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The absolute torrent of signings that unfolded during the NFL free agency period for the last few weeks has placed a shadow of forgetfulness over the NFL Draft and the acquisitions that each team made back in April. Mel Kiper realizes just how easy it is to forget that those guys will make impacts as well.
In his most recent column, he analyzes each NFL franchise with a brief look at whether or not their top rookies will get on the field considering the team's respective action in free agency. The good news for the top picks in the AFC West is that each should expect to garner significant time on the field despite their teams' respective moves. That's good news for names like Von Miller, Jonathan Baldwin, Corey Liuget and Stefen Wisniewski.
Specifically for the Chiefs, Kiper writes, "Even with the addition of Steve Breaston, expect Jonathan Baldwin -- who was drafted with the deep ball in mind -- to be on the field as a regular target for Matt Cassel. Breaston could land back in the slot, which may weaken the impact of last year's rookie, Dexter McCluster."
As for the Raiders, they still need considerable offensive line help, so Wisniewski should have no problem making an impact from day one. In fact, the Raiders have done little for a line that was already an issue before free agency.
As for the Broncos, both Rahim Moore, safety, and Von Miller, linebacker, should hit the field from day one if they earn it in camp and not look back. The Broncos have brought in a lot of defensive talent via trade and free agency, but John Fox has left the door open for both players.
As for the Chargers, they definitely drafted Liuget to start from the beginning of the season, at least as a rotational guy, and see how he develops and performs. He's a nice compliment to Antonio Garay and Cam Thomas, last year's draft choice, and the Chargers should be strong along the defensive interior with their draft additions, including Jonas Mouton.
The Kansas City Chiefs offensive line, and specifically offensive tackle, has been considered a position of need throughout this entire off-season. Scott Pioli finally acknowledged his agreement with those in favor of bringing in some help with the signing of Baltimore Ravens’ left tackle Jared Gaither earlier today. Just don’t expect a quick fix or easy transition.
Questions lingered over whether the Chiefs were set as a playoff team along the front line, and Pioli certainly responded this off-season with a series of moves that will redefine most of the o-line. Casey Wiegmann returns in the middle on a one-year deal to prep the way for second round choice Rodney Hudson. Brian Waters was let go after a Pro Bowl season (and potential Hall of Fame career) to make way for Ryan Lilja at left guard and the entrance of Jon Asamoah into the starting lineup. That means the Chiefs could have three new players (including Lilja’s switch) in new places along the interior.
On the outside, the questions continued whether or not Barry Richardson can hold up as a playoff-caliber right tackle. For that matter, the same concerns persist about Branden Albert and whether or not he should eventually be pushed inside. If Gaither gets healthy, someone will eventually lose their slot because the talent there is simply undeniable.
Yet to that point, it’s still going to be a while, giving both Albert and Richardson continued time to prove their point. They’re both still young and learning their respective positions, after all, and Gaither is probably not ready to go yet. The Chiefs value continuity and the coaches know the players and vice versa that are already in place. Richardson and Albert know the schemes, they know what’s expected and they’ve proven able to perform up to the task on a division winning roster.
Gaither’s health is also an aspect of all of this as he deals with lingering back issues that kept him out all last season. It’s difficult to tell whether or not he’s completely healthy, and back issues are certainly the sort of injury to linger and keep a player out. Even if a guy like Richardson loses his job, it’s obvious he’ll still play plenty in 2011.
Any expectations for Gaither to automatically become the new starter at left or right tackle for the Chiefs are unfounded at this point. The primary task at hand for all involved is for Gaither to get to know the system, coaches, environment and teammates and to prove once and for all that he’s healthy and ready to go. Until then, the Chiefs have men who’ve been in place for some time, and it’s that continuity that plays in their favor for probably the first few weeks of the regular season at least.
The Kansas City Chiefs have signed free agent tackle Jared Gaither, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens. For those keeping tabs, Gaither makes it four players and coaches that the Chiefs have taken from the Ravens just this offseason. Gaither joins LeRon McClain, Kelly Gregg and Jim Zorn who have all come over from Baltimore.
Gaither is coming off a back injury in 2010 that sidelined him for the entire 2010 season. But if healthy, Gaither could compete to start at either tackle position. This is a huge signing for the Chiefs. Literally, Gaither is one of the largest players in the NFL at an astounding 6'9 340lbs.
Gaither has already showed he is ready to join the Chiefs, and not to mention that he said two of his closest friends in football are LeRon McClain and Brandon Albert. Gaither will see many familiar faces when he joins the Chiefs.
From a roster standpoint Gaither will most likely compete with Barry Richardson and Ryan O' Callaghan for the starting right tackle spot. Richardson started every game last season for the Chiefs, but the 25-year old Gaither when healthy, could give Richardson a run for his money for the starting tackle spot.
This is a fantastic low risk/high reward move by the Chiefs, who have seemingly addressed every supposed-weakness on the teams depth chart. This will be another player to watch this preseason.
Last night, the question marks were almost visible above the heads of several local KC area sportswriters or broadcasters given the response on Twitter. They wondered why the Kansas City Chiefs would sign Keary Colbert. It’s not that Colbert hasn’t been productive in the NFL the last two years; he hasn’t even been with a team. In fact, just two months ago, he signed with the UFL’s Sacramento franchise. So what is the reason?
At the same time, the Chiefs brought in Todd Carter, an extra kicker into camp who provides an extra leg in team scrimmages, a back-up for preseason games and some help for special teams drills. It’s a long, hot camp and adding a kicker makes sense. Perhaps the same rationale could be used to describe Scott Pioli’s reasons for signing Colbert, but that’s not the case — the Chiefs already have several young receivers in house vying for end of roster slots on special teams or even hopes for the practice squad.
