Coaching Suggestions … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs

The Chiefs coaching staff is packing up and getting ready for vacation. Some are headed for the beach while others are on their way to the golf course or mountains. More than a few may simply sit back and put their feet up and enjoy for a few weeks not having to work 18-hour days.

Knowing Todd Haley and the type of people that work for him, they may enjoy some down time, but football, the Chiefs and the 2010 NFL season will not be far from their minds.

I’d like to plant a few seeds in their minds to consider over the next 40 days. For the most part, these items have already landed on the coaches’ radar screens. In fact, some of these thoughts are originally their ideas. I just want to reinforce their thinking and pump up their desire to move forward with some of these plans and will benefit the 2010 Chiefs.

KEEP MIKE VRABEL ON THE INSIDE IN THE NICKEL DEFENSE

Over the last two weeks, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has been working veteran OLB Mike Vrabel at an inside linebacker spot in the nickel defense. Vrabel has replaced Jovan Belcher, with Andy Studebaker taking Vrabel’s position on the edge.

Romeo needs to keep this group together. That would put Vrabel, Studebaker, Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali on the field at the same time. Those are the best four linebackers on the roster. Those are also three of the four leading career sackers on the team: Vrabel (57), Hali (27) and Johnson (13).

And Studebaker may have the biggest upside of all those players when it comes to getting after the passer. As he’s shown in his limited playing time, the 6-3, 248-pound has power and explosion. On the Division III level at Wheaton College, Studebaker played in 28 games and had 30 sacks.

Yes, it’s a big jump from Division III to the NFL, but in his brief chances to play last year, Studebaker showed he was a playmaker. It’s time to get Studebaker on the field and give him a chance to make more plays.

The odd man out with this scheme would be Belcher. He may be able to beat Vrabel in a 40-yard dash, but given the old man’s experience and knowledge, Vrabel would have a better chance of covering a receiver in the short to mid-range areas of the field. Belcher’s time is in the future; Vrabel’s time is now.

GET JONES – CHARLES – MCCLUSTER ON THE FIELD, TOGETHER

You read right – put them all in the backfield together. Make it a modern T-formation, a wishbone, an inverted wishbone, any sort of formation that involves those three guys lined up in the backfield together.

Think about it from the defensive coordinator’s perspective – you look out there and Jones, Charles and McCluster are all in the offensive huddle. When the players break the huddle, they all lined up in the backfield, with a tight end and a wide receiver split wide. Is this a run formation, or a passing group?

With Charles and McCluster, that’s two guys who can come out of the backfield as very effective receivers. Isolate one of those guys on a linebacker or safety and that’s the type of mismatch that Haley and Charlie Weis are looking for. If the defense goes with a nickel-type scheme, the Chiefs can go to a running play with Jones, Charles or even McCluster.

Everyone has seen the biceps on Jones and has heard the head coach rave about his work ethic and attitude. It sounds like he’s the perfect guy who could also serve as a lead blocker for a Charles or McCluster, or hang in there and provide pass protection.

Now, use this personnel grouping in say a hurry-up offense and the defense is going to be scrambling but good.

LIMIT THE WORKLOAD EARLY IN THE SEASON FOR JONES

In light of the above wish, this one may sound counterproductive. But I think Jones is going to be a big part of the ’10 offense for the Chiefs. Plus, he will also be 32 years old in August. That needs to be and I’m sure will be taken into account by Haley and Weis.

Check out the second half of the Chiefs schedule and other than trips to San Diego and St. Louis, they have cold weather games, the type were a big, powerful running game will be especially important. That’s when they are going to need Jones the most.

Jones has strung together five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. In that stretch, he averaged 308 carries for 1,275 yards per season. His best season was last year, when he ran 331 times for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Every back is different, but history shows us that once they reach that 30th birthday, production falls and it can happen very quickly. There’s been nothing about Jones that shows any indication that his skills are headed south. But I think it’s important for Haley and Weis to make some allowances for the wear and tear his body has picked up in the last five years.

He should get the same amount of work that Marcus Allen did during his time with the Chiefs. When he was finally broke out of the Al Davis prison with the Raiders and arrived in Kansas City in 1993, Allen was already 33 years old. He played the next five seasons and averaged 186 carries and 215 offensive touches per season.

