WPI Roundtable: Preseason Edition – V3

Can we believe that the defense we saw against the Eagles is the one we're going to see in the season opener? We answer that question any a few more in this week's edition of Warpaint Illustrated.coms' roundtable.

Is the defense going to be as good as it looked for most of the Eagles game? Or was it just a preseason mirage?

Nick Athan: It'll be better. Romeo Crennel was brilliant in assessing that he's not going to get anything out of his front three in regards to any consistent pass rush. They just don't have the guys up front that can get to the quarterback.

So he's going to use them as space-eaters to clog up the line and bring the heat from linebackers, corners and safeties. He has the depth at linebacker to do it, and he has faith in the cover abilities of his young secondary.

I thought what we saw against the Eagles was a precursor to what we're going to see opening night. I think after the bye week, that the front three will improve with the likes of Shaun Smith, Alex Magee, Dion Gales, Wallace Gilberry, and Garrett Brown establishing themselves as the team's best defensive lineman.

Conor Crawford: The defensive starters went much longer than I anticipated but it was a great sign that they've started to hit their stride. Yes, they showed some mistakes giving up big runs to players like LeSean McCoy or Michael Vick, but they roughed up the quarterback and had the wide receivers clamped down pretty good for the most part. There couldn't be any better coaches than Romeo Crennel and Emmitt Thomas to let their defense out of cages like wild animals, and it's starting to show.

Michael Ash: The sack total was probably just a mirage. The Eagles have had problems with protection this preseason, so their offensive line against the Chiefs' defense was sort of like the resistible force against the movable object. Something had to give somewhere.

But even though the Chiefs went without any sacks in their first two games, it's not like they were never getting any pressure. So in that respect, I think what we're seeing is a sign of things to come. They might not always get the sack, but quarterbacks aren't going to have all day to sit in the pocket, like they have far too often over the past two seasons.

And while I don't think the defense will be run stoppers by any means, if you set aside the first drive in the Falcons' game and the early touchdown run by the Eagles, the starting unit has been pretty solid in stopping running backs for minimal gains. I'm optimistic that they won't be getting gashed by the run anymore. Overall, I'm not sure if they'll be a top ten unit as their preseason stats suggest, but I definitely think we'll see an improved defense this year.

What are the most interesting position battles for the final spots on the 53 man roster?

Nick Athan: It has to be wide receiver. The Chiefs have ten guys in camp at the moment. But the infusion of Jeremy Horne has put a dilemma on the coaching staff that might be forced to carry six receivers instead of five. Locks are Dwayne Bowe, Chris Chambers, Dexter McCluster and Jerehme Urban. That puts guys like Haley favorites Terrence Copper and Lance Long on notice.

Chiefs can't risk exposing Jeremy Horne to the waiver wire.
Getty Images



The Chiefs must also decide what to do with Quinten Lawrence. He's the team's fastest gunner on punts, but the team did experiment with Horne last week. To me, Horne must make this team. He's a better receiver than any of the bubble guys. In fact, I'd say right now I'd rank him the fourth best on the team. If the Chiefs hope to squeeze him on the practice squad, they'll lose him for certain.

I think that's the way they might be leaning since he really didn't play much against the Eagles. But that's a gamble I wouldn't take.

Conor Crawford: I'd say it would be at the linebacker and safety positions. It'll be interesting to see who provides the depth and who gets the starting nods for both of those areas. The starting linebacker who is definitely the safest on the depth chart is Tamba Hali. Now's the chance for players like Derrick Johnson and Andy Studebaker to move up and join Tamba for good.

Eric Berry is safe at his spot as well, but it's only a matter of time before Kendrick Lewis starts alongside him. We'll just have to wait and see if that time is opening day against the San Diego Chargers. Below Berry, Jon McGraw and Lewis is some middle-of-the-pack talent in Reshard Langford, DaJuan Morgan, and Donald Washington. Now that Jarrad Page is out of the Chiefs' plans, the spots behind Berry and McGraw/Lewis for depth should get attention.