So the signing of Colbert must say something more about the state of the Chiefs receivers. The Chiefs know what they have (or hope they know) with Steve Breaston, Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin, Dexter McCluster, Jerheme Urban and Terrance Copper. But perhaps even those aren’t as reassuring as what Haley and Pioli would like, and Colbert had something they liked — even from his NFL playing days a few years ago. Or maybe he found a spark in the UFL.
That’s a bit scary if you think about it. There’s no reason to bring in Colbert to just compete for a special teams role when players like Copper or cornerback Jalil Brown will be taking those slots with experience and talent. Other than that, could Colbert have been brought in because promising players like McCluster or Urban (and definitely the rest) haven’t been up to par? Even Baldwin to this point?
There’s no way the Chiefs are “giving up” on any of those guys, so this isn’t about that. But perhaps the Chiefs want a certain veteran level of performance early, and they realize those guys will need some time to get there. If so, that’s frustrating since a player like Braylon Edwards was signed for $1 million plus incentives for only one year. If the Chiefs needed to bring in veteran help, it’s been sitting there for some time — guys who have played in the NFL recently.
So the question marks are still out there, wondering what Colbert has left and what place he takes on the Chiefs as the team moves toward it’s first preseason game. The way Todd Haley uses him and what happens in upcoming practices may give us an idea of what the front office has in mind.
With the rumors swirling on Twitter that Keary Colbert has reportedly reached a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, it begs two questions: what role could Colbert play on the team and what does he have left?
Nick Wright notes that he can’t imagine Colbert being anything but a coach given the team’s stack of wide receivers already in camp. That’s a valid concern — the number at least — seeing the names already stacked up. Steve Breaston, Dwayne Bowe, Terrance Copper, Jon Baldwin, Jerheme Urban, Dexter McCluster, Verran Tucker, Jeremy Horne, Chandler Williams, Josue Paul, Chris Manno, Zeke Markshausen. Those are the names of the guys already in Chiefs training camp.
Of course, several of those names will fall by the wayside or at least hit the practice squad. But Copper, Baldwin, Breaston, Bowe, Urban and McCluster aren’t going anywhere. Tucker and others have also impressed. It’s hard to imagine Colbert has a spot on the team, especially when he even recently signed with the UFL’s Sacramento franchise.
As for Colbert’s receiving prowess, well, it hasn’t been on display since 2008 when he caught 12 receptions in 11 games with the Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos. The year before that, in 2007, he caught 32 passes. In 2006? Colbert caught just 5 receptions. That means the sum total of Colbert’s productivity in the last 5 seasons has been less than 50 total catches.
Scott Pioli wouldn’t bring in Colbert if there wasn’t some reason. Perhaps he’s a diamond in the rough. Perhaps he’s the next receivers coach or an assistant of some type. But it is an intriguing move for a team that hasn’t brought in many players this off-season thus far.
Pro Football Focus recently released an interesting list of 10 key additions from the offseason that provided upgrades to what certain teams already had in place. I’ll leave the full explanation and list of disclaimers to them, but it’s interesting that they see the Chiefs addition of Brandon Siler as a point worth mentioning — especially when other free agents like Kelly Gregg and Steve Breaston could warrant a mention.
This is good news for a Chiefs defense that already has a dynamic young secondary in place and a decent front line that’s also filled with potential. Jovan Belcher held down the starting spot alongside Derrick Johnson a year ago, and it’s safe to assume that Belcher will still get plenty of reps. But if the Chiefs like what they see in Siler, he could be the new starter. And that’s what PFF likes in the pairing with DJ:
Last year we only saw a noticeably out of shape (via injury) Siler pick up a marginally better rating that Mays. On the surface, not enough to make this article, but move back a year and you’ll see a Siler who has the kind of physical traits that earned him our fifth-highest grade for all inside linebackers. He’s the perfect complement for Derrick Johnson – the athlete who can make plays in coverage paired with the front footed linebacker that Siler is. The Chiefs have got themselves a great pairing there.
I’m not sure why Belcher isn’t mentioned here, but I like the insight into the history of Siler’s potential. If conditioning is the issue for Siler, then he’s landed in the right camp with Todd Haley and company. And with the talent he’s surrounded by on all sides, he might find himself free to put up his best stats to date.
On the one hand, they praise them. Then the next, they say they’re overrated. There’s no winning with ESPN’s current set of articles looking at the pre-season power structure and expectations in the NFL.
ESPN released their preseason rankings earlier today, placing the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 14 overall in the NFL heading into the season — this comes after a 10-6 season and an AFC West title under their belt on such a young roster. However, it also came against one of the league’s easiest schedule and the team crumbled late in the year.
This must be the thinking behind Chris Sprow placing the Chiefs on his Overrated teams list heading into the 2011 season. He says, “It’s impossible to have a serious NFL conversation this offseason without a discussion about whether the Chiefs are likely to regress. Bottom line: The simulations seem certain that in reaching the playoffs, the Chiefs benefited far more from San Diego’s regular disasters than from their own youthful progression. But it’s also hard to see the league’s best rushing game falling off too much.”
The Chiefs are certainly aware that the schedule before them is much tougher, but they’re also a developing team with burgeoning talent on both sides of the field. Not to mention, they’ve also addressed several perceived weaknesses with free agent and rookie additions in the off-season. It’s hard to tell what will happen for the Chiefs this year, but it seems last year’s good fortune hasn’t convinced the mainstream.