Allen did not come close to cracking the 1,000-yard mark with the Chiefs. But there’s no question how important he was to Marty Schottenheimer’s offense and the fact that in those five seasons, the team won 57 games and went to the playoffs four times.

The ’10 Chiefs need to make sure that when November comes, Jones has plenty left in the tank and they can hope he becomes the horse that carries them in important games late in the season.

GO AHEAD AND START ROOKIE SAFETIES ERIC BERRY AND KENDRICK LEWIS

It’s a scary thought for any head coach or defensive coordinator – having a pair of wet-behind-the-ears rookies as the last line of defense.

But it’s time to do just that for Haley and Crennel. There’s no question that first-round draft choice Eric Berry will start; if for some reason he’s not in the opening lineup for the Monday night game against San Diego it will be the biggest upset of the season. Through the OTAs and last weekend’s mini-camp, Berry displayed all the talents and traits the Chiefs saw in him coming out of Tennessee.

Common sense might say pairing a rookie like Berry with a veteran like say Jon McGraw would make the most sense; McGraw could help the transition for the young guy. But I think when everything is all said and done after training camp and the pre-season schedule, Lewis is going to be the second best safety on the roster.

If that’s the case, then the Chiefs need to get Lewis out there with Berry and not worry about having two rookies on the back row. Both of these guys are going to have their struggles, but would they be any worse than the struggles we saw last season from McGraw and Mike Brown?

Berry and Lewis appear to be of like minds and attitudes. Their games are built on hard work, plenty of tape review and understanding the tendencies of their opponents.

Go ahead Romeo, give them a chance.

LINING UP FOR AN NFL SUPPLEMENTAL DRAFT NEXT MONTH

Most years the NFL holds a second draft in the summer, called a supplemental draft. Generally there are a handful of players who for many different reasons became eligible for moving to the NFL after the April draft.

So far, there are three players who are on the supplemental list and two of them have a bit of a local connection.

The top name right now is RB Harvey Unga out of Brigham Young. The 6-0, 237-pound native of Utah is the leading rusher in BYU history with 3,455 yards and three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons for the Cougars. Unga withdrew from the school back on April 16th, apparently because of a violation of BYU’s very strict honor code. He then petitioned for re-instatement, but the school ruled he can’t return until January 2011.

Here’s the odd twist – also leaving BYU on an honor-code violation as Unga’s fiancé, basketball player Keilani Moeaki. If that last name sounds familiar, it’s because she happens to be the sister of Chiefs draft choice TE Tony Moeaki.

Another name on the supplemental list right now is Truman State RB/TE Vaness Emokpae. He was a do everything player up in Kirksville and is 5-11, 245 pounds.

A third available player is DT Joshua Bent-Price out of Illinois. He’s had legal and academic problems during his time with the Illini. Bent-Price is 6-2, 315 pounds.

A date has not been set yet for the supplemental draft by the NFL.

