenn Dorsey, Brandon Carr – have all taken a leap forward in their progress. Jovan Belcher has been a significant upgrade at linebacker. Brandon Flowers is headed to shutdown corner status.

That's not to say that they won't have setbacks, because there are still a lot of young players on defense, particularly in the secondary. But it's not smoke and mirrors – you can see the way guys have gotten things figured out since they started their second year in this style of defense. And a great coordinator like Romeo Crennel certainly doesn't hurt either.

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