From the Truman Sports Complex
Day-to-day it’s hard to make chiseled-in-stone pronouncements about a football team and where it stands in June and how that translates to success or failure when playing the regular-season schedule.
Given that reality it would be foolhardy to make conclusive evaluations of the 2014 Chiefs based on what’s happening on the practice field in the final week of OTAs and next week’s full-squad mini-camp. June performances while wearing shorts and no pads often trend up and down on roller coaster tracks.
Still, there are visible early signs of what the Chiefs might be about this coming season. The offense has been efficient and productive, far ahead of the group’s pace last year at this same time. The defense lagged behind, especially when the first group went against the No. 1 offense.
Then, in Wednesday’s OTA at the team’s facility, the defense answered back. Quarterback Alex Smith’s completion percentage dropped as the defenders kept breaking up passes. Linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties all contributed to incompletions. A couple of those throws were intercepted by the defense.
“They say they come in bunches,” inside linebacker Derrick Johnson said of deflections and interceptions by the defense. “We definitely don’t want to get discouraged when we don’t have a lot of picks or don’t knock the ball down. Today, we had a lot of PBUs (passes broken up.) Myself, I had a couple of PBUs. We just have to get on the Jugs (machine) a little bit more so I can catch the ball.”
Through the practices over the last several weeks, Smith has been on the mark when throwing the football and the defense had very few INTs or PBUs.
“Defensively, we are pounded about getting more interceptions and more turnovers,” Johnson said. “Alex Smith isn’t having it right now. It’s one of those things where he’s making us better. You have to get closer to the ball if you’re going to get one of Alex Smith’s passes. There are not a lot of mistakes going on out there.”
Safety Husain Abdullah had a very athletic interception of Smith on Wednesday, running at full speed and going high in the air to grab the throw down the left sideline. Two plays later, Johnson knocked down a pass. Defensive back Malcolm Bronson was working in the slot coverage position in the Chiefs dime package, and he knocked down several short, quick throws. Cornerback Marcus Cooper ran stride for stride with running back Jamaal Charles and broke up the pass.
Near the end of practice, safety Eric Berry was able to corral a deflection of a Chase Daniel pass for an interception. Outside linebacker Josh Martin dropped an interception when a Daniel pass went high and right to him.
The most veteran of Chiefs thinks the increased incidents of getting defensive hands on the ball is another sign of the growing confidence within the defensive huddle.
“I feel very confident, a lot more confident than last year,” Johnson said. “Last year, we were just putting this crazy system in. I call it crazy because it’s very exotic with blitzes coming from everywhere. I have a lot of responsibility in this defense. It’s fun and it helps me to move fast on the field during this time (OTAs.)
“Right now it’s kind of hard to tell what we have because we are just running around in our shorts and helmet. You separate the men from the boys when you put on the pads. You’ll see early in training camp what we have.”
Chiefs add a new fullback
The formation is called Poe Heavy and the Chiefs offense showed it several times in Wednesday’s practice. That’s when nose tackle Dontari Poe rolls into the offensive huddle as a fullback in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
In Wednesday’s work, Poe had four snaps with the offense and several times went in motion before the snap. On all four plays, he was a blocking back, either for the running back that took the handoff or blocking down on the defensive end in pass protection.
Everyone, especially his teammates, wait for the moment when he gets his hands on the ball.
Notes from OTA #8 on Wednesday
There were eight players that did not participate in Wednesday’s work: running back DeAnthony Thomas (NFL rules), wide receiver Junior Hemingway (unknown), wide receiver Kyle Williams (knee), tight end Travis Kelce (knee), outside linebacker Justin Houston (contract), cornerback Brandon Flowers (contract), cornerback Chris Owens (unknown) and cornerback David Van Dyke (hamstring). Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins (hamstring) worked in the positional period, but then left the field.
The rotations on the right side of the offensive line continue on a daily basis. In Wednesday’s work, rookie guard Zach Fulton was paired with veteran tackle J’Marcus Webb. He had been working with Jeff Linkenbach, who was matched with guard Rishaw Johnson.
The field goal team worked on setting up quickly with time running off the clock and the kicker running onto the field from the sidelines. They got the field goal attempt off every play, with still at least one second on the play clock. Ryan Succop and rookie Cairo Santos made all four FGs.
The Chiefs have OTA sessions on Thursday and Friday.