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Half-Time For On-Field Work … Friday Cup O’Chiefs

From the Truman Sports Complex

On Thursday, the Chiefs had their ninth OTA practice session. Ahead of them are five more OTAs and a three-day mini-camp. In essence, the franchise hits the coming weekend at half-time of their on-field off-season work.

What seemed like a long series of workouts, now doesn’t seem so long for the players and the coaches, including the top dog, Todd Haley.

“it’s very important that we’re getting everything out of it that we can, both physically and mentally for the entire group because time’s going fast right now and before too long these guys are going to be heading home,” Haley said after Thursday’s practice. “We’re trying to use the time as efficiently as possible to get as much done.

“This week I felt like we had a really good work week overall. I feel like the guys got better.”

Six of the nine OTA sessions have been open to the media. That’s 90 minutes each or about nine hours of football that we’ve seen. Plus, it’s not really football, since there are no pads, no tackling, no blocking and no line play.

From what we’ve seen here are some evaluations at the halfway point:

 OFFENSE

There have been days when QB Matt Cassel has looked bad throwing the ball. There have been days when Cassel has looked good. Right now, the good days outnumber the bad days and that’s a big improvement over last year at this time.

The first signs of problems in the passing game last year were visible in the OTA sessions. It wasn’t a surprise that there was an adjustment problem for Cassel and the offense, given the trigger man was as new as the offense. But last year in the OTAs there was no visible improvement from the first practice to the last.

The team has a new offensive system and a new coordinator in Charlie Weis, but there are not a lot of new faces in the passing game. WR Jerheme Urban is new and he’s had the toughest time holding onto the ball. Urban’s best day of catching came on Thursday. Chris Chambers has looked good and Dwayne Bowe has been his normal inconsistent self, although in the last week he’s been sure-handed and improved.

Not to play Dr. Freud here, but I think here’s a direct correlation between two of Bowe’s problems. One is the inability to keep focus on the football, trying to run before securing the catch and dropping the ball. The other is engaging brain before mouth and dribbling out words that are ill-timed or inappropriate. Consistency and maturity is what the Chiefs seek in all areas from Bowe.

A tight end the situation is muddled because of the injury situation involving Brad Cottam and draft choice Tony Moeaki. It’s unlikely Cottam will be given the go ahead to practice until training camp, if then. He’s neck fracture is nothing to fool with; he’s confident that he’ll play football again, but this decision will be up to specialists. Moeaki’s problem is a bit more mysterious, since it does not involve an injury, or at least that’s what he says. But Moeaki said he expects to be practicing soon.

That’s left the tight end field open to Leonard Pope, Jake O’Connell and the find of the year so far, waiver-claim Leroy Banks. Pope is a known commodity, a blocker more than a catcher. O’Connell continues to be very inconsistent with his hands. Released by the Falcons, Banks was added before the start of OTAs and has been impressive in his athletic ability and his pass catching. At 6-3, 243 pounds he’s a tweener, but if keeps showing off the ability to get separation and catches the ball, there’s going to be a place for him on this roster.

Line play is impossible to tell at this point, and the same holds true with the running game. There are few physical specimens like Thomas Jones, but he will be 32 in August. Jamaal Charles hasn’t practiced yet, recovering from his shoulder injury; that shouldn’t be a problem. Rookie Dexter McCluster is getting moved around all over the place and that figures to be the way his season will go from wide receiver to running back. One guy that’s flashed a time or two is Kestahn Moore, who was signed late last season to the practice squad. The former University of Florida back has a nice wiggle and burst.

DEFENSE

There is no way to discount the value to the Chiefs and the team’s defense with the presence of veteran OLB Mike Vrabel at all nine of the OTA sessions.

It’s not just his 13 seasons in the league and history of productive play for a Super Bowl champion. It’s that Vrabel knows the Romeo Crennel (right) defense forwards, backwards and sideways. It is exactly the scheme that Crennel ran with the Patriots and Vrabel was part of the unit.

Throughout the practices, Vrabel’s voice can be heard making adjustments, positioning players, reminding teammates of a key or what to look for on the coming snap. During a game, that type of conversation can’t be heard. But on the practice field, it’s constant and it’s made a difference.