The Kansas City Chiefs start off the 2011 season with a power ranking in the top half of the NFL according to ESPN. The Chiefs come in at No. 14 according to the poll and despite winning the division championship last season, they still sit behind the San Diego Chargers (10) in this first preseason poll.
The rest of the AFC west won't be too thrilled about these rankings as the Oakland Raiders sit at No. 23, and the Denver Broncos come in at No. 29. The Raiders saw a fall from the last rankings in 2010 where they were ranked No. 15. The losses of Nnamdi Asomugha, Zach Miller, Robert Gallery and head coach Tom Cable have obviously affected the Raiders in this first power rankings poll in 2011.
The Chiefs do not have an easy road if they want to build upon last years AFC west division championship and home playoff game. The Chiefs have games against New England, Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York and Green Bay in consecutive weeks in late November to mid-December. Considering the Chiefs have improved their team with the offseason moves that they made it's obvious that this tough schedule played a role in determining these rankings.
The Chiefs finished the 2010 season ranked No. 11 in the week 18 poll. The Chiefs will find out what kind of team they have and if they are ready to compete with the class of the AFC this season. Considering they play three of the best teams in the AFC (New England, Pittsburgh, New York (A) this season, we'll know exactly how close, or far, the Chiefs are from building a consistent winner here in Kansas City.
After having to stand on the sidelines for the first week of training camp, second year tight end Tony Moeaki is ready to resume full practice for the Chiefs after having knee surgery during the offseason.
Surffering from a history of injuries going back to his time at the University of Iowa, it now appears this will be viewed as just a minor surgery for Moeaki and there shouldn't be any lingering issues as he begins year number two.
Moeaki became a key cog of the Kansas City offense during his rookie year in which he hauled in 47 receptions for 556 yards and three touchdowns. Not a bad debut for the 24-year old who was a third round draft choice in 2010.
The guys over at Arrowhead Pride also wrote about the news of Moeaki being able to start practicing. The Chiefs will rely heavily on Moeaki this season as Leonard Pope is the only other returning tight end with much game experience. Cody Slate has also been participating in camp at tight end while former Chiefs draft pick Brad Cottam was released during the offseason.
Aaron Maybin is the very definition of a draft bust so far in his short NFL career. And that might be exactly why the Kansas City Chiefs could make a play for him at this point in the off-season.
The outside linebacker was the No. 11 overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills and he was supposed to be a major addition to their pass rush. Coming out of Penn State, ESPN's Mel Kiper loved Maybin and paired him with Brian Orakpo near the top of his draft targets on defense, saying that "Maybin is another combo type who is explosive out of the blocks and relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback." Yet after being drafted, Maybin has done absolutely nothing, with career totals of 24 tackles in two full seasons with zero sacks.
Tim Graham writes that the main issue for Maybin has been his lack of professionalism. "Aaron Maybin... has been all flash and no substance. Before Maybin signed his NFL contract, he had a rap song that mentioned Maybach luxury cars, pinky rings, Circoc vodka, Nike endorsement deals and all the heads he was going to knock off." Chan Gailey has publicly criticized him and nothing seems to have worked thus far.
However, this could be exactly the kind of buy-low option that Scott Pioli would make a move for. Mike Lombardi wrote that the Bills are shopping him around, saying, "I hear the Bills would love to have someone take first-round bust defensive end Aaron Maybin off their hands and are offering him up for trade to any team -- but so far no takers." The culture in KC is already established and if the cost was something minimal -- a 7th round choice, for instance -- then the risk is minimal for something that could pay major dividends. Working around professionals like Tamba Hali and having such a strong environment around him might provide the difference.
It's easy to forget that Maybin was just a redshirt sophomore in his final season in college, so there's still so much untapped potential there. Yet in his 10 starts at Penn State that year before coming out, he led the Big Ten with 12 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. Perhaps his immaturity and inexperience have gotten the best of him and he'll never turn the corner. But one of the ways that the best teams stay the best is that they take the chance and buy low on a stock with a high ceiling. That's exactly what Maybin might provide on the field.
Andy Studebaker likely has some flowers and a card or at least some kind of present waiting for Justin Houston when he meets him. Or at the very least, the outside linebacker is mentally thanking the only remaining unsigned draft pick for the Kansas City Chiefs. That’s because the absence and silence of Houston is giving Studebaker a red carpet straight to a starting spot.
Studebaker might have already had the starting OLB position opposite Tamba Hali locked up already, but it doesn’t hurt to have your possible replacement or primary competition sitting at home (or doing whatever — fill in your own blank since Houston and his agent seems okay with that). Every off-season features turnover on every team and OLB was one of the spots where the Chiefs supposedly upgraded from what they currently had on the roster. Changes were coming at receiver and along the offensive line. It was also assumed that Studebaker would be among the incumbents adjusting to new competition.
Yet Houston’s holdout has allowed Studebaker to have the lone spotlight on the outside, a rare gift to seize your moment without everyone else trying to do the same. Sure Cameron Sheffield is there, as is Gabe Miller. But the lack of Houston’s presence in camp isn’t just hurting the Georgia draftee — it’s also a spotlight on Studebaker that gives him several more reps than what he might have gotten.
As for Houston, his silence speaks a thousand words — and none of them are good. Two of the Chiefs draft picks in particular had an uphill climb in terms of public perception to dispel their reputations. Jon Baldwin, the Chiefs first-round receiver, has been here and playing and the media seem content to focus on his big play ability versus anything that happened in his college days. For Houston, however, that’s all we can discuss. That’s because he’s not giving us anything else.
