This offseason has been all about gymnastics. Mental gymnastics, as we attempt to wrap our heads around the Chiefs limited cap space and long list of inevitably outgoing Chiefs starters in free agency. Somehow, some way, fans want to come up with the solution: fitting a huge round peg in a very small square hole. However, the reality for the 2014 Chiefs is that it’s simply time for… the next man up.
Many have speculated and projected that the Chiefs All Pro left tackle Branden Albert will no longer don a Chiefs jersey and that… the next man up… is either third year, third rounder, Donald Stephenson or the first pick in the first round of last year’s draft Eric Fisher. Although Fisher’s -17.9 ProFootballFocus rating in November was bothersome Fish came on at the end of the year and it looks like he and Stephenson will be competing to see who will be… the next man up at left tackle.
In John Dorsey and Andy Reid’s next man up system, most fans are resolved and even satisfied with this solution to the Albert situation because there’s obviously no way the Chiefs will be franchising him and bringing him back for another season. It’s cost prohibitive and in this case we trust the master talent developer that coach Reid has become known as to do his “thang.”
We also should trust where John Dorsey has come from and give credit to a well developed resume.
First, fans should recognize that both Super Bowl winning GM John Schneider and Chiefs GM John Dorsey cut their teeth in the past decade in the Green Bay Packers organization. It was just three February’s ago that John Dorsey helped win a Super Bowl for the Packers, with the next man up system, that had to carry the team to victory because of injuries to so many first team players. Both Johns were well trained in the Ron Wolf school of general management and was someone who John Schneider had nothing but glowing things to say about him,
“Ron was really just an unbelievable guy to learn from, and we learned so much from him about work ethic, and never being complacent with your team at all, and never stop asking questions during the draft process.”
Each man, now a general manager, was taught “The Next Man Up” method of administrating there from Wolf. So, what does that really mean? Number one, it means they are turning the bottom (non-starter) part of the roster over and and over and over endlessly, to come up with the deepest possible squad. Number two, it means they work with coaches who really coach and develop the talent they bring in house.
Now, while John Dorsey is exceptionally talented in this area I’m not sure he is a magician with the cap. So, being one year into the post apocalyptic-Pioli era, it may take awhile longer for Dorsey to massage the roster, on the low end, until we reach the point where there is no fall off whatsoever when a — next man up — sub takes over.
Before we explore the number of other positions where the next man up may be appearing on the field this autumn, Chiefs fans should be encouraged about the final game of the season in this regard: Knile did his best impression of the next man up when Jamaal Charles went down early in the game.
It’s sometimes surprising to me to see a coach with no emotional reaction at all on the field at the time that an important player such as Jamaal Charles goes down. You could almost read, “Next Man Up,” on Andy Reid’s face when JC exited. And boy, Davis did not disappoint and you can blame no part of that loss on him. In fact, he’s an intriguing and exciting element to the Chiefs offense next season. An element that it will be hard to wait to see what devious little plans Reid has up his sleeve for him.
Many fans have already projected that the next man up plan will allow Dexter McCluster to walk via free agency and his replacement will be the newly acquired WR Weston Dressler from the Canadian Football league. A 5-7 dynamo, Dressler played in 21 games this past season including the Grey Cup, which Saskatchewan won 45-23. Five out of the past six seasons, Dressler has gained 1,000 yards or more receiving. He could be a wash… but he has the potential to be the most exciting addition to the 2014 roster.
The Chiefs may not be getting rid of the speedy butter fingered Donnie Avery “this” offseason for cap reasons but, the trade that sent WR Jon Baldwin to San Francisco in exchange A.J. Jenkins could turn out to be a boon. AA’s Joseph Hoyt, in his piece called, “Why A.J. Jenkins Will Break Out Next Season” said,
“Jenkins needed time to adjust in an NFL setting with a team of veterans guiding him on how to be a successful NFL player. In San Francisco, Jenkins wasn’t afforded that luxury. He was on a team with a championship window that couldn’t wait to see if he would develop… However, this is his third season catching passes from quarterback Alex Smith. A continuity and relationship between the two in practice has surely developed. With time on his side, this could be the season for Jenkins to breakout and, once again, show the world of his skills as an NFL wideout.”
While Andy Reid’s coaching has done wonders for Knile Davis who had a bad reputation for dropping the ball prior to coming to the Chiefs, the same can not be said of Donnie Avery. That history and continued poor performance of Avery this season leaves the door wide open at the second WR position. So much so that the Chiefs could pursue a WR early in the 2014 draft. However, when comparing the available “next men up” at several positions on the Chiefs roster… you may end up coming to the same conclusions I have in the past month that the Chiefs will go for a much needed disruptive force along the defensive line over a WR early in the draft. That is, unless they can produce another early round pick via trade in which case they might find both. However, there’s no guarantee the Chiefs will trade so I project a DL with the first pick.
Enter A.J. Jenkins.
Jenkins, depending on what he does this offseason to develop his game and get stronger, he could easily end up the Chiefs starting number two WR.
As stated before, I believe Dwayne Bowe would make a better #2 receiver and if by some stroke of fortune, the Chiefs are able to land someone who can eventually take over the #1 slot from Bowe, then Bowe would slide to #2 and Jenkins would make an intriguing #3 from the slot. Someone who opposing Safeties would have to respect with his straight line speed, thus opening up the outside to the Chiefs #1 and #2 receivers.
For some reason Junior Hemingway hasn’t gotten the targets some feel he deserves. When he gets his chances he seems to take advantage of his opportunities so you might think he would get more touches. I don’t know… if Hemingway is perceived by coach Reid as a slower version of Bowe and doesn’t fit his mold of quick/fast wideouts… or what the problem is, however, he makes tough catches over the middle and gets open more than he did a season ago so, it’s a waiting game with him.
Another horse with no name who was claimed off of waivers on September 1st, 2013, is DT/DE Jaye Howard. Howard was a 4th round choice of the Seattle Seahawks in 2012. I recall scouting him and saying he has some of the best hand work of any defensive line player I’ve ever seen coming out of college. His ability to engage then release is uncanny. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports once said of Howard, “He is a fluid and flexible athlete for the position with the natural explosion to shoot gaps and gain a step on blockers….”Although the Chiefs list Howard as a defensive tackle he could surely step in for Tyson Jackson at DE and at 6-3, 301 should bring a stout edge against the run and eventually a better push against the pass, especially on downs that he’s not subbed out.
If the Chiefs chose to give Jaye Howard a shot at DE then they’d need to shore up their depth at DT and perhaps that player could come in the later rounds of this draft. 6-4, 323 pound senior defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (pictured left) from Penn State should be available in the third round. Here’s Jones vs. (#18) Michigan in 2013. Feel free to imagine.
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On Saturday morning in PART II of It’s “Next Man Up” For The Chiefs look for Long Shots For Making The Next Man Up and Players We’re Not Going To Talk About but I’ll talk about them anyway. See you then.