The defense should be ahead of the offense at this point, and that’s the case with the Chiefs. Again, it’s impossible to make any type of educated guesses on what’s going on with the defensive line. Glenn Dorsey looks to be in very good shape and Tyson Jackson has worked hard and made some changes to his body. Wallace Gilberry is consistent play from being a factor for more plays than in just the nickel defense.

At linebacker there’s far more athletic ability visible from this unit than at the same time last year. Vrabel is Vrabel; on the final leg of his NFL career, who gets by with brains. On the other side Tamba Hali is starting to look like an outside linebacker, rather than a defensive end switched to the position. In Thursday’s OTA he was working on pass coverage drops and did things smoothly.

Haley says there is no depth chart at this time of the year, and any changes should not be taken as gospel for the 2010 season. But the elevation of Derrick Johnson and Jovan Belcher to the first team at inside linebacker was necessary, as both of those players bring greater athleticism, speed and quickness inside. Belcher’s inexperience must be overcome.

The depth at linebacker is looking better as well, with Andy Studebaker and Pierre Walters on the outside, along with rookies Cameron Sheffield and Justin Cole also working outside.

The secondary is the group that Haley pointed out this week was providing the biggest surprise in how competitive the battle is for roster spots. It hasn’t helped that CB Brandon Flowers has not practiced because of his recovery from shoulder surgery; but he’s a known commodity. His absence has given Maurice Leggett a chance for extended playing time and Brandon Carr on the other side has looked good. First-year man Jackie Bates is starting to show up at times with his play on the second defense. Rookie Javier Arenas continues to look like one of those defensive backs that always has him in the neighborhood of the football.

At safety, Eric Berry is still getting his feet under him but he’s coming fast. He’s flashed his athletic skills at times, but the off-season work for him is about picking up the defense and being able to stand on that back line and make sure everyone is lined up in the right positions. Third-year man DaJuan Morgan has put himself in good coverage positions and that gives him the chance to extend his career. Veteran Jon McGraw is a known commodity.

Donald Washington has been moved to safety, a pretty good indication that the staff doesn’t feel he could handle the corner. Whether or not he has the ability to play on the back line remains to be seen; he’s athletic enough, the question will be handling the mental part of the game. Draft choice Kendrick Lewis and first-year man Ricky Price have had some good plays.

Overall, there’s a lot more athletic ability among the defensive backs than the position group had last year.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Unfortunately, the OTAs do not provide much of an opportunity to see the kicking game. The Chiefs are solid with K Ryan Succop and P Dustin Colquitt. Both seem to be kicking the ball well, and in good physical shape.

The return game is wide open, but Arenas figures to be a big factor there. McCluster might be as well, but that will depend on how many snaps Haley wants to take away from the rookie’s offensive opportunities.

Improved speed and athletic ability at linebacker and the secondary should provide for improved production in coverage and blocking.

But until the pads go on and the Chiefs are in St. Joe, everyone will have to wait for those answers.

WARNER AN OTA VISITOR, NOT A QB CANDIDATE

There are very strict rules around the Chiefs about who can watch practices at the team’s facilities. Club employees outside of the football operation are not allowed to attend. The media gets some access, but it’s very controlled.

But when you are a former NFL MVP and Super Bowl winning quarterback, and the head coach happens to be a friend, then watching an OTA session is no big deal. On Wednesday, Kurt Warner and several of his children were on the practice field at the Chiefs facility watching the practice.

“Our families kind of became close over our time in Arizona,” Haley said. They spent two years together with the Cardinals, including that Super Bowl season in 2008. “I’ve asked him multiple times and let him know our training camp dates and off-season dates and said if he could fit us into his busy schedule, meaning us the Haleys, that’d be great.

“He’s on a caravan trip across the country with his family. It worked out where he was able to come through here. He was gracious enough to speak to the fellas and I just thought it was great and really nice of him to come out and do that for us.”

What did Warner have to say?

“He spoke to the team about greatness and the importance of it,” QB Matt Cassel told FOXSports.com. “Too many times there are players in this league who don’t want to be good enough. He hit the nail right on the head when he talked about to be great, you have to be something special and work toward it. The message was crystal clear. It was great to hear from him.”

