Whether they know it or not, the meeting tonight with the Philadelphia Eagles is a very important moment for the 2010 Chiefs.
Just how far away is the roster put together by Pioli/Haley from being a contender? We will find out a lot more during the first half of this game at Arrowhead Stadium. If the first-line Chiefs can go play-for-play against the first-line Eagles it will be a sign of the improvement of this team from a year ago. If at half-time the Chiefs find themselves losing the battle, then it shines a pretty bright light on the rebuilding process and how far away they are from reaching mediocrity, let alone contender status.
The Eagles are a team in transition, with the biggest change being at quarterback where Kevin Kolb (above) is the starter, replacing Donovan McNabb. Kolb had a big day against the Chiefs last year and he certainly has every reason to be looking forward to another chance to throw the ball against the Kansas City defense.
Offense, defense and the kicking game all must show improvement for the Chiefs. This is always the most important game of the pre-season, given the fact that the starters will likely play into the third quarter. No matter what side of the football, there has not been enough consistency and productivity.
In two games, they’ve lost by a combined 40-25, scoring just two touchdowns, while allowing four. They have no sacks; they’ve allowed four. They have no takeaways; they’ve given the ball away six times.
Here’s what the Chiefs need to get done against the Eagles:
– Take the ball down the field in the passing game β QB Matt Cassel’s completion percentage is up, just a shade over 74 percent. That’s a great number. His yards-per-attempt is 5.56 yards. That’s not a great number. It’s not even a good or average number. It’s not enough and it’s got to change. This does not completely fall to Cassel to change, because it’s up to his receivers to get separation and put defenders in a position to miss. It’s also necessary for the guys who catch the ball to take it down the field, and accumulate some yards after the catch. After two games, the Chiefs have 50 completions, none for more than 19 yards. The longest offensive play of the year was a 21-yard run.
– Get the running game going against a very good defense β The Chiefs would appear to have a wealth of opportunities in the running game and it’s been productive through two games. They are averaging 141 rushing yards per game. But they face a rush defense in the Eagles that in the pre-season has allowed an average of just 60 yards rushing per game, and an average carry of 2.9 yards It’s time for the Chiefs No. 1 offense to show it can move the ball on the ground against one of the league’s better defenses. In defining the personality of this edition of the Chiefs, the outcome of their running game will be a huge factor.
– Put the passer on the ground β In two games the Chiefs defense has faced 54 passing plays. They have not sacked the quarterback. By their own coaching staff accounting from the game tapes showed the Chiefs had four pass rush pressures. That would be four times in 54 plays where the pass rusher got their hands on the quarterback in some fashion, for the most part after the ball had left his hands. It’s not always the sacks, but it’s always the pressure that the passer has to feel. The Chiefs need to make Kolb feel uncomfortable.
– Show they can handle the Eagles speed β When Philadelphia puts WR Jeremy Maclin, WR DeSean Jackson and RB LeSean McCoy on the field, they have one of the fastest collections of offensive weapons in the league. Just remember last year’s game in Philly when Kolb hit Jackson on a slant route down the middle of the field, and the receiver roared away from the Chiefs defense without being touched or even challenged. The Chiefs have worked hard to improve their team speed. A game like this will show us just how much progress they’ve made and how much further they must go.
– Keep getting Arenas room to run β Whether this young man can be a forced in the regular season, when the special teams play will be better across the board, remains to be seen. But there’s no doubt he has the potential to be one of the NFL’s most dynamic performers and he can be a game changer. They must continue to block β especially for the kickoff return β and give this guy a chance to explode.
– Get Succop back on track β The second-year kicker has made three of his five kicks, and his missed FGs have been from 53 yards. So what’s the problem? In the last 10 days or so of practice, Succop hit a bare spot, missing kicks that in the first two weeks of training camp he regularly made without a problem. Long ones, short ones, he missed plenty. Todd Haley has turned up the pressure on him, trying to distract him or putting whether or not the team has to run gasers on the outcome of his kick. It’s no major thing, but the sooner they get the kid back on track, the better. He’s going to be the biggest point producer on the team and the Chiefs cannot survive a Succop slump.