In this training camp season where people have been thirsty for anything NFL-related, the amount of interest and the buzz from each camp is louder than ever. Everything is getting overanalyzed through the lens of the new collective bargaining agreement, and every transaction is receiving an instant thumbs-up or down due to overwhelming fan interest. Simply put, Houston picked the wrong off-season to try to twist a front office arm for some extra money or some perk.
The right move when your draft stock has slipped is to suck it up, put your head down, come in early and leave late while doing the work you’ve been asked to do the entire time. You meet your teammates, you respect your coaches, you learn the playbook and you earn your place on the roster. Instead, there’s a noticeable absence among the Chiefs players.
Everyone is filling the information gap with their own reasons why Houston must be missing. And it’s not the best case scenario. There’s still time to remedy the situation, but the moments are slipping. He needs to be in camp today and begin the work of repairing an image that was already tarnished in the first place.
Some great sleuthing on the part of Joel Thorman over at the always essential Arrowhead Pride reveals the new contract details for perhaps the Kansas City Chiefs biggest get in free agency to this point in wide receiver Steve Breaston. The details were already out that he received a five-year deal worth up to $25 million, but Thorman got the scoop on the year to year take. He writes:
We’re told Breaston received $5 million to sign and a $700,000 base salary in 2011. His $1.8 million base salary in 2012 is guaranteed for injury only and he has a $1.3 million roster bonus in 2012. It appears the Chiefs could get out of this after one year and less than $6 million but I can’t envision a scenario with that happening.
In 2013, his base salary is $3.8 million, in 2014 it’s $3 million and in 2015 it’s $4.1 million. He has $200,000 workout bonuses from 2012-2015 and $1 million reporting bonuses in 2014 and 2015. He has another $500,000 in escalators available each year from 2012-2015.
Overall, that’s a nice contract for both sides. Obviously Breaston has to be happy with the money he received, but it’s good for the Chiefs at a couple of key points. First, it dips a bit in 2014, a, year that should bring a good increase in the salary cap due to renegotiated TV deals that expire that year. There’s a chance the cap will increase by a much higher percentage than normal that year, so this seems like Pioli is building in just a bit more wiggle room since he will have to spend at 89 percent of the cap that year anyway. Expect similar hiccups in other contracts the Chiefs sign players to.
They've plugged the hole at defensive tackle. They've added the necessary pieces at wideout. They've signed further muscle in the backfield. They've added depth and pass rushing options at linebacker. Is there anything left on the Kansas City Chiefs off-season shopping list? At least, realistically speaking?
Most Chiefs fans would like to see some more pieces added. The case could be made for a veteran OLB like Matt Roth or a veteran back-up at quarterback. Some fans have called for another defensive tackle to help in the rotation. But at this rate, most fans seem to realize that Scott Pioli is as fine as Uncle Scrooge sitting on bags of money if he doesn't feel like spending it. Pioli has his way and that's what fans have to deal with -- like it or not. The Chiefs aren't going to pull a Redskins or Eagles sort of maneuver. Hell, they're not even the Rams (who have signed 9 FA and counting this off-season).
So it seems the Chiefs might be finished unless some surprising free agents are left standing in the end who could be had for cheap deals that make sense. It seems Pioli played a bit of a waiting game on Le'Ron McClain and the final deal was only for one year. Perhaps others left standing like a left tackle in the mold of a Max Starks or Bryant McKinnie will find a sliding stock slipping right into Pioli territory. At this point, it's anyone's call and honestly, I've gotten tired of being wrong at this point.
However, I think it's safe to say that fans shouldn't expect anything at this point moving forward. That way, if the Chiefs do sign another player, then it's a pleasant surprise. But it also keeps fans from being disappointed that the Chiefs don't trade for Osi Umenyiora and sign Braylon Edwards in the same afternoon. These types of moves just aren't going to happen.
For those Chiefs fans that were worried that the pockets were a little tight at 1 Arrowhead Drive this offseason, this extension should put an end to that talk. Hali's contract is still below the contract that DeMarcus Ware signed with the Dallas Cowboys that offered around $13 Million per year. But this is a win-win for the Chiefs and for Hali. He will again be a free agent at the age of 32 and should be in-line for another pay day if he continues on this same path.
The Chiefs solidified the pass rush for the next five years and the quarterbacks around the AFC West cannot be thrilled with this news. This has been a slam-dunk offseason for the Chiefs and they've positioned themselves very nicely for the foreseeable future.
The Chiefs said at the end of last season that they wanted to keep Hali in Kansas City, and Hali had said that he wanted to be a Chief. Both parties got their business taken care of and the rest of the Chiefs players get to see that this organization will take care of you when you take care of your business the correct way.
This shouldn't be the last contract extension that is completed for the Chiefs this year as Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr could be next in line for extensions. But signing Hali long-term should give Chiefs fans a collective sigh of relief that not only did they keep Hali in Kansas City, they showed the fans that they will open their pockets and take care of their own.
Once you get past the smoke of the initial fire of Le’Ron McClain’s signing with the Kansas City Chiefs, you start to hear the stories that were coming out of his last team concerning why he left. The Ravens moved from McClain’s fullback services after he kept reiterating that he wanted more carries from the Ravens instead of serving as the lead blocker. In other words, he didn’t want to serve as a fullback anymore.
That’s what makes two things important to note for the Chiefs. One, the obvious assumption is that Scott Pioli and Todd Haley were aware of this before committing to bringing in McClain into the locker room — one where the offense is clearly based on a running game with Jamaal Charles’ name written all over it. And the other carries already go to a veteran who has earned the respect of the head coach and roster in Thomas Jones.
