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Old 05-15-2009, 12:54 PM  
BigRedChief BigRedChief is offline
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USA TODAY: Rebuilding process in Kansas City begins with Cassel at helm

By Gerry Fraley, Special to USA TODAY

From the department of "Be Careful What You Wish For," Matt Cassel is preparing for a season as a starting quarterback for the first time since his senior year at Chatsworth (Calif.) High School.
"You sit around for a long time and hope your opportunity comes," he says.

It arrived for Cassel in the form of an offseason trade that sent him from the riches of the New England Patriots to the rubble of the Kansas City Chiefs. He goes from a team loaded with offensive weapons to a club in transition with the arrival of general manager Scott Pioli and coach Todd Haley, a management tandem from the Bill Parcells tree.

In New England, Cassel was asked to mostly manage the game and did it well, winning 10 games and throwing for nearly 3,700 yards in his 15 starts in place of injured Tom Brady last season. With the Chiefs, Cassel will be asked to win games with far fewer resources.
Who will catch Cassel's passes?


Not tight end Tony Gonzalez. The Chiefs sent the perennial Pro Bowler to the Atlanta Falcons for a second-round pick in the 2010 draft.
Who will provide Cassel with a needed running game?
Possibly Larry Johnson. But how well Johnson meshes with the new staff remains to be seen. He is an unenthusiastic blocker and is coming off two uninspired seasons.

Who will block for Cassel?
New England has a quality offensive line, yet Cassel took an NFL-high 47 sacks last season. The Chiefs gave up 37 sacks in 2008 despite having mobile Tyler Thigpen taking most of the snaps.

Cassel arrived in the heartland with his eyes wide open. He understands the circumstances and embraces the challenge surrounding a team that has six wins total in the last two seasons.

"I can't even tell you the feelings, the emotions I have about it," says Cassel, a backup at Southern California and for his first three seasons with New England. "I said all along that I wanted to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. To have that opportunity here, I am even more excited about that."

Cassel steps into what has been an unsettled position. In the last three seasons, the Chiefs have had three quarterbacks make at least eight starts, with Damon Huard starting eight games in 2006 and 10 in 2007. Thigpen started 11 times in 2008 and flashed potential.

But Kansas City ranked 20th in the NFL last year with 195.6 net passing yards a game. With New England, Cassel threw for 230.8 yards a game with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

But the telling item does not show on the stat sheet. Cassel stepped into a difficult situation when Brady incurred a season-ending knee injury on opening day coincidentally against the Chiefs and held the team together.
"Matt got better every snap that he took last year," says linebacker Mike Vrabel, whom the Chiefs also received in the trade. "He gained confidence and not only did he play better, but he also became a better leader. We knew we had a chance with Matt."

Cassel is the most significant addition to an offense that ranked 26th in the league with 18.2 points a game.
Yet as bad as the offense was, the defense was worse.
Only the winless Detroit Lions allowed more yards a game than Kansas City did (393.2). And the Chiefs were 29th in scoring defense with 27.5 points a game allowed.

Worse yet, the Chiefs set an NFL record for pass-rush futility with 10 sacks. Eleven NFL players had more sacks individually than the Chiefs did collectively; that includes Jared Allen (14), traded to the Minnesota Vikings last offseason.

Hence the focus on defense both in free agency and the draft.
"They've had a little trouble stopping people," Haley says of recent Chiefs teams. "In this league you don't have much of a chance if you can't slow the other offense down."

Pioli and Haley immediately installed one of Parcells' favorite motivational ploys. Each player must earn the arrowhead decal on his helmet. A naked helmet is a bad sign for a player's future.

And when dealing with a rebuilding team, Parcells likes to "churn the roster" by constantly moving players in and out. Pioli and Haley will keep the transaction wire humming.

"This is something Todd and I both believe, based on our histories, that is the right 53 players," says Pioli, who is Parcells' son-in-law. "The best 53 players don't necessarily mean the most skilled, the most athletic or the most talented."

To that end, Pioli has made moves that seem to run against a rebuilding philosophy.
The Chiefs signed a collection of veterans with winning backgrounds. They hope the presence of aging linebackers Zach Thomas and Vrabel will cleanse what recently has been a losing atmosphere.

"If we can get this thing back to where (Arrowhead Stadium) is a tough place to play, we can be successful," Vrabel says. "This was a tough place to play. It was loud, and you had to play extraordinarily well to win. Hopefully, we can get back to that and give the fans something to cheer about. When the product isn't good, there is nothing really to cheer about."

AROUND THE FIELD IN KANSAS CITY
Quarterback: Matt Cassel, obtained from the New England Patriots, performed well in place of injured Tom Brady in 2008, throwing for 21 touchdowns. Cassel will miss the Patriots receivers, who averaged a league-high 6.5 yards after each catch. The Chiefs could get creative with Tyler Thigpen, the league's top rushing quarterback with 386 yards last season.

Running back: Larry Johnson has been in decline since 2006, when he had 416 carries for 1,789 yards. He has 351 carries for 1,433 yards in the last two seasons and has missed time because of injuries and disciplinary matters. Jamaal Charles has sprinter's speed and can play wide receiver.

Wide receiver: Dwayne Bowe has the talent to be a star and should see a lot of passes with tight end Tony Gonzalez gone. The free agent haul included Bobby Engram, an effective third-down option. Mark Bradley could make an impact opposite Bowe.

