Several things stood out in this game to me, and I’ll touch on all of them briefly, but what I want to focus on here, is the offensive line’s performance and the position battles in the trenches, because ultimately it doesn’t matter how great Jamaal Charles is or how well Alex Smith takes care of the football, if they don’t have time to make things happen, this team is in trouble.
Special Teams (A+)
Anytime you get a touchdown on special teams, that department is going to earn high marks, but it was truly exceptional even removing DeAnthony Thomas’ punt return. Dustin Colquitt’s first punt pinned the Bengals deep in their own territory, Albert Wilson had a 65-yard kick return, and both Ryan Succop and Cairo Santos, did a great job in their kicking duties. All around the special teams unit, under special teams wizard, Dave Taub, looked exceptional in every phase. I think it’s already safe to say, that the Chiefs are not going to miss Dexter McCluster this year.
Bob Sutton’s defense was shaky but overall came out slightly above average. Granted, A.J. Green is one of the best young wide receivers in the game, and his connection with Andy Dalton is one of the most deadly in the NFL, but he made the Chiefs secondary look slow.
The culprit was the Chiefs pass rush, They weren’t getting enough consistent pressure on the QB, regardless if it was Dalton or Campbell early on. And throughout the game, Cincinnati was able to consistently move the ball up and down the field and score points. However, the defense showed flashes of its brilliance from the first half of last season, with 2 pick 6’s and showing a willingness to take risks to make big plays.
Sean Smith showed that perhaps he needs to be looked at for getting back in the starting lineup, and rookies Phillip Gaines and Dee Ford both showed some flashes of why they were drafted so high for this team. High number of points allowed sure, but overall the defense showed enough bright spots to keep their grade pretty high.
Offense (C-) The offense however looked like it needed some work. Much like early last year, the offense appears to be lagging behind the other two phases of the game. Too many turnovers between quarterbacks, Alex Smith, Chase Daniel, and Tyler Bray each gave the football away at some point and all three of them led to points. If that trend continues into the regular season, this offense is going to struggle.
All the running backs looked solid and it was good to see a couple WRs not named Dwayne Bowe or Donnie Avery show some flashes in the game. When Chase Daniel hit Travis Kelce for the 68 yard TD right before half, it had me giddy to think about the extra threat and dimension to the offense Kelce can add if he stays healthy this year. .
The offensive line was probably the most interesting unit to really watch in this one, and it was a huge question mark coming in. Losing Branden Albert, Geoff Schwartz, and Jon Asamoah to free agency meant that the Chiefs were going to do some shuffling along the offensive line for this season.
Last year’s #1 overall pick Eric Fisher slides over to Left Tackle after struggling mightily at right tackle in his rookie season, rookie guard Zach Fulton out of Tennessee earned a start for this game as a 6th round pick this year will be trying to fill the slot vacated by the combination of (Jon Asamoah/Geoff Schwartz), Jeff Allen, Rodney Hudson, and Donald Stephenson have shown to be somewhat inconsistent in their young careers to date. So for a young offensive line trying to find its rhythm, the Bengals provided a strong test. Cincinnati has one of the best and deepest Defensive lines in the league, and a very solid front seven.
As a whole, the starting five looked solid, though I wouldn’t call them great, but for the most part; they gave Alex Smith enough time to make plays and opened some good holes for the RBs. Fisher looked solid on the left side in his first game, he did give up a strip sack on Alex Smith, but his run blocking looked very good. Not bad for his first action on the left side as a pro.
Fulton held his own at right guard, and all 5 guys seemed to have pretty good communication about blitz pickup and blocking assignments. After the first 5 left though, things took a significant downturn. Quarterbacks, Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray both spent a lot of time running for their lives and took some hits without having any time to find an open target.
Outside of Allen and Fulton, the guard position looks very weak, lots of pressure coming from the interior plus a couple of holding penalties. J’Marcus Webb has been a camp body for a few years now and he looked decent at tackle last night, and he’s also shown the flexibility to play some guard over the years.
Seventh round pick, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, looked good blocking downhill in the run game and looked pretty athletic getting out in space on a couple occasions. Second year lineman, Eric Kush did ok at center, struggled some, but compared to the guards playing on either side of him, he was brilliant. It’s also entirely possible that a couple guys played their way off the team in last night’s game.
At the end of the day the Chiefs will only keep about 7 or 8 offensive linemen on the final 53 man roster, based on this game LDT, Webb, and 2nd year Center Eric Kush look to have the inside track to being the reserves on the line.
Overall Grade (B-)
The regular season is still over a month away, and there’s still a week plus left of training camp. The Chiefs have a lot of work to do to get ready for Tennessee in the season opener, but after 1 preseason game, the Special Teams looks ready, the defense showed signs of being ready, and the offense needs more gel time.
Overall though, a victory over a fellow playoff team from last year constitutes a very solid start to the 2014 campaign.
Photos: Justin Olson Warpaint Illustrated (1) Justin Houston (2) Chase Daniel.
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