Simply put, McClain is going to get his carries. If he left Baltimore to get a chance to carry the football, then he isn’t going to sign without that chance. And Pioli is not going to sign a player and then hope he shuts up about what he really wants on the field. There’s going to be an agreement in place, and that means you will see Le’Ron McClain carrying the football several times a game for the Chiefs.
Secondly, this is why McClain most likely signed the 1-year deal. If things don’t go his way, he gets to approach the free agent market again one year later when there aren’t hundreds of players clogging up the market. McClain will be in yet another contract year, so he will play nice, and when he does have the ball, he will maximize his efforts. And the Chiefs get a chance to see the product on the field and watch the payoff.
What’s that payoff, you ask? Thomas Jones was not the same back at the end of last season as he was in the beginning. Charles is going to get the bulk of the carries this year, that much has already been established. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to be the Stephen Jackson type of workhorse that you might expect. There are still carries to go around, assuming Jones takes a significant step backward, and all three men will get their carries.
Fans will still complain, but if the Chiefs are in the playoff hunt heading into December, the Chiefs are going to be set up well to run the football successfully into the playoffs. The challenge might be having enough passes to keep the new receivers happy, but then again, that running game is what opens up the field for Cassel to take advantage of his new targets. It’s all a matter of balance, but it’s a beautiful problem to have compared to other teams just trying to figure out what they even have on offense at this point.
The Kansas City Chiefs have signed their fourth unrestricted free agent of the off-season (not including undrafted FAs) in former Baltimore Ravens fullback Le’Ron McClain, and most Chiefs fans will be a major fan of the move. Several NFL analysts also believe the move is a solid one for the Chiefs, who have added a “physical lead blocker” to a unit that already led the NFL in rushing last season.
Scouts, Inc. likes McClain’s game and says he’s an all-around threat, bringing a different dimension than most fullbacks bring to a team:
McClain has developed into one of the more physical lead blockers in the league. He is a big, strong player with deceptive agility and quickness. McClain has enough speed and quickness to get to the corner on perimeter leads. As a ball carrier, he is effective running between the tackles in short-yardage and goal-line situations. He has good vision to the hole with some ability to adjust and hit the hole with good pad level. He takes good angles to seal for position after attacking the line of scrimmage. He has good overall quickness, agility and balance to secure and sustain his blocks. He also has adequate hands as a receiver out of the backfield.
That 6-0, 260 lb. bulk will also come in handy in the red zone, where McClain could be a threat to run straight up the middle or catch a pass coming out of the backfield — and teams must be forced to respect both. New tall targets at wide receiver, the great hands of second year tight end Tony Moeaki and three solid backs should make the Chiefs quite a threat when getting the ball inside the 20 this season.
The one year deal gives the Chiefs a chance to see if McClain could be an answer for Thomas Jones', whose contract expires after this year. McClain is a versatile player that will most likely line up all over the backfield for the Chiefs and help them on short yardage situations carrying the ball.
There was rumored interest over the past week that McClain would be headed to Kansas City, but just a few days ago there was discussions that the Chiefs had not yet contacted McClain. With free agents not having to report to training camp until August 4th it makes sense that McClain and the Chiefs came to an agreement the day before he would need to report to camp.
Chiefs fans should be excited with the weapons that have been added this offseason to the offensive side of the ball. Steve Breaston, Jon Baldwin and LeRon McClain give Matt Cassel and the offense plenty of firepower to score in bunches, and McClain gives the running game another physical presence to pound the ball when ahead late in a game.
In Mel Kiper’s round of early grades for each AFC team’s approach to the NFL Free Agency period of the last week or more, he’s clearly not too impressed with the Kansas City Chiefs — or at least at the sum of the team’s efforts.
While Kiper seems pleased with the particular players they picked up — especially Brandon Siler and Steve Breaston — it wasn’t nearly enough, according to Kiper, for the total amount of money they had to spend:
The Chiefs had a lot of money to spend in free agency when the lockout ended. But as of right now, there just isn’t much to report here — which I don’t really understand. In his day, Gregg was an exceptional nose tackle, but swapping him out for Edwards now — considering Gregg’s age — is probably a wash. An upgrade such as Aubrayo Franklin would have been the route I went on the nose. Siler could regain his 2009 form with this coaching staff and is a great risk for the Chiefs to take as a starter next to Derrick Johnson.
Gilberry was very disruptive last year getting after opposing quarterbacks. Even if he just plays predominantly on throwing downs, Gilberry is a big part of this pass defense. Breaston is a nice addition who will be yet another complementary weapon to make Matt Cassel’s life much easier. And that is a strategy I very much commend, as I don’t see Cassel as the type of quarterback who will ever put his team on his back and take over games. He needs help, and Kansas City has given it to him. But as it stands now, Kansas City was just too passive in free agency for my liking.
Kiper wasn’t very kind to anyone in the AFC West except for the San Diego Chargers, who received a B+ for signing most of their best free agents along with Bob Sanders and Takeo Spikes. The Raiders and Broncos also received C- grades.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel recently took some time out this morning to talk to NFL.com about several topics — from the young impressive secondary to the loss of Charlie Weis. What came through loud and clear is that Cassel is hopeful that the team built a successful foundation last season and that new weapons like Steve Breaston can help the team take off even further in 2011.
Concerning the team’s 2010 performance, Cassel realized that it was an important win for so much more than just the win column. Instead it was about establishing the overall direction and tone under head coach Todd Haley.
