Well, Chiefs fans, isn’t it nice to talk about football that is actually taking place on a field and not just offseason hypotheticals? Granted, it may just be OTAs and they may not be wearing full pads or hitting anybody, but last week, the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs actually took the field together. So I thought it was my duty to make my weekly post about what took place (and will take place) on the field.
First, let’s look at what we might have learned already from one week of OTAs.
#1. The Chiefs need another quality safety on the roster.
When the Chiefs’ first-string defense took the field last week, their starting safeties were a CB and an undrafted rookie free agent. I could probably just stop right there, but let me elaborate just a little. All signs point to both starting safeties Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis being fully healthy for the start of the season and the Chiefs seem to have plans for fifth-round pick De’Quan Menzie at safety as well, so hopefully by the time the first preseason game rolls around, the safety situation will already look much better just because of the players that will be back.
That having been said, last year the depth at safety was exposed and the Chiefs would be foolish if they didn’t make strides to remedy this. Travis Daniels is a quality #3-4 CB, but he shouldn’t be starting at safety. Terrance Parks was the rookie that started next to Daniels. He’s an undrafted rookie out of Florida State. Now, I am excited by the fact that the Chiefs started Parks over veteran Donald Washington. It means one of two things: Either the Chiefs think they have found a hidden treasure in Parks, or they have realized that Donald Washington is horrible. Either option is good in my book.
Now, I wouldn’t get too excited about Parks just yet. I did some digging and couldn’t find ANY good scouting reports on Parks. NFL Draft Scout had 70 safeties listed in their database for this years draft and Parks wasn’t one of them. Nothing at Draft Tek or Draft Countdown either. This guy wasn’t seen as good enough to even warrant a profile on the major draft/scouting sites. To his credit though, he is playing ahead of two other undrafted safety prospects in Neiko Thorpe and Tysyn Hartman that were at least on the radar of most major scouting services. FSU’s website lists Parks at 6’2″, 215 lbs. and describes him as a “big, physical safety.” Maybe the Chiefs like Parks in the hybrid LB/S role that Jon McGraw played in the nickel packages.
One question I do have about the safety position going forward is where exactly they see De’Quan Menzie playing? Do they see him in McGraw’s role? Do they want him to compete with Arenas in the nickel? Is he just a backup for Berry and Lewis?
Regardless, the Chiefs continue to bring in veteran free agent safeties so I think it is a safe bet that the Chiefs see a hole in the roster at this position as well.
#2. Dontari Poe will contribute in sub packages even if he isn’t ready to start at NT.
Word quickly spread mid week that Dontari Poe was already running with the first team thanks to a tweet from the Chiefs PR guy Josh Looney. However, this initial report was a little misleading. Poe wasn’t running with the first team at NT. He was running with the first team in the sub package. Basically, Poe was filling the hole left by the Chiefs not re-signing Wallace Gilberry. Now, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing at all. The Chiefs used their sub package a little less than 50 percent of the time so you can make a case that making an impact as a pass rusher in the sub package is just as important as making an impact at NT.
If you think about it, this makes sense. Playing NT in the KC version of the 3-4 takes very good technique. Without going into specifics, the short version is that you have to be able to anchor yourself against double teams and hold your ground so that you can plug the gaps on both sides of the center. Think about it this way: two average NFL linemen weigh a combined 600 lbs., even at an impressive 350 lbs. Poe is still at a 250 pound disadvantage when double teamed. Without the proper technique he’ll get pushed around. However, in the sub package sets, Poe’s job will be to push the pocket from the interior. Yes, this involves some technique, but it will be much more conducive to him using his natural freakish athleticism. The good news for KC fans is that even if Poe needs MAJOR work on his technique (as many have feared) it appears he will still have an important way he can contribute from day one.
While we’re on the topic of the NT, there is one other thing we learned from OTAs. Amon Gordon is still ahead of Jerrell Powe. Powe is a fan favorite. The guy just looks the part of an NFL NT. Many had hoped that the Chiefs only had Gordon on the active roster ahead of Powe last season because he could also back up the 3-4 DE spots. But with Kelly Gregg gone and the “new Poe” still learning the position, this would be a perfect time for “old Powe” to run with the first string at NT. It didn’t happen. I would love to see Powe succeed and if both of the “Po Boys” turned into difference makers it would be great for KC. I just think all the “Po Boys” supporters had better brace themselves for the fact that neither of them may be the starting NT for week one. If I had to put money on who the starter for the opener would be I would go with Gordon. The Chiefs website lists Gordon at only 305 lbs. compared to Powe’s 335 lbs., but as you can see from this screen shot from a recent kcchiefs.com video it looks like there may not be that big of difference anymore (Gordon is 99, Powe is 95). Gordon did flash some ability while backing up Gregg, so I would be okay with him holding down the fort until Poe is ready.
#3. The additions of Peyton Hillis and Brady Quinn benefit the entire offense.
In addition to any production these players give the Chiefs on the field this fall, their additions have benefited the Chiefs already this offseason while they are installing Brian Daboll’s new offense. Having two players that are already comfortable in his system helps the other players to pick it up. Hillis himself mentioned how he is able to help his teammates with the new playbook. I don’t know if Quinn will ever see the field, but I see Hillis playing a major role. I think when all is said and done, the Peyton Hillis signing will look like one of the best of the Scott Pioli era.
Another side note on Quinn, since he has the advantage of already knowing the system it would be a major upset if Ricky Stanzi beats him out for the #2 QB spot. I suspect the order will be Cassel, Quinn, Stanzi, but if Stanzi fights his way into the #2 spot I will take that as a sign that the Chiefs really like what they are seeing and could bring hope to those that would like to see him develop into the starter down the road.
