Warpaint Roundtable – Preseason Edition III

This week we discuss the 3-4 defense, wide receiver Devard Darling, KC's offense and fullback Mike Cox.

Mike Cox has looked really good blocking and coming out of the backfield to catch passes in the preseason. Is this just because it's preseason, or do you expect him to have a big year for the Chiefs?

Nick Athan: He's an upgrade over Boomer Grigsby and has the same mentality. Cox will be productive in this offense. He can block like he's been doing it in the NFL for years. I love his tenacity and his mean streak. The Chiefs won't throw to Cox that much, but he's a good safety valve option.

Michael Ash: He'll make a positive difference in the run game, but as far as catching the ball goes, I hope he doesn't have a big year. It was mentioned several times during preseason that Cox only had about 30 receptions during his four-year college career. Since he played for Chan Gailey, it seems pretty safe to assume that Gailey's offense isn't designed to get the ball to the fullback.

But despite that fact, Cox had more receptions in the preseason than both Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez. Obviously that won't happen during the regular season, but if Cox becomes any sort of factor in the passing game, it'll be because Brodie Croyle has to frequently dump the ball to him. No one wants to see that.

C.E. Wendler: Cox looks like a real fullback, not the converted linebackers (Boomer Grigsby) and H-backs (Kris Wilson) the Chiefs have been experimenting with for two seasons. He's going to make Larry Johnson a happy man this year, because LJ hasn't had a consistent lead blocker since Tony Richardson.

The fact Cox has hands like Jerry Rice is an unexpected bonus. I'm not trying to be funny, either. I watched Cox for two weeks in training camp and saw every preseason game. If he dropped a pass, I missed it.

If the Chiefs don't bring in a free agent wide receiver, are they opening up the #2 receiver position as more of a "to be determined," or is the job Devard Darling's to lose?

Nick Athan: The job belongs to Darling at the moment, but I expect Will Franklin to assume the post when he's 100 percent healthy. He'll need about four or five weeks to fully recover after his minor knee surgery. In the interim, Jeff Webb will get his chance to show he can be more than a backup.

Kansas City's offense will use multiple-receiver sets at times, so all of KC's receivers have to show the ability to catch the ball, especially on third down. But no free agents are in the Chiefs' sights at the moment.

Is Devard Darling's job safe?
Jonathan Daniel

Michael Ash: At the moment I think the job is Darling's to lose, but if he continues to be a spectator in the offense, the Chiefs obviously have to make a change at some point. But where do they go? Will Franklin has only been lining up as the slot receiver. Maurice Price has only played against backups. That only leaves Jeff Webb. If a change is made, I'd like to see what Price can do, but how much confidence do the Chiefs have in him? C.E. Wendler: During training camp, Chiefs wide receivers coach Eric Price told us Darling is starting for a good reason – he knows all four receiver spots. That gives KC's offense the flexibility to show all kinds of looks with only two receivers on the field.

I'm guessing none of the other receivers bring that to the table, especially Franklin, who's only been a slot receiver thus far. Don't worry about Darling. He didn't catch a ball in preseason, but also didn't play many snaps. He had a solid training camp and might be Kansas City's best deep threat this year. He's faster than you think.

Did we learn enough about the 3-4 defense when we played Miami to move the ball consistently against New England? I think New England is ripe for an upset, I just don't know if we can block the 3-4.

Nick Athan: I'm not sure about an upset, but I do think the Chiefs will certainly be able to run the ball against the Patriots. Yes, New England ranked 10th a year ago against the run, but that doesn't mean much this season. I expect the Chiefs to run the ball at least 35-40 times using Larry Johnson, Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles. If Branden Albert plays well Kansas City should rush for at least 150 yards.

Michael Ash: New England's defense will take a few steps back this year, but it's going to take more than a few steps back to give the Chiefs a shot at an upset. Unless Tom Brady is watching from a luxury box, the Chiefs just aren't in a position to get into a shootout with the Patriots.

Hopefully I'm wrong, but I don't expect the opener to be pretty. Bill Belichick knows the Chiefs have a young secondary and no pass rush. He knows Croyle is inexperienced. He knows Branden Albert will be thrown to the wolves. New England's defense would have to suffer an epic freefall for the Chiefs to overcome all that.

C.E. Wendler: It was the Miami game that convinced me the Chiefs wouldn't run the ball well this year. Kansas City's offensive line looked lost against the Dolphins' front, so what are they going to do against New England's?

Adalius Thomas coming off the left side against Damion McIntosh seems like a total mismatch. Branden Albert's got his hands full with Richard Seymour on the right side. We're going to find out quickly just how improved KC's line is this year.

During the preseason the Chiefs' first-team offense had zero touchdown passes and the longest catch went for 22 yards. Reports out of training camp led me to believe there would be a more balanced attack from the offense. Were the Chiefs jut holding back that part of the playbook or was there just a greater emphasis on the running game?

Will the Chiefs throw the ball down the field?
Al Bello

Nick Athan: Kansas City definitely held back after the trip to Chicago. They saw enough in that game and once they saw Croyle could manage the clock, convert third downs and make plays, the coaching staff decided to go conservative. Was that the right move? Maybe, but I've watched these players work since OTAs and they're going to be better than last year's offense. But this will be a run-first offense.

Michael Ash: What we saw from the offense in the preseason was troubling in the sense that it too closely resembled what we watched last year - not much of a run game, plenty of check downs and dumpoffs, and nothing much going downfield.

The optimist in me wants to believe it was just a result of Chan Gailey being coy with the playcalling, and that the Chiefs will open up the playbook on Sunday and show the Patriots an offense they aren't expecting.

But no matter how "vanilla" things were in the preseason, it's tough to make a stat like 3.7 yards per carry sound promising. During the Miami game, Len Dawson was pretty adamant that KC's receivers simply weren't getting open. If that's a sign of things to come, Croyle won't have much choice but to keep throwing short little checkdowns.

C.E. Wendler: Preseason bored me, too, but we did see a more aggressive offense in training camp. Devard Darling hauled in a couple of beautiful bombs up in River Falls, and Dwayne Bowe was constantly hauling in medium-range passes over the middle of the field.

The point is the Chiefs weren't running around Wisconsin dumping the ball to Kolby Smith for three weeks. It's not logical to think the offense would go back to stone-age philosophies after what transpired last season, is it? It would also make zero sense for the Chiefs to start a quarterback with a cannon for an arm and then leash him.

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