The Chiefs close out the 2010 pre-season Thursday night at what figures to be another half-filled Arrowhead Stadium. The Green Bay Packers are in town, and they’ve shown this August they will be the best team the Chiefs play in the schedule that does not count.
Too bad the Chiefs and Packers figure to play their starters like QB Aaron Rodgers (right) for only a quarter or so as everyone’s attention has already turned towards the start of the regular season next week.
The Packers arrive in Kansas City coming off a game where they scored 59 points against the Colts. Remarkably, 31 of those points came in the second half, when the starters were on the bench for the most part.
Although nothing is forgotten quicker than the final pre-season game each year, there are plenty of items for the Chiefs to get done in this game, whether it be as a team, a unit or individually. Here are some things to look for as the original participants in the first Super Bowl meet again.
– Brodie Croyle β After missing the last two games because of a right arm injury, Croyle appears ready to play. He needs to play. In the best case scenario, this will be the last time he has the opportunity for extensive playing time. That would mean that starter Matt Cassel has stayed healthy and productive. Those are two things that Croyle has had trouble getting done over his career. Availability trumps all other abilities when it comes to football players, and especially quarterbacks. As the Chiefs finish out the ’10 pre-season, Croyle needs as many snaps as possible.
– Backup Offensive Line β Training camp started with G Brian Waters not practicing. The pre-season ends with T Ryan O’Callaghan limping around with a right groin injury. In between, the first five got plenty of snaps and chances to work together. As Todd Haley admitted this week, the Chiefs have no depth on the offensive line, really no depth at most positions. They need to provide snaps for their second unit on the offensive line, guys like T Barry Richardson, G Jon Asamoah, G/T Ikechuku Ndukwe and C/G Lemuel Jeanpierre. From those names must come players able to step in and fill the holes when they popup.
– Continue pressure on QB β Last week, the Chiefs were able to turn up the heat on Eagles QB Kevin Kolb and they produced five sacks on the night, after no sacks in the first two games. Beyond the sacks, there was constant pressure on Kolb and more than anything that’s what the coaching staff seeks. Getting the passer on the ground is good, but making his feet dance and creating indecision in the pocket is very powerful as well. Whether it’s Rodgers or the backup quarterbacks, the Chiefs need to continue to put pressure on the opponent’s passer.
– Stop the run β OK, this is something the Chiefs defense has to get done each and every time it steps on the field during the 2010 season. Practice, scrimmage, pre-season or regular season games β they have to be consistent in holding opponent’s runners in check. Next to the play of starting QB Matt Cassel, run defense will be the second most important indicator of the Chiefs ability to win games this year.
– Who makes the tackles & blocks? β We know the legs and the rookie returners have shown themselves to be capable of breaking open the game. What must come next are the guys throwing the blocks and the making the tackles. These are the guys coming off the bench, or in some cases they are from the starters, but keep your eye on the blockers and the tacklers in this game. At least one player will earn a regular-season locker based on his play in the kicking game against the Packers.
– Figure out the return game β the Chiefs have gone from not having much in the way of legitimate returners to a wealth of options right now, led by Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas. Both have broken off big runs in the pre-season, something that’s easier to do than in the regular season since teams are still trying to piece together their coverage units. They’ll want to use both McCluster and Arenas, but they need more opportunities for each to return kicks and punts. With two capable returners, there’s no sense putting all the returns in the hands of one guy…