With nine games in the books it has become more obvious by the week that this Chiefs' offensive line has played like one of the worst in football. Matt Cassel has been put on the ground 21 times this season and if it had not been for significant time spent avoiding would-be tacklers in training camp this past August, that sack total would be significantly worse than it already is. Credit Todd Haley for what might be his only success during the preseason.
But where Haley fell short was the way he structured his offensive line. With the departure of longtime starting guard Brian Waters, Haley opted to shuffle Ryan Lilja from the right side to the left side, and second-year guard Jon Asamoah from the left side to the right side. So far the switch hasn't paid off. It may be too late to make a difference in 2011, but something needs to be done to stop the bleeding for the Chiefs up front. With better pass protection, the Chiefs have the firepower on the outside to field a legit offense. But until moves are made, the Chiefs will continue to struggle.
Hali Needs Help
Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali is the best pass rusher the Chiefs have had since Derrick Thomas, yet the Chiefs are the worst team in the NFL at getting to the quarterback. With one of the NFL's best pass rushers having another dominating season it seems strange that the team can't find another threat opposite Hali. With Haley getting a lot of attention from opposing offensive fronts, the door is wide open for another young playmaker to step up but thus far no one has taken the job.
Last season's second-best pass rusher, Wallace Gilberry, has been a nonfactor throughout the season and spent the majority of Sunday riding the pine. The Chiefs drafted some potential sack masters in Allen Bailey and Justin Houston but neither has grasped the scheme well enough to make a difference on Sundays. Until someone steps up, this defense will continue to struggle.
Running Back Situation
After losing Jamaal Charles for the season in Week 2, nobody thought the Chiefs' rushing game would keep the same productivity as they did a year ago, but nobody thought it would be this bad, either. When I say bad, I mean bad enough to have your quarterback Matt Cassel as the team's best rushing threat the last two weeks. Although having a rushing quarterback may work for the Kansas State Wildcats, that is not the philosophy this Chiefs' coaching staff envisioned.
The Chiefs' best rushing option is Jackie Battle, but without consistent and steady carries he will continue to struggle finding momentum. The Chiefs seem to be content with a mix of Battle, Thomas Jones, and Dexter McCluster, though neither has impressed. McCluster certainly has potential outside of the tackles but has proven he is not strong enough to execute the in-between-the-tackles rushing attack the Chiefs need. This team has weapons in the backfield, they just need to start playing to their strengths.
If there was one thing exposed in the Chiefs' defense on Sunday it was their lack of speed at the linebacker position. Before the injuries to Denver running backs Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno, the pair ran through the middle and outside of the Chiefs' defense.
Enter linebacker Justin Houston. After he entered the game, Denver's running game was slowed.
Houston has the explosive speed that the man in front of him on the depth chart, Andy Studebaker, doesn't. Though Houston's pass rush is needed sorely, he can help this team by shoring up some of their weakness in run defense.
For the second week in a row, the Chiefs' defensive coordinator gets a bad grade. All game long Crennel had his issues solving the Broncos' rushing attack. A week ago against Miami, ineffective pass rush killed his defense. But his attack on Sunday was the prime reason that Denver was able to run with so much effectiveness.
He never adjusted to the downfield blocking schemes Denver used in short-yardage situations. He had his linebackers three yards off the line of scrimmage instead of stacking them up front.
With the defensive line worn down in the fourth quarter the Broncos were able to extend some drives. At some point, Crennel has to throw caution to the wind and unleash the attack. On Tim Tebow's fourth-quarter touchdown pass, facing a long third and 11, his linebackers were 20 yards down field.
I'm not sure what's going on with Crennel these days but his lack of aggression, capable personnel or not, has to change over the next week.
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