The national media has latched onto Kansas City's poor preseason and jumped to conclusions. Despite the fact that this roster is easily more talented than the one that lined up against the Bengals a year ago, you can't go to any of the major NFL-coverage websites without running into a "the Chiefs are the fourth-place team in the AFC West" or "Kansas City's offense might be the league's worst" prediction.
I'm not saying the Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl, or even forecasting a division championship, but let's be realistic. The sky isn't falling just yet, even if Chicken Little is working overtime. There's some reason for optimism, and it has everything to do with that awful winless preseason.
1. The running game
Kansas City's offense will live and die with the running game. It was fairly disconcerting to see the Chiefs' first-team offense stumble around against the Browns and Dolphins as if they had just learned how to hand the ball off the previous week. The improvement in the final two weeks of preseason play was important for this team – and it had little to do with the running backs. The offensive line was opening holes.
Michael Bennett ripped off gains of 7, 9, 3, 4 and 4 yards against the Saints. Fullback Kris Wilson muscled his way to a five yard gain. Against the Rams, Larry Johnson found running room on his three token carries (12 yards) before giving way to Bennett, who again gained consistent yardage. Kolby Smith's 55-yard gallop was definitely a good sign.
All the drama surrounded the quarterback competition this preseason, but neither Brodie Croyle nor Damon Huard was going to be effective this season without a running game. If the Chiefs continue to block well, especially now that Damion McIntosh, Jason Dunn (is it any coincidence the team started running well when he returned?) and Johnson are playing, the offense will look much better than any of the preseason pundits prognosticated. And speaking of that…
2. The offense
There's not a single Chiefs fan that isn't concerned about the offense right now. While it was fairly pathetic in every preseason game, save one drive by Brodie Croyle, it's far too early to panic. Here's why: as bad as KC's offense has been this preseason, it was arguably worse last preseason.
I'm actually a bit shocked I'm the first to mention this. The 2006 preseason saw the Chiefs ring up a whopping 724 yards (compare to 897 this year), convert 14 of 49 third downs (15 out of 50 this year) and average only 3.4 yards per rush (compare to 3.8 this year). Heck, the Chiefs had more first downs and attempted more field goals this preseason. When you consider the 2006 squad had Trent Green and Larry Johnson for all four preseason games last year, I think you can excuse the poor offensive output this August.
And, as head coach Herm Edwards and numerous players have pointed out, the team didn't even gameplan in preseason. I'm guessing the same was true last preseason. Don't put too much stock into the exhibition offense – the results in 2006 weren't an accurate indicator of what was to come. The Chiefs weren't great on offense last season, but they were far removed from the bottom of the league.
3. The injury list
It's cliché, but it bears repeating: the Chiefs escaped the 2007 preseason without a serious injury. When left tackle Damion McIntosh went down midway through training camp with an ailing knee, this team couldn't afford another injury on the offense. A month and a half later, everyone's OK. All the key players – Tony Gonzalez, Larry Johnson, Brian Waters, Damon Huard – will line up in Houston unscathed. Huard came into training camp with a calf that wasn't 100 percent, but managed to avoid aggravating it during August. And Jason Dunn's back looks just fine, for now.
Meanwhile, the first-team defense played numerous snaps. The most severe injury? A minor abdomen strain, suffered by linebacker Donnie Edwards. Again, all the key players – Ty Law, Patrick Surtain, Jarrad Page, Tamba Hali, Jared Allen – are ready to go. And free agent defensive tackle Alfonso Boone, who nicked his hand during training camp, managed to play without incurring more damage. Everyone's in good health on this team right now. Don't discount the importance of that.
Why The Chiefs Had A Good Preseason
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