The Achieving Rookies … Weekend Cup O’Chiefs

They have made an impact in just three weeks that few rookie classes have in recent Chiefs history.

Go back over the last decade and only the 2008 group of draft choices had as immediate an impact as the 10 rookies on this season’s roster. That year was Glenn Dorsey, Branden Albert, Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr were all immediate contributors.  

But this year’s draft class, along with three undrafted free agents, have taken nine spots on the 53-man roster. That’s 17 percent of the players available to Todd Haley on a weekly basis. Of those nine, eight have played in the three games, six have made measurable contributions and three are in the starting lineup.

“I think this entire rookie class, everybody that made this team, drafted and undrafted, have come in with a certain attitude that’s been evident from day one,” Haley has said since he first got the chance to spend time with this group in the off-season program.

“I think that when you have a team that hasn’t been a very good team, that’s trying to make progress, that in this foundation process that we’re in, it’s very important that we get as many guys in, contributing sooner rather than later because you don’t have time to wait on anybody.”

As Haley says, these rookies have pushed themselves into the mix quicker and faster than even the Chiefs expected.

Maybe not hoped, but expected. It’s quite a contrast to last year’s rookie class, where the only real contributions came from the last man selected in the 2009 NFL Draft in K Ryan Succop and undrafted ILB Jovan Belcher. But among those new players, only first-round pick DE Tyson Jackson really got the opportunity to make a contribution.

The rest of the group – DE Alex Magee, CB Donald Washington, WR Quinten Lawrence, RB Javarris Williams and TE Jake O’Connell – saw very limited opportunities. Magee had eight tackles and two sacks in 15 games. Washington played in eight games and had five total tackles (three on defense, two in the kicking game.) Lawrence played in six games and had one run for nine yards and two catches for 42 yards. He also returned 16 kicks for a 19.8-yard average. Williams played in four games and carried the ball six times for six yards, while O’Connell saw time in four games as well, catching two passes for seven yards.

Given the opportunities this year’s rookie group has enjoyed, has there been a change in Haley’s philosophy when it comes to giving inexperienced players a chance?

“I don’t think my philosophy will ever change; as a coach you respond to each set of variables or situation that you’re given,” said Haley.

Translation: last year’s rookies weren’t good enough to make a major impact on the team. So far in their second seasons, Magee, Washington, Lawrence and O’Connell have made little or no impact, while Williams is gone, as is fifth-round pick OL Colin Brown, who spent last year on the injured-reserve list.

Again, with the exception of Succop and Belcher, last year’s rookie group was a bust. There remains a chance that injured first-round pick Tyson Jackson can still improve enough to make a dent in the defense.

This year, Eric Berry, Kendrick Lewis and Tony Moeaki have become starters. Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas have become major contributors. Jon Asamoah and Cory Greenwood have made contributions in special packages and on special teams. Through his special teams work Jeremy Horne has been on the active roster for the last two games. Only draft choice LB Cameron Sheffield (injured-reserve list) and free agent LB Justin Cole (game-day inactive) have not provided some sort of contribution.

“I would say through this period of time, I’m excited about the entire rookie group – that’s free agents, rookies, anybody that’s found their way on or forced their way onto this team,” Haley said. “We’ve got a bunch of young guys contributing in a lot of different ways throughout on this team and I think that’s a real good thing for us, the Kansas City Chiefs.”

Here’s a roundup of what the rookies have gotten done so far:

Javier Arenas – has played in all three games, producing two tackles and three passes defensed on defense and a special teams tackle, along with his 9.9-yard average on nine punt returns and 19.4 yards on five kickoff returns.

Jon Asamoah – found more snaps last Sunday when he was added to the jumbo package for short-yardage and goal-line situations. He lined up at tight end, but he has also run at fullback in those situations. He’s also part of the FG and PAT teams.

Eric Berry – started all three games and has 25 total tackles and two passes defensed. There have been a handful of plays he’s given up through three games, largely because of inexperience and being too aggressive. He will learn.

Justin Cole – has not been active for any of the three games so far.

Cory Greenwood – has come out of Canadian college football, earned a roster spot and he’s getting plenty of special teams work. He’s part of the four major units on punts and kickoffs and has contributed two special teams tackles.

Jeremy Horne – got the chance to play against Cleveland and San Francisco because of his work on special teams. The undrafted rookie has realized that’s his fastest ticket to playing on Sunday. He has one tackle on special teams.

Tervaris Johnson – is on the injured reserve list with a knee injury he suffered during training camp in St. Joseph. His size (6-2, 248 pounds) will probably give him another chance to make the Chiefs roster next year.

Kendrick Lewis – has played in all three games and started the last two at free safety. He’s been active in coverage and supporting the run defense. So far, Lewis has six total tackles and two passes defensed.

Dexter McCluster – has already established himself as one of the league’s most explosive rookies thanks to his 94-yard punt return TD and 31-yard scoring catch last Sunday against the 49ers. Overall, he has 18 touches on offense and returns, producing 278 yards and those two scores.

Tony Moeaki – has started all three games at tight end. The first two were in a two TE alignment with Leonard Pope. Against San Francisco, just one tight end was on the field and that was Moeaki. He’s leading the team with 12 catches for 123 yards and two TDs.

Cameron Sheffield – sadly that helmet to helmet hit from pre-season game No. 3 had ramifications weeks afterwards and sent him to the injured-reserve list. If he’s cleared to return to the field, Sheffield showed he can rush the passer off the edge.

Verran Tucker – is the only rookie on the team’s practice squad, working as an extra receiver with second-year man Quinten Lawrence. The fact he’s still around is an indication the Chiefs see something in the 6-1, 204-pounder out of the University of California.


  • AFC – named Texans RB Arian Foster the offensive player of the month; Colts DE Robert Mathis defensive player of the month; Bengals K Mike Nugent special teams player of the month.
  • NFC – named Packers LB Clay Matthews defensive player of the month; Saints returner Courtney Roby special teams player of the month.
  • NFL – named Lions RB Jahvid Best offensive rookie of the month and Eagles S Nate Allen defensive rookie of the month.
  • DOLPHINS – signed G Ray Feinga off their practice squad.
  • JETS – signed DE Trevor Pryce, last with the Ravens; released NT Howard Green.
  • LIONS – re-signed Dante Wesley; released S Randy Phillips.
  • PATRIOTS – signed RB Thomas Clayton off the Browns practice squad; released OL Quinn Ojinnaka.
  • SEAHAWKS – released G Chester Pitts.

2 Responses to “The Achieving Rookies … Weekend Cup O’Chiefs”

  • October 1, 2010  - RW says:

    We may very well look back in about 5 years or so and say the turning point was the 2010 draft class with all these sparkling rooks making instant impact. I’m pleasantly surprised at Lewis’ play in particular, given his lower draft pick status. And how about Moeaki?

    I don’t think even the great Tony G ever made such a spectacular catch as the one turned in by Tony M against the 9ers. The top 3 picks have been as advertised. What a class!

  • October 1, 2010  - Mike says:

    That clueless Jason Whitlock had a column yesterday somewhere on the Internet. In it, he classified Eric Berry as a bust. How can you possibly classify a rookie as a bust after only 3 games? Maybe asinine conclusions like that help to explain why the “round mound of sound” no longer writes for the Star.

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