Did The Chiefs Change?

Before the Kansas City Chiefs visited the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday, Warpaint Illustrated posed a question: Will The Chiefs Change? Now that the Chiefs have had a chance to answer that question, what was the response?

Based on a 24-21 loss in Jacksonville, it's difficult to argue that the Chiefs did not change. There were obvious differences in the Chiefs from before their bye week compared to after it. In fact, not only were they a different football team, the Chiefs directly answered the specific areas we highlighted that were in need of change.

Even in defeat, how can you not praise them for that? Let's examine just how the Chiefs changed.

1. Sean Ryan's blocking responsibilities were reduced.

Last week we discussed just how pitiful Ryan's pass-blocking efforts were earlier this season. Given the bye week to adjust their offense, apparently the Chiefs made a switch. At least it appeared that way in Jacksonville.

Ryan was assigned a role as a pass blocker on only three snaps against the Jaguars. On one snap, the Chiefs threw a quick pass that required almost no blocking whatsoever, further reducing any chance of a pressure coming via a blown Ryan block. Considering the Chiefs called 44 passes, it wouldn't be a stretch to say Ryan's days as a pass blocker in KC's offense might be nearing their end.

The Chiefs appeared to favor Leonard Pope, a more physically gifted player with longer arms than Ryan, when they needed a tight end to pass block. Not only did Pope hold his own in pass blocking, he was frequently employed in this role during Kansas City's offensive explosion at the end of the game. Is the switch from Ryan to Pope permanent? So far, so good.

By the way, more than a few people have noticed Ryan's struggles this season. ProFootballFocus.com, which tracks player performance snap by snap, ranked him as the lowest-rated tight end overall, and dead last in pass blocking.

2.Mike Goff was benched.

It might be unfair to say Goff was benched, because of his injury last week, but certainly he was healthy enough to play Sunday against the Jaguars. However, he played only a few snaps, in relief of Andy Alleman. Did Alleman play well enough to end Goff's days as a starter?

Andy Alleman - KC's new right guard?
Phil Coale - AP

It was clear Alleman wasn't exactly Will Shields at right guard, but he was in no way a complete disaster as Goff has been in the past for the Chiefs. There was one particularly bad snap where Alleman was beaten clean by John Henderson, resulting in a sack of Matt Cassel. But other than that he certainly appeared to be a player who belonged on an NFL field. During the first seven weeks with the Chiefs, Goff appeared to be a player ready for retirement.

There's no question Alleman was more athletic than Goff, and perhaps most importantly, he didn't commit a penalty. Because Goff's season is over after his move to the injured reserve list, we'll see plenty of Alleman the rest of the year. If he plays well enough, this change will be permanent.

The only competitors for KC's right guard spot are Ike Ndukwe and Wade Smith. Because Ndukwe has practiced so much at right tackle for the Chiefs, it's probably unlikely he'll be much of a threat. Smith is the primary backup at center and left tackle, so his availability elsewhere may be more important.

3. DaJuan Morgan started.

Did Morgan start against the Jaguars just because of injuries to Jon McGraw and Jarrad Page, or was his opportunity awarded because the coaching staff believed he could perform at a higher level? We'll never know, but one game didn't tell us much where Morgan is concerned.

There were no big, game-changing plays. Morgan didn't log an interception or a massive hit, although he did fall on a fumble in the second quarter that resulted in three points for Kansas City. What might have been most impressive was his consistency.

Morgan appeared to be a sure tackler, and in fact tied for second on the team in tackles with six. On several occasions, Morgan had to take on Maurice Jones-Drew (easily a bigger, more physical player) and, while he may have been taken for a ride ala Donnie "Ride 'Em Cowboy" Edwards, he held on.

Perhaps most importantly, Morgan didn't make any awful tackle attempts in the open field, nor was he burned for enormous gains in pass defense. That was left to Mike Brown, who allowed two long touchdowns against the Jaguars. Have the Chiefs looked into cloning DaJuan Morgan, yet?

4. Larry Johnson is gone.

Shockingly, the Chiefs didn't waste time with an ugly, eight-week deactivation of Larry Johnson. They dumped him immediately after his suspension was over, which really let Johnson win (he still gets paid), but the Chiefs win, too. The distraction is gone, and now Kansas City will receive extended looks at Jamaal Charles, Dantrell Savage and Kolby Smith the rest of the year. The credibility of Scott Pioli's "Right 53" statement is strengthened.

Considering the Chiefs were reluctant to give the ball to Charles too much, it almost appeared as if they were preparing for Johnson's return. Why give another player a chance to excel if you're dead-set on starting someone else and don't want to create controversy? Thankfully, that little conspiracy theory was just that - a theory only.

The only change the Chiefs failed to make was giving Andy Studebaker a chance to play on defense in relief of Mike Vrabel, who would have trouble tackling David Garrard in a phone booth, let alone on an NFL field. But with Ryan's pass-blocking assignments reduced, Goff's season over, Morgan's perhaps just getting started, and Johnson excommunicated, it's pretty safe to say the Chiefs have changed, at least for now.

Heck, they scored two touchdowns in three minutes and 25 seconds against the Jaguars. If that's not change we can believe in, what is? Eat your heart out, Barack Obama!

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