:“Last year, I thought, was a great year for us in so many ways it was so successful because we were able to establish that foundation,” said Cassel. “Going into this year, it’s about building off that foundation that we set. We’ve got a great core group of guys that are coming back. The offense hasn’t changed at all. For the most part, almost the entire coaching staff has come back. So now it’s about taking advantage of the time we have in camp, because obviously this off-season was a little screwy for everybody. But I think that everybody is motivated to come in, work hard and get ready for a great 2011 season.”
When it comes to Breaston, Cassel says he hopes he can help shore up one of the few weaknesses from last year’s offensive unit.
“Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get out there to throw with him yet, but I know he’s an explosive player,” says Cassel. “He’s the kind of guy who can run and blow the top off of the coverage, and that’s something that we lacked a little bit last year. Hopefully he can come in and immediately give us some speed on the outside and be a guy that can give us that deep threat.”
Cassel also appreciates the continuity under new coordinator Bill Muir, who he said has kept the offensive changes to a minimum. It’s helpful as a quarterback to have that kind of smooth transition, and Cassel realizes it could have been different. Make sure to check out the rest of the interview for even more quotes from Chiefs training camp.
I don't believe Scott Pioli's list was that long this off-season. After all, a team with 10 wins doesn't yield nearly as many holes as the two win team he and Todd Haley inherited. Reinvent the wide receiver corps. Address the defensive interior. Continue the youth movement along the offensive line. Find a counterpart to both replace Mike Vrabel and complement Tamba Hali.
It's that last item that's become the most troublesome. Pioli might have believed he addressed the problem with third round choice Justin Houston -- a player who many scouts agree has first round talent yet seemed to find drama and distractions surrounding him in his college career. Now for reasons unknown, Houston is the one remaining rookie that has yet to join the Chiefs. Yet he was arguably the one who needed to get himself into training camp the fastest.
No reason has been given from either side in the negotiations with Justin Houston, so any writer or report out trying to make sense of the matter is pure conjecture. However, what is clear is that every day missed is another practice or two away from the team, away from Romeo Crennel's playbook, away from the locker room and even away from the ethos of the team culture that Haley has worked hard to build. There's a Chiefs way, simply put, and Justin Houston has no idea what that even means.
Even if Houston signs soon, questions will remain about how game-ready he will be, which is what the Chiefs needed him to be when they chose him in April. The need still remains whether or not Justin Houston might eventually be ready at some indiscernible point down the road. Can the Chiefs count on Justin Houston at this point? Probably not. It's definitely not a lost cause, but at some point, the team and Scott Pioli is going to have to think about addressing the same position and need in another way. Because the NFL season will be here and the need for another legitimate pass rusher will be glaring -- the same way it was last season, except against a much more difficult schedule.
Wallace Gilberry will certainly be playing well with a chip on his shoulder as he hopes to prove he's an every down player who warrants mention alongside other promising pass rushing ends in the NFL. Brandon Siler might add some intrigue from the interior linebacker position. Kelly Gregg might eat up more blockers in the middle, freeing up other players to come through. And I still love the blitzing options at cornerback that Javier Arenas affords.
But it was Houston who was brought in to be the "other" sack guy -- a guy who approaches double digit sacks from the opposite side that makes opposing quarterbacks afraid. Now it's the Chiefs who might be a bit nervous about where they go from here. Perhaps the Chiefs will bring in a Matt Roth type to provide that presence. Maybe another free agent will come in. But at this point, I can't imagine the Chiefs feel as comfortable with their choices as they did in April.
Bill Williamson, ESPN’s AFC West blogger, recently asked Steve Muench of Scouts, Inc. to help assist him in assessing the undrafted free agents in the AFC West, and it’s the Chiefs who come out on top. It’s an interesting note, considering that every other team brought in several more undrafted FAs than the Chiefs have this season — at least so far — but apparently you should expect a few of them to stick.
First, Scouts, Inc. say they love former Oregon defensive lineman Brandon Bair. Muench notes, “Bair has the long arms, quickness and bulk to transition from defensive tackle to defensive end in Kansas City’s base three-man front. He’s a hard worker who needs to improve his pad level and hand fighting to realize his potential in this scheme.”
Secondly, it’s not one of the several offensive linemen in camp, but a tight end who has the chance to stand out in Charlie Gantt from Michigan State, “The Chiefs have also done well to give Gantt a look in training camp. Gantt isn’t a game-changer or a dominant in-line blocker but he has the tools to develop into an effective short-to-intermediate target and wall-off blocker.”
Both players in particular are on the best teams they could be to stick at the NFL level. The Chiefs are playing it safe with Tony Moeaki right now and have Leonard Pope also in house, but Gantt certainly has the room to make his presence known. As for Bair, it’s another perfect fit given the room the Chiefs have along the defensive line at either end or tackle for another promising player.
For 24 to 48 hours, the swell of fear from Kansas City Chiefs fans was actually visceral. The Chiefs were already softer in the middle of the defensive line than what most fans and NFL analysts thought they should be. Veteran journeyman Ron Edwards had done a decent job in the middle for a while, but never to any game-changing degree. Shaun Smith was there to provide another able, versatile body along the line (along with the best attitude of any Chiefs defender). But there was room for more -- either that over the top veteran acquisition or a top rookie.
Then the NFL Draft goes by without any major additions to the spot. The Chiefs did select Jerrell Powe in the sixth round, but addressing a position in the sixth round is hardly seen as a major move, no matter how heralded the prospect has been in the past. Like it or not, Powe was a developmental acquisition and could not be expected to make a major impact in year one (or even two, for that matter). Then Edwards left to join the Carolina Panthers acquisition circus. Finally, Smith left for the Tennessee Titans in a move that left Chiefs Nation stunned.