Michael Ash: In terms of battles between guys at the back of the roster, I'm most interested in what happens to Jeremy Horne at receiver, Cory Greenwood at linebacker, and DaJuan Morgan at safety. I think Horne makes the roster, Greenwood probably goes to the practice squad, and Morgan is likely on his way out. But a lot can still happen, particularly if injuries play a factor in the final decisions.

Matt Cassel hasn't thrown a deep pass all preseason, and he takes off running as soon as defenders get near him. Is he just being cautious or have all those sacks from last season gotten into his head?

Nick Athan: He must get over his happy feet complex. He either panics too soon or too late. Against the Eagles in the second half, he tried to thread the needle to Bowe as the pocket was getting tight. If he'd been patient and looked around, he had McCluster streaking down the middle of the field, five yards past the Eagles safety.

Cassel just has to manage the offense. That's it. In Wednesday nights scrimmage he did throw the ball down the field very effectively. I think he just has to get used to his weapons. He didn't have any a year ago. If Tony Moeaki can catch balls in the middle of the field, and the backs continue to catch balls out in the flat, more big plays will open up for Cassel. All he has to do then is trust his ability to make those throws.

Cassel needs to gain more confidence throwing the ball down the field.
Getty Images



But there is no denying the beating he took a year ago has an impact. But to be fair it was no worse than the one he took the year before that in New England, when he led the Patriots to an 11-5 record.

Conor Crawford: I think Cassel is clearly still nervous about all the sacks he's endured in Kansas City and also what he experienced in New England in 2008, but he's not going to end up like David Carr with the Houston Texans and be on his back all the time. The line will slowly progress but that takes time, not mere days or weeks. Until then, he needs to make the most of what he has and lead the team to a winning record.

The best thing that Cassel can do is try and shake the label that he's a part of the "Tom Brady quarterback model system" because there's only one Tom Brady. Cassel needs to be his own player and become more comfortable with himself. Sure, he probably wants to avoid the boneheaded pass down the field, but he also still needs to take chances, as do the rest of the offense. He's got big time receivers in Bowe and Chambers that don't look for the short yardage and rather race down the field towards the endzone. They're dependable guys that will help him succeed and Cassel needs to remember that.

Michael Ash: We have to keep in mind that Cassel got injured in the preseason last year, so it's certainly possible that he's being overcautious. Of course, every time he takes off and runs, he just ends up getting hit. So if pulling it down and running is his strategy for avoiding contact, it hasn't been working very well. He needs to just throw the ball away if he doesn't want to get hit.

There have definitely been a few occasions where he left the pocket well before he needed to, but I'd need to see it happen over a longer period before I'd start to wonder if anything has gotten into his head. Ultimately, we won't get an answer to this until the regular season starts so we can see if his behavior changes.

After seeing three preseason games, have you changed your predictions for the Chiefs' record in 2010?

Nick Athan: Nope, not at all. Right now, I have the Chiefs going 9-7. I think they head into the bye week with a 2-1 record that will set the table for the toughest portion of their schedule. They head to Indy and Houston and after that, outside of a road game at San Diego, every other game the remainder of the season is a winnable one.

Road game at Lucas Oil Field versus the Colts might be the Chiefs toughest in 2010.
Getty Images



Not saying that's going to happen, but I know the offense will score points. This defense will be better, not great but good enough. However it'll be the special teams unit that sets this team apart from any we've seen the last five years.

Tell me the last time we've had a solid kicker, All-Pro punter and not one, not two, but three capable return men that can score on any punt or kick-off return. With Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster, and Jamaal Charles, they will be the x-factor this season. And even if they don't score a lot, they'll provide excellent field position for the offense.

Conor Crawford: No. This team is heading in the right direction. I've set my sights on at least a 7-9 record for this team based on a quick glance of the schedule. However, if they get just four wins again this season, the phrase ‘epic failure' wouldn't even begin to describe it.

The defense is steadily improving, and the game against Philadelphia was a huge step forward. A couple of years ago, it was nearly more common to see a full moon than a Chiefs defender get a quarterback sack, and Eric Berry gives the Chiefs the sturdy playmaker at safety that they've lacked since probably Jerome Woods.