Haley was asked what his players could learn from Warner?

“What can’t they get?” Warner said. “Someone that speaks like him is able to relate to a lot of things that they are going through. I think they can get a lot.”

NFL PERSONNEL FILE/THURSDAY, JUNE 3

  • BENGALS – LB Rey Maualuga had recent surgery to repair a problem with his fibula and will be out three to four weeks. The problem was related to the ankle injury that landed him on injured reserve last year.
  • BILLS – signed 6th-round draft choice OLB Danny Batten to a 4-year, $1,890,000 contract – he’s coming out of South Dakota State as a DE making the switch to OLB in Buffalo’s new 3-4 scheme.
  • BROWNS – signed WR James Robinson – the 28-year old has spent time on the practice squads of the Dolphins, Browns and Redskins and was released by Washington in early May. He also has played in the Arena League and in Canada and played his college ball at Butler County C.C. in Kansas; released WR Dion Morton – an undrafted college free agent out of Colorado State; Hall of Fame WR Paul Warfield resigned his position in the team’s front office as the senior advisor to the general manager.
  • CHARGERS – signed TE Randy McMichael – veteran who started all 16 games last season for the Rams. He came into the league as a former fourth-round choice of the Dolphins. McMichael provides a veteran backup for Antonio Gates, replacing Brandon Manumaleuna who signed as a free agent with the Bears.
  • COLTS – WR Reggie Wayne released a statement on Thursday saying he will not attend the team’s weekend mini-camp because he’s unhappy with his contract. Wayne said “we are in disagreement on my contract situation.” Indy management can fine Wayne for missing the mandatory camp, since he’s under contract.
  • EAGLES – agreed to terms with 7th-round S Kurt Coleman to a 4-year, $1,883,000 contract – Coleman has missed Philly’s off-season work because Ohio State has not yet finished its spring semester. This was the same problem that pushed back the activity and development last year of Chiefs DB Donald Washington. Coleman was a first-team All-Big 10 selection.
  • FALCONS – the NFL suspended OL Quinn Ojinnaka for one-game on a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy. Last year, Ojinnaka was arrested after physically removing his wife from their house. He was charged with battery.
  • SAINTS – TE Jeremy Shockey has been cleared by medical personnel to return to practice in New Orleans. This comes after he suffered a seizure in the team’s weight room. Shockey will participate in the team’s mini-camp this weekend.
  • STEELERS – K Jeff Reed admitted Thursday that he had gone through a series of psychological evaluations similar to what Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger recently completed. Like Big Ben, the kicker’s evaluations were mandated to him by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

27 Responses to “Half-Time For On-Field Work … Friday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • June 4, 2010  - The Morning Fix | Arrowhead Addict | A Kansas City Chiefs blog says:

    [...] Half-Time For On-Field Work … Friday Cup O’Chiefs-BobGretz.com [...]


  • June 4, 2010  - Scott C says:

    The tight ends sound unsettled indeed. Cut Jake O’Connell. Addition by subtraction…


  • June 4, 2010  - Tim Geary says:

    Great stuff Bob! Thanks!


  • June 4, 2010  - Justin Foote says:

    To me, it sounds like Cassel could benefit from Warner. Maybe Matt could pay Kurt to come show him how a winning quarterback ticks.


  • June 4, 2010  - SG says:

    Just wanted to share an experience I just had this morning. I reside in a region where KC is not the top team to root for. I was in line at the local Krispy Kreme Doughnuts to take advantage of National Doughnut Day promotion. In front of me was a man who had brownish-red hair wearing a Chiefs hat and was holding a small child. He asked me what National Doughnut Day was and I explained. I waited and inquired if he was from KC, and he mentioned that he was not, but explained he was a scout for the Chiefs.

    Hope everyone here has a great day. Go Chiefs!


  • June 4, 2010  - arrowhead1978 says:

    Wow its national doughnut day?? They must keep such an important day secret from us on the east coast… Damn!!


