My, how time flies. The NFL draft was a mere four weekends, and a couple of mini-camps, ago. What many perceived as the Chiefs greatest needs then, are now focused elsewhere. Why the change of heart, in such a short period of time?
Approaching the draft, nearly everyone in Chiefs-a-topia was calling for a wideout in the first round. Meaning, we all thought the Chiefs needed more firepower at wide receiver. It was deemed the number one priority by many.
Since the mini-camps have taken place, we’ve heard a number of stories that may have changed that idea.
The Chiefs assistant head coach and wide receivers coach David Culley spoke this week about WR Donnie Avery saying,
“I think the big thing about Donnie is, Donnie played three fourths of last year with, one shoulder. And now he’s completely healthy and… this offseason he’s a different guy, from the standpoint of extra speed and staying healthy and basically if he can maintain his health, I think you’ll see a different Donnie. A more productive Donnie.”
Head Coach Andy Reid has also been impressed with Donnie Avery,
“Donnie looks good, yeah. He’s running fast and I remember this time last year he had the high ankle or there was something there, so he really missed all of the OTAs and then he came back and he had the scapula there that he had hurt. He’s in good shape right now.”
A number of players and coaches have made much of the fact that so many players are in “year two” of this scheme and playbook. And that the players present at the mini-camps are learning a lot and catching on fast.
A good deal is also being made of the fact that Dwayne Bowe has shown up for camp this year… “in-shape.”
That’s good news for everyone who adores red and gold on green. When I visited the Chiefs 2013 training camp last summer our Mr. Bowe spent the whole day either running wind-sprints slowly or stretching in the opposite field’s end zone. Not an awe inspiring sight I must say. Although, it was a great opportunity to get some up close and personal photo ops of the Bowe “Show.”
Chiefs fans should not take that for granted. There’s a post on ProFootballTalk (PFT) stating that DE Da’Quan Bowers, of the Tampa Bay Bucs, needs to do some work to get in shape before the season starts. You’ll find no such story about Chiefs players as they arrive to Chiefs camps.
After drafting RB/WR/KR/VP/VIP/PC/QT/VC/MIA/KP… De’Anthony Thomas out of Oregon I have suggested that the Chiefs took him to primarily to play wide receiver… and that no one really even knew it.
Sticking with the attitudes related to wide receivers… WR coach Culley has also spoken about the role and improvement of Junior Hemingway and how the Chiefs have plans for him,
“Well, you know what, he (Hemingway) did a nice job for us in the limited role last year that he came in for us. And right now, when we go into our Nickel, our Zebra, our E Package, right now he’s the guy that would go in for us. He’s been very productive for us. He’s got a good feel in there. He’s very physical. He’s very strong. He can catch the ball. He’s a year in the offense right now. He’s having a very good offseason for us right now.”
It looks like the Chiefs have specific plans for A.J. Jenkins as well and coach Culley said as much.
Devereaux Frazier of Yardbarker recently offered a research piece on three of the Chiefs receivers in which he charted every play they were involved in last year. The post is called, “Breakdown of Wide Receivers AJ Jenkins, Junior Hemingway, and Donnie Avery” and says this about A.J. Jenkins,
“The fact that he does a better job than Avery using his hands has me hyped for the 2014 season. While he does need to work on his route running, he has tons of promise heading into Training Camp.”
Frazier says of Hemingway,
“Hemingway scored a couple touchdowns. Hemingway is a big-bodied receiver, like Dwayne Bowe. He already has consistent hands, if he could work on his route running, he would become a very dynamic receiver.”
Tis the season to be folly. So, fans and writers alike can postulate the possible greatness of all they like. It’s what we must do in the offseason. It’s nearly a mandate. However, I truly believe many fans see the Chiefs wide receiver situation differently now than they did before the draft. Especially now, since mini-camp has shown us a different reality of this year’s squad.
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Another position of need before the draft was defensive back and the Chiefs came through and selected Phillip Gaines out of Rice. Since that time we’ve learned that the Chiefs knew what they were doing when it comes to building a better mousetrap… or in this case… a better passing defense.
