Because the Chiefs' first preseason game took place Friday, and I was there (for most of it), I am going to offer some thoughts to consider for the season. Keep in mind that compared to my baseball fandom, my football fandom is ignorant. I don't understand football at the same level as baseball, but I will try to offer something useful anyway.
My first thoughts are all about the first team offense and defense. First, Matt Cassel. He played poorly last season, and he was booed at the Celebrity Softball Game during the All-Star week, though he was not booed as much as everyone thinks. There were plenty of cheers. I couldn't find a single problem with Cassel's game on Friday, limited as it was. His throws were generally on target, he was quick, and he was in control. This is a version of Cassel I don't think I've seen, at least not recently. I've always believed he possessed enough qualities to win in the playoffs (except for a strong arm), and those qualities were on display Friday night. If he plays during the regular season like he did Friday night, I don't think we'll have any QB issues throughout the season.
Second, I must mention the offensive line. Oh how wonderful the offensive line was. I tried to make it a point to watch them over even Jamaal Charles. The offensive line imposed their will on Arizona's d-line. The right side of the line, including newly-acquired Eric Winston, opened holes large enough for trucks to drive through. The left side of the line protected Cassel's blindside such that he could have taken a nap and still would have been untouched. I can't really say enough about how optimistic and happy I am about the first team offensive line. The first step in building a winning team is getting a franchise QB; the second step is protecting that QB. This offensive line should have no problem giving Cassel all the times he needs and opening holes for our runnings backs.
Peyton Hillis. The big guy is a lot faster than I thought he would be. With our offensive line, I think he will have a monster year even with splitting carries with JC. JC had only a few touches, but I thought he looked a little slower than when we saw him last. Again, this could be simply that I haven't seen him for a year. As the year goes on, I think he will get stronger and more confident to unleash his abilities.
Steve Maneri. The former offensive lineman turned tight end has glue for hands. He made some great catches. And he is fighting for the THIRD tight end spot! Moeaki and Boss ahead of him should feel him breathing down their necks.
Dexter McCluster. He was used a slot receiver during this game. He also made some excellent catches. I am pleased with this.
Unfortunately, Jonathan Baldwin was barely involved in the offense. Hopefully we will see more of him in the next few games.
How about the defense? Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are going to RUIN opposing QBs this year. Why? Because our defensive line is going to do their jobs. Our first round draft pick, Dontari Poe, made it into a few snaps. Romeo Crennel recently said that he has a long way to go in his development. I saw some evidence of that on Friday. When Poe was asked to get a little fancy with his technique, he was generally overpowered. However, when Poe was asked to bullrush the opposing lineman, he entered God Mode and regularly forced double teams and even a triple team. That's right-Arizona on one play dedicated THREE lineman to block Poe. Poe can push the pocket toward the QB and prevent the QB from stepping into the pocket to avoid guys like Hali and Houston. Also, when three guys are blocking Poe, those extra guys are not blocking other people, like Hali and Houston.
I never really focused on Dorsey or Jackson; I always watched the nose tackle (Toribio also made some good plays). I assume they did well since Arizona wasn't able to run the ball until our second team defense entered the game.
Since we had such an incredible pass rush, I don't think we got to see the Chiefs' pass defense do a whole lot. Routt had a pass interference, but I felt Routt was just covering his guy really closely. Oh well. I can't really follow so much action in a single play, so I focused mostly on the line and linebackers.
The second teamers performed quite admirably for depth guys on both offense and defense. The second team offensive line continued general dominance against Arizona's first team defensive line, which allowed guys like Shaun Draughn (Ha his name rhymes!) and Cyrus Gray to gain lots of yards. We are going to have some awesome OL depth this year, which was a glaring weakness last year. Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi each made some good throws and some bad throws, which is what I would expect from backup QBs. There is potential there.
The only second/third teamer with which I was wholly unsatisfied was WR Jamar Newsome (I think that was his name). Far too many drops.
My overall impression is this: If the first team offense and defense continue to improve throughout the preseason, and they stay healthy at key positions like WR and OLB (where we lack solid depth), the Chiefs have a very strong chance to win the AFC West and make noise in the playoffs.
Of course, this was just the first preseason game. Anything can change. Maybe they'll suck next week.