Defense wins championships, and no matter how mediocre Matt Cassel can be at quarterback (and how frustrating he is to see play), teams find a way to win with their defense. Just ask the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and 2002 Buccaneers how they won the Super Bowl -- by trouncing teams on the defensive side when their offense couldn't. Sure it would be nice to have a stellar quarterback, but I find bruising defense more exciting to watch than anything on offense. In all, this team looks exactly how I've thought they'd look at this point.

Michael Ash: In our season preview series earlier this summer, I predicted them to go 8-8. I'm not going to bail out now, but with Cassel and the other returning players of note already having a year under their belt in this offensive system, I honestly thought they'd be farther along than they've demonstrated to this point.

We can cross our fingers and hope that they're keeping things under wraps in the preseason so that they can unleash an offensive blitzkrieg on the unsuspecting Chargers in the season opener. But would basic elements of an offense – like, say, a consistent effort to throw the ball downfield – really fall into the category of things they're saving?

While I expect the defense to be better, I don't expect it to be so good that Cassel can just be a game manager who sits back and avoids mistakes. For the Chiefs to win, he's going to have to go out and put points on the board. Last year, the team averaged 18.4 points a game. For eight wins to even be in the realm of possibilities, I'd say they're going to have to raise that average to at least the 21-24 range.

A few months ago, taking into account Charlie Weis' involvement, the additions of McCluster and Thomas Jones, Charles doing his thing, and ideally some improvement from Cassel, I thought that kind of improvement would be possible. It may still be. But at the moment, I'm not quite as confident about it.

WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories

\r\nIs the defense going to be as good as it looked for most of the Eagles game? Or was it just a preseason mirage?
\r\n\r\n
Nick Athan: It'll be better. Romeo Crennel was brilliant in assessing that he's not going to get anything out of his front three in regards to any consistent pass rush. They just don't have the guys up front that can get to the quarterback.\r\n\r\n

So he's going to use them as space-eaters to clog up the line and bring the heat from linebackers, corners and safeties. He has the depth at linebacker to do it, and he has faith in the cover abilities of his young secondary.\r\n\r\n

I thought what we saw against the Eagles was a precursor to what we're going to see opening night. I think after the bye week, that the front three will improve with the likes of Shaun Smith, Alex Magee, Dion Gales, Wallace Gilberry, and Garrett Brown establishing themselves as the team's best defensive lineman.\r\n\r\n

Conor Crawford: The defensive starters went much longer than I anticipated but it was a great sign that they've started to hit their stride. Yes, they showed some mistakes giving up big runs to players like LeSean McCoy or Michael Vick, but they roughed up the quarterback and had the wide receivers clamped down pretty good for the most part. There couldn't be any better coaches than Romeo Crennel and Emmitt Thomas to let their defense out of cages like wild animals, and it's starting to show.\r\n\r\n

Michael Ash: The sack total was probably just a mirage. The Eagles have had problems with protection this preseason, so their offensive line against the Chiefs' defense was sort of like the resistible force against the movable object. Something had to give somewhere.\r\n\r\n

But even though the Chiefs went without any sacks in their first two games, it's not like they were never getting any pressure. So in that respect, I think what we're seeing is a sign of things to come. They might not always get the sack, but quarterbacks aren't going to have all day to sit in the pocket, like they have far too often over the past two seasons.\r\n\r\n

And while I don't think the defense will be run stoppers by any means, if you set aside the first drive in the Falcons' game and the early touchdown run by the Eagles, the starting unit has been pretty solid in stopping running backs for minimal gains. I'm optimistic that they won't be getting gashed by the run anymore.\r\n\r\nOverall, I'm not sure if they'll be a top ten unit as their preseason stats suggest, but I definitely think we'll see an improved defense this year.\r\n\r\n

What are the most interesting position battles for the final spots on the 53 man roster?
\r\n\r\n
Nick Athan: It has to be wide receiver. The Chiefs have ten guys in camp at the moment. But the infusion of Jeremy Horne has put a dilemma on the coaching staff that might be forced to carry six receivers instead of five. Locks are Dwayne Bowe, Chris Chambers, Dexter McCluster and Jerehme Urban. That puts guys like Haley favorites Terrence Copper and Lance Long on notice. \r\n\r\n