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said this week,
“It takes everybody to play. It’s not any different than offense. You can be highly skilled in the passing game but if you can’t protect it doesn’t do you a lot of good. The same is true on defense. You can be good on the back end. But, if you can’t rush… and vice versa you know. If you can rush but you can’t cover. So, it takes a combination and I think a system we do here have enough flexibility between pressure, four-man rushes, three-man rushes that we can mix it up and do it. But, I think our guys are working hard at rushing and improving. And I think we’ll be a little better there.”
Sutton seems to have hit the nail on the head. With Dunta Robinson and Kendrick Lewis out and Sanders Commings and Phillip Gaines in… the defense is better for sure.
Just three days ago, on Wednesday, I wrote in a piece called “The Kansas City Chiefs New Look Defense” and said,
“For a defense that ranked 25th at stopping the opponents passing game (net passing yards) the Chiefs look like they have done the most to improve that than any other part of the team.”
Justin Houston and Brandon Flowers may not be in camp but more than anything, their lack of presence has stolen the focus from the fact that the Chiefs have gotten better this offseason, overall, on defense.
“Anybody who thinks Flowers is overrated should go to NFL.com and buy NFL Rewind yesterday. Flowers is one of the very few corners who can play both outside the numbers and in the slot with great effectiveness, despite his relatively diminutive stature.”
Verderame doesn’t stop there either. He goes on to explain why.
“While we are on his size, the narrative that general manager John Dorsey would get rid of Flowers because he likes bigger corners is crazy talk. If Dorsey liked slower, power backs, would he cut Jamaal Charles? The idea is to get the best players.
Last year, the Chiefs lost a playoff game 45-44 to the Indianapolis Colts.You might recall the game. You know, the one that ended with T.Y. Hilton streaking past Kendrick Lewis and Quintin Demps. What you might have forgotten was the score of the game while Flowers was covering Hilton.”
Then Verderame goes further to explain that in an earlier article he had written, and I paraphrase, Chiefs players who allowed the Luck-luster Colts to score 42 points in 35 minutes were, Sean Smith and Marcus Cooper but with Brandon Flowers on the field… in the previous amount of time… allowed only 3 points. That’s a huge discrepancy.
As Bob Sutton pointed out earlier… it takes a pass rush plus solid coverage… for a defense to improve and become special.
I think many fans now see the defense… including the Chiefs pass defense … as a strong point for the team.
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In the case of the offensive line… the more things change… the more they stay the same. Simply put, the Chiefs offensive line started out before the draft with loads of question and four weeks later… there are still loads of questions.
Yes, the Chiefs picked up a couple of prize winners in developmental OL prospects Larry “The French Canadian” Laurent-Duvernay and Zach Fulton out of Tennessee.
Still, with their presence, we don’t know any more about who will start come opening day than we did on May first.
Do I like the picks? Yes. In fact, I love the picks. But, it appears we won’t know anything about the starting OL five, until it happens. Rodney Hudson will start at the Center position but after that it seems that every other position is up for grabs:
LT- Mr. 2013, first pick in the draft, Fisher isn’t even allowed to take his spot there yet because of a rehabbing shoulder. So, Donald Stephenson slides over and someone else replaces him… for the time being.
LG- Jeff Allen probably has this spot nailed down… but no one knows for sure with OL. Allen wasn’t very good last year… so, we’ll have to continue to wait.
Center- The center should be Rodney Hudson and if that doesn’t happen it will be considered an upset. Hudson will be the stabilizing force on the OL so you can go ahead and pencil him in with a pencil not a pen.
RG- This is the position that is up for grabs more than any other. Players have come and gone but the position mostly remains unconquered territory. I like Rishaw Johnson for it but… once again… we’ll see.
RT- The more the LT position is on the outs, the more the RT position won’t settle down. It’s all “Wait-and-see” mode.
So, the priorities for the Kansas City Chiefs have changed away from the wide receivers and defensive backs… to the offensive line. The issue for the Chiefs? Who will actually lineup on opening day to take snaps under Center, or more appropriately, next to center?
So, what say you Addict fans? Has your perspective evolved since the draft has taken place?