To begin, I want to touch on something I touched on briefly in a mid-week article last season. Football players are on performance-enhancing drugs. Let’s not kid ourselves into believing the NFL’s testing policy works. The average playing weight at most positions has increased 30-50 pounds in the last three decades. A large part of that is the result of advancements in sports nutrition and physical training, but it’s also because players are on performance-enhancing drugs. When talking about concussions, we talk about changing the rules and designing better helmets, but we skirt around the major factor at play: these guys are really big, and getting hit by someone large is more painful than getting hit by someone small. This might not have been a major factor in Cameron Sheffield’s or Maurice Leggett’s injuries, as in both cases the collision was with a running back of similar size, but it’s a subject that definitely warrants much more open dialogue than is presently exchanged.
I’m curious to hear from my readers whether they think the defense’s success says more about Kansas City or more about Philadelphia. I myself am at a loss. I see few, if any, parallels between last night’s game and the game six days prior. Did the unit turn the corner sometime last week, or is Tampa Bay with their backup quarterback a more formidable offense than Philadelphia with their starter? I hope it’s the former, but I’m far from convinced.
I am convinced, on the other hand, that this game alone was enough to determine the right 53. In large part, the players anticipated to deliver delivered, and the ones anticipated to disappoint disappointed. It makes for a tidy trimming over the coming week and a half. Thus, based on last night’s performance, I think it’s time for me to unleash my first depth chart of the preseason upon my readership. Position by position, here’s what I saw happen:
There isn’t much comparison to be made between Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles. The team’s official depth chart lists Jones at the starter, and Jones has played at least the first snap of every game thus far, but Todd Haley knows where his bread is buttered. Jones is unquestionably a capable tailback. I’m glad he’s on my team. He’s not special. Charles is. Charles has nearly twice the combined rushing and receiving yardage as Jones, and he’s accomplished this feat with fewer touches. Haley may want to send his younger player a message about focus and accountability right now, but I doubt he’s foolish enough to risk losing a game over it during the regular season.
Jackie Battle, meanwhile, is delivering on the promise I felt he had last season. In the storm chasing world, Battle would be branded a core puncher. He’s also a major special teams contributor. No player on the bubble has staked their claim quite the way Battle has. I don’t think Kestahn Moore stands a chance.
BATTING ORDER: Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones, Jackie Battle.
While Charles, Jones, and Battle are invoking memories of Holmes, Richardson, and Blaylock, albeit with a different panache, Matt Cassel and Tyler Palko are busy invoking memories of some of Trent Green’s backups. And I don’t mean Todd Collins. Cassel looks every bit the dink and dunk short yardage quarterback Damon Huard was, and Palko looks every bit as lost as Jonathan Quinn. Brodie Croyle is doing a good impression of one of Green’s backups too: Brodie Croyle. As per usual, he’s camping out on the injury report.
Meanwhile, Jeff Garcia is playing in the UFL. Garcia isn’t on Todd Haley’s radar. He isn’t on anybody’s radar. I’ll guarantee you, however, that he damn sure could outplay Tyler Palko. Maybe Matt Cassel too.
BATTING ORDER: Matt Cassel, Brodie Croyle, somebody other than Tyler Palko.
The assertion was made during the Eddie Kennison era that the Chiefs didn’t really have a #1 wide receiver. They were right. Eddie was a strong #2 who became the go-to guy because the Chiefs never, ever invest in wide receivers. Not much has changed. Neither Dwayne Bowe nor Chris Chambers is a true #1, and Dexter McCluster, given his weight, can’t fairly be expected to be an every down player. I have no real desire to talk about what’s going on behind those three either. Between Cassel and this group of bruisers, all I can say is this: I’m glad they’ve got good running backs.
BATTING ORDER: Dwayne Bowe, Chris Chambers, Dexter McCluster, Jeremy Horne, Lance Long, Quinten Lawrence.
Here again is a position where a #1 player is not present. Leonard Pope is exactly the type of tight end I’d like my team to have as a #3 guy. He’s the best of the bunch. Tony Gonzalez, you are missed. Tony Moeaki, you are not Tony Gonzalez. Jake O’Connell, you’re not even Billy Baber.
BATTING ORDER: Leonard Pope, Tony Moeaki, Jake O’Connell.
How about Derek Lokey? A lot of people probably haven’t caught on yet to the fact that he’s the short yardage fullback, and he’s not bad at it at all. It’s interesting watching him thread the gap between Rudy Niswanger and Ryan Lilja, both of whom he (allegedly) outweighs. Oh, and Mike Cox and Tim Castille aren’t bad either.
BATTING ORDER: Tim Castille, Mike Cox, with Derek Lokey ahead of either if it’s 3rd and 2.
Rudy had a good game. He made a couple of key reads and laid some hard hits on Philly’s linemen. He’s still not of the same stock as Casey Wiegmann. This contest should long since have been over. Still, it’s good to have two viable options. It has been brought to my attention also that there is a third center on the roster right now: Lemuel Jeanpierre. I accepted an overwhelmingly French name when Jean Philippe Darche replaced longtime long snapper Kendall Gammon a few years back. I’m not quite ready to do it again. Also, in order to make the team, he would probably have needed to make it to the field once or twice during preseason. This is the easiest game of odd-man-out ever.
BATTING ORDER: Casey Wiegmann, Rudy Niswanger.