Chiefs can't risk exposing Jeremy Horne to the waiver wire.
Getty Images\r\n

\r\n\r\n

The Chiefs must also decide what to do with Quinten Lawrence. He's the team's fastest gunner on punts, but the team did experiment with Horne last week. To me, Horne must make this team. He's a better receiver than any of the bubble guys. In fact, I'd say right now I'd rank him the fourth best on the team. If the Chiefs hope to squeeze him on the practice squad, they'll lose him for certain.\r\n\r\n

I think that's the way they might be leaning since he really didn't play much against the Eagles. But that's a gamble I wouldn't take.\r\n\r\n

Conor Crawford: I'd say it would be at the linebacker and safety positions. It'll be interesting to see who provides the depth and who gets the starting nods for both of those areas. The starting linebacker who is definitely the safest on the depth chart is Tamba Hali. Now's the chance for players like Derrick Johnson and Andy Studebaker to move up and join Tamba for good.\r\n\r\n

Eric Berry is safe at his spot as well, but it's only a matter of time before Kendrick Lewis starts alongside him. We'll just have to wait and see if that time is opening day against the San Diego Chargers. Below Berry, Jon McGraw and Lewis is some middle-of-the-pack talent in Reshard Langford, DaJuan Morgan, and Donald Washington. Now that Jarrad Page is out of the Chiefs' plans, the spots behind Berry and McGraw/Lewis for depth should get attention.\r\n\r\n

Michael Ash: In terms of battles between guys at the back of the roster, I'm most interested in what happens to Jeremy Horne at receiver, Cory Greenwood at linebacker, and DaJuan Morgan at safety. I think Horne makes the roster, Greenwood probably goes to the practice squad, and Morgan is likely on his way out. But a lot can still happen, particularly if injuries play a factor in the final decisions. \r\n\r\n

Matt Cassel hasn't thrown a deep pass all preseason, and he takes off running as soon as defenders get near him. Is he just being cautious or have all those sacks from last season gotten into his head?
\r\n\r\n
Nick Athan: He must get over his happy feet complex. He either panics too soon or too late. Against the Eagles in the second half, he tried to thread the needle to Bowe as the pocket was getting tight. If he'd been patient and looked around, he had McCluster streaking down the middle of the field, five yards past the Eagles safety. \r\n\r\n

Cassel just has to manage the offense. That's it. In Wednesday nights scrimmage he did throw the ball down the field very effectively. I think he just has to get used to his weapons. He didn't have any a year ago. If Tony Moeaki can catch balls in the middle of the field, and the backs continue to catch balls out in the flat, more big plays will open up for Cassel. All he has to do then is trust his ability to make those throws. \r\n\r\n

Cassel needs to gain more confidence throwing the ball down the field.
Getty Images\r\n

\r\n

But there is no denying the beating he took a year ago has an impact. But to be fair it was no worse than the one he took the year before that in New England, when he led the Patriots to an 11-5 record. \r\n\r\n

Conor Crawford: I think Cassel is clearly still nervous about all the sacks he's endured in Kansas City and also what he experienced in New England in 2008, but he's not going to end up like David Carr with the Houston Texans and be on his back all the time. The line will slowly progress but that takes time, not mere days or weeks. Until then, he needs to make the most of what he has and lead the team to a winning record.\r\n\r\n

The best thing that Cassel can do is try and shake the label that he's a part of the \"Tom Brady quarterback model system\" because there's only one Tom Brady. Cassel needs to be his own player and become more comfortable with himself. Sure, he probably wants to avoid the boneheaded pass down the field, but he also still needs to take chances, as do the rest of the offense. He's got big time receivers in Bowe and Chambers that don't look for the short yardage and rather race down the field towards the endzone. They're dependable guys that will help him succeed and Cassel needs to remember that.\r\n\r\n