Suddenly there was no one. Powe was left standing alone, unless you count the ever-present shadow known as Anthony Toribio. Chiefs fans were hitting the panic button, wondering why the Aubrayo Franklin signing announcement hadn't been made. A morning, afternoon and evening go by while seemingly every other NFL franchise is making moves, and it was enough for the masses to take to Twitter asking the same question: "Where is Scott Pioli?"
Kelly Gregg was his answer -- his long-awaited answer. For some, it's been great news. For others, they still want Franklin. It's a fear that the Chiefs are still short-handed. Others point to his age (35) and wonder how much is left. Others wonder why the Ravens would cut him if he was really that good anymore. Personally, I think part of it was being used to Edwards and Smith and wanting at least one of them to still be around to bolster the line-up. Suddenly the anchor point of the 3-4 defense was left to two new faces -- one older, one younger. But Romeo Crennel believes you don't have to fear.
"He’s a good player he has to be reckoned with and I think he will be good for some of these young guys on our team," Crennel said at Chiefs practice yesterday. "The thing that I found about veteran defensive lineman is they know all the tricks of the trade. They know where to put their hands, they know how to fight the pressure, so if he can give some of that experience to some of these young guys, and I’ve had veterans before who have been able to do that and they can help young guys develop and so that’s what we expect from Kelly."
The reviews on Gregg across the board have been how much of an impact he will have on the field and in the locker room, a savvy move for a team that lost Brian Waters and Mike Vrabel as their veteran leaders on both sides. Gregg has been a part of championship defenses coached by some of the best in the business. And after over a decade in the league at a playoff-level team, he's seen it all and can handle what's thrown his way.
Powe will learn from one of the best while also playing alongside him in his final days as an NFL pro. That's not a bad move in the end, and even though it's different, Chiefs fans will soon realize that everything is better than it was before.
The Kansas City Chiefs have a loaded young secondary that should only improve with each passing year, as long as the Chiefs keep them together (i.e. signing Brandon Carr long term). And the defensive front should also continue to improve as the faces change from journeyman defender Ron Edwards to Ravens' longtime stalwart Kelly Gregg and young players like Wallace Gilberry, Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson continue to improve. But it's the linebacking corps that has the most room to improve on the team given potential upgrades or development.
That's what makes the return of Cameron Sheffield something to watch through Kansas City Chiefs training camp as well as the regular season. He's a tough player who seemed to instantly make an impression on head coach Todd Haley and the KC coaching staff, yet an early injury took him out in a scary way -- in a head-on collision against Philadelphia in the third preseason game last year that took him out for the year.
"Sheffield was a guy that was coming on when he went down," Haley said today from training camp. "He looks like he’s progressed. It’s been a long off-season for him. That’s a lot of tough mental issues to go through when you’re not with your teammates. You’re there, but you’re not there."
Yet Haley also admits that Sheffield is ready to go. It's something the coaches see and something Sheffield has obviously been waiting on.
"It’s always tough for those guys and sometimes it breaks them, and sometimes it doesn’t," Haley said. "With him, you can clearly see that he’s ready to go. I would expect it to take a little time for him to get the rust off, but he would have a chance to potentially help us.
His last season at Troy, the Chiefs' fifth round choice of 2010 had 10.5 tackles for loss, including 7 sacks. He also had 26 QB hurries. It's that ability to disrupt a play in the opponent's backfield that has the Chiefs hoping he can shed any injury concerns and make good on the talent they saw in him a year ago.
Tyson Jackson is aware he has his detractors. He also knows that last year's injury came in a key season where he was supposed to take a major step forward. So he's looking forward to 2011 with a vision that refuses to let anything distract him.
Recent quotes from Jackson at practice yesterday at the Kansas City Chiefs training camp reveal a svelte defensive end doing what it takes to not only keep his starting job but take the next step forward. In recognition of defensive leaders like Mike Vrabel and Ron Edwards being absent this season, Jackson realizes that there's a void in the locker room and on the field. But he sounds excited to step into it.
"I will have to step up a whole lot this year with a lot of veteran leaders that left our team especially on the defense," Jackson said. "I think I can step up big this year. I’m focused on doing it and helping our team on defense to give us a chance to win."
As for the injury, Jackson seems upbeat and doesn't dwell on it. The goal, says Jackson, is to becoming a "dominant defensive lineman."
"I can’t look back at regretting that I got injured but I can just learn from it, look back at it, understand what happened, how did I play the first game, and what kept me going through our first game doing pretty well," said Jackson. "It’s a big year for me. I want to go out there, establish myself, get in there and become a dominant defensive lineman."
Based on training camp reports on Jackson's early performance and look, he's on target to take that next step -- one that would justify the No. 3 overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft.
During his briefing yesterday afternoon at Chiefs training camp, Kansas City head coach Todd Haley was asked about the learning curve for rookies in a year where there were no offseason activities or workouts and where they're coming just a few weeks before their very first NFL regular season game. It's a different world this year in the NFL, one that might have some rookies out of step with where they could be if they'd been with coaches and playbooks for some time.
"There's always a really steep learning curve, and I think it's even a steeper one for them this year," said Haley. "They've missed a lot of what they might have had in the past. They've got to find a way to make it work, but I'll bring that back to coaching. I think the coaches that have the best plan to handle those guys and get those acclimated, integrated and assimilated into the team will be the most successful. But it's by no means easy."