  • June 4, 2010  - ED says:

    Sounds like Crennell is going to have at worst top 15 defense this year. With the good competition in the secondary, improve athleticism at linebacker position, and the good things I expect from Dorsey and Jackson we should surprise some teams this year. OFfensively I don’t expect us to be off the charts but I to expect us to be way more effective than last yr. I don’t see us being such a horrible team having a hard time converting on 3 and 1. Along with the fact we shouldn’t see as nearly as many drop ball this season which definately should improve Cassell QB rating and completion percentage. Expect us to have top 5 running game this year which will help us be an over .500 ball club this yr.


  • June 4, 2010  - Mad Chief says:

    I agree, ED. More or less, anyway. Not sure our running game will be top 5…but it should be greatly improved, no doubt.

    Another thing that should help is our schedule. It’s not nearly as brutal as last year.

    Good to hear that some of the second and third year guys seem to be making strides. But, we’ll have to wait until the season to see if it all carries over to the field. Looking good at OTA’s, and even training camp…doesn’t win you any ball games.


  • June 4, 2010  - SG says:

    Our depth is starting to finally improve. Picking up Jones is looking better and better with Charles hurt.


  • June 4, 2010  - el cid says:

    This time of year, defenses are always ahead. But, like Mad Chief, OTA and June mean little come Sept. except for learning the playbook.

    For ’10, I expect the offense to be about to run between the 20s but falter inside the “red zone”, at least for the first 6 games. I have little expectations for the passing game. TEs who are nothing special, WR who, I believe, are 3 or 4s at best. The defense will hold its own unless worn down by the lack of offense. Not very insightful but, hopefully, honest.


  • June 4, 2010  - J Lloyd says:

    A defence that is hard to get 1′st downs on , is not going to get very tired .
    The running game is also the answer to that , with a lot of ball control .
    There’s times when the door open’s and a team goes all the way . Little things like this year’s schedule , the improvement of almost all the player’s , plus the biggest and most imporant part —> COACHING .
    Everyone showed up in shape and why is it that the whole team has changed overnight ?
    They know and feel something .
    After time and distance a platoon will fall in and march in step . Last year was a sack full of rookies that were in each other’s way . Most are gone , that helped a LOT!!!
    Todd is 100% right about getting in step , if not , pack up …


  • June 4, 2010  - Danny W says:

    Hopefully Matt is building on that confidence he gained last year. You could see it that he was getting smarter but the recievers just kept dropping the ball. If Bowe can still go get that jumb ball it sounds like we will be just fine in the red zone El Cid I may be wrong he may have the drops again but I have a wierd feeling about Moeki not going to ever play much.

    I think the offense is going to play like the Patriots use the quick run game and if that doesnt work throw a four yard pass to McCluster which is just like a run play with a pass they use for Wes Welker. Then go over the top and nail Bowe or Chambers. Close to the red zone? Give it to your beast in Thomas Jones.

    Defense will improve in the secondary. You can get a sense of that aslong as they stay healthy. Maybe Arenas will turn out like Mighty Mouse Mark McMillan and jump up and get pick after pick. You never know he may turn out to do better than Berry in his first year.


  • June 4, 2010  - Mad Chief says:

    Well, the thing about the “nothing special” TE’s…is that you’re exactly right. They’re nothing special. Actually, that’s being nice. But, you need a good TE. Or two. And we don’t even have one. That’s why Pioli is constantly looking.

    Banks sounds promising. Who knows? I think Moeaki can be the real deal…if he can get and stay healthy. That’s looking like a huge “if” so far. Pope is…a body. A big body. But just a body. O’Connell has shown nothing so far, and I’d be surprised if he even makes the team. Practice squad, maybe. Cottom has shown promise, at times. And not, at times. But, his neck injury could be the end of his football career. What’s going to happen the first time he gets drilled?

    So, the search continues. And I’ll be shocked if Pioli doesn’t bring in another guy or two or three to compete for the postion…once the roster cuts start coming. I know…music to your ears, el cid.


  • June 4, 2010  - Mad Chief says:

    Two minutes later…was just reading that the Chiefs just signed another TE. No bullsh*t.

    LMAO!!!


  • June 4, 2010  - el cid says:

    Well, at least adding roster cuts at TE is NOT like blowing 4 repeat 4 picks in 2 repeat 2 years on two guys who are practice squad candidates or injury prones stiffs.