NFL PERSONNEL & NEWS FILE FOR WEDNESDAY, JUNE 16

  • BRONCOS – released LB Braxton Kelley – signed in ’09 as undrafted rookie free agent out of Kentucky and spent season on the practice squad.
  • BUCCANEERS – signed 6th-round draft choice P Brent Bowden to a 4-year contract, terms undisclosed – right now the product is the punter for Tampa Bay in ’10; released WR Mark Bradley – former Chiefs receiver goes down for the roster count again, after previously failing in Chicago and Kansas City.
  • COLTS – claimed K Garrett Lindholm off waivers from the Falcons – he’s the third kicker on Indy’s roster with Adam Vinatieri and Brett Swenson.
  • EAGLES – signed 3rd-round draft choice DL Daniel Te’o-Nesheim to a 4-year, $2,530,000 contract with a $740,000 signing bonus – he had 11 sacks last year at the University of Washington.
  • GIANTS – WR Domenik Hixon will miss the 2010 season after suffering a torn ACL earlier this week on the new playing surface inside the new Meadowlands stadium.
  • PACKERS – RFA CB Tramon Williams signed his tender offer, a 1-year, $3,168,000 contract – he started 10 games last year when Al Harris went out for the season.
  • PATRIOTS – signed 5th-round draft choice P Zoltan Mesko to a 4-year, $1,970,000 contract with a $187,000 signing bonus – out of Michigan he seems penciled in as the New England punter for ’10.
  • STEELERS – signed 5th-round draft choice OL Chris Scott to a 3-year, $1,930,000 contract with a $140,000 signing bonus – at Tennessee he was the starting left tackle, but appears headed to guard with Pittsburgh; signed 5th-round draft choice CB Crezdon Butler to a 3-year, $1,900,000 contract with a $119,000 signing bonus – out of Clemson, Butler was a three-year starter for the Tigers; released S Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith – an undrafted rookie free agent out of Texas-El Paso.
  • REDSKINS – signed 7th-round draft choice WR Terrence Austin to a 4-year, $1,850,000 contract, with a $62,000 signing bonus – from UCLA he’s got a long road to make the active roster.
  • SEAHAWKS – claimed CB Cord Parks off waivers from the Rams – out of Northeastern, he can play WR or DB; he was listed as receiver in St. Louis.
  • TEXANS – agreed to terms with 6th-round draft choice OL Shelley Smith to a 4-year, $1,894,000 contract – an interior line prospect out of Colorado State with a chance to stick in Houston’s offensive line mix; signed TE Derek Fine and FB Justin Griffith – Fine played for the Rams and at KU, while Griffith has been bouncing around the league for years, last with the Seahawks; released TE Michael Gaines, QB Tyler Sheehan, OT Adam Ulatoski, WR London Crawford, G Kristian Matte, LB Will Patterson and FB Jack Corcoran – all but Gaines were undrafted rookie free agents.

19 Responses to “Coaching Suggestions … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • June 17, 2010  - J Lloyd says:

    This is the most and best reading of anything I’ve seen for some time . Little compares anywhere .
    We truley are informed with great insite .
    I’m copying this to have when thing’s get going ,
    Thank’s Mr. Gretz –


  • June 17, 2010  - RauchK says:

    Holy Smokes! Aren’t we getting a little ahead of ourselves? Repeat to yourself: “it’s only OTA’s, it’s only OTA’s…” Perhaps this afternoon we can cut the roster down to 53.


  • June 17, 2010  - RauchK says:

    Let me clarify a bit, as that probably came out a little bit hasty: I love the excitement over this season, and I’m a big fan of this website. And of course I recognize that Bob sees more than I do. I’m just not ready to accept reducing Belcher’s role just yet. Studebaker wasn’t the only kid to show some promise last year.


  • June 17, 2010  - The Morning Fix | Arrowhead Addict | A Kansas City Chiefs blog says:

    [...] Coaching Suggestions … Thursday Morning Cup O’Chiefs-BobGretz.com [...]


  • June 17, 2010  - RW in the ATL says:

    Given the immaturity of some players, I wonder how wise it is for the Chiefs or any NFL team to let their players loose for 6 weeks without any supervision? So much work has been put into the off-season to get to this point, then poof!…off they go to vacation beaches, umbrella drinks and 24 hour buffets?

    Oh, I know they’ll have these parting speeches to remind guys of what they’re expected to be when they check in for training camp in late July but it still seems odd to let temptation enter the door at this late stage of the off-season.


  • June 17, 2010  - Anonymous says:

    I like your thinking Bob. Let’s hope the coaching staff views it the same way. I have a feeling they see some of the same things you do. Bring on training camp and keep it coming Mr. Gretz.


  • June 17, 2010  - Johnfromfairfax says:

    Sorry, that was my prior post.


  • June 17, 2010  - Mad Chief says:

    Can’t disagree at all with most of the suggestions. The exception would be on Belcher. His time may be “in the future”…but, it’s hard to learn from the bench. I would like to see him on the field as much as possible.

    Completely agree with getting Jones, Charles and McCluster on the field at the same time. Especially if these guys can have success early on…our opposing DC’s are going to have nightmares trying to game-plan for us. If all three of these guys can stay healthy the entire season? Should be fun.


  • June 17, 2010  - jimbo says:

    Scott Pioli’s 2010 draft picks were packed full of smart & talented captains (leaders) of their perspective teams. In the past I have been reluctant on starting untested rookies. Let alone 3 rookies that Bob suggests. Then we hear good things about Tony Moeaki & Javier Arenas turning heads of our coaching staff & the press. That brings a total of 5 possible starting rookies… Unheard of numbers in the NFL. Can this be? Is this even possible? Were the Chiefs lacking that much talent? Could Scott Pioli be the draft genius of 2010?

