Two preseason games took place last night, as the Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs evened up their records to 1-1 after a 28-16 Panthers win, while the Denver Broncos ran their record up to 2-0 following a 34-0 blowout victory over the San Francisco 49ers (this after defeating the Seattle Seahawks in the preseason opener). Below are some assorted takeaways from both games, with a focus on the Chiefs skill position players.
Thoughts on Chiefs offense
Although the Chiefs lost to the Panthers, they averaged 5.4 yards per play (compared to 5.0 for Carolina) and received two big preseason performances from their top two pass-catchers. Jamaal Charles (out with a minor foot injury), Travis Kelce, and Dwayne Bowe will carry the Alex Smith-less passing attack from a skill position standpoint, and the Chiefs will need bigger and better things in 2014 from Bowe, who struggled mightily last year. Bowe looked slow in 2013, but he looked anything but “done” last night by racking up five receptions for 62 yards on six targets for an average of about 10.3 yards per target. He’s clearly the No. 1 receiver, and the No. 2 target behind him will be Kelce, who could have had a nice rookie year out of Cincinnati had he not suffered a season-ending injury that was far worse than initially expected.
Kelce led the Chiefs last night in receiving yards with 63 of them, catching all four passes thrown at him and hauling in a 43-yard TD from rookie Aaron Murray in the process. Look for Kelce to have a big year, as the Chiefs should have a nice dose of twin-TE sets with underrated blocking TE Anthony Fasano in the fold (both Fasano and Kelce can excel in the red zone).
Elsewhere, Frankie Hammond Jr. turned three catches into 57 yards, and running back Knile Davis had three receptions. Charles will once again hoard the touches, but Davis can contribute to the passing game. The Chiefs have a host of intriguing YAC players who can make plays from the slot, and those guys will be more instrumental in supporting the top dogs in the passing game than the likes of Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins on the outside. Avery once again lined up as the No. 2 receiver, but he once again did nothing to help Smith or the other Chiefs QBs.
Jonathan Stewart looks like the J-Stew of old
It was only one exhibition match, but Jonathan Stewart turned back the lock a little bit by rushing for 26 yards on just four carries. He had a long run to help spark the offense, and he punched in touchdowns from two and three yards out. Stewart desperately needs to stay healthy, because he’s a significant injury away from possibly being out of the league. He’s played in just 15 games in the past two seasons, averaging under four yards per carry in both campaigns. If Stewart can’t stay healthy this year, then this positive momentum will be for naught. But if he can, then the Panthers could have a solid running game to support Cam Newton, so Stewart still holds importance to this offense.
Steady Derek Anderson
We all remember his one-hit wonder season with the Cleveland Browns and his inability to ever come close to following up that fluky year, but Anderson has looked pretty darn good through the first two preseason games this year. Newton is very durable and will star for the Panthers again this year, but the team can rest assured knowing that their veteran backup has looked capable in August. He completed five of eight passes for 91 yards, averaging 11.4 yards per attempt and throwing the team’s lone TD pass (a 16-yarder to the rising Brenton Bersin in the third quarter). Anderson led all QBs with a 141.1 QB Rating, and he shouldn’t embarrass himself if ever thrown into the fire in a regular season game.
Denver Broncos QBs Shine
Peyton Manning, of course, had a big day, but more notable were the standout performances of young backup passers Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert in the Broncos 34-point party against the San Francisco 49ers. The Broncos QBs combined to go for 30-38, as all passers notched a touchdown with no interceptions. Osweiler was the star of the night with a 10-13-105-1-0 line, and both he and Dysert showed that they are developing nicely under Manning and ace offensive coordinator Adam Gase.
It looks like Osweiler is a strong heir apparent to Manning’s throne on the Broncos offense, and the “loser” of a future of a QB competition could be nice trade bait. I mean, if Ryan Mallett got looks, QBs that actually did well in the preseason at some point should be in the mix. But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself, because it’s just the preseason, and the 49ers did play a sloppy game (complete with four turnovers). Still, it was great to see Osweiler and Dysert look good out there, though Osweiler’s performance was more complete. Both Thomases also put in nice days in the passing game, when looking at the pass-catching side of things.
Broncos Running Game
Montee Ball is entrenched as the team’s feature back and should have a big year, but the Broncos have plenty of competition behind him with the likes of Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson vying for the No. 2 job and even younger guys like Kapri Bibbs, Brennan Clay, and Juwan Thompson looking to stick on the roster. There’s some intriguing talent at the position, but the Broncos could only muster 2.6 yards per carry against the 49ers defense. Anderson led the team with nine carries, but Hillman had the most efficient day on the ground with an average of 4.8 yards per pop. Nobody else came close to that total, but the competition remains even at all spots. Thompson and Clay both averaged below two yards per carry, and I liked Bibbs more than those two in college anyway.
Blaine Gabbert does it again
It’s always a great thing when Peyton Manning “does it again”, but the same can’t be said for Blaine Gabbert, who is doing everything he can to ensure that he doesn’t stick around on the 49ers final roster. After looking absolutely lost in the team’s first preseason game, Gabbert averaged just 2.9 yards per attempt (Anderson’s 3.2 yards per carry was a better average on a per-play basis) and threw an interception in the process. I mean, it’s cool that he completed more than half of his pass attempts (8-14), but it doesn’t matter if they only go for 40 yards. I think he’s done in San Francisco unless if he turns it around, and he might be done in this league if he doesn’t cut the mustard in San Francisco. He’s played so poorly this preseason that he doesn’t fit the prototype of a backup, since veteran backups are supposed to be “safe, but unspectacular” players (like Derek Anderson). Gabbert is unsafe and unspectacular, and his brief days as a reclamation project could be over, but he has the rest of the preseason to turn it around.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert Brock Osweiler C.J. Anderson Carolina Panthers Denver Broncos Derek Anderson Dwayne Bowe Frankie Hammond Jr. Jonathan Stewart Kansas City Chiefs Kapri Bibbs Peyton Manning Ronnie Hillman San Francisco 49ers Travis Kelce Zac Dysert