Michael Ash: We have to keep in mind that Cassel got injured in the preseason last year, so it's certainly possible that he's being overcautious. Of course, every time he takes off and runs, he just ends up getting hit. So if pulling it down and running is his strategy for avoiding contact, it hasn't been working very well. He needs to just throw the ball away if he doesn't want to get hit.\r\n\r\n

There have definitely been a few occasions where he left the pocket well before he needed to, but I'd need to see it happen over a longer period before I'd start to wonder if anything has gotten into his head. Ultimately, we won't get an answer to this until the regular season starts so we can see if his behavior changes.\r\n\r\n

After seeing three preseason games, have you changed your predictions for the Chiefs' record in 2010?
\r\n\r\n
Nick Athan: Nope, not at all. Right now, I have the Chiefs going 9-7. I think they head into the bye week with a 2-1 record that will set the table for the toughest portion of their schedule. They head to Indy and Houston and after that, outside of a road game at San Diego, every other game the remainder of the season is a winnable one.\r\n\r\n

Road game at Lucas Oil Field versus the Colts might be the Chiefs toughest in 2010.
Getty Images\r\n

\r\n\r\n

Not saying that's going to happen, but I know the offense will score points. This defense will be better, not great but good enough. However it'll be the special teams unit that sets this team apart from any we've seen the last five years. \r\n\r\n

Tell me the last time we've had a solid kicker, All-Pro punter and not one, not two, but three capable return men that can score on any punt or kick-off return. With Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster, and Jamaal Charles, they will be the x-factor this season. And even if they don't score a lot, they'll provide excellent field position for the offense. \r\n\r\n

Conor Crawford: No. This team is heading in the right direction. I've set my sights on at least a 7-9 record for this team based on a quick glance of the schedule. However, if they get just four wins again this season, the phrase ‘epic failure' wouldn't even begin to describe it.\r\n\r\n

The defense is steadily improving, and the game against Philadelphia was a huge step forward. A couple of years ago, it was nearly more common to see a full moon than a Chiefs defender get a quarterback sack, and Eric Berry gives the Chiefs the sturdy playmaker at safety that they've lacked since probably Jerome Woods.\r\n\r\n

Defense wins championships, and no matter how mediocre Matt Cassel can be at quarterback (and how frustrating he is to see play), teams find a way to win with their defense. Just ask the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and 2002 Buccaneers how they won the Super Bowl -- by trouncing teams on the defensive side when their offense couldn't. Sure it would be nice to have a stellar quarterback, but I find bruising defense more exciting to watch than anything on offense. In all, this team looks exactly how I've thought they'd look at this point.\r\n\r\n

Michael Ash: In our season preview series earlier this summer, I predicted them to go 8-8. I'm not going to bail out now, but with Cassel and the other returning players of note already having a year under their belt in this offensive system, I honestly thought they'd be farther along than they've demonstrated to this point.\r\n\r\n

We can cross our fingers and hope that they're keeping things under wraps in the preseason so that they can unleash an offensive blitzkrieg on the unsuspecting Chargers in the season opener. But would basic elements of an offense – like, say, a consistent effort to throw the ball downfield – really fall into the category of things they're saving?\r\n\r\n

While I expect the defense to be better, I don't expect it to be so good that Cassel can just be a game manager who sits back and avoids mistakes. For the Chiefs to win, he's going to have to go out and put points on the board. Last year, the team averaged 18.4 points a game. For eight wins to even be in the realm of possibilities, I'd say they're going to have to raise that average to at least the 21-24 range.\r\n\r\n

A few months ago, taking into account Charlie Weis' involvement, the additions of McCluster and Thomas Jones, Charles doing his thing, and ideally some improvement from Cassel, I thought that kind of improvement would be possible. It may still be. But at the moment, I'm not quite as confident about it.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"

It'll be better. Romeo Crennel was brilliant in assessing that he's not going to get anything out of his front three in regards to any consistent pass rush. They just don't have the guys up front that can get to the quarterback.

So he's going to use them as space-eaters to clog up the line and bring the heat from linebackers, corners and safeties. He has the depth at linebacker to do it, and he has faith in the cover abilities of his young secondary.