After the struggles of the last few years, the team looks surprisingly well-set at guard, at least for the time being. Brian Waters has had a good preseason, as has Ryan Lilja. Better yet, Jon Asamoah could potentially be special. Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking taking hold, but on two plays I saw him make plays downfield that reminded me of Will Shields. As much as I like Lilja, and as happy as I am to see him back where he belongs, I won’t be surprised if he loses his job midseason, and I won’t be disappointed either.
BATTING ORDER: Brian Waters (LG), Ryan Lilja (RG/replacement LG if Waters is injured), Jon Asamoah (RG). Given that Rudy has played a little bit of guard in practice, I don’t anticipate the team keeps a fourth.
Barry Richardson, in my opinion, proved that he deserves the starting right tackle job last night. Cassel, master of the slow draw, was getting the sort of pass protection he would need to be successful if he were going to be successful. On many downs he had in excess of four seconds to get rid of the ball. That means either the Philadelphia pass rush, ranked 3rd in sacks last season, is weaker than Atlanta’s or Tampa Bay’s, or Barry Richardson is a superior athlete to Ryan O’Callaghan.
Branden Albert, meanwhile, continues to underwhelm me. He plays well, but he doesn’t play well enough to justify what we gave to get him. He did as a rookie, however, at 20 pounds heavier than his present weight. I know I’m a broken record on this subject, but some guys just play better bigger. Get that man a season pass to Sizzler and give him a chance to return to form.
BATTING ORDER: Branden Albert (LT), Barry Richardson (RT/LT replacement if Albert is injured), Colin Brown (RT/RG), Ryan O’Callaghan (RT).
There is no greater weakness on this team.
BATTING ORDER: Ron Edwards, Derek Lokey.
Alex Magee apparently finally woke up to the fact that his job is in jeopardy and started making plays. Too bad he’s logjammed behind three guys that will make it on the quality of their play and one guy whose paycheck dictates that he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
BATTING ORDER: Glenn Dorsey (RDE), Shaun Smith (LDE), Wallace Gilberry, I can’t bring myself to say the fourth name because I don’t think he belongs in an NFL jersey, and Alex Magee.
Given that Andy Studebaker established himself as the starter at the Sam position last night, it’s not a bad idea to move Mike Vrabel to the position of his namesake. He started a year and a half at left inside ‘backer for New England, and he’s better than the alternatives. As for the other starting spot, a strong argument can’t be made for any of the four candidates. Therefore, it is with great reservation and borderline disdain that I present to you the winner of the coveted nathanKent depth chart right inside linebacker starting spot: Demorrio Williams. Williams is the least athletic but most consistent, and he appears to be the best ballhawk of the bunch – those two sacks did a little bit to impress me with a guy who has underwhelmed me for years now. As for the backups… who cares? It’s not a position of strength.
BATTING ORDER: Mike Vrabel (LILB), Demorrio Williams (RILB), Derrick Johnson, Corey Mays.
Note that, as of right now, Tamba Hali is not credited with any sacks for the season. Left tackles have learned their lesson with him – hold and hope you don’t get caught. He isn’t elite. He might never make it to a Pro Bowl. At this point, his biggest asset isn’t his strength or his speed. It’s Andy Studebaker, and Andy Studebaker’s biggest asset is Tamba Hali. Just as it was with Hali and Jared Allen, there’s a renewed sense for opposing offenses of picking their poison. As for the backups, even if he hadn’t played well, Cameron Sheffield would likely earn a sympathy spot on anybody’s depth chart today. In my opinion, sympathy isn’t required. The kid plays hard. Beyond that, there’s another Frenchman and a guy whose nameve only heard in passing. Okay, Pierre Walters isn’t French, but neither is Lemuel Jeanpierre. Hey, I didn’t say everything on here was fair.
BATTING ORDER: Andy Studebaker (LOLB), Tamba Hali (ROLB), Cameron Sheffield, John Russell.
Kevin Kolb played too poorly to properly evaluate much of anything the Kansas City cornerbacks did. Brandon Carr has a bit of a niche for CB blitzes. There’s not really a whole lot else to say… they did their jobs. What else could anybody possibly ask for?
BATTING ORDER: Brandon Flowers (LCB), Brandon Carr (RCB), Maurice Leggett (NB), Mike Richardson, Javier Arenas, Travis Daniels.
Again, not much to say here either, aside from the fact that Kansas City will clearly be starting two rookies. Kendrick Lewis has been a very pleasant surprise.
BATTING ORDER: Eric Berry, Kendrick Lewis, Jon McGraw, Jarrad Page. I’m still holding out hope, because the other options are really bad. Donald Washington is terrible.
We all know what’s happening here. They have at least two solid kick returners, a great kicker, a great punter, and a long snapper that will, as most long snappers do, waste a roster spot. I guess Derek Lokey is already busy enough with three positions though, so maybe it’s for the best.
If this game is any indication – and I believe it is – this team will not score a lot of points. The offense lacks playmakers. At best, we should anticipate seeing nothing more than Martyball scores, which means that in order to be competitive, the defense must be on point. They looked on point more often than not yesterday, but – I don’t trust it. Four days ago I threw my support behind Kevin Kolb and the Eagles in a divisional pickem contest. Having seen him/them play a full game, I feel I was errant in my selection. Holding a subpar team’s starters to 10 points isn’t a major accomplishment. It should be considered a basic requirement.
On the other hand, maybe I was right, and I just severely underestimated Romeo Crennel. That’s a pleasant thought, but I’m not staking any money on it. This team is still a year or two away from contention.