QB Matt Cassel, Minnesota Vikings
HT: 6-5, WT: 230, Born: 5-17-1982, College: USC, Drafted: Round 7
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Cassel's experience gives him the edge in the quarterback competition, and he bonds with new receivers Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson. He secures the starting job by the time the season starts, and takes full advantage of Adrian Peterson keeping defenses honest. Cassel holds on to the starting job, despite looking over his shoulder the entire way and game manages his way to his best stats in three seasons.
Cassel can't beat out Ponder for the starting job, and he begins the season as the backup. Ponder does just well enough to avoid being replaced and Cassel spends most of the season, hoping for a shot to get back in the game. He will see a couple snaps here or there, but never posts enough stats to justify having him on your roster.
Cassel's last two seasons in Kansas City were equally disappointing. Nine games played, 160 completions, 1700 yards passing and 10 or less TD passes. Last season, he averaged 1.3 interceptions per game. It was no shock to anyone when he moved on. Minnesota signed him to a two year contract in March, and he'll begin the pre-season in a competition with starter Christian Ponder. Ponder's job is far from secure, and Cassel will have plenty of opportunities to take over the starting job, even if he can't secure it by the time the season begins.
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2012 Game Summaries
Week 1 - The announcers in this game asked which Matt Cassel they would see, good Matt or bad Matt, before the game. It turns out they got to see both. The fact is, when the Chiefs were moving the ball on the ground and things were going well Cassel looked every bit as good as the other Matt in this game. When the Falcons stepped up and stopped the running game, and put pressure on Cassel in the pocket, he looked like a rookie quarterback just trying to figure things out. In the first quarter he had time to go through his reads and made the right call over and over. He threw accurately inside and out, and even hit some deeper throws against tight coverage. In the first quarter alone he threw a perfect strike to Dwayne Bowe between two defenders for a 23 yard gain a he dropped a precision pass across the field to Tony Moeaki for an 11 yard gain. In the second quarter he got even better. On consecutive throws he hit Dwayne Bowe on a post route for 21 yards and lobbed a 22 yard touchdown over the middle to Kevin Boss. Both of these targets were well defended but Cassel looked supremely confident in both himself and his receivers. He scored the Chiefs second TD of the quarter himself on a QB draw from the 5. He doesn’t have great speed, but he did show great vision and patience followed his blockers into the end zone. In the third quarter Cassel seemed to lose that confidence and began relying almost solely on slot receiver Dexter McCluser and his backs. This and the lack of a running game proved to be a poor recipe and the Falcons released the dogs once Cassel stopped looking downfield. He the proceeded to turn the ball over on three consecutive drives with a fumble and two interceptions. The first interception was absolutely not his fault as Tony Moeaki had the ball go straight through his hands. The second was completely his fault as he tried to throw across the field rolling to his right. By the time he got the ball back the game was long over and he piled up a few more stats against a prevent defense.
Week 2 - Cassel and the Chiefs just couldn’t get much going against a revamped Bills defense. They only gained 71 yards combined on their first 5 drives and went into halftime trailing by 3 touchdowns. The Bills widened their lead in the 3rd quarter, which allowed Cassel to inflate his stats against a prevent defense for the rest of the game. He hooked up with Dwayne Bowe for a couple of touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and finished with over 300 yards passing on the day, but most of it came with the game well out of reach. The offensive line gave him little time in the pocket as he was sacked 5 times on the day and lost a crucial fumble, but his only interception came on a Hail Mary into the end zone on the last play of the game.
Week 3 - Cassel was allowed to throw 44 times against one of the league’s worst defenses thus far and put up disturbingly disappointing totals. After an opening drive that included several accurate short throws, Cassel badly overthrew Jon Baldwin in the back of the end zone and the Chiefs had to settle for a field goal in what would become a game long trend. On the Chiefs second drive Cassel made a terrible decision and throw on a short out to Dexter McCluster, overthrowing again into double coverage. The second quarter included much of the same, good timing on short slants to Dwayne Bowe but terrible throws downfield. Dwayne Bowe was overthrown in the end zone on third and seven before the Chiefs second field goal and Cassel fumbled on a sack just before the half. There were two receivers open on the play, but Cassel dropped his eyes too soon and missed both. An errant Cassel throw in the third quarter led to a Dexter McCluster injury on the Chiefs first drive of the second half and their second ended with Cassel throwing an easy interception into double coverage. With the Chiefs threatening at the start of the fourth quarter, Cassel again dropped his eyes at the hint of pass rush and took a sack to force another Ryan Succop field goal. A fine example of head coach Romeo Crennel’s confidence in Cassel was shown in the Chiefs final drive. Cassel started the drive by eluding the Saints pass rush and finding Job Baldwin right at the marker on third and ten with a strike. He then connected with Jamaal Charles for a four yard gain to set up a make or break 4th and 5 at midfield. He threw a dart to Dwayne Bowe for the first down and the Chiefs arrive at the 2 minute warning nearly in field goal range and only 39 yards from victory. At that point, Crennel called five straight run plays and settled for a game tying field goal…on the road…against Drew Brees. Cassel’s biggest play of the overtime period came on the very first play, a solid throw to Bowe on the post for a 17 yard gain that eventually flipped field position enough for the Chiefs to get a game winning field goal.
