Note: Even though this camp report if from Friday’s practice (the one that was so humid and caused a lot of players to struggle) I feel I’ve included a lot of material that hasn’t been included in previous camp reports.
Well Chiefs fans, the first pre-season game is now less then a week away. I was faced with a tough choice this week. My birthday is Monday and I had two options for my gift this year, a new ipod or a road trip to St. Joe to spend a day at training camp on Friday. As a true addict, you can guess which option I picked (not to mention that the title of this post should have given it away). Now I have a couple of confessions. I had never been to training camp before. Several years ago I went to an open practice at arrowhead but that’s about it. So I’m going to approach this from two different angles. The first will be for those that have never gone to camp before so that you have some idea what its like and maybe even help you out if you’re considering going. Second, I’ll try to give you some insight into what I saw on the field at camp.
It can be a little overwhelming to try and keep tabs on everything that is going on so I decided to focus a lot of my time on the offensive and defensive lines. I did this for a few different reasons. First, it is the area where I’m most concerned and wanted to see how they looked. Second, when they aren’t tackling the lines are the only place you get to see actual contact going on that closest resembles actual game play. Finally, several of the players I was most excited to get a look at were in these groups. As an added bonus, I found that the masses tend to follow the skill players around so its easier to get a look at the big guys.
I’ll give a break down of a few players that I spent some time watching specifically. Some of these I set out to watch and a couple others just caught my attention. Among them are Jerrell Powe, Kelly Gregg, Allen Bailey, Tyson Jackson, Rodney Hudson, and David Mims.
One last confession, I named my column the Armchair Addict for a reason. I’m a true armchair quarterback. I do not claim to be an expert on the proper technique for offensive and defensive linemen. So these opinions are those of one fan who watched one day of practice. If nothing else, I got some pretty good pictures.
So come along to training camp with me after the break.
Living in the Wichita area, a trip to camp in St. Joseph is an all day affair. I left my house in the morning armed with the essentials….
A note on the water bottle, officially, sealed water bottles are the only outside drinks allowed into the camp area. I did see a couple people with what looked like other drinks they brought in, but bring those at your own risk. I killed my water the first hour there and then had to fork over $3 for a 20 oz. gatoraid. Now back to the trip……
Now, if you’re like me and don’t live just down the road from St. Joe it may mean a lot of drive time with hours of scenery that looks like……..
For me, the opportunity to listen to hours of my favorite music and local sports talk radio was great. I also recommend downloading podcasts of your favorite sports radio show if thats your thing.
Driving note: I haven’t uploaded the roads in my Tom Tom (my GPS) in a while and found out the hard way that highway 59 is closed at Atchison and I had to detour north to 36 via highway 7. On the way home I just took 29 south to the turnpike. I don’t know if it saved me any time but it was easier, so if you’re going to St. Joe via Topeka, take note.
Now, along with music and football I’m also a huge fan of good food. So I intentionally arrived in St. Joe in time to grab a late lunch before I headed to campus for practice. I did some research online to pick my spot. The local sports radio stations sometimes are on remote at local sports bars during camp, there’s a legenday steakhouse the Hoof and Horn, but I’m a huge fan of cajun food so I opted to try Bourdreaux’s in down town. If you’re a fan of that kind of food it was as good as I’ve had outside of New Orleans. I had a cup of the seafood gumbo and the Super Jambalaya………..
Okay, enough about highways and lunch, let’s talk about training camp. There is designated parking on campus that is pretty close to the fields ($5 charge). There is a full Chiefs shop for cloths and souvenirs, full concessions, and a bouncy play area for kids. Like the Chiefs shop at Arrowhead, the prices at the shop are a little steep. However, they did have the long sleeve t-shirts on clearance so I picked one up for only $12.
After checking out the layout I headed over to the practice field where the players had just taken the field. As I walked the perimeter looking for the best spot I ran across Mitch Holtus recording a segment for the mothership. It is now up at KCchiefs.com titled Making the 53: mentors……
I also noticed that the despite not going full contact they still had referees on hand including Ed Hochuli…….
After some general warm ups and stretching they broke into some individual drills. I watched Zorn work with Cassel for a little while. He really does give constant advice and even threw some balls to the receivers with him.
Then they broke into some special teams work. During the kickoff portion I heard Haley yell something to the effect of “We’ve got a chance to be dominant here! That will make a difference!” He then got on somebody saying “Hey Jersey Shore that’s not how we’re going to do it, okay Jersey!” I couldn’t tell who he was talking to, the new safety Piscatelli might make sense, but the Jersey Shore nickname cracked me up. Then they did a drill where the special team squads were on the sideline and Haley counted down from ten while the team ran out and had to get the kick off before Haley finished. I got a pretty good shot of Succop in action………
Next they broke into more groups and that’s when the offensive and defensive lines went head to head in some different drills. This is where I really watched a few different guys. Let’s start with Jerrell Powe. When you see the three KC NTs, Powe clearly looks the most impressive. Based on appearance he looks like he could be the answer at NT for KC……..
They started off by doing some kind of drill where there was a partial o-line and three defenders. I keyed in on Powe who was attacking between the G and C (Lilja and Hudson). They did three straight reps and I was really impressed with Powe. He went hard and took both guys on, even driving them back a couple times……
After his reps were done they cycled in another group and you could tell that Powe was already having trouble with the heat. He was the only player at that point to take off his helmet and take a knee….
When his group was up to take another round of reps you could see that Powe was still gassed. This time he got dominated by the o-line. On the final rep Hudson drove him sideways completely away from the play all by himself. Now, it was really hot and humid. As was reported yesterday a lot of players had problems with the heat. However, it was early in practice and Powe was the first player I saw gassed. He also doesn’t have the excuse of just getting to camp like a lot of the others who had problems. For the rest of the day I never saw Powe look good. To his credit, he never pulled himself out and finished the practice, but if this was a sign of his conditioning I’d say we shouldn’t expect a whole lot out of Powe to start the season.
Kelly Gregg was another player that seemed to struggle with the heat. In many of these line contact drills Gregg just sat out to the side on one knee with his helmet off. He did take some reps here and there where he held his ground, but nothing flashy. At the end of practice when they ran again one of the coaches called him out of the running, Haley heard it and yelled “He’s fine!” but the coach insisted and Gregg went off to the side with his arms raised like he was upset. I couldn’t tell if he was upset that he was called out or at Haley for questioning it. I’m hoping it was just the extreme heat and the fact that it was only his second day. Otherwise, based on what I saw from Gregg and Powe, we may see a lot of Anthony Toribio at NT to start the pre season.
Since I mentioned Hudson going against Powe above, I’ll talk about him next. I’ve heard some concerns that Hudson may be too small. He certainly isn’t the tallest lineman out there, but he looks solid, not scrawny at all. Reports say that he played in college at 285, but I would say he looks bigger then that now. That having been said, the added bulk doesn’t seem to have hurt his conditioning. As I pointed out, when Powe was already shot, Hudson drove him hard out of the play. Even late in practice Hudson seemed to still have his legs. If they were looking at him at G, the height may be more of a concern, but at center I feel good about him as the long term solution after watching him for one day.
Next let’s talk Allen Bailey. One common comment from people at camp is that Bailey is very physically impressive. He definitely is. I took this picture early in practice of him and our new LB Brandon Siler…….
I remember hearing some radio host after the loss to Baltimore say that you could just see the physical difference between the Ravens and the Chiefs. He said that the Chiefs just didn’t have many guys that off the field looked physically intimidating like some of the Ravens did. Well I can tell you that these two guys are pretty intimidating to look at.
In the drills Bailey really showed he has physical talent. Going against some of the 2nd and 3rd string o-line he just physically manhandled them. I watched him on three consecutive snaps just destroy rookie free agent Chris Harr. I mean he just killed him. However, even after plays where I thought he looked good, d-line coach Anthony Pleasant didn’t seem that pleased. On multiple occasions he pulled Bailey out of the drill to go over technique. At one point he had him get in a three point stance and just hold it. After maybe 30 seconds he would walk over and knock Bailey’s arm out from under him and Bailey would fall forward to the turf. He did that like 3-4 times in a row before he finally let Bailey go back and join the others. My overall impression is that Bailey has all the physical tools needed but has a ways to go in terms of the technique the staff wants him to use.
That brings me to the final defensive lineman that I went out of my way to watch, Tyson Jackson. Keeping in mind that Glenn Dorsey was riding a stationary bike all day, Jackson was far and away the best d-lineman on the field. I never once saw him take a play off. Even on plays where he was going against first string linemen and didn’t beat them he was still fighting hard, often violently. Maybe it was just a good day. Maybe the other linemen that I had to compare him to aren’t that good, but even when comparing him to guys like Bailey and Gilberry, Tyson looked like the man. The other players seemed to be taking note because I heard more cheers for him from his teammates then any other player during these drills. He looked like the guy we saw in the first half of the MNF game last year before he got hurt. I’m not saying that he will come out and earn his draft slot this year, but on a day where a lot of the other defenders were hurting, Jackson stood out to me.
Now to the last player that I singled out to watch, undrafted free agent OT David Mims. I didn’t set out to watch Mims (in fact I was planning on keeping a closer eye on Asamoah, who looked solid every time I did see him) but its really hard not to notice Mims. The guys is a giant. Here’s a pic of him with OC Bill Muir…..
Now Muir isn’t the tallest guy on the planet, but he’s not short either. Mims is listed at 6’8″ and 335 lbs. You can see by looking at him that he’s a pretty athletic 335 and probably has room to add some bulk to his frame. Sometimes you can question if an athlete is really as tall as they are listed, but Mims is every bit of 6’8″. I may have even guessed he was an inch or two taller. Now I’m no expert, but if you asked me what problems I would expect an undrafted rookie tackle who is 6’8″ and coming out of a little division two school to have I would say that speed rushers would probably blow right by him on the outside and bull rushers would probably get under him to use his height as a disadvantage and drive him out of the way. However, Mims really moves well for a guy his size. The only time I saw him get beat on the outside is when DeMarrio Williams did a nice fake inside spin move and beat him around the end. It was a nice move and one of the other backers even yelled “That a boy D, Nice!” Other then that nobody could get around him (he never went up against first teamers like Hali or Jackson). Then when 310 lb. Dion Gales tried to bull rush him Mims did a great job of getting his pads low and holding his ground. On consecutive plays I watched him completely shut down fellow undrafted rookie Brandon Bair who was listed as the best undrafted rookie in the AFC West by ESPN last week. I was really surprised and impressed by his play. Especially on a day when so many big guys were struggling. Then on the way home the 810 evening host was talking to Rich Baldinger about him and Baldinger was also saying how impressed he was. They even had on Mims’ college coach to talk to him about how he slipped by teams and what he was like as a college player. I have one more bit on Mims at the end of the post.
Now here are just a few more nice pics I got and some random thoughts to go with them.
One note on Breaston. It was only his second day in camp and he was already running with the first squad some. However, at one point they were working on hurry up offense and Cassel signaled Breaston that he needed to go in motion. Breaston did and started to go all the way across the line to the other side. Cassel reached out and stopped him and pointed back the way he came. Breaston seemed confused so Cassel signaled a time out. Haley was annoyed and said something to the effect of “Well that kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?!” Breaston was then replaced by Urban.
Speaking of Urban, he seems to be up on the WR totem pole right now. With Baldwin out it was Bowe, Breaston, and Urban working with the ones. It appears he is ahead of Verran Tucker at this point. Urban had the catch of the day during 11 on 11s. It was a nice first down sideline grab. I got a pic mid throw, the ball is in the top right and Urban is breaking towards the sideline in the bottom left.
Cassel looked okay. He was the only QB who would try throwing the deep ball on the 11 on 11s that day. He missed some and hit some.
The 11 on 11s section is when Richardson went down. I didn’t see it happen but he laid there for a minute talking to trainers and then they sat him up. He sat like this for a minute but never grabbed a specific spot. Hopefully just heat related cramps.
The last thing they did was run again. This time they had the offense and defense start in a huddle on opposite ends and one guy at a time ran in a zig zag towards the other side and would get in the back of the other line. Guys that had been in camp a week had to do 4 total laps of down and back. Guys that just got to camp only had to do 2. At first Haley was the only coach out with them but then he yelled for the other coaches to come out and encourage them to give it their best. Romeo had the crowd laughing in this pick….
The players then stretched a little more to close practice. At this point the masses started heading to “autograph hill” to try and get a good spot to grab some signatures. If you go and want to get some you will have to fight through a pretty good crowd. However, I hung back to try and hear what Haley said to the team at the end of practice and I’m glad I did. It was really hard to hear because some college students that were already cleaning the bleachers had left their go-cart running, but I made out a few things. Haley told them something to the effect that he knew it was really hot and some of them were hurting but it would pay off. I clearly heard him say “we will wear their a@#$# out in the fourth quarter”. He then called a bunch of the players out of the group and had them stand in a line behind him. He then paired the rookies with one of the veterans behind him. They were mostly players that played opposite the rookies. For example, he paired Stanzi with a d-back (I couldn’t hear who, but he said to Stanzi “He’ll help you understand what they’re doing back there in coverage”). Again, it was hard to hear but I did hear Haley call Gregg “old man Gregg” and Ryan Lilja “the grey haired guy” but the two that I found the most interesting were Justin Houston and David Mims. He paired Houston with Leonard Pope (a good pairing I thought, both are from Georgia and Pope is a noted good guy). Haley went out of his way to say for all to hear “You’ve got a full time job Pope. This guy doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know yet. He may walk around like he thinks he does, but trust me he doesn’t.” Sounds like the former Bulldog has started out in the dog house. The last one he did was David Mims who he paired with Andy Studebaker. Haley said “This kid has a chance now, he’s got a chance. So if he doesn’t make it, it’s all your fault Andy.” Everyone laughed at that. For the record, Mims was the only UFA he singled out as “having a chance”, at least that I heard. Then he told the vets that their top priority was to make sure they had their business taken care of, but after that they need to look after these guys like they were their little brothers. I liked that he was trying to give the new guys someone to go to, especially someone outside their position who they might not feel comfortable talking to if they are competing with them for a spot. It was pretty interesting. Don Banks of Sports Illustrated described the “buddy system” in his training camp report.
Haley told the offensive line that it was their day to all stay and do autographs. I went over to see if any of the other big names stayed to sign even though it wasn’t “their day” and I have to give credit to Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster, and Andy Studebaker. They were all still signing when I left to go buy my shirt at the Chiefs shop. There might have been others that I couldn’t see on up the hill more.
As I was walking over to the Chiefs shop I noticed that Jim Zorn was still out on the field working with Stanzi and Palko. Which reminds me, and you can write this down, Palko will be the number two QB to start the season. He actually looked really sharp in his reps and it took a lot longer for Muir to explain the plays he wanted ran to Stanzi then Palko. I do think Stanzi has the upside, but I think its going to take a while until the Chiefs trust him. Anyway, here’s a pic of them after practice was over. You can see that Moeaki stayed out with them (he was probably just happy to be off the stationary bike). You can also see Pioli in the bottom right corner.
So then I jumped back in my not so spacious but fuel efficient Nissan Sentra and headed for home. I listened to sports radio (all Chiefs talk) until I lost the KC stations signal about sundown. All in all a pretty good way to spend a day.
If you’ve never been to camp, I highly recommend it.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!