I am writing to you presently from gate B23 of the Denver International Airport, home of the Broncos. It’s doubtful I’ll finish this article prior to boarding, so there’s a good chance I’ll complete it from the terminal of Los Angeles International, erstwhile home of the Raiders and even further erstwhile home of the Chargers. That’s right…. Your fearless narrator is writing to you from enemy territory.
Your fearless narrator is also writing to you having just had a 6 millimeter kidney stone extracted three days prior, and is somewhat convinced at this point, enemy territory or no, this trip may be the death of him.
What your fearless narrator had hoped from this past Friday’s game was to get a glimpse of three specific players: Steve Breaston, Jared Gaither, and Wallace Gilberry. All three are, to varying degrees, unknown quantities. All three are on the cusp of landing jobs as starters, and even if they don’t, all three stand to see significant playing time. Given his recent poor health and the lateness of his signing, there was no realistic shot at seeing Gaither. I’m okay with that. Not seeing the other two was a harder pill to swallow.
I’m not sure if the fact that next to none of the team’s key role players saw the field sharpens or softens the blow of not seeing the guys I most sought to see. I think I understand Todd Haley’s logic, and time may prove that his plan was rather sound. Certainly conditioning was one of the Chiefs’ greatest assets last season, and I attribute that pretty much directly to Haley. If saving his stars from premature wear when they’re not in proper football shape (and I’m fairly confident they’re not in proper football shape) gives the team an edge late in the season, it’ll be a hell of a coup.
If, on the other hand, the conditioning factor doesn’t come into play, and the ultimate outcome is instead that the players don’t gel as a unit as quickly as they should, it’ll be hard not to point the finger at this unorthodox approach. Aside from not playing many starters and key role players, Haley’s game plan was decidedly slow paced. It wasn’t really a game plan at all. It was structured drills, albeit against an opponent whose goal was plainly in stark contrast. And it was difficult to watch, not just because of the score, but because all it seemed to do was expose weaknesses.
For one, the game’s leading rusher and receiver, Jackie Battle, simultaneously demonstrated both why he’s on the team and why he’ll never start. He’s solid, but he’s also the very definition of unspectacular. I question whether or not there’s room for him on this roster. Jamaal Charles and Le’Ron McClain are guaranteed spots. Thomas Jones isn’t guaranteed, but he’s not far off from it either. Dexter McCluster quite frankly hasn’t done anything to date to earn a spot, but his ceiling is higher than Battle’s, and he’s one of Haley’s draft picks to boot. Like Jones, he’s not guaranteed, but chances of him not making the 53-man roster are slim.
That leaves Battle in contention for the number five spot. Traditionally that fifth spot would be awarded to a reserve fullback, indicating the job would likely go to Mike Cox. It’s not unheard of for a team not to carry a reserve fullback, however, so it’s possible Battle would make it as a fourth string halfback/special teams contributor. Furthermore, I’ve always been of the opinion that his skill set would translate nicely to the fullback role, so maybe there’s hope for him as a convert. It’s also not entirely implausible that the team would carry six backs, particularly given that McCluster is not a prototypical downhill runner. I’m of the opinion that McClain’s presence makes this less likely, however, so I’m just not sure. I’d like Battle to be around come September, but it’s far from a foregone conclusion.
I’d like to come up with a nice euphemism like “unspectacular” for Tyler Palko and Ricky Stanzi too, but I can’t. Their play leaves me longing for the good old days of Jonathan Quinn.
The biggest embarrassment of all, however, was not the travesty at signal caller, but rather the continued poor play of one Donald Washington. He apparently spent his offseason working on a new move wherein he changes direction, then falls immediately to the ground. If ever there was a case for cutting a guy before cuts officially have to be made, Washington makes that case.
It’s not all negative though. I saw a few things I liked from guys I didn’t expect to see those things from, most notably Allen Bailey and Reshard Langford. Not much is expected from either this season, but I can see them contributing.
I wish there was more to report, but…. there just isn’t. The old adage is that no news is good news. In the offseason, when news often centers around injury and/or misbehavior, I tend to agree. Now that there’s actual football being played, however…. I could stand a little more news.