I thought what we saw against the Eagles was a precursor to what we're going to see opening night. I think after the bye week, that the front three will improve with the likes of Shaun Smith, Alex Magee, Dion Gales, Wallace Gilberry, and Garrett Brown establishing themselves as the team's best defensive lineman.

The defensive starters went much longer than I anticipated but it was a great sign that they've started to hit their stride. Yes, they showed some mistakes giving up big runs to players like LeSean McCoy or Michael Vick, but they roughed up the quarterback and had the wide receivers clamped down pretty good for the most part. There couldn't be any better coaches than Romeo Crennel and Emmitt Thomas to let their defense out of cages like wild animals, and it's starting to show.

The sack total was probably just a mirage. The Eagles have had problems with protection this preseason, so their offensive line against the Chiefs' defense was sort of like the resistible force against the movable object. Something had to give somewhere.

But even though the Chiefs went without any sacks in their first two games, it's not like they were never getting any pressure. So in that respect, I think what we're seeing is a sign of things to come. They might not always get the sack, but quarterbacks aren't going to have all day to sit in the pocket, like they have far too often over the past two seasons.

And while I don't think the defense will be run stoppers by any means, if you set aside the first drive in the Falcons' game and the early touchdown run by the Eagles, the starting unit has been pretty solid in stopping running backs for minimal gains. I'm optimistic that they won't be getting gashed by the run anymore. Overall, I'm not sure if they'll be a top ten unit as their preseason stats suggest, but I definitely think we'll see an improved defense this year.



It has to be wide receiver. The Chiefs have ten guys in camp at the moment. But the infusion of Jeremy Horne has put a dilemma on the coaching staff that might be forced to carry six receivers instead of five. Locks are Dwayne Bowe, Chris Chambers, Dexter McCluster and Jerehme Urban. That puts guys like Haley favorites Terrence Copper and Lance Long on notice.



The Chiefs must also decide what to do with Quinten Lawrence. He's the team's fastest gunner on punts, but the team did experiment with Horne last week. To me, Horne must make this team. He's a better receiver than any of the bubble guys. In fact, I'd say right now I'd rank him the fourth best on the team. If the Chiefs hope to squeeze him on the practice squad, they'll lose him for certain.

I think that's the way they might be leaning since he really didn't play much against the Eagles. But that's a gamble I wouldn't take.

I'd say it would be at the linebacker and safety positions. It'll be interesting to see who provides the depth and who gets the starting nods for both of those areas. The starting linebacker who is definitely the safest on the depth chart is Tamba Hali. Now's the chance for players like Derrick Johnson and Andy Studebaker to move up and join Tamba for good.

Eric Berry is safe at his spot as well, but it's only a matter of time before Kendrick Lewis starts alongside him. We'll just have to wait and see if that time is opening day against the San Diego Chargers. Below Berry, Jon McGraw and Lewis is some middle-of-the-pack talent in Reshard Langford, DaJuan Morgan, and Donald Washington. Now that Jarrad Page is out of the Chiefs' plans, the spots behind Berry and McGraw/Lewis for depth should get attention.

In terms of battles between guys at the back of the roster, I'm most interested in what happens to Jeremy Horne at receiver, Cory Greenwood at linebacker, and DaJuan Morgan at safety. I think Horne makes the roster, Greenwood probably goes to the practice squad, and Morgan is likely on his way out. But a lot can still happen, particularly if injuries play a factor in the final decisions.



He must get over his happy feet complex. He either panics too soon or too late. Against the Eagles in the second half, he tried to thread the needle to Bowe as the pocket was getting tight. If he'd been patient and looked around, he had McCluster streaking down the middle of the field, five yards past the Eagles safety.

Cassel just has to manage the offense. That's it. In Wednesday nights scrimmage he did throw the ball down the field very effectively. I think he just has to get used to his weapons. He didn't have any a year ago. If Tony Moeaki can catch balls in the middle of the field, and the backs continue to catch balls out in the flat, more big plays will open up for Cassel. All he has to do then is trust his ability to make those throws.



But there is no denying the beating he took a year ago has an impact. But to be fair it was no worse than the one he took the year before that in New England, when he led the Patriots to an 11-5 record.

