Tempering Expectations For The Chiefs Sophomores


You could be BMOC or you could be a FB from YALE: from a player who can take games over to a guy who just won’t stick around long enough to do his laundry twice.

Could the Kansas City Chiefs have just drafted the next Derrick Thomas or the next Shane Bannon? Who knows for sure but, let’s take a look at last year’s crop and see if they’ll be bearing fruit or if we just got dusted.

Normally we might be looking over the expectations for our freshmen coming to camp. However, since Sanders Commings and Travis Kelce were AWOL most of the 2013 and first round first choice sophomore, Eric Fisher, will actually be making his maiden voyage at left tackle… let’s look at the sophomores.

LT, Eric Fisher

Any time you have the first pick in the draft expectations for that player are going to be high. Of course, if that player had been Justin Houston then the word “high” would take on a completely different meaning. If you’d like a fresh old perspective on the Justin Houston contract situation take a look at the piece I wrote when the Chiefs drafted him called, “Problem… We Have a Houston” Besides, it has my all time favorite graphic to go with any post I’ve ever written.

Back to the Fish fry.

It’s been noted that Eric Fisher struggled during his rookie season playing RT, which is not his natural position, to accommodate LT Branden… Once a LT Always a LT, Except in College… Albert. However, it appears that experiment didn’t work and now everyone, including myself, has doubts about whether or not he can play with the big boys once he’s inserted at LT, his so-called natural habitat.

If you go back to the scouting combine and even back as far as his workout performances at the Senior Bowl and the East West Shrine game… he repeatedly outshined everyone else who played his “natural” position. He was clearly the best.

So, when Mr. John Dorsey landed the big fish there was no one happier than I that he’d made “The Catch” of the draft.

Those are still the hopes and expectations we should have for Eric Fisher.

Back in February, John Dorsey said he wanted Fisher to gain “15 to 20 pounds” this off season in preparation for playing LT in 2014.

In reality, Eric Fisher has gained five pounds this offseason but, Andy Reid calls those pounds, “good weight.” I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fish puts on another 3 to 5 pounds of good weight between now and training camp. He will need the extra muscle mass to help withstand the beating that any LT takes in the NFL.

Eric Fisher underwent two operations this offseason. One was for a sport hernia. The second was on his shoulder.

Sports hernia has come into the mainstream news recently because Jadeveon Clowney has one. There is also conflicting information out there about whether or not surgery is needed to correct the situation. If surgery is needed then 6 to 8 weeks is the usual time for recovery. Some therapies suggest that sleeping in the prone position with the hip externally rotated… is the simple solution… and can help some athletes.

The sports hernia is less of a concern while the shoulder operation for a LT is like a knee operation for a RB. Every action a LT takes is predicated on shoulder strength. This, I’m sure, is why Andy Reid kept Fisher out of OTA’s. To give him the maximum amount of time to heal and come back from his surgery.

Another reality is that Eric Fisher started 13 games last year. The Chiefs were smart to move Donald Stephenson in and out at LT and RT last year when the starters went down. However, if that happens this season the player most people are expecting to play that role is JaMarcus Webb. Donald Stephenson has graduated each season he’s been in the NFL and deserves the shot at RT. There’s not much about JaMarcus Webb that breeds trust. Consequently, if Fisher goes down while he’s playing the Left side… I’d expect Reid to move Stephenson over and let Webb, or whoever else may step up in training camp, move in to the RT spot. When you only played 13 games… and you were the first player taken in the whole draft class… and you’re moving over to the most difficult position on the OL… then we can only expect you to play a percentage of next season too.

Many a pundit used Joe Staley as a comparison for Eric Fisher coming out of college. Just remember, Staley didn’t make the Pro Bowl his first four years in the league. Oddly enough, Staley became that Pro Bowl performer while protecting Alex Smith’s blind side. If Fisher can add some gristle to his chisel he’ll be just fine.

TE, Travis Kelce

Andy Reid is a lot like Bill Parcells when it comes to talking about injured players. They don’t. They only want to talk about the guys they are coaching. However, there’s a clear undertone of disappointment and that disappointment should be at it’s pinnacle for Andy Reid when he thinks about Travis Kelce.

Reid drafted and coached Kelce’s brother Center Jason Kelce while he coached the Eagles. Reid thought he’d dip his bucket in that well twice in three years so his expectations were partially based on his experience and success with his brother. Jason re-signed with the Philly in February for 37.5 million and 13 million guaranteed. That’s all to say that Kelce has the NFL gene running through his veins and should be a big success.

The asterisk next to Kelce’s name for now is his knee injury and resulting microfracture surgery. The U.S. National Library of Medicine offers the following insight into the basic procedures for microfracture surgery.

"“The surgeon will make a 1/4-inch surgical cut (incision) on your knee.A long, thin tube with a camera on the end is placed through this cut. This is called an arthroscope. The camera is attached to a video monitor in the operating room. This tool lets the surgeon to look inside your knee area and work on the joint.The surgeon makes another surgical cut and passes tools through this opening. A small pointed tool called an awl is used to make very small holes in the bone near the damaged cartilage. These are called microfractures.These holes release cells in your bones that build new cartilage that replaces the damaged tissue.The goal of this surgery is to prevent or slow further damage to the cartilage.”"

Microfracture surgery is considered serious surgery and a study shows that anyone who has this surgery should hold back on projecting their success.

A study tracking 24 NBA players who had microfracture surgery between 1997 and 2006 indicates,

"“Two years after surgery, 17 players were still active. Their performance lagged significantly behind a control group of similar players who were never injured. But they showed a trend toward improving performance and game times.”"

It’s difficult to project whether or not NBA players or NFL tight ends spend more time placing stress on their knees but it’s clear that… it happens.

While Kelce should be the #2 TE in the rotation at best no one should expect him to produce anymore than Tony Gonzales did his rookie year which was 368 yards.

ILB, Nico Johnson

Nico Johnson is someone who may never become a starter. I never completely understood why he was drafted by the Chiefs. He appeared in 51 games while at Alabama but, only ever started 20 of those games. He’s always been a second team player (to me) but, if he can make an impact on special teams then that may be the way he continues to remain on the Chiefs roster. Arrowhead Addict Senior Staff Writer Stacy D. Smith feels differently than I do about Nico Johnson so take a look at our debate a year ago if you’d like some support for any hopes you may have about N.J. becoming a starter… or a star… for the Chiefs.

FS, Sanders Commings

Sanders Commings measurables are exciting. The fact that he fractured his left clavicle on the first day of training camp last year was disappointing but now he brings all that excitement from last year to this year’s camp and all the expectations too.

Commings ran a 4.41 40 but was also timed running a 4.34. His vertical jump was 34 ½ inches but more important is the way Georgia used him while he was there. Sanders played both CB and Safety in college which makes him the perfect hybrid DB that Bob Sutton likes to employ in his schemes. This gives Sutton the option of moving his pieces around, just as he likes to move Eric Berry around. The more multi-talented players he has on the field, the more confusing it is to opposing QBs.

Commings came with a bit of off field problems but, those are long in the past now as he enters his sophomore season. Of all the 2013 draftees, Commings has the potential to have the biggest impact. Especially considering he had no impact in 2013. If Sanders Commings can make an impact this year then he and Eric Berry could be an excellent duo for years to come.

OL, Eric Kush

Like everyone else who started the last game of the regular season against San Diego, Eric Kush showed well. However, with all the change along the offensive line roster this offseason, Kush doesn’t project to have any more of a role in 2014 than he did in 2013.

DE, Mike Catapano

With the exit of Tyson Jackson, both Allen Bailey and Mike Catapano have bulked up this offseason with the hopes of landing the starting job vacated by the lesser Jackson. Whenever Catapano has taken the field, he’s shown a “Tamba Hali” type of energy. If he can maintain that kind of intensity while using his new found 290 plus pounds to penetrate opposing backfield Catapano could have as big an impact in 2014 as I expect Sanders Commings to have.

Catapano is quick when the ball is snapped and although he’s not as fast as Dee Ford his first step usually helps get him some penetration that other DL don’t create. At the 270 pounds that he played at last year, Catapano was a bit of a tweener. Now, with the extra poundage, he will fit right in as a DE. Catapano is fast, athletic and can play with leverage. However, he needs to play with more consistency to insure his effectiveness.

For a 7th round pick like Mike Catapano to come away with a plus 0.5 in pass rush and plus 0.5 in run defense (per ProFootballFocus) it indicates he’s pointed in the right direction. Some players like Catapano just need more reps. Training camp should help figure that out but, I’d bet on Catapano playing an important role in the Chiefs rotation in 2014.

QB, Tyler Bray

I must confess in advance, I’m a huge Bray fan. When he’s on… I see the next Brett Farve. When he’s off… I see Brett Favre. The reality is, Tyler Bray came to the Chiefs with a tremendous amount of expectations freshly shattered. Two years ago, Bray would have gone fairly high in the draft. The next season, he simply couldn’t get himself drafted at all. That’s where Andy Reid enters the equation. Reid is a master at transforming QBs and has already done a super job of taking the undrafted Bray and making him into someone who’s on the verge of competing for a backup position.

If for some reason Bray finds himself driving the bus… starting… I see him as completely capable of producing Nick Foles type results. Even with the presence of Aaron Murray on the roster, I still see Bray as making the team and competing for the backup position.

What do you say Addict fans? Are you as excited as I am to see which sophomore slams?