Chiefs: Dabbling In Futures Commodities

1 Feature From The Bleachers

Fans have been clamoring for real depth on the Kansas City Chiefs roster for as long as I can recall. Enter General Manager John Dorsey and Head Coach Andy Reid. After one and a half years, their method of, “You Pluck em, I’ll Shuck em” has taken root and now the Chiefs find themselves standing in the midst of a teaming terrarium of talents.

Just 16 short months ago… or being one season removed from…  the Chiefs depth chart at QB was Matt Cassel as QB #1, Brady Quinn as QB #2, Kyle Orton as #3 and Tyler Palko as QB #4. Whew. I still smell the stench.

Now, the starter, Alex Smith is “in place” (notice I didn’t say “is solid” or make any other kind of compliment, so as not to set the very few detractors off on a rant)… and by having him in place, Andy Reid has been able to focus his high powered laser-beam of QB mysticism at Tyler Bray and newby Aaron Murray, like he’s done with others in the past.

And this QB-rags-to-riches story goes back further than you may know.

In his piece called, “Andy Reid: Philadelphia Eagles Coach Is an Absolute Quarterback Guru” Randy Jobst of Bleacher Report stated,

“Mike Holmgren, Favre’s former head coach in Green Bay, gets most of the credit for the development of Favre, as he should. However, Reid was still an instrumental part of his maturation as an elite quarterback. Reid was an offensive assistant for three years in Green Bay before he was promoted to offensive line coach in 1995. In 1997, Reid was switched to quarterbacks coach, where he helped guide Favre and the Pack to a second straight Super Bowl.”

That was in 2011, before Reid drafted and developed current Eagles rave, and QB of the future, Nick Foles.

Now, this ability to mold raw talent into starting excellence is spilling over to many positions on the team.

On Special teams, the Chiefs have just dumped their two starting returners. Obviously with the belief that the next man to step into that role will be just as good or better.  De’Anthony Thomas first comes to mind when focusing on the punting game. Knile Davis will likely get the first crack at kick-off returns and since he’s already had some time there could be an improvement over Quintin Demps who had a very good year with 33 returns for 30.1 yards per return. Davis had 10 returns for 32.1 yards per return.

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“The future’s so bright, I’ve gotta wear shades.”

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Take a look at almost any position. Two years ago the Chiefs had Brandon Carr and Brandon Flower at CB. Some will argue that Carr and Flower were better than what the Chiefs have now. However, can you even name the 3rd CB on the roster that year? Now, the Chiefs can line up with: Sean Smith, Marcus Cooper, Ron Parker, Phillip Gaines and Brandon Flowers too. Plus there are a number of other developmental corners on top of several DBs playing at Safety who can play CB and still cover well.

I’m not going to comment on the supposed new standard for Chiefs CBs to be bigger-faster-stronger-taller… and as least six feet… because, this is more about the fact that the Chiefs have three very good corners in Smith, Flowers and Cooper and two corners with every bit the look of quality corner’s to come, in Parker and Gaines.

Not only that, but I’m impressed with a couple of other CBs the Chiefs have in camp at the moment. Namely, DeMarcus Van Dyke with his 4.28 speed (he once ran a 4.22 handheld) on a tall 6-1 frame and Chris Owens with six years of NFL experience under his belt.

If the Denver Broncos ever try putting

10 WRs on the field at once I think

the Chiefs should have them covered.

Van Dyke also passes the smell test… I mean he just looks and plays fast. Take a look-see at some of his old college tries including combined footage with Mike Mayock comments from four dawg years ago:

It’s also good to know he’s gained 10 pounds since.

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“I have a dream….”

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Is it a dream come true or a nightmare in the making? I’m referring to the offensive line of course. After losing what were some of my favorite players in Branden Albert and Geoff Schwartz (as well as Jon Asamoah) I figured the Chiefs were either in for… a two year turnaround as far as a return to legitimacy goes… or a draft filled with more high round OL. However, neither appears to be the case and the dream of an awesome offensive line looks like a strong possibility sooner than later.

Why?