#4. Eric Winston is fully healthy.
This was never a huge concern and wasn’t talked about very much in the KC media. While KC fans were celebrating the Winston signing, I read on some Texans fan sites that many Houston fans were speculating that part of the reason they released him (in addition to his salary cap number) was that they were concerned that he wasn’t fully healthy. At the time I dismissed it as Houston fans trying to reason away the loss of such a good player. However, when the Chiefs drafted OL in both the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the draft a small warning alarm did go off in the back of my mind. Why others speculated that Stephenson was a possible replacement for Albert, I wondered to myself if he was a back up plan in case Winston did have some injury issues. That alarm was silenced this week when Winston was a full participant in OTAs. The Chiefs basically help out anyone with so much as a hang nail, so the fact that Winston was out there the whole time tells me they have no injury concerns with him. The additions of Winston and Hillis combined with the return of Jamaal Charles (who tweeted this week that despite his ACL injury he still thinks he’s the fastest player on the team) should make the Chiefs one of the top rushing teams in the NFL next year.
Now it’s time for some of the questions I have as the offseason program continues.
#1. After Hali and Houston is there anyone else on the roster that can get to the QB?
Hopefully, Dontari Poe can provide some interior pass rush, but other than Poe the Chiefs didn’t add a single player to improve their ability to get to the QB. The Chiefs finished tied for the third fewest sacks in the NFL last year. I have hope that Houston will step forward, but if either he or Hali miss time due to injury they will have to have someone else step up and get to the QB. Andy Studebaker has looked like an average all around LB during his limited playing time, but not a big pass rush threat. That pretty much leaves Cameron Sheffield and Gabe Miller as the only other options on the roster. So keep an eye on those two as the offseason goes forward to see if either man is up for the task.
#2. Is Brandon Siler healthy, and if so, can he challenge Jovan Belcher?
One of the main positions that the Chiefs did not address in the draft that many fans wanted them to was ILB. Despite some of our claims that Belcher is doing a fine job, many fans would like to see him pushed out of the starting lineup. About the only player capable of doing that currently on the roster is Brandon Siler. Siler missed all of last season and did not participate in OTAs last week. Wether this was just a safety precaution, or if Siler is still not able to go, we just don’t know. So keep an eye on Siler’s health and spot on the depth chart as the offseason progresses.
#3. What are the Chiefs going to do at FB this season?
The Chiefs let Le’Ron McClain walk without any kind of reports surfacing that they were trying to resign him. To date, I have not heard any reports about the Chiefs bringing in veteran FBs for tryouts. That tells me that the Chiefs are comfortable with what they currently have on the roster. Last year they drafted Shane Bannon out of Yale in the 7th round. Now, 7th rounders are usually a long shot to make the team, but FBs are an exception. Typically, if you use ANY draft pick on a FB, he’s your guy. So my guess would be that its Bannon’s job to lose. The only other options (assuming that Daboll plans on using a typical FB) are undrafted rookie Taylor Gentry and Peyton Hillis. Hillis does have FB experience, but I also see him as the “Thunder” to JC’s “Lightning” and typically when you have your “Thunder” back on the field you put a FB in front of them, so I don’t see Hillis being the only FB option on the game day active roster. There is a very cool inspirational video on Gentry that makes me want to pull for him going forward (seriously, check it out), but my guess is that Bannon is the guy this year.
#4. How will the WR depth chart shake out?
I for one, have no doubts that Dwayne Bowe will be ready to go for the regular season and will put up typical Bowe numbers. I think its safe to say that Jonathan Baldwin and Steve Breaston will also be major contributors. After that is where things get interesting. The Chiefs played former 2nd round pick Dexter McCluster at WR this last week. My guess is that we’ll see a little of Dex at both RB and WR as Daboll tries to keep defenses on their toes. Dex may not be a huge part of the offense, but unlike Evan Silva of Pro Football Talk who said he may not even make the team this year, I don’t think he is fighting for a roster spot. Dex will be on the team, I just don’t know how many reps he’ll get. The Chiefs also used a 4th round pick this season on Devon Wylie. Wylie seems to be a true slot WR with the best break away speed on the team, so he should get some reps as well.
That’s 5 WRs that I feel safe saying will contribute some. That could leave just one more spot (two max) for WRs. Terrance Copper has been a mainstay on the Chiefs since Pioli came to town. He’s a great special teams player and just this week Romeo said of his performance in OTAs that “Copper just makes touchdown catches”. The Chiefs also drafted Junior Hemingway, so he’s clearly an option as well. Josh Bellamy did well enough at the rookie camp that Crennel singled him out as someone that flashed some real ability. Here is a youtube highlight video of Bellamy who looks like he has some potential. I think Jeremy Horne is probably out of chances and recently signed Aaron Weaver and fellow undrafted rookie Brandon Kinnie are probably the ultimate long shots. I for one will be keeping a close eye on the WR position as well because I think the battle for the last WR on the 53 man roster could be a good one.
So there you have it Addicts. That’s what I’ve learned from one week of OTAs and the questions I still have going forward. I’ll also pass along this tidbit for those looking for every possible detail coming out of OTAs, a recent post at Arrowhead Pride shared some tweets from Nick Jacobs of Metro Sports. The post is a good collection of his observations from OTAs and I would highly recommend following him on twitter if you want more of these tidbits going forward. He’s got an interesting one on who Matt Cassel worked with this offseason and that he thinks its clearly helped him.
So how about you guys? Have you learned anything from OTAs so far? Do you have other major questions going forward? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!