Football is officially back in Kansas City after the Chiefs’ 41-39 win over the Cincinnati Bengals last Thursday. Everyone knows not to read too much into preseason games; however, several areas of concern were exposed against the Bengals, which I will outline below. As always, have faith that Coach Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey are working to alleviate those concerns in the coming weeks as they prepare for the season opener against the Titans on September 7. The Chiefs remaining preseason games are at Carolina (Aug. 17), versus Minnesota (Aug. 23), and at Green Bay (Aug. 28).
For those of you who did not watch it, you missed an entertaining, although somewhat sloppy game. There were 4 combined return touchdowns (3 pick-6’s and 1 punt return), 8 combined sacks, and one backup quarterback vomiting on the field. Thank goodness that was not a Kansas City QB. Personally, I feel that the offense has more concerns than the defense. Before getting into those concerns, I wanted to give a shout out to some positives: special teams were phenomenal, with a punt return TD, a 65-yard kickoff return and a booming 71-yard punt, Dee Ford is super fast, Travis Kelce made a fantastic play on a 69-yard touchdown catch, and Jamaal Charles looked amazing as always.
Concerns for the offense
First string: The first team offense started with a 3-and out. Not the kind of production you want to see. Last season, the Chiefs relied heavily on their defense to close out games, and it will be crucial for the offense to start games fast and get some points on the board so Bob Sutton and Co. can wreak havoc on the opponents. Three-and-outs give the other team momentum, and Kansas City had to watch Matt Cassel produce way too many 3-and-outs during his tenure as the Chiefs’ QB. It is time to start producing on the first drive.
O-line: The Bengals had 6 sacks against the Chiefs, including one of Alex Smith, who fumbled on the play. For a team that lost 3 starters from the offensive line, the Chiefs certainly have some work to do at the line of scrimmage in order to be ready for the regular season. The linemen are all very young and I am confident that they will improve. Cincinnati was ranked in the top 10 in several defensive categories last year and it appears that they are still strong this year, but Eric Fisher will need to step up his game and protect Alex Smith better. Hopefully, the O-line gets more playing time together in the remaining preseason games to help them establish rapport and consistency.
QB’s: Smith by the way was 3-5 for 19 yards. Not a very inspiring performance. He set career highs for passing yards and touchdowns in 2013, and if he wants to improve on those numbers, he will need to look sharper. The good news is that he will get to throw to Travis Kelce in the regular season, which should help. Chase Daniel threw a pick-6, but otherwise looked fairly sharp and threw the touchdown to Kelce. Tyler Bray and Aaron Murray are likely competing for the third QB spot as Daniel clearly played better than them. It will be interesting to see how this position battle plays out in the coming weeks.
Concerns for the Defense
Secondary: Despite two pick-6’s, the Chiefs secondary was a little too porous. Eric Berry did not play, which probably affected some of that, but the starters allowed a 53-yard completion and were lucky that Andy Dalton overthrew an open receiver near the endzone.
Ron Parker had 2 penalties. Hopefully, he gets those out of his system now and learns to adjust before the regular season. The NFL changed its rules this offseason, creating tighter enforcement of illegal contact between defenses and wide receivers so that defenders cannot initiate contact more than 5 yards from scrimmage while the quarterback has the ball in the pocket. Bob Sutton likes his defensive backs to be tough at the line of scrimmage and disrupt the timing of a play. Hopefully, the Chiefs’ DB’s are successful at doing so and avoid illegal contact and pass interference calls further down the field. Rookie Phillip Gaines played with the second-team and had 2 tackles and knocked down a pass, while also narrowly missing an interception. His continued development will be fun to watch. I miss the days of Dale Carter and James Hasty and would love it if Gaines and Berry become the next dominant duo in the Chiefs secondary.
QB pressure: The Chiefs only had 2 sacks, and a general lack of pressure on the quarterback means that the secondary will be exposed. I am assuming that Bob Sutton is not going to reveal many blitzes during the preseason, but a multitude of injuries and turnover at Safety and Cornerback is concerning nevertheless. Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers are better than Andy Dalton, and will be able to find their receivers all over the field if the Chiefs cannot generate more pressure on them. The good news is that Dee Ford, who played the most defensive snaps for the Chiefs, was able to hold his own and looks like he is ready to produce immediately.
Up next against the Chiefs are Cam Newton and the Panthers, and it will be interesting to see how the defense adjusts to a more mobile QB.