This is a good draft class.
Given Scott Pioli’s relatively spotty record during his tenure with the Patriots, and given the overwhelming weakness of last year’s crop, I’ll admit I was less than confident that the players selected this time around would live up to the hype. I’m happy to say that at this present juncture, they’ve done more than live up to it – they’ve surpassed it. It’s impossible to evaluate much of anything after a single game, but given the circumstances – that five of the seven made notable contributions in an upset victory over the as-of-late perennial division champions – it’s just impossible not to laud them. Don’t believe me? Just ask the cast of ESPN. They’ll tell you the same. By all early accounts, this draft was a home run.
To begin with, let’s discuss field position. The Chiefs haven’t had much of it to work with since the departure of Dante Hall. Part of that is the fault of Mike Priefer, who is the complete antithesis of Bobby April (April being the man all special teams coaches should aspire to be like), but in all fairness, he was given nothing of value to work with – a broken BJ Sams, an elderly Eddie Kennison, a useless Eddie Drummond, and a slow as molasses Kevin Robinson. I don’t know what, if any, influence Steve Hoffman yielded in the draft room, but he was clearly giftwrapped a little job security in the form of Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas. Case in point: it was the backup that found the endzone. All the starter did was average 30 yards on punt returns.
30. To put that in perspective, Dante Hall’s season best was 16.3. Tamarick Vanover’s was 12.3. Is there any feasible way Arenas can maintain that 30 for the season? Of course not. Can he surpass 12.3 or even 16.3? I think he can.
The long unanswered question on special teams has been whom to start. The question hasn’t changed, but the answer sure as hell looks a lot better.
Next up is the new Tony in town. The new Tony is not now, and probably never will be, the old Tony. Chiefs fans carried far too many expectations of Derrick Johnson on the grounds of namesake. I hope we as a whole can avoid doing so with Tony Moeaki. He’s probably not going to be a Jason Witten-type game changing receiver or a Jason Dunn-type game changing blocker. What he’s showing he might be, however, is a Kevin Boss-type significant contributor – a guy who can post 30-50 yards a game while also laying a key block or two. In other words, he’s demonstrating early on that he can be a functional, passable (pun intended), traditional tight end. Finding the endzone in one’s first game is a tall order, particularly for a tight end. Hopefully Monday’s effort turns out to be a propensity, not a fluke.
The meat and potatoes, however, came from the defense, and it came partly in the form of a young and immensely talented defensive backfield. The Brandons (Flowers and Carr), both entering their third year in service, were thought to be the bookends for the briefly established Bernard Pollard and Jarrad Page. That, given the right front seven, would have been a solid backfield. This backfield that comes in lieu of Pollard and Page is a better backfield. Eric Berry demonstrated the drive to earn that overinflated salary of his, and he did so admirably. It’s Kendrick Lewis, however, that impressed me more. Berry is the more physically gifted of the two, but Lewis consistently shut his man down, and in a couple of critical instances was the element that took Antonio Gates out of the game. That’s not a simple task. He did it anyway.
That’s what I call an embarrassment of riches.
Unfortunately, the embarrassment of riches was soured by an embarrassment. That embarrassment came in the form of Matt Cassel and his 68 passing yards. Philip Rivers, by contrast, averaged a little more than that per quarter. While fueled to some degree by a dearth of talent at wide receiver, the ultimate blame falls on Cassel’s shoulders alone. The argument against allowing Brodie Croyle to start is that he’ll eventually get hurt, and the team will be stuck again with Cassel. That’s probably true, but in the interim, Cassel is simply more of a liability. I’d rather see the team be temporarily competitive with the feeble one than see another performance like Cassel’s.
This concludes the complaints section of my game review. Next up, I’d like to give props to three players who, in my opinion, won the game for Kansas City: Glenn Dorsey, Tamba Hali, and Derrick Johnson. Romeo Crennel seems to have put the finishing touches on two of them and lit a fire under the ass of the third. It’s good to see first round picks deliver. When four of the last six (counting Berry) get the job done together, it’s a beautiful sight to behold.
Finally, I extend a tip of my best corduroy hat to the fans at Arrowhead. I have rightly been critical of the local fan base for the past few years for not supporting their team. I believe the city of Green Bay demonstrates the essence of what a fan base should be – a city in which a ticket holder’s name is apt to be published in the local fishwrap if he doesn’t occupy his seat on any given Sunday. I believe that, at least on game day, frustration should be thrown to the wind, and ticket holders should show up en masse as if the first quarter of each game is the first quarter of the season. Once they’re there, I believe that any response short of leaving early is appropriate. Boo. Curse. Flip off the head coach. Just show up.
Chiefs fans finally showed up, and to the perseverant go the spoils. They’re the ones who, provided this team delivers on its potential, will be able to say “I was there when it started. I was there when Flowers, Carr, Berry, and Lewis invoked Carter, Hasty, Woods, and Tongue. I was there for the fireworks before the game and I was there for the fireworks during. I was there when the division champs faltered and failed at the feet of my team. I was there when Romeo Crennel brought defense back to western Missouri. I was there.”
So now I offer you my toast, brought to you courtesy of a plastic bottle of Scotch: Here’s to you, Kansas Citians, for bringing back the twelfth man. And here’s to you, Romeo Crennel, for making it all possible. And thank you, Tyler Palko, for staying the hell out of the way.