A couple of months ago I wrote about how good I believe Right Guard Rishaw Johnson can be in “Meet The Chiefs New Right Guard” in which I charted every play of the game with the Chargers in week 17. The surprise choices in round six of the draft now place the Right Guard position in question. Actually, that’s probably the “future” of the Right Guard position.

Looking back at the OL choices Andy Reid made in the 2013 offseason, it’s likely that the fewest number of changes will take place again this offseason. So, expect to  see the following offensive alignment on opening day:

LT- Eric Fisher (unless his shoulder isn’t ready by then)

LG- Jeff Allen

C – Rodney Hudson

RG- Rishaw Johnson

RT- Donald Stephenson

To understand the future of the Chiefs OL you must first know the present. You may say Rishaw Johnson has only had one game starting (week 17 v. the Bolts) but he’s had more time with the rest of the unit, in practice, than any other player available on the roster. So, who starts is not just about availability but about who is already known, in game situations, to be good. Yes, one game in not a large sample but, I beleive Reid will lean on that sample more than taking a risk on any other unproven talent he has in house now. Just like he waited last year to insert Geoff Schwartz (when many believed Schwartz was better than a couple of the starters).

Besides, this piece isn’t about arguing the merits of those who will be starters but those who will make up the future of the offensive line.

With those OL players in house now, the future appears dreamier than ever.

Mr. French Canadian Larry Duvernay-Tardif looks like he’s going to be an exceptional find and I’d be surprised if he’s not one of the first players off the bench when a starter goes down this year. Plus, he’s been known to have a mean disposition on the field that’s not usually associated with our passive French allies.

I’m also impressed with the Chiefs 6A draft pick, 6-5, 323 pound 22 year old Zach Fulton. I’m amazed at how GM John Dorsey and coach Reid can pluck seemingly diamonds from the dirt pile rounds of the draft. However, Fulton played every game of his college career at Right Guard and looks to have a future there with the Chiefs if he continues to progress. I have followed the draft long enough too, to know that a preseason ranking isn’t as important to the players being drafted as an April ranking is. That being said, in July of last year, Chris Low of ESPN wrote a piece called, “Ranking the SEC Offensive Linemen” in which he ranked Zach Fulton the 7th best SEC lineman. Not the 7th best “Guard” or the 7th best “Interior Linemen”… he said the 7th best (overall) linemen.

Low said of Fulton,

“Yep, another Tennessee offensive lineman on the list. Fulton hasn’t received the same notoriety as (Tiny) Richardson or (Ja’Wuan) James, but he’s a rock-solid 6-foot-4, 324-pound guard who has everything it takes to play a long time in the NFL.”

Take a look at this video interview with Zach Fulton and tell me if he looks like the “mans-man” that he looks like to me. He looks friendly off the field.. but wow, who would want to line up across from him?

So, how does a guy like Fulton fall to the 193rd pick? Well, we know this draft was loaded and Dorsey and associates are good at their jobs and I’ll leave it at that.

In any event, it looks like the future of the Chiefs offensive line is in good stead.

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“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”

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The turnaround of the Chiefs organization is still a work in progress. Many are predicting the Chiefs will take a step backwards this year based upon the “difficult” schedule the league has published. I don’t agree.

The Chiefs turnaround has happened because the whole organization has changed from top to bottom. That began when Clark Hunt decided that both the GM and the head Coach would report to him separately and individually. That one shift alone can create an empowerment of each employee that transforms the structure and consequently the process. Indeed the process HAS changed and I don’t see chinks in the armor like you could easily find in the Pioli era or the Peterson reign.

Now, the organization is being built from the bottom up instead of just the top down and that’s an important distinction. For that to happen, the players who will be stepping forward in the future to take their place on the front lines are at the ready and being trained for their moment.

A strong group of developmental players. A strong group of starters. A strong cadre of coaches. A strong general manager. A strong owner. What more could you want for your favorite team? It looks like the Chiefs are taking care of their future… today.

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“The future depends on what you do today.”

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What say you Addict fans? Are you ready to put on some shades? Or… do you think I’m just wearing rose colored glasses?

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