Plain Jane Offense Struggles … Sunday Cup O’Chiefs

At what point in the scheme of things should the Chiefs start worrying about their offense?

That’s a legitimate question at this point of the 2011 pre-season, because the Chiefs offense has been less than scintillating. The numbers are actually pretty ugly after two pre-season games:

  • One touchdown scored.
  • 212.5 yards per game.
  • No play longer than 28 yards.
  • No run longer than 17 yards.
  • An average of 3.5 yards per carry.
  • An average yards per attempt of 5.3 yards.
  • 11 sacks allowed in 66 passing plays.
  • 50.9 percent completion percentage
  • 6 conversions on 27 third-down plays, a 22.2 percent average.

Each one of those numbers would be a singular cause for concern. Roll them into one brief two-game period over eight days and even in the pre-season, it begs the question: what’s wrong with Todd Haley’s offense.

The answer from the head coach would be nothing. He doesn’t feel like punching the panic button, because the Chiefs have not been real active in establishing their offense.

“We’re not over-exotic right now,” Haley said after the Chiefs fell to Baltimore on Friday night 31-13. “We’re not really using a lot of what we’d call ‘scheme’ to make plays. Sometimes that’s frustrating for all of us, coaches and players alike.

“I want to be fair to all the guys.”

This remains the constant give-and-take that every NFL coaching staff goes through in the pre-season, and probably why they would prefer the league went to a pair of these practice games, rather than the current total of four. There is the need to get the offense clicking, and the unwillingness to share the playbook with the prying eyes of the competition.

So game plans are vanilla, and everyone, including the players and coaches has to wait until the regular season to figure out what will get blended in to provide some color and taste. In many ways it feels like a backassward way of preparing for the season, but it’s going on in 32 facilities this week.

With the No. 1 offense on Friday night, the Chiefs did not show a lot of motion, movement or shifts. They spent a lot of time in a basic offensive set, with two backs, a single tight end and a pair of receivers. They also showed a two tight end, one back set up. Maybe the only thing they revealed was the role of Dexter McCluster as the third-down back. He was in the backfield with four receivers, generally with Dwayne Bowe, Jerheme Urban, Steve Breaston and TE Tony Moeaki.

“We are really working hard on the fundamentals of football,” Haley said. “Whatever job you have, then work hard at it. We went out with the idea of winning a game and it’s disappointing when the game goes that way it does. There are some things that maybe you could have done to change the result but at the same time, I just don’t want to go too far away from that.

“We’re working on us, and I thought there were definite improvements across the board.”

So far, the offensive stars have been RB Jackie Battle with 26 touches for 98 yards and backup QB Tyler Palko, who has a 91.2 passer rating and the only touchdown pass of the pre-season. Come September 11 against Buffalo, those two guys are not going to be the pistons of the Chiefs offensive engine.

Right now, Jamaal Charles has touched the ball just four times for 12 yards. Thomas Jones has gotten a lot of work, with seven carries for 40 yards. McCluster has six runs and three catches for 77 yards. Moeaki hasn’t caught a pass; neither has Urban. Breaston has one catch and Bowe has three.

Here are the pre-season numbers for the Chiefs over the last six seasons, at the hands of three different head coaches in Dick Vermeil, Herm Edwards and Todd Haley.

                                              PRE-SEASON OFFENSE                                  REGULAR SEASON OFFENSE

 Season  Avg Yds  Avg Run Yds Per Att  TDs    Avg Yds  Avg Run Yds Per Att  TDs
2010 314 4.6 5.2 6   350 4.7 6.7 40
2009 318 4.8 6.0 2   303 4.4 5.9 26
2008 269 4.1 5.6 7   309 4.8 6.2 32
2007 224 3.8 5.4 2   277 3.3 6.3 23
2006 181 3.4 5.2 4   321 4.2 7.2 35
2005 327 5.1 5.7 7   387 4.6 7.9 43

A quick scope of the numbers indicates that offensive struggles in the pre-season do not mean offensive struggles in the regular season. That’s especially true with the passing game. In all but one of the six seasons, the Chiefs yards per passing attempt was much better in the regular season than it was in the exhibition games. Evidence that it takes longer for the thrower and catchers to get together on the same page of the offense was convincing.

The struggles of the Chiefs passing game in particular and the offense as a whole in this pre-season is a cause for concern. But it’s not time to throw in the towel on the offensive playbook. History shows they are just warming up.

8 Responses to “Plain Jane Offense Struggles … Sunday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • August 21, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    I was encouraged about the game with the Ravens in that I have no fear of that team after watching the first half. Our defense against their offensive line is a mismatch. The offense will come around.

    Everything revolves around being healthy and Matt Cassel. Haley is working overtime on the staying healthy part. As far as Cassel goes, if Jim Zorn can elevate his game at all, we should be in every game.

  • August 21, 2011  - Rick says:

    Haley clearly stated he had a plan and I expect he’ll stick to it.

    The passing game game is harder to perfect than is the running game or the base defense. Considering the abbreviated training camp, I believe its predictable that the passing attack would be the last portion of the team to come around.

    This isn’t me being a homer, it’s simply being realistic.

    As long as the guys are ready for the Buffalo game, all else is irrelevant.

  • August 21, 2011  - el cid says:

    You are right. Health may be the important issue this year over individual players. Availability to play – Haley.

    I expect the Chiefs will be much stronger by the end of the year but that would mean we are out of the playoff hunt because of early losses. The lockout realy messed things up especially after having 10 wins.

  • August 21, 2011  - MikeA says:

    My observation is that the offensive problems are related to a lack of depth and experience on the OL. Pass protection is pretty ragged once the first team OL sits down. Gaither and O’Callaghan did not play, so once Albert and Richardson sit down you are essentially looking at CFA’s in both tackle positions. Can’t expect much after the first quarter in that situation. On the plus side, Hudson seems to be getting a lot of action at center and appears to be holding his own.

  • August 21, 2011  - Kiowa says:

    Nothing to worry about, except I didnt like hearing ALberts got hurt for the Oline. And I really like how the young linebackers are starting o look, that Houston kid is gonna be great and Sheffield is going to be as well.

  • August 21, 2011  - Ray Ward says:

    I think this has basically been the pattern Haley has followed in his 3 seasons with the Chiefs. I was real discouraged at this time last season too, and was actually getting mentally prepared for another lousy season. If I remember right, our best game was the 3rd one, and it may have even been against the Rams. I don’t keep very good preseason schedules, or games, in my memory bank, but I do think we began to see some glimpses of a real football team in our 3rd game. I am hopeful that is the case this season, as so far, we seem to look as bad as any team in the league. I hope Haley’s approach does not put us behind to start the season, in actual execution of the play book. It didn’t seem to affect us too bad last season, but we really didn’t tear things up offensively against the Chargers, in the first game. That was a rather ugly game: in which, we were lucky to get the win.

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