Don't Judge Chiefs Yet

In an attempt to be fair and balanced, much like a television channel that falls under the same ownership umbrella as Warpaint Illustrated, I will give you my spin on Kansas City's loss to the Ravens. As a disclaimer, if you have not read much by me, or you don't know me well, I can assure you I never play the devil's advocate. If I write it, I believe it. That's the absolute truth.

Unlike some of those out there who are shocked by the Chiefs' competitiveness, I'm not. I don't think the Chiefs scored any kind of moral victory Sunday. I don't think anything was gained, except for perhaps peace of mind for the throngs of media members and pessimistic fans who didn't see much hope for the 2009 season.

I'm not shocked the Chiefs pushed a team that appeared in last year's AFC Championship game to the wire. As I've reiterated many times over, this is the NFL. It's a league that strives on parity. The difference between the best and worst team in the league is not as great as it is in other sports. The NFL is designed to enable teams like the Chiefs to compete every week.

Just like I won't sit here and sound trumpets of encouragement and acceptance, I won't say the Chiefs are in for a repeat of 2008. No, the Chiefs aren't worse than they were last year, not even close. Let me be the voice of temperament, if I may.

The Chiefs' Week 1 loss is just one game. It does not mean the Chiefs will surrender 500 yards a game. It does not mean they'll produce a special teams touchdown every week. It doesn't mean Larry Johnson will be a fantasy football free agent all season. However, some conclusions can be drawn.

It's clear KC's offensive line has work to do. That became apparent when, less than two weeks ago, they completely scrapped every right tackle candidate from training camp. Anyone who thought Ike Ndukwe and Ryan O'Callaghan were general manager Scott Pioli's prime targets all along, and that he knew they'd be available late in the game, was kidding themselves.

The Chiefs still need a right tackle. Is it possible O'Callaghan is a better option than Ndukwe and that he simply didn't play this week because he hadn't grasped the offense just yet? Sure, but he's probably not the long-term, or best short-term answer. The Chiefs could've also used some marked improvement at center and right guard this offseason. As former Chief Will Shields and anchor of some really good offensive lines has said numerous times, the success of the running game starts with the interior offensive line.

Taking all that into consideration, the Chiefs played against what is generally considered the best defense in the league. Rudy Niswanger was charged with the unenviable task of blocking Haloti Ngata, one of, if not the nastiest nose tackle in the league. While Branden Albert is considered an up-and-coming star on KC's line, it's neither shocking nor worrisome that the Ravens' pass rush got the better of him on multiple occasions.

It appeared to me that head coach Todd Haley expected the type of game most did - a clock control, grind-it-out, run-heavy game. To me, that explains his conservative play calling in the first half. The Chiefs were unable to get their running game going, with their only success coming out of a two-fullback formation when tight end Sean Ryan came off the line and into the backfield. Without a solid offensive line, Kansas City cannot use the pass to set up the run, use the run to set up the pass, or keep their defense off the field for an acceptable amount of time.

The Ravens took advantage of their reputation for having a powerful run game. They passed on obvious running downs. They tested KC's young corners early and often. They set up the run with the pass. Their strong offensive line allowed them to do so. Then, KC's defense began to wear down.

Sunday also reinforced my belief in Brodie Croyle. He managed the game well, especially given the protection he didn't receive. He created when given the opportunity. He stood strong in the face of pressure. He showed that if he is healthy, he is an NFL-caliber quarterback, period.

The Chiefs are still a young team. They are starting seven players on defense with less than four years of experience and five on offense. They are working under brand new coordinators in brand new schemes, and Todd Haley is still implementing his version of the offense. Reserve judgment until further notice.

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