Week 4 - Cassel attempted a heavy volume of passes in the game, but don’t let the quantity fool you into thinking they were quality. Cassel was actually a turnover machine in the game, throwing three interceptions and fumbling once (which was recovered) at really inopportune times. There’s never a good time for an interception, but these were momentum-killing passes that Cassel threw. Two of the interceptions were deflections off of receivers where the ball was thrown either a little bit ahead of or a little bit behind the intended target. When Cassel was given ample time to throw and was able to step into his passes, he actually looked very efficient and the Kansas City offense moved the ball well. But that rarely happened, and instead Cassel tried forcing a number of passes that he probably cannot make. Fortunately for fantasy owners, he’s surrounded by a number of great skill position guys who can make things happen for him when he can’t. His first touchdown to RB Jamaal Charles was a simple crossing route on which Charles burst up the sideline and dove into the end zone for the score. Cassel’s second score was actually a horribly underthrown rainbow pass that took forever to come down to Bowe, but the receiver was able to make the adjustment, haul it in, and waltz into the end zone untouched. Cassel lost 36 yards on an earlier deep ball to Bowe that was negated by an illegal formation flag. Late in the game, Cassel picked up 35 “garbage time” yards on Kansas City’s final possession when the Chargers used an extremely soft coverage.
Week 5 - The Chiefs spent three quarters trying to protect Cassel from failure but it was a shot to the head that ended up knocking him from the game in the fourth quarter. Cassel threw just 15 passes in three and half quarters of action and very few of them were pretty. He had great timing on a seven yard hitch to Dwayne Bowe, one of just two passes he threw in the first quarter. His first interception came on one of his best throws, a well-aimed slant to Bowe who bobbled the ball into the defensive backs hand. In the third quarter Bowe again cost Cassel by letting another well thrown pass bounce off his helmet for another interception. In fact, those were two of Cassel’s best throws of the day, and Bowe bailed him out on at least three others that were floated behind the receiver. Cassel started the fourth quarter with a well throw deep ball to Jon Baldwin. It was good recognition of single coverage and he threw the ball up high where only Baldwin could get it. Unfortunately for Cassel his next completion would be his last as he left the game with a head injury midway through the 4th quarter.
Week 8 - Coming on in relief of the injured Brady Quinn – which seems almost surreal to write – Cassel had a below-average day against a Raiders defense playing at its highest level so far this season. At times, Cassel looked like a serviceable NFL quarterback – checking multiple reads, adjusting to the defensive schemes of the Raiders, extending plays on his own – but more often than not, he looked like an out-of-his-league fourth-stringer called into emergency duty. Aside from a pass to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe on a deep crossing route and a twenty-yard seam route pass to Tony Moeaki, Cassel checked it down all day. His hand was fairly forced, as the Raiders pass rush was – for the first time this season – relentless, knocking him down several times and sacking him twice.
Somehow, Cassel finished as the game’s passing leader with two hundred and eighteen passing yards. His lone interception of the day came on a pass intended for Jon Baldwin, in which Baldwin broke his route off early and Raiders cornerback Pat Lee caught deep in Oakland territory. Cassel’s fourth quarter touchdown pass to Dexter McCluster came on a check down that McCluster took to the house, slipping through both levels of the Oakland defense. While Cassel’s pass came in quintessential garbage time, it actually put the Chiefs within striking distance of the Raiders, as they were only down by ten with two minutes remaining. While there is little doubt that Cassel should be at the controls of the Kansas City “offense” over Brady Quinn, Cassel does need to step up his level of play if he wants to help the Chiefs remain competitive.
Week 9 - It’s not so much that Cassel played poorly; it’s that he seems almost incapable of playing well that is the problem. He’s just kind of “there”. Nearly all of his passes were safe checkdowns or short routes underneath, and the team rarely took a shot down the field despite trailing from the opening possession. The one thing Cassel did do well was avoid the pass rush of San Diego. He was able to convert a number of third downs and keep drives alive by moving his feet very well and scrambling out of the pocket. In fact, he was very nearly the Chiefs’ leading rusher with just two fewer yards than Jamaal Charles had (on six fewer attempts). Unfortunately for Cassel, he was only able to avoid the rush for so long. Backed up near his own end zone late in the game, he was chased down from behind and had the ball stripped away. San Diego quickly pounced on the football for the defensive score, and the route was on. On an ensuing possession, Cassel again turned the ball over although that one wasn’t entirely his fault. He threw a pass to WR Dexter McCluster that was perhaps a bit high and wide, but certainly catchable. However, the ball bounced off McCluster’s hands and into the waiting arms of a San Diego defender who returned it for another defensive touchdown.
Week 10 - Matt Cassel managed the game perfectly for the Chiefs when they were playing with a lead. He completed intermediate and short passes when he was asked to do so, even though those occasions were rare. He wasn't helped by a few drops from his receivers also. Cassel didn't take a shot down the field until the fourth quarter when he hit Jon Baldwin deep with a very accurate throw, but Ike Taylor made an excellent play to recover and knock the ball free from the receiver. After that throw however, Cassel forced a throw on third and long and should have been intercepted for a touchdown by Ryan Clark. When Cassel needed to make plays for the Chiefs late in regulation, he was nearly perfect on the final drive to move his offense into field goal range and force the game into overtime. After leading that drive, Cassel threw a game ending interception to Lawrence Timmons in overtime however. There was no excuse for Cassel's throw as two defenders would have had an opportunity to intercept the ball before his intended receiver even got near it.
Week 11 - Cassel had one decent drive in his half of football that wasn’t good enough to earn him a second half. In the first quarter, Cassel completed only one downfield pass, a 22 yard gain on a seam route to Tony Moeaki. He was pressured heavily and struggled to get a clean pass off. He started the second quarter even worse, turning the wrong direction on a running play to cause a broken play. On the very next play he terribly overthrew Jamaal Charles wide open in the flat. Cassel’s only decent drive came with 53 seconds left in the half as he led them 65 yards for a field goal. Cassel completed back to back passes of 20 and 26 yards to Moeaki and Dexter McCluster. The throw to McCluster was one of his best plays of the game as he avoided the rush but kept his eyes downfield to find the open receiver.