I think Cassel is clearly still nervous about all the sacks he's endured in Kansas City and also what he experienced in New England in 2008, but he's not going to end up like David Carr with the Houston Texans and be on his back all the time. The line will slowly progress but that takes time, not mere days or weeks. Until then, he needs to make the most of what he has and lead the team to a winning record.

The best thing that Cassel can do is try and shake the label that he's a part of the \"Tom Brady quarterback model system\" because there's only one Tom Brady. Cassel needs to be his own player and become more comfortable with himself. Sure, he probably wants to avoid the boneheaded pass down the field, but he also still needs to take chances, as do the rest of the offense. He's got big time receivers in Bowe and Chambers that don't look for the short yardage and rather race down the field towards the endzone. They're dependable guys that will help him succeed and Cassel needs to remember that.

We have to keep in mind that Cassel got injured in the preseason last year, so it's certainly possible that he's being overcautious. Of course, every time he takes off and runs, he just ends up getting hit. So if pulling it down and running is his strategy for avoiding contact, it hasn't been working very well. He needs to just throw the ball away if he doesn't want to get hit.

There have definitely been a few occasions where he left the pocket well before he needed to, but I'd need to see it happen over a longer period before I'd start to wonder if anything has gotten into his head. Ultimately, we won't get an answer to this until the regular season starts so we can see if his behavior changes.



Nope, not at all. Right now, I have the Chiefs going 9-7. I think they head into the bye week with a 2-1 record that will set the table for the toughest portion of their schedule. They head to Indy and Houston and after that, outside of a road game at San Diego, every other game the remainder of the season is a winnable one.



Not saying that's going to happen, but I know the offense will score points. This defense will be better, not great but good enough. However it'll be the special teams unit that sets this team apart from any we've seen the last five years.

Tell me the last time we've had a solid kicker, All-Pro punter and not one, not two, but three capable return men that can score on any punt or kick-off return. With Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster, and Jamaal Charles, they will be the x-factor this season. And even if they don't score a lot, they'll provide excellent field position for the offense.

No. This team is heading in the right direction. I've set my sights on at least a 7-9 record for this team based on a quick glance of the schedule. However, if they get just four wins again this season, the phrase ‘epic failure' wouldn't even begin to describe it.

The defense is steadily improving, and the game against Philadelphia was a huge step forward. A couple of years ago, it was nearly more common to see a full moon than a Chiefs defender get a quarterback sack, and Eric Berry gives the Chiefs the sturdy playmaker at safety that they've lacked since probably Jerome Woods.

Defense wins championships, and no matter how mediocre Matt Cassel can be at quarterback (and how frustrating he is to see play), teams find a way to win with their defense. Just ask the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and 2002 Buccaneers how they won the Super Bowl -- by trouncing teams on the defensive side when their offense couldn't. Sure it would be nice to have a stellar quarterback, but I find bruising defense more exciting to watch than anything on offense. In all, this team looks exactly how I've thought they'd look at this point.

In our season preview series earlier this summer, I predicted them to go 8-8. I'm not going to bail out now, but with Cassel and the other returning players of note already having a year under their belt in this offensive system, I honestly thought they'd be farther along than they've demonstrated to this point.

We can cross our fingers and hope that they're keeping things under wraps in the preseason so that they can unleash an offensive blitzkrieg on the unsuspecting Chargers in the season opener. But would basic elements of an offense – like, say, a consistent effort to throw the ball downfield – really fall into the category of things they're saving?

While I expect the defense to be better, I don't expect it to be so good that Cassel can just be a game manager who sits back and avoids mistakes. For the Chiefs to win, he's going to have to go out and put points on the board. Last year, the team averaged 18.4 points a game. For eight wins to even be in the realm of possibilities, I'd say they're going to have to raise that average to at least the 21-24 range.

A few months ago, taking into account Charlie Weis' involvement, the additions of McCluster and Thomas Jones, Charles doing his thing, and ideally some improvement from Cassel, I thought that kind of improvement would be possible. It may still be. But at the moment, I'm not quite as confident about it. 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