Still Haley explained that he thinks the Chiefs can be ready if he and the rest of his staff do their job.
"My only goal is to be ready on September 11. I'm not worried and I don't want our guys worried about anything else. We've got to really be worried about the Kansas City Chiefs and what we're doing in all aspects of our team to get ready for that game to start the season. It's not a lot of time, but it's enough time if you get it right -- and you get some breaks."
He added that last bit on the end, and seemingly with a bit of a smirk. Yet it's interesting that the NFL's lucky breaks seem to reward the teams that are the most prepared. You can call it luck, but the Chiefs hard work ethic will end up being rewarded in the end -- even if it's by fate.
There was a lot of talk before and during the lockout that it might greatly affect those teams going through significant changes. Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley spoke today about his gratitude for not being one of those teams.
While some training camps seem like they’re dramatic and unable to really get moving, the Chiefs are placing one foot in front of the other toward a game readiness and proper conditioning with a core of players and coaching staff that have strong ideas about what they’re trying to do with a clear vision of implementing those ideas. Other teams like the San Francisco 49ers feature a rookie head coach in Jim Harbaugh with a possible rookie starter at QB, a holdout of their best player with Frank Gore and several coaching and personnel changes in between. It’s night and day from the training camp that Kansas City will experience this August.
“I think the continuity of our staff going into year three is really important to us,” said Haley at today’s press conference. “I sat in our staff meeting last night and had that feeling of, ‘Boy, what a difference three years later.’ It’s the feeling, the communication, all those things. I’m grateful that we’ve been able to move forward in that manner and keep great continuity staff and player wise. We have a good core of guys that get it.”
While some players will come and go, it’s nice to know the Chiefs are not only in good hands but they’re hands who have been around for some time now. Haley seems more relaxed and comfortable in his role as an NFL head coach, and it seems Scott Pioli knew what he was doing when he waited for his man three offseasons ago.
Now that there isn't the threat of missing any preseason games we can take a closer look at the preseason schedule for the Kansas City Chiefs. The preseason will be extremely important to the Kansas City Chiefs, like all teams, this year because of the lack of time to prepare as a team. Throw in the fact that the Chiefs have replaced a few key members of their team with younger, more inexperienced players like Justin Houston, who is currently the only Chiefs rookie draft pick that has not signed, and Jon Asamoah, who will fill in for Brian Waters on the offensive line.
It was reported yesterday by Josh Looney, Chiefs insider, that Asamoah was actually taking reps at right guard and Ryan Lilja had moved over to left guard. It's still the same guys it was going to be and it's still Asamoah that needs to step in and help solidify the 2010 NFL rushing champs. Getting Asamoah reps in these preseason games is going to be crucial for the success of the Chiefs rushing attack this season.
There are a few other key points about the Chiefs preseason that will go a long ways in determining their success early in the season. Matt Cassel and his new targets, Jon Baldwin and Steve Breaston, need to get as many reps as possible so they can develop some kind of a chemistry before the season begins in about six weeks. This shortened off season is tough for everyone, but when you're talking about two of the soon-to-be top targets for the Chiefs and Cassel only having a short time to get aquainted, everything needs to happen at a faster pace.
Preseason Week 1 - Kansas City vs Tampa Bay at Arrowhead Stadium - Friday, August 12th - 7pm CT
There will be a lot of talk about the young talent on both sides of the field for this game. In a recent ESPN article, the Bucs (1) and Chiefs (2) were listed as the top-two teams in the NFL with talented players under 25 years old. One of those players for the Bucs is a local Kansas Citian and Kansas State alum, Josh Freeman. The former Grandview High School standout will make his return to the Kansas City area as he leads the Bucs at quarterback heading into the 2011 season.
Preseason Week 2 - Kansas City vs Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium - Friday, August 19th - 6:30pm CT
The news that Kelly Gregg has signed with the Kansas City Chiefs adds to this matchup in the second week of the preseason. Gregg comes to the Chiefs after playing for the Ravens for the past 10 seasons. He anchored the nose tackle position for one of the most dominating defenses of the decade. Also returning to Baltimore is new Chiefs quarterbacks' coach, Jim Zorn. You might recall that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco wasn't too thrilled with Zorn leaving Baltimore. Although it is just a preseason game, the Chiefs will want a little payback for the beatdown they took in the playoff game against the Ravens last season.
Preseason Week 3 - Kansas City vs St. Louis - Arrowhead Stadium - Friday, August 26th - 7pm CT
The I-70 series is more than just a preseason game to fans. The Kansas City/St Louis rivalry has been going on for decades and the annual matchup between the Chiefs and Rams provides bragging rights for an entire year for the winners. They met last year in a regular season game that saw the return of Matt Cassel after his appendix was removed just two weeks before. It was probably the signature victory for the Chiefs that sealed their championship for the AFC west division. Sam Bradford leads a much-improved St Louis team into Arrowhead to a game that always feels more important than any other preseason game.
Preseason Week 4 - Kansas City vs Green Bay - Lambeau Field - Thursday, September 1st - 7pm CT
This will be the first of the two matchups between the Chiefs and Packers. They will meet again in the regular season on December 18th at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. The defending Super Bowl champions should be as strong as ever coming off a championship season in which they lost 13 players to the IR, including nine from the defense. But in the last preseason game there shouldn't be any injury concerns for the players that will play week one. Generally, the last preseason game is for the last couple of roster spots and a lot of guys who will be cut soon after the game. But it might be slightly different this season with the shortened time to prepare, maybe more of the starters play in the final preseason game.
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