Ravens Prepare For Mysterious Chiefs

With four days left until the Chiefs kick off, the atmosphere at Arrowhead is filled with uncertainty. Will Matt Cassel start in Baltimore? How different will the Chiefs' offense be with head coach Todd Haley calling the plays now? Is Derrick Johnson really third string? What in the heck is going on at right tackle?

All these questions will have to wait to be answered, especially the one regarding Cassel's health, as Haley indicated his quarterback may be a game-time decision, even though he's now at least partially practiced in both sessions this week, much to Haley's approval.

"That's better than not being out there, and he was able to get through some," he said. "That's going to be a situation that we're going to evaluate as the week goes, and I don't know that we'll have an answer until right up until we play."

Does the fact that the Ravens don't know which quarterback they'll face Sunday – Cassel, Brodie Croyle or Tyler Thigpen - make preparation more daunting? Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh certainly feels that way.

"We prepare for each guy separately and the whole group," he said. "It's kind of an example of the problem that we're facing because we've got to prepare for the possibility of having one of three different guys out there. Of course, we'll start with Matt Cassel. We anticipate that he'll be the quarterback, but we don't know that."

Add the fact that Haley's a first-year head coach to the quarterback situation, and it makes scouting the Chiefs just that much harder.

"It's a big challenge, and I know it's certainly an advantage," said Harbaugh. "As it was for us last year going into our first year, because we're really in the gray about as far as what they're going to run. It forces you to prepare for a lot of different things schematically and personnel groups and who's going to be playing what and doing what, so it makes it a lot tougher."

"We don't have a real beat on what they're going to do, and I think they've done a good job, as well they should. They've really been smart about how they've handled the preseason - what they've chosen to show or not show. They've kind of kept all their cards really close to their chest and they've done a good job of that."

In some cases, the uncertainty surrounding the Chiefs may benefit them, but it's hard to argue the absence of Derrick Johnson and Jarrad Page from the first-team defense is an advantage. Haley has shuffled the depth chart throughout preseason, apparently his go-to move for whipping his players into shape. It appears to have worked for Dwayne Bowe, but will it for Johnson or Page?

"I don't know," said Johnson. " I'm a player. I'm a football player. That's what I do. I don't do any coaching or anything like that, so my job, when I get out there, is to make plays. On Sunday, that's what I'll do."

"Sometimes I'm second team, sometimes I'm first team. I'm not too worried about it. I know I'll be back in the lineup a lot more, like, really soon. I'm not too worried about it. I just want to win. I'm to a point now, this is my last year of my contract. It's time to start winning. That's the main focus is to win first, and hopefully I can be a big part of that."

Page also responded with a team-first mentality.

"We're all just going out there practicing," he said. "Whoever's out there playing is going out there trying to make plays and win a football game."

As much as the depth chart has been shuffled around altogether, it's hard to imagine any position has gone through more turmoil than right tackle. Not a single right tackle from 2008 remains on the Chiefs' 53-man roster. The turnover at the position has been mind-boggling, but Haley indicated that's something that comes with the territory.

"That's going to be a fact of life," he said. "At some place or another, at one position or another, guys are going to be coming in. That's the way we're going to operate. When you get a guy that comes from New England or Miami, generally that's an advantage because I think there's a lot of similarities with the way we do things."

We don't know who will be playing quarterback Sunday, or who will line up at right tackle or safety. We have no idea what Haley's offensive game plan will consist of. Fortunately, in some cases, neither do the Ravens.

WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories