As Kansas City Chiefs training camp is now finally upon us, I wanted to take the time to point out some story lines. Some obvious, some maybe not so obvious, that we’ll be keeping a watchful eye on through camp, preseason, and into the regular season. Let’s take a quick look.
First is rather obvious, which is recently-cleared safety Eric Berry. While we all rejoice to the news of his clean bill of health, let’s take a moment to understand exactly what he’s coming back from so we can appropriately set expectations. Hopefully fans are understanding the Berry we’ve seen for years will, in all likelihood, not be the Berry we see in training camp and possibly the entire season.
He has not worked out in a football environment and has missed a lot of time crushing this terrible disease, so let’s hope fans and the team understand that while Berry’s recovery needs to be allowed the opportunity to regain his strength and come back to NFL-speed before we start expecting great things. If the Chiefs can get any true contributions from Berry this 2015 season, that’s a blessing.
Secondly, who will fill Dontari Poe’s shoes? News of Poe’s back surgery is scary on multiple fronts but the most pressing point for this discussion is what to expect this season, especially early on. As has been pointed out, the Chiefs don’t exactly have a cakewalk of a schedule, facing the Denver Broncos in Week 2 and the Green Bay Packers in Week 3.
If Poe will be unavailable to start working out through all of camp, I can’t imagine a situation in which he’s going to be ready to play for awhile. So who takes his place? That will be something to watch through training camp and the preseason, who steps up to fill the void? Should be interesting to watch.
At cornerback, who will step up and fill the void of Sean Smith during the first three games of the season? There is a strong belief Phillip Gaines will be the starter, but who will start opposite him during those games Smith will miss? The Chiefs, obviously preparing for the void, added Marcus Peters in round one and Steven Nelson in round three. Also, Jamell Flemming took over as the third corner last season, though he missed a significant portion of his available time due to a hamstring injury.
Marcus Cooper, a hero of the 2013 season (at least the first half) is still on the roster, and Ron Parker, who performed much better as a safety then a corner, will at a minimum provide depth at the cornerback position. As was mentioned previously, the Chiefs face Peyton Manning in Week 2 and Aaron Rodgers in Week 3, so someone will have to step up. It should be noted that Smith comes back against the Cincinnati Bengals, so the prospect of being off three weeks and coming back against A.J. Green is a bit scary.
Lastly, the wide receivers. The position group looks vastly different entering training camp this year then it did last year. That sounds nice, and for the most part, it is. The question becomes, however, will the position group find their roles quickly, and will Alex Smith develop a report with Jeremy Maclin quick enough for him to be the impact player many fans are hoping and expecting?
However, the Chiefs will have a wide receiver catch a touchdown this season. While he certainly won’t admit it, you can be sure Andy Reid wants that monkey off the team’s back, and quickly. We all know CBS will mention that stat more then a few times in Houston until the Chiefs receivers haul in a score, and to be honest, will be mentioned afterwards. The sooner the ridiculousness ends, the better for everyone.
Obviously, lets hope the Chiefs are able to get out of camp and into the season without any further injuries. Many fans and ‘experts’ believe the Chiefs could be headed towards great things this season. Our playoff victory drought is now old enough to share a beer with us as we drink away past season’s failures, so let’s hope we can get that monkey off our back as well.
“Fear Nothing, Attack Everything”- Eric Berry