It’s A Wrap … Pre-Season Oscars

OK, so we are a day or two late in acknowledging the end of the 2010 training camp/pre-season in the NFL.

It’s only in the last few days that teams have shifted into the regular season mode as they get ready for this first weekend of games. It all starts with Thursday night’s lid-lifter featuring the Minnesota Vikings visiting New Orleans and the defending champion Saints.

Before we completely forget about what happened over the first six weeks of the season, whether it was in St. Joseph, or Atlanta, or Arrowhead Stadium, let’s take a few minutes and remember as we present our Pre-Season Oscars, acknowledging both good and bad performances from the start of the season.


Offense – WR/RB Dexter McCluster. He is quite possibly the most exciting offensive addition to the Chiefs roster in some time. Many fans have made the comparison to Dante Hall, but McCluster is a much better offensive player and force than Hall ever was. Dante was probably a better returner, however, McCluster will have the chance to show us. If they can keep opponents from snapping the 5-8, 170-pounder in half, he will lift the entire offense.

Defense – LB Derrick Johnson. The way D.J. handled his situation over the last year is worthy of praise. When he went to the dog house, he did not pout. He kept working. When the off-season came, he did not scream and yell and try to get a ticket out of town. He kept working. When his second off-season program came around, he kept working. It appears that Johnson will start the season as a starter and one thing that’s obvious, he will keep working.

Special teams – Returner Javier Arenas. If it wasn’t for McCluster, the Chiefs Nation would have embraced this little guy from Alabama. He’s got a chance to put the Chiefs back on the punt and kickoff return map, a place they haven’t been since Hall was traded to St. Louis. What’s amazing about Arenas is his ability to break or spin away from tacklers who hit him high.


Offense – RB Jackie Battle (left). The routine in the previous two training camps with Battle was this – he would start strong in camp, leave every one impressed, but as the practices wore on and he picked up some bumps and bruises, he would fade to the background. This year, was the exact opposite. In the first week of camp, Battle wasn’t flashing like he did the year before. But as the practices added up, Battle seemed to get stronger. Then he got on the field in the pre-season games and performed not only in short-yardage and goal-line situations, but in the open field. On a team without much depth, he gives the Chiefs a three-headed monster at running back.

Defense – LB Cameron Sheffield. In the off-season program and mini-camps, Sheffield was pretty invisible. As he was making the switch to a new position, Sheffield was doing a lot of thinking. But once the Chiefs got to training camp and put the pads on, suddenly it was hard not to notice the fifth-round choice out of Troy. He showed speed off the edge rushing the passer and most of the time he showed he was able to hold his end of the defense against the run. Whether his rookie season has been knocked off track by the neck/head injury he suffered against Philadelphia remains to be seen. But he was a pleasant camp surprise.

Special teams – LB Cory Greenwood. Coming down from Canadian college football, Greenwood seemed to be one of the long, long shots of making the roster. But as he got the chance to show his athletic ability, he began earning notice on special teams. First, he can long snap and while he’s not the most consistent guy handling that duty, he’s great to have in reserve. Second, he’s got the speed to cover kicks and the athletic ability to block on the run. He will probably yo-yo a few times between the active roster and the practice squad depending on injuries at other positions. But he has a chance to make a place for himself in the NFL.


Offense – TE Tony Moeaki. It didn’t take long to see in practice that Moeaki has a great pair of hands and knows how to play the tight end position. But his history of injuries at Iowa continued in camp as he missed valuable time with little nicks. Maybe the coaches already know what they need to know about Moeaki and it won’t affect his contributions.

Defense – DE Tyson Jackson. This was a training camp where last year’s first-round draft choice needed to raise his level of play to the point where media idiots could tell he was having an impact. That did not happen in camp or the pre-season. There are points in his game that did improve, and it appeared he was working on getting better. It just isn’t very visible.


Missouri Western State University. Let me assure you of one thing – the folks at MoWestern had huge shoes to fill. For 19 years the Chiefs had enjoyed a great relationship and a very good training camp set up at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. The folks at UWRF had become part of the Chiefs family as they serviced the team through training camps by improving facilities and doing everything they could to please the team. At River Falls, the standard answer was “yes” and they figured out what the question was later.

But what the folks in St. Joseph put together was very good. The facilities at Missouri Western were first-class, equal to and in some cases better than what the team has in its own setup at the Truman Sports Complex. There was really only one negative – the players were too separated from the fans. The ability to interact was limited to one corner of the practice fields where the players would leave and walk up a path to the locker room. Now that wasn’t the work of the folks in St. Joe, but rather that of the Chiefs, so they don’t get a black mark for that.


Head coach Todd Haley. It’s hard to believe that the Todd Haley that was ranting and raving around the River Falls practice fields was the same guy who was on campus at Missouri Western. Everyone noticed it. Media from around the country that found their way to St. Joseph were all amazed when they couldn’t easily find Haley on the practice field. Generally, he was quietly watching drills, conversing with GM Scott Pioli, or his coordinators.

It’s Haley’s opinion that he had to approach last season with the demeanor that he did, that it was vital to establishing the culture he sought to establish. That’s a debatable point, but it’s what he was comfortable with doing. Handling it in the manner of say a cool, calm, quiet Tony Dungy would not have been Haley’s personality and would have been so fake it would have been a bigger negative.

The manner in which the players approached the off-season, training camp and the pre-season is an indication that Haley got his point across. That evidence is what led him to be different in camp this year and overall that’s better for him, the team and its future.


Any of the practices that were held in the furnance that was St. Joe when the heat index was around 110 degrees – Coaches like hot weather in camp, but what hit the Chiefs at Missouri Western was beyond hot. It was practicing on the surface of the sun. The fact that the players went through a bunch of workouts in full pads and helmets was great testimony to their conditioning.

The Port-a-John Drill – Watching assistant coach Maurice Carthon throw passes to running backs who were sitting in the outdoor bathroom was unlike anything I’ve seen in training camp in some time. The best thing is when you think about the drill, it makes an awful lot of sense. The player was behind the closed door. Carthon would motion for the door to open and then he would throw the pass. So the back had no room to maneuver, he had to find the ball quickly and track it from the brightness outside to the dark conditions he was in.

Javier is gone! – In pre-season game No. 1, Arenas took a kickoff and simply exploded down the field and was off past the Falcons coverage unit. It was a 99-yard TD return until a penalty wiped out the return, but it was a statement to everyone, especially his teammates. This guy can go at any time. When the other guys on the kick return unit know this, they tend to bust their butts to get blocks down and make them legal.

The Rascal Man – Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is a tough Jersey guy but his pre-camp knee injury forced him wear a brace, use a cane and sometimes a motorized cart on the practice field. It took Weis about one practice to get tired of the cart, and he was out of it more than he was sitting. Obviously this drove the doctors crazy and these days it appears Weis uses the cart more often. But it couldn’t have been very comfortable, which may explain why Weis was always so grumpy. Of course his friends say he’s been grumpy for years.

Merchandising move of camp – The first day practice was held at Missouri Western fans came through turnstiles and had a choice of walking into the merchandise tent, or walking around it to reach the practice fields. On day two, they had one choice – through the merchandise tent. For the rest of camp, fans had to go past all those t-shirts and hats and other trinkets. Plus, it was air-conditioned in there, so as the days got hotter, the stroll through got longer.

2 Responses to “It’s A Wrap … Pre-Season Oscars”

  • September 8, 2010  - MarkInTexas says:

    Damn Bob, I was in the mood to post some great counterpoints tonight, but you nailed it. But watch out tomorrow.

  • September 9, 2010  - JohnNdallas says:

    How does Williams not make Your MVP List?

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