Chiefs 2015: Winning the Training Camp marathon



It’s something every NFL team has to deal with.  No team’s will escape the season without injury losses.  Injuries had a significant effect on the 2014 Kansas City Chiefs squad.  With the opening of training camp for rookies and quarterbacks, the Chiefs have had a few injury curveballs.

 If any injury occurs to the starting ILBs, who steps in? Uh oh.

Heading into the opening of the training camp schedule, it is more imperative than ever that the team avoid injuries to the top 30 players.  A playoff push will hinge on having the team at nearly full strength.  But, don’t kid yourself, that is going to be very tough to pull off.

The season is an Ironman endurance race, especially for a young roster.   Training camp is a marathon.

The roller coaster began dramatically with news both up and down.  The injury to Dontari Poe will cost him at least time in training camp, but will likely cost him a few games. Matt covered it well a few days ago.  I am concerned recovery from this surgery could have a longer impact on his strength and stamina when he does return.

On the upside, Eric Berry returned to practice.  Matt’s analysis went up here, if you missed it.

The team is being cautious and Berry is not participating in every drill at this point.  That’s the right way to do it.  Ease him back in.  Though he worked out while getting chemotherapy treatments, taxing the returning pro-bowler early doesn’t help the longevity of his season.

Jul 29, 2015; St. Joseph, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Ramie Wilson (53) walks to the field during the first day of training camp at Missouri Western State University. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Then there are two injuries that are worth being concerned about in the short-term.  Rookie linebacker Ramik Wilson and rookie wide receiver Chris Conley both started the rookie portion of training camp with injuries.  Because of their inexperience, any missed reps have more impact on these two players than veterans like Poe.

Thankfully, Wilson returned to practice on Friday.  Wilson could be in an important position early in his career.  From where I sit, it looks like he could push for starting role at inside linebacker.  He is likely to be the main competition for Josh Mauga.   The key will be whether he can maintain his gap responsibilities and stop the run better than Mauga.

But, even he he does not beat out Mauga, Wilson still has a critical role to fill.  The team needs an upgrade at the #3 ILB spot.  If any injury occurs to the starting ILBs, who steps in?  At this point, it would likely be James Michael-Johnson.  Uh oh.  JMJ has shown his talents against the pass but, he has not been able to solidify the middle versus the run.  The Chiefs need a healthy Ramik Wilson has to step in to bolster the middle and push for a starting position in order to shore up the run defense.  Week two may not see Poe back and Gary Kubiak’s Broncos are coming to town.

Wide receiver Chris Conley has missed the first few days of camp and it has been met with some concern.  With so little information, the situation isn’t anything to get too worked about.  He’s played in the West Coast Offense for multiple years.  He understands concepts and the route tree.  If he is slow to recover initially during camp it won’t be the end of his season.  He can still study and be in meetings, so slowing the timeline in similar way to Odell Beckham Jr in 2014 can work.

It accomplishes a few more things as well.  It gives Albert Wilson, and likely Jason Avant, more time lining up as starters, which is import for two players new to Kansas City in 2014.  More importantly, it gives reps and coaching time to De’Anthony Thomas.  That will pay for itself as the season wears on.  For now, Conley can learn and heal.  It may let him have an impact later in the season, rather than hitting a “rookie wall.”

Training camp hype and pressure gets expectations out of whack. In the long run, slow progress by Berry, Wilson and Conley will work well.  Camp is a marathon, after all.