Mankato On My Mind
In a typical NFL preseason, fans can expect to see their starters for about six of the sixteen quarters of play. Frustrating as it might be for the paying customer, every team uses the majority of this time to evaluate the bottom of their roster. Kansas City is no exception, especially considering the emphasis Scott Pioli places on having the “right 53”.
Last night’s defeat – a 25-0 embarrassment at the hands of the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers – came as quite a shock to a lot of Chiefs fans. Online forums are flush with complaints about competitiveness and winning attitude after a game in which the Chiefs sat the majority of their starters. It’s been difficult for some to grasp the trickle-down effect a decision like that has on the quality of play in what was essentially a glorified scrimmage.
Given the fact that the Chiefs are reduced to basically one padded practice a week – not to mention the late start with their full-compliment of veteran players – Coach Haley clearly treated the first preseason game a lot like the Mankato scrimmages of years passed. While each team has a different plan on how to reach it, the goal of every NFL franchise is to “peak” at the right time. What should be clear after the Chiefs’ first preseason contest is that Todd Haley and Co. are not worried about what other teams are doing; they have a schedule meticulously mapped out and they’re going to do everything in their power to ensure this team plays its best football in the final two months of the season.
Even the most casual of Chiefs fans are worried about the team going from a last place schedule in 2010 (yielding a 10-6 record) to a first place schedule this season. Look no further than weeks 11-15 to see the effects: a five-game stretch run against the NFL’s elite from 2010 – New England, Pittsburgh, Chicago, The New York Jets and the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. Kansas City will need a steady progression from week to week in order to be competitive during what will most certainly prove to be the barometer for the 2011 season.
Todd Haley’s decision to sit the majority of his starters last night played a leading role in the outcome. For the majority of NFL teams, the first preseason game is designed to give the starters two or three series to shake-off some rust when the bullets are flying. Considering the long list of players that didn’t play last night, added to the list that only got about 5-10 snaps, the Chiefs had a lot of guys on the field that do not figure into the team’s future. Unlike the past few seasons, Kansas City’s roster isn’t really up for debate. If you do the math and start plugging-in names considered as no-brainers to make this football team, you’ll eventually find about three spots up for grabs… yet the team still has to cut more than 30 players before this is all said and done.
Last night wasn’t about seeing what the Chiefs have on the bottom of their roster, rather what’s well beyond it. Undrafted players like David Mims and Micah Johnson were given an opportunity to show what they can do. Jackie Battle is buried on the depth chart and he played all four quarters… one has to assume the Chiefs are giving him time to audition for other teams as he doesn’t figure to make this one.
There were some encouraging signs amongst the rubble, however, mainly by the Chiefs’ 2011 draft class. Jerrell Powe consistently stood his ground and disrupted Tampa’s running game. Gabe Miller played sideline to sideline, displaying the motor that lead to the Chiefs drafting him back in April. Jalil Brown played very solid against Tampa Bay starter Mike Williams well into the second quarter. Despite being flanked by camp fodder, Rodney Hudson looked strong and savvy in stretches. Even Quarterback Ricky Stanzi showed flashes of moxie while running for his life. Admittedly though, not all was well with the rookies as Allen Bailey was beaten by second team talent more often than not and John Baldwin was ineffective in his limited time on the field.
To answer your question: yes, the Chiefs spent sixty minutes against Tampa simply going through the motions. Vanilla is an understatement. However, I fully expect to see a significant change over the final three preseason games. Usually the fourth preseason contest is the last opportunity for a lot of players to make their case for a roster spot, only this year will be different for the Kansas City Chiefs. There will be few auditions in the final game of the preseason as the starters will be focused on getting into a rhythm. Slowly but surely, Todd Haley is preparing this team for battle – it’s our job to keep in mind that the preseason isn’t about winning, it’s about getting ready to do so.