  • June 4, 2010  - el cid says:

    If true, OMG, we will have 6 TEs and no no. 1 WR, WOW, not just LMAO, I may need a ride to the hospital.


  • June 4, 2010  - J Lloyd says:

    What would Herm be doing . Trying to look at every possible player that would push the odd’s of having a total grip doing what ever take’s to put the best team together . Or one liner’s like “You play to win” .
    OK – thats it!


  • June 4, 2010  - Dan Sample says:

    Something special is happening in OTA’s. Coach is loosed and relaxed. He is VERY pleased with playter’s growth. Love that they are also having fun! Coach’s comments on Kurt Warner touched my heart. “He’s a Christian and he does it the right way!” Wow!


  • June 4, 2010  - Alex(The Great) says:

    Don Pioli signed another TE with a history of getting injured……..(lol……*dead*)


  • June 4, 2010  - hmills110 says:

    I still would like to see Washington become a viable option at CB. He does seem to be looking more like a player, now, than just an athlete. But if he transitions to safety and the Chiefs run left- and right-safety, the upgrade in that position group could be game-changing, week in and week out.

    I never liked taking Tony G in the 1st round (ducking). Short of that sort of pick, you just have to keep going to the well until you hit on something. That sounds like what the Chiefs are doing. After trading up for Moeaki, it’s disappointing to hear that he’s still not out there with the rest of the guys. But unlike Washington last year, he IS in for early OTAs, and there IS a junior coach or two working with him outside of regular practice.

    Coach is “loose(d) and relaxed” because the players are coming in ready to do what Coach wanted to start off with LAST season, but couldn’t. Grain of salt on ALL Haley’s “Good week of practice” comments, because we so often heard that last season before 8 or 10 of last season’s losses.


  • June 4, 2010  - hmills110 says:

    Thanks, Bob, for the on-site eyeballs. Hire two helpers you trust to give you their takes, and maybe add more content of this nature?


  • June 4, 2010  - Danny W says:

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Kurt Warner as Kansas City’s quarter backs coach. Teach Cassell how to dink and dunk.


  • June 5, 2010  - RatsoReily says:

    Moeaki is going to be fine. He had to pass a physical to even be signed. I think the sky really isn’t falling and I can promise you Moeaki won’t be a bust. He’s going to show you great hands and a solid blocker. I’m more concerned about dropped balls by the receivers. We can’t have the kind of performance that we had last year. No one can afford to blow opportunities by dropping easy passes.


  • June 5, 2010  - el cid says:

    hahahah, Ratso. We all hope for the best for Moeaki but really? He was cleared to play in college also, yet he was injured a major amount of time. This is big business and, supposedly, the best play the game at this level and get the big bucks to do it. Always on the sideline with a “undisclosed minor injury” does not make it. It is to early to worry about him yet but you got to wonder with 6 TE in camp just what he brings to the table for two draft picks.

    As for dropped passes, we accept they are not all the fault of the QB or receivers….. Mr Poili did little to fix the receiver side of the equation so far. Many are hoping the Chiefs can find some help off the scrap pile of roster discards but it would be nice if Pioli had chosen to invest some of the draft in that direction. Maybe next year.


  • June 5, 2010  - Michael says:

    The Chiefs did re-sign Chambers and add McCluster to the receiving mix, hardly insignificant moves. I’m optimistic about both Urban and Meoaki. I’ve watched Urban from the time he started out with the Seahawks. He’s got nice size-speed combo, and works relentlessly.

    I’ll take Haley’s word for it on Meoaki’s status, and I have no problem moving to draft him in the 3rd for a player who has a chance to be a Dallas Clark-Chris Cooley kind of TE.

    Bowe is the real key. If he gets on track, all is well. With Bowe and Chambers leading the way, I like the mix of young players they have at TE and WR.


  • June 7, 2010  - SG says:

    “I’ll take Haley’s word for it on Meoaki’s status…”

    Just like Coach Haley was probably told he needs to just hire an Offensive Coordinator, maybe someone needs to tell Don Pioli to just hire a “special consultant” to handle the process of obtaining a tight end – maybe we’ll have less time/picks invested in the tight end position…




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