Remember the kid in high school who always turned in his homework late? Yeah, that’s me.
I have only a few observations about the final preseason game itself. As usual with the last game, the more interesting info is what happens the day after. In that regard, I have surprisingly few complaints this year. I see only four players on the final 53-man roster that I unequivocally believe should not be on an NFL roster (more on that in a minute). The fact that the coaches picked mostly the right players from the available pool, however, doesn’t translate to blind optimism. I think we’re in for a rough patch or two. Here’s why:
1. The game was not as close as the final score indicates. Kansas City didn’t play the team that won the Super Bowl in February or the season opener two days ago. The Chiefs were using starters and key position players in some cases well into the fourth quarter. The Packers were not. The score at the end of the first quarter (7-2, Green Bay) is probably more indicative of reality.
2. Matt Cassel’s stat line belies his skill level. Obviously everyone knows an 88.2% completion rate is an aberration. I’d like to believe that the 61.4% composite for the entire preseason was spot on. Some weeks it probably will be. Other weeks, he’ll probably be closer to his figures from the second and third games (both in the 40s). I know I pick on the guy a lot, and Lord knows I don’t have even a fraction of his athletic ability myself, but he’s not a top 10 quarterback. Possibly not even a top 20. The more realistic line of thought is that he’ll land somewhere in the ballpark of his 55.0% from 2009, but hopefully with fewer interceptions. Thankfully he can take a hit. With as slow as he makes his reads and as fast as pass rushers get past Barry Richardson, he’s gonna take more than a few.
3. I may have crowned Jon Asamoah a little too soon. I still see the potential for the guy to become a monster player, but he hasn’t connected all the dots yet. It doesn’t help that he’s not getting much help on either side (Casey Wiegmann has underwhelmed me thus far also), but when the interior run game breaks down as much as it has, it’s usually pretty fair business for critics to point their fingers squarely at the right guard. Furthermore, I can’t say I’m thrilled about the idea of taking a rookie in as the only backup for all three interior line positions. Darryl Harris is still tucked safely away on the practice squad in case of injury (I doubt he’s on any other team’s radar), but if something happens to Asamoah mid-game, exactly how many snaps has Rodney Hudson played at right guard? Obviously the safest move would be to move Ryan Lilja there and put Hudson on the left side, but with Lilja having missed time in practice this week, how much more reliable of an arrangement is this?
4. The left side of that defensive front seven is terrible, and we all know who’s the culprit. I was sad to see Shaun Smith go to another team, and not really because I feel he’s an exceptional talent. I’m just keenly aware that the first round pick he stepped in for last year is a bust. Allen Bailey has shown more than a little propensity to fill that role (watch some of his moves…. I’ll bet ten bucks he could shame Tim Krumrie at the infamous hands drill). We all watched a prior regime overcommit to a high first round defensive lineman that couldn’t make the grade, sometimes with potentially capable backups on the bench, sometimes without. That nightmare went on and off for five seasons. There’s no reason to do the same again.
5. Donald Washington and Sabby Piscitelli do not belong on this roster. Reshard Langford is plainly a better athlete than Washington and not nearly as much of a pain in the ass as Piscitelli (if you haven’t watched videos of or about Sabby, I’d recommend it, in particular the one where he’s lambasted up and down by Rick Stroud and Stephen Holder of the St. Petersburg Times). Hell, I’d even put Terrance Copper back there over Washington. He’s got a knack for deflecting passes.
6. The David Garrard option interests me, but the Kansas City option may not interest him. I’m not a huge David Garrard fan. I thought he was mostly outplayed by Byron Leftwich at the time Jacksonville made the switch. I’m flexible on that opinion now, given Garrard’s relative success in the interim compared to Leftwich’s. In either case, I still contend to this day that Quinn Gray mopped the floor with both of them. Despite my overall tepidness toward the awkwardly ousted Garrard, it’s plain as day he’s a better player than Tyler Palko. Even if Scott Pioli and Todd Haley are looking at him, however, he may not be looking back at them. It’s inevitable that every year some team will lose their starting quarterback to injury, and the backup will prove himself wholly incompetent. Like Denver, for instance. If Kyle Orton goes down, they’re sunk. I can’t think of another quarterback on the market that approaches Garrard’s credentials. If he sits on his hands for a month or two, there’s a decent chance he’ll start the second half of the season somewhere. Signing with a team right away may be the bigger gamble.
As a final note, I do hope that someday both the NFL and MLB will learn that (a) autoplay of a video on a website is obnoxious, and (b) it’s far more obnoxious when that video is an ad. For McDonald’s. And there’s no stop or pause button. My silent one-man protest will be to eat at Taco Bell instead tonight. Think they’ll notice?