Cliff Notes: Texans vs. Chiefs

How many conclusions can be drawn from the first preseason game of the Scott Pioli/Todd Haley era? None. This game will be over-analyzed, over-poked, over-prodded, and over-emphasized until the Chiefs kick off next weekend and the sample size grows. While we should keep this first game in perspective, I'll still break it down, for what it's worth.

The first thing that caught my eye was Sean Ryan getting the starting nod at tight end. Though KCTV 5's graphic had Brad Cottam listed as the starter, it was Ryan who was on the field for KC's first snap. This comes as no surprise. The consensus in River Falls, Wis., is that Ryan is beating out Cottam in every aspect of the game. Cottam's body was intriguing when the Chiefs plucked him out of Tennessee last year, but his numbers were anything but.

The second thing that caught my eye was the play of linebacker Corey Mays. As an Irish fan, I'm more acquainted with Mays than the typical Chiefs fan. He had a solid career in South Bend, and was all over the field for Kansas City tonight. Mays started due in large part to the health of Zach Thomas, but if his productivity continues, he may push the veteran for starts in the regular season.

Kansas City's first offensive drive was highlighted by a hard-charging Larry Johnson. He didn't place his hands on an offensive lineman's back while changing direction in the backfield. He didn't brace himself for the hit long before it came. He didn't look like the Larry Johnson of 2007 and 2008. He lowered his shoulders, delivered the hits, and got upfield as fast he possibly could. You can officially count me in as one of those back on LJ's bandwagon this season.

Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of tonight's game was the pressure KC's first-team defense put on Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. Early on, cornerback Maurice Leggett sped in on a blitz for a sack. The 3-4 defense keeps the offense guessing. They never know where blitzers are coming from. That's maybe its most attractive attribute as a defensive scheme, and will enable plays like Leggett's sack to happen all year.

Other promising pressure came from Andy Studebaker and Tyson Jackson. Studebaker got on Schaub early, but he was still able to get rid of the ball. Later on, Jackson and Studebaker met at Schaub, recording half a sack each.

Another exciting development was the play of Damion McIntosh, who faced one of the best young defensive ends in the league in Mario Williams and didn't surrender one sack, or even a significant quarterback pressure for that matter. McIntosh is expected to be the weakest link up front for the Chiefs this season, but if he continues to perform as he did Saturday, the offensive line may be in the running for most improved unit this season.

The only real disappointing moment for KC's line Saturday came from center Rudy Niswanger, when Frank Okam charged up the middle, pressuring quarterback Matt Cassel. While it was just one play in a meaningless game, quarterback pressure coming from a defensive tackle on a straight bull rush against your starting center is still worrisome.

More worrisome than Niswanger's play was that of the first-team defense. Texans running back Chris Brown seemed to gain yardage at will, and the Texans didn't struggle much in their march toward the end zone. The secondary looked promising, as they did last season. Brandon Flowers broke up a pass on consecutive plays, Leggett recorded a sack and Bernard Pollard looked like a sure tackler.

Of course, the secondary is probably dealing with fewer scheme changes than any other defensive unit this season. On some plays, Tamba Hali looked like he'd been playing linebacker since birth. On some plays, Brandon Flowers looked like a Pro Bowl candidate. On some plays, the defensive line looked formidable. On some plays, all of the above looked pedestrian at best. What did you expect?

Maybe the most surprising development Saturday was Dwayne Bowe's ability to hold onto the football. Bowe looked like the receiver we all knew he could become. Whether his problem is focus, arrogance or carpel tunnel syndrome, he managed to put it aside Saturday and catch the pigskin. If he keeps it up, maybe he'll be able to surpass entrenched studs Terrance Copper and Amani Toomer on the depth chart.

Something that didn't surprise me in the slightest was the play of Brodie Croyle, who became somewhat of a punchline over the past 12 months. But he showcased the sharpness that Carl Peterson and Herm Edwards saw in him all along. Croyle's ability to throw the football has never been an issue. For all those Croyle haters out there, get used to him having the best arm on the team, because he does. Bar none.

In all, Saturday was pretty much what we expected it to be all along. The defense ultimately struggled in their new base defense. Matt Cassel struggled a bit as a starter in a new offense on a new team. Dwayne Bowe looked like a man amongst boys against Houston's second- and third-teamers. Tyler Thigpen created with his legs. Nothing shocking happened. There's no reason to give up on the season or book Super Bowl tickets. There's no reason to exchange your Matt Cassel jersey or frame it. And there's no reason to second-guess any offseason move made, just yet.

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