Tight end: The new regime sent Gonzalez, a 10-time Pro Bowler, to the Atlanta Falcons for a second-round draft pick. The Chiefs will replace Gonzalez from a field that includes Brad Cottam, Tony Curtis and Sean Ryan, who have a combined 30 career catches.

Offensive line: Brian Waters, the Pro Bowl left guard, did not hit it off with the new administration and stayed away from offseason workouts. The Chiefs were effective run blockers in 2008, averaging 4.8 yards a rush last season, fourth best in the league. Branden Albert had 15 starts at left tackle as a rookie, allowing 4 sacks and being called for one infraction, a false start.

Defensive line: The Chiefs will use the 3-4 alignment more often as they attempt to improve a pass rush that managed a single-season record-low 10 sacks last season. Kansas City used its first two draft choices on 3-4 ends: Tyson Jackson and Alex Magee. That raised questions about the future of Glenn Dorsey, the fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft. He had a difficult rookie season, producing one sack and 32 tackles. He'll move outside to end.

Linebacker: Tamba Hali and Turk McBride will try the move from defensive ends to outside linebackers. They can rush the passer, but pass coverage will be a challenge. Derrick Johnson, a first-rounder in 2005, remains a mystery. The team added veterans Zach Thomas and Mike Vrabel for their leadership as much as their skills.

Secondary: Without an effective pass rush, corners Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers went through a trial by fire as rookies last season. The Chiefs ranked 28th in pass defense, allowing 234.3 yards a game. Flowers played well under the circumstances; he didn't commit a pass-related penalty while defending a team-high 13 passes. Safety Jarrad Page had six takeaways.

Special teams: The Chiefs allowed opponents an average starting point after kickoffs of nearly the 32-yard line, worst in the league. The rest of the operation was not much better. Kansas City ranked among the NFL's worst in punt-return average (6.5 yards) and kickoff returns (21.5 yards).

Coaching staff: Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast left the Arizona Cardinals under murky circumstances. The Cardinals went to the Super Bowl last season despite a defense that allowed 26.6 points a game in the regular season, fifth worst in the NFL. Chan Gailey returns for a second year as offensive coordinator, but look for new head coach Todd Haley to be heavily involved in this aspect.

Outlook: New general manager Scott Pioli seems as if he's in a hurry to turn around a franchise that went 6-26 in the last two seasons, signing a dozen free agents while trading for Cassel and Vrabel. Those are not the moves of an executive embarking on a long and drawn-out rebuilding program.


Find this article at:
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/footb...l-report_N.htm

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Old 05-15-2009, 02:18 PM   #2
Mr. Krab Mr. Krab is offline
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Outlook: New general manager Scott Pioli seems as if he's in a hurry to turn around a franchise that went 6-26 in the last two seasons, signing a dozen free agents while trading for Cassel and Vrabel. Those are not the moves of an executive embarking on a long and drawn-out rebuilding program.
I disagree with this part. I think this offseason looked exactly like a GM taking his time and looking at this as a long term deal. He could of been much more aggressive and short term. We still have 25 million dollars in cap room that indicates that we are taking a long term approach.
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Old 05-15-2009, 02:27 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Mr. Krab's View Post
I disagree with this part. I think this offseason looked exactly like a GM taking his time and looking at this as a long term deal. He could of been much more aggressive and short term. We still have 25 million dollars in cap room that indicates that we are taking a long term approach.
Yeah I think so too. I don't see where the author is getting that Pioli is trying to win this year.
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Old 05-15-2009, 02:38 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Mr. Krab's View Post
I disagree with this part. I think this offseason looked exactly like a GM taking his time and looking at this as a long term deal. He could of been much more aggressive and short term. We still have 25 million dollars in cap room that indicates that we are taking a long term approach.
Exactly. This looks like an offseason that's being used to bridge a 12-month gap between 2008 and 2010. We can't just forfeit 2009 so bring in warm bodies that can TEACH the young guys something.
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Old 05-15-2009, 02:41 PM   #5
DaneMcCloud DaneMcCloud is offline
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Originally Posted by THISmaqe View Post
Exactly. This looks like an offseason that's being used to bridge a 12-month gap between 2008 and 2010. We can't just forfeit 2009 so bring in warm bodies that can TEACH the young guys something.
Leading by example is a good thing.

IF those guys (Vrabel and Thomas) can stay healthy. But personally, I truly doubt that they'll affect all 22 other guys on defense.

It's not like Tony G's incredible work ethic carried over on offense.

IMO, this type of thinking is over-rated.
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Old 05-15-2009, 02:46 PM   #6
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Interesting...i didn't realize Cassel took an NFL high 47 sacks in '08.
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Old 05-15-2009, 02:58 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by THISmaqe View Post
Exactly. This looks like an offseason that's being used to bridge a 12-month gap between 2008 and 2010. We can't just forfeit 2009 so bring in warm bodies that can TEACH the young guys something.
The writer for the article doesnt understand Pioli's logic, which is actually quite simple, and understandable. He picked up the veteran guys to help the rest of the team build character. Thomas, Vrabel, Engram wont be here when we make our SB run, they are basically fill in guys that can take up space and lead our team while we continue to build our team through the draft in the next few years and get the young guys that we want.
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