    They say “fools are born every minute”. I won’t argue that point. They also say “there is no such thing as luck”. That quote would get a debate from me.

    Foolish or Lucky, whatever the case may be. I’m damn excited about the 2010 Chiefs football season & yes, I eagerly agree with Bob’s astute & lofty coaching suggestions.

    Go Chiefs.


  • June 17, 2010  - J Lloyd says:

    Jimbo;
    I agree with your point , in todays game look at the QB’s that started last year and the fact that this team , as a whole , was not working together plus there were player’s just making the best of a hopeless situation .
    There IS some real talent here and ony the players are the one’s that know what level and what their chances of a winning season are . ADD this Coaching staff –


  • June 17, 2010  - Mike in St Louis says:

    Excellent article once again Bob, thank you for what you do.

    As for Jones, I knew he was an excellent signing, but I had no idea how much of a beast he is. The picture is telling. He has to be Charles’ new best friend.


  • June 17, 2010  - gorillafan says:

    agreed. good article!!


  • June 17, 2010  - Ray Ward says:

    Once again, great insight Bob. I wonder why the national press isn’t noticing the same thing that seems so evident by us who follow the team closely. You would think just the additions of Weiss and Crennel would have the “experts” paying more attention to this team, with their reputations and resumes. I don’t know why it bothers me that we are still ranked around 26th to 29th, and not getting any respect. I guess we will hopefully earn the respect on the field, and there are benefits to flying under the radar. I think we will start to gain respect with an upset over the mighty Chargers on September 13th, in front of a national tv audience! I must learn patience!!!!!


  • June 17, 2010  - bhive01 says:

    No offense to Truman, but when I was there 97-01 the football team was a joke. My roommates were in the band and I went to most of the home games. I once attended a game where the kicker missed a PAT and a couple of FG attempts, and the punter had a 10 yard punt. I think we scored all of 6 points that game. Have things improved so much that Truman together with genetics have actually produced a player that could call the NFL home?


  • June 17, 2010  - SG says:

    “I think we will start to gain respect…”

    It’s going to take a lot to even start to gain that respect – as I believe the only thing that occurs on the national scene from a win over the Chargers is “disrespect” for the Chargers (loss of LDT, missing RFA’s). The Chiefs’ fan base though will get fired up – which will have a profound impact over the course of the next several weeks…that’s far more important in the short run. If they really want to achieve the respect – they “have” to follow that up with a win over Cleveland in Week 2 and a strong competitive performance over the SF 49′ers.


  • June 17, 2010  - arrowhead1978 says:

    Well I wouldn’t say that 5 starting rookies on an NFL team hasn’t been done before, look at our Chiefs a couple years ago, with Jarrad Page and Pollard starting, also Flowers, Carr & Leggett all started the same year along with Brandon Alberts…


  • June 17, 2010  - Danny W says:

    RW in the ATL
    I agree with you and I think if the Chiefs brass had much of a choice they would lock things down. I think a conditioning test at the begining of camp and not signing your rookies to their money until right before camp starts is wise on their end. As far as the veterans ala Dwyane Bowe lets hope he doesn’t splurge at the buffet and then need roids to get back into shape really quick huh.


  • June 18, 2010  - RatsoReily says:

    I see Thomas’s playing time differently than you do Bob. Last year the Jet’s used JT as the primary RB but towards the end of the season they began to feature Shonne Greene. IMO, that’s one of the reason Greene was so explosive in the post season. He was fresh and healthy. I think Charles is our homerun hitter in the backfield. We need to ensure that he’s fresh and playing healthy all season. I’m more concerned about him getting injured than I am about JT.
    Actually I think I’m drinking too much kool-aid. I’m acting like they have a shot at the playoffs instead of just having a winning season. But why not think like that? If the rookies play anywhere near their potential and the vets step it up .. why not? Or should I say yes we can? lol

    The future’s so bright … I gotta wear shades


  • June 19, 2010  - reddarrowhead says:

    I like most ideas here, but I would give that 2nd safety position an open competition. I like the idea mo leggett will compete there and also ricky price.

    the 3rd down LB idea is good.

    one more thing -i’m really happy i don’t have to sit thru another camp and pre season listening to ‘larry johnson reports’..




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