Column: Evaluations Done – It’s Decision Time

From Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Ordinarily, the last weeks of an NFL pre-season are a time when a team’s coaches and decision makers spend hours in personnel meetings trying to evaluate about 30 players who are working hard to earn one of about a dozen open spots on the roster.

But this has been no ordinary pre-season for the NFL and especially the Chiefs. Intent on making sure his team was in the type of physical condition he demands for the rigors of a 16-game schedule played in 17 weeks, Todd Haley was more concerned about conditioning than drilling football schemes and plays.

Even through this week leading up to the pre-season finale here against the Packers, the Chiefs were in full pads, banging into each other and throwing weights around and running like they were at Missouri Western rather than their own facility. While other teams were ramping down as they normally do during the final week before the regular season, the Chiefs were pushing along oblivious to the calendar.

Whether Haley’s plan works in the Chiefs favor is something that will take months to distinguish. But one factor that was visible before Thursday night’s game was the lack of normal evaluation time for this roster. And, it wasn’t so much for the second or third teamers, but for the starters and another handful of players that figure to be major contributors to the team week-after-week.

The fact is the No. 1 units looked like crap and played that way. There was a lack of execution and no consistency. The offense couldn’t stay on the field long enough to put together enough plays to evaluate. The defense couldn’t get off the field, and that’s not a good situation to judge players on that side of the ball. There was a “no problems” air publicly, but privately there were frustrations on the part of the players and even some of the assistant coaches. Nobody was quite sure they were ready.

Well, Thursday night the Chiefs showed they were a bit more ready than maybe even they thought. Forget the matter of the Packers sitting so many of their starters, especially on defense. It was a night that had nothing to do with Green Bay, and everything to do with the Chiefs and their internal confidence.

And it provided a good tape to sit down and make evaluations on just what type of roster the Chiefs have. Key performers got mucho playing time, even working into the fourth quarter. Yes, they were playing against Packers that will soon move on to their life’s work.

That didn’t matter to Haley, because he was looking only at the Chiefs. Same for his coaching staff; nobody on the Chiefs charter flight home was raving about this game and this performance. But it did accomplish two things: got the first teams more ready for the start of the season, and it helped the evaluation process on the top of the roster.

Consider that there was competition at just about every position of the roster for the last spots on the 53-man list, save quarterback. Here’s an overview of what decisions must be made. While not set in stone, use this math: 25 players on offense, 25 on defense. The other 3 spots belong to the special teams. The usually breaks down to 3 quarterbacks, 3 tight ends, 11 running backs/wide receivers and 8 linemen on offense. Defensively, it’s 6 on the line, 9 at linebacker and 9 in the secondary, with one wildcard that could come at any of the three position groups.

Here’s a look at what evaluations must be made by Haley and his staff:

  • RUNNING BACK – Will it be Mike Cox or Shane Bannon, or neither? That’s the decision that must be made in the backfield with a second fullback. Neither one of these guys played much at all against Green Bay.
  • TIGHT END – The ankle injury of Jake O’Connell leaves doubt as to the third spot here. Cody Slate and possibly veteran Anthony Becht may factor in here. The Chiefs could end up taking four TEs until O’Connell is fully healed.
  • OFFENSIVE LINE – Behind the starters, there are Rodney Hudson and Jared Gaither. That leaves one, maybe two spots. Rookie free agent Butch Lewis looks like a favorite to get one of those.
  • WIDE RECEIVER – The fifth spot looks like it’s going to go to Keary Colbert. That leaves Terrance Copper and Verran Tucker fighting for the sixth spot. Special teams work will be huge on this decision.
  • DEFENSIVE LINE – Amon Gordon really stepped forward in the last few weeks and seems to have jumped ahead of Dion Gales for the sixth spot on the defensive front. Gordon was very active Thursday night against the Packers and worked with the first team defense and the first sub-defense.
  • LINEBACKERS – The health of rookie Gabe Miller (hamstring) will likely cause debate on the ninth and 10th spots at linebacker. The discussion figures to be Miller and Pierre Walters on the outside and Micah Johnson and Justin Cole inside.
  • DEFENSIVE BACKS – There’s a log jam for the two safety spots behind starters Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis. It appears by his status on the No. 1 sub-defense that Jon McGraw should be safe. That leaves Reshard Langford, Donald Washington and Sabby Piscitelli fighting for one spot.

10 Responses to “Column: Evaluations Done – It’s Decision Time”

  • September 2, 2011  - bhive01 says:

    I personally like Langford’s size and his special teams ability, but you don’t see him that much so it’s been hard to judge the 3 DBs on the bubble. Washington seems to fly around a lot back there so he’s probably got good speed… and Sabby, other than the cool name I haven’t seen him do much.

  • September 2, 2011  - Milkman says:

    I think this kid Cody Slate has a place on an NFL roster. If not the Chiefs, then some team will pick him up. I’m as excited as everyone else about the potential of Moeaki but am afraid he will have trouble his whole career staying on the field.

  • September 2, 2011  - Michael says:

    Agreed on Slate. I don’t know how much of a blocker he is at this point, but Slate can get open and catch and I think he’s a good special teamer. They should keep him. If Moeaki can’t go, he’s the best receiver they have at TE.

  • September 2, 2011  - Dan says:

    “Amon Gordon really stepped forward in the last few weeks and seems to have jumped ahead of Dion Gales for the sixth spot on the defensive front. ”

    What am I missing? Aren’t Dorsey-Gregg-TJ-Bailey-Powe-Gilberry locks making them fight for the SEVENTH spot???

  • September 2, 2011  - Anon says:

    Dan, this is the 2nd time Gretz has made this counting error.

  • September 3, 2011  - No Victory, But Much Better Performance By Chiefs | Chiefs Football at says:

    [...] COLUMN – Evaluations are over, it’s time for decisions. [...]

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