ReFo: KC @ JAX, Week 1
A few short months ago these two sides had a lot in common. They both finished the 2012 season with two wins, they both selected an offensive tackle with their first pick of the draft, and they both revamped their front office and coaching personnel.
Judging by this game however, only one of these teams is making significant strides in the right direction so far — the Chiefs. They were able to dominate in almost every facet of the game and, having gone down 2-0 early thanks to a blocking screw-up which led to a blocked punt for a safety, the Chiefs then rattled off 28 unanswered points and throttled Jacksonville.
But let’s move things down to a micro level and check out some individual performances of note.
Kansas City – Three Performances of Note
Strong Showing Up Front
I’ve long said that the Chiefs have the potential to put a very good O-line on the field when everybody is healthy. In this game their ideal line-up (at least in their eyes) was missing only RG Jon Asomoah. Geoff Schwartz in his stead graded +2.9 for the game, and he was one of four members of the line to grade in the green. Only top pick Eric Fisher failed to do so, earning a -1.5 grade thanks to some iffy run blocking at times. Branden Albert, the subject of much derision at times during the offseason when the Chiefs seemed intent on trading him, responded with a +3.6 grade, the best of the unit, and allowed just a single hit from 38 pass blocking snaps.
The Chiefs have the talent to be successful, especially if they can perform well up front. Judging by this display they’re well on their way.
Old and New Performers on D
It won’t surprise anybody that ILB Derrick Johnson was a standout performer in the game. He led the team in both tackles and stops, and looked every inch the All-Pro-caliber player he is. What was perhaps more surprising was some of the other positive performances on a defense that won its individual matchups more or less across the board. NT Dontari Poe, a player the Chiefs need to take a big step forward in performance, graded at +2.7, only his third game in the green since he came into the league. Poe controlled his man at the point of attack well, but also displayed the ability to collapse the pocket and put the center on skates on more than one occasion as a pass rusher.
The New QB
Based on this evidence, Alex Smith in Kansas City is exactly the right fit. The Chiefs are obviously doing all they can to help him out schematically, with a lot of passes coming out in under two seconds, and rarely asking him to do too much in terms of throw difficulty, but Smith responded by moving the chains comfortably, making good decisions, and providing enough of a threat elsewhere that the Chiefs can maximize their running backs. Smith went deep only once, failing to complete the pass by inches, but the most important thing is that he rarely put the ball in harm’s way, and was efficient enough in the passes he was asked to attempt to make it work. At this point we all know Alex Smith will never be Peyton Manning, but he might be good enough for the Chiefs to have success with him.
Jacksonville – Three Performances of Note
In my weekly segment on 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City previewing this game, I said the Jaguars probably had the offensive tackles to shut down the Chiefs’ pass rush. It seemed I had been way off, given the fact the Chiefs notched six sacks in the game. However, if you look at each of them only one came against their tackles, when Justin Houston beat Luke Joeckel around the edge for the fourth sack. Eugene Monroe allowed a hit and a hurry in 52 pass blocks and conclusively won his battle with the Chiefs’ outside linebackers, while Houston and Joeckel was a more even battle, but definitely not a clear win for the Chiefs.
The issue was that, while the Jaguars’ tackles held up OK, nobody else did! Two of the sacks came unblocked, and the rest came when the interior was abused by various players. Kansas City definitely found ways to bring pressure against the Jags, who are going to need to find a way to shore up the inside if they are to protect their quarterback.
Gabbert Under Fire
This will fall under the category of a bad day at the office for Blaine Gabbert. Between injuries to his throwing hand and being forced to run for his life early and often, he’ll have better days, but at this stage he is running out of opportunities in Jacksonville. Even when he did finally make a nice play down the field it was negated by a vaguely dubious pass interference penalty called on Cecil Shorts for picking off the slot corner.
As poor as Gabbert was, his interceptions tell only half the story, as both of them came with a big assist from his Jaguars teammates. The first was as the result of a total breakdown in communication with his receiver, ending with the ball being thrown straight to Brandon Flowers, while the second came when Joeckel couldn’t cut Tamba Hali to the ground out of the throwing lane as Gabbert cocked to throw to the flat. It’s safe to say Gabbert isn’t being given much help in Jacksonville, but that fact might not buy him much more rope.
Anger Worth the Pick?
I’m not likely to endorse taking a punter with a third-round pick any time soon, but this game would be a good one to use if anybody was going to try it. This offseason we re-vamped our punter grading system with the help of NFL veteran Chris Kluwe. We have included several more facets of kicks and, in the new system, Anger punted his way to a +4.7 grade. He was particularly good on directional punting, and, as strange as it seems, the ball just sounds a little different when boomed off his foot compared to other punters.
– Brandon Flowers made life tough sledding for the Jaguars. He was thrown at 11 times, and allowed just 5 catches for 49 yards, while breaking one up and picking one off.
– Despite a quiet game, Dwayne Bowe was actually the Chiefs’ joint-most targeted receiver, and leading receiver in terms of catches. Kansas City, however, threw to five receivers five or more times, spreading the ball around.
– Discounting YAC, Blaine Gabbert threw for just 22 yards in the air.
PFF Game Ball
In what was one of the best graded defensive performances we’ve had at PFF this week, Derrick Johnson was the standout performance.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam