Well I have decided it is time for my yearly dose of reality. All offseason, through the labor fiasco, the draft, and free agency, I have been building the Chiefs up. Not only have I been building the team up in my head but I have been building up my own expectations for the Chiefs.
I have finally decided my expectations are too high and it’s time to give myself, and most of Chiefs Nation, a much needed dose of reality. Whether you’re looking at the shortened training camp, Todd Haley’s unorthodox approach to the preseason, the difficult schedule, or the recent Jonathan Baldwin news, it is evident the Chiefs have their hands full entering the 2011 season.
Considering how strange the 2011 offseason was, Haley is making the Chiefs training camp and preseason just as strange. While most NFL teams are sticking with their familiar schedule, the Chiefs are approaching the preseason differently.
Haley waited until after the Chiefs first preseason contest, a 25-0 blowout to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, before he had his players in full pads for an entire practice. Instead of dedicating the majority of the first three preseason games to prepare the first team unit, the Chiefs seem to be working on a steady graduation of intensity.
When asked about the state of the Chiefs through two weeks of preseason practice, third-year head coach Haley had the following to say:
“I don’t think we’re out of the woods as far as where we are physically. The goal is to be ready for Sept. 11 – that’s all really that I’m focused on, and these other things will take care of themselves.”
Haley sat a large number of key starters against the Bucs and by the second half even I had trouble recognizing the names and numbers on the field. By sticking with this formula, the starting group would see about three full quarters of work in the final preseason game instead of the traditional three series.
Maybe this approach is aimed at weathering a late season five-game stretch against New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Chicago and the New York Jets that will almost assuredly make or break the Chiefs season. But is this the right approach? Do you want you guys still learning the system during the first few weeks of the regular season? It does not seem like the most efficient approach to me.
On top of the difficult schedule there are now reports that first round draft pick Jonathan Baldwin could be out for a significant amount of time. Depending on the reports you read Baldwin could be out anywhere from the rest of the preseason to 6-8 weeks.
Not only does this does this news slow down the development of a rookie wide receiver, but it also slows the development of the Chiefs receiver corp as a whole. Just as everyone was starting to beat their chest about an explosive wide receiver corp this happens and the Chiefs are almost back to where they were last year, with just one solid receiver.
Yes the Chiefs still have Steve Breaston who can start, but it is not smart to put all your eggs into a player that has had a significant injury history the last two seasons. If Breaston goes down, and Baldwin is behind on his developmental curve the Chiefs are back at square one, and all this offseason movement was for nothing.
To add more concerns to the Baldwin injury, it is being reported he was injured by one of his own teammates, Thomas Jones. While I am sure Jones was in the right, is it smart to have your one remaining veteran offensive leader beating down your rookie first round pick? What kind of a message does that send?
This makes me concerned about the locker room and the players within that locker room taking sides. While I am sure 90% of the locker room is siding with Jones, it is still not a good thing to single a guy out and make him an outsider. This incident could not only single out, and affect Baldwin’s play in 2011 but could also affect his relationship with his teammates in future years.
With veteran leaders like Brian Waters and Mike Vrabel no longer with the team, it makes you wonder who will bring the Chiefs locker room together in 2011. Obviously it will not be Thomas Jones, so who will step up?
Maybe I am just blowing this issue out of the water, but in my eyes an unhealthy locker room leads to an unhealthy team. And we all know that an unhealthy team will struggle to win games, and without winning games the chance of repeating as AFC West Champions is slim to none.