Making assessments about a football team as it runs around in underwear during the month of June can be dangerous.
There is too much that can still happen in the football year, and that’s even before the teams head to training camp at the end of July. Throw in training camp and pre-season and there are a lot of players who will show themselves with an opening day roster spot, but they remain unknowns at this moment to media, fans and even sometimes the coaches. There are injuries, there are holdouts and there will be off-field incidents to come.
Taking all that into account, I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that Chiefs fans are going to like this new Chiefs defense.
Based on what they’ve shown during the nine practices that have been open to the media, coordinator Clancy Pendergast (left) is loading up the kitchen sink with this defense. Pendergast is experimenting right now with personnel and schemes, but there’s one thing that comes through no matter what type of players are on the field. This defense is going to be an aggressive group that sometimes lines up in ways that have not been seen by Chiefs fans.
Over the weekend at mini-camp, the Chiefs were in a nickel-type defense where only one player had his hand on the ground for the snap of the ball. DE Tyson Jackson was in a two-point stance as he stood over the guard. Five other guys were also standing along the line of scrimmage. That was seven guys in the immediate grill of the quarterback. On one play, only four rushed. On the next it was five.
Before they were done, I swear there was a play where the Chiefs blitzed all 11 guys. Cornerbacks are coming off the corner. Safeties are flying up from the secondary. Linebackers are on pogo sticks, jumping up and back in various combinations.
On 1st-and-10, the Chiefs are lining up in the 3-4 defense but that might be the only play in a possession where they are in that alignment. When they got to a nickel, the nose tackle comes out and a cornerback comes in. That’s when all sorts of things happen.
The premise is simple: limit the pre-snap information for the quarterback. Always have the offense wondering who is coming and who is dropping. Go hard, go fast and arrive in ill humor. There’s nothing revolutionary here. Pendergast and his staff don’t appear to be writing a new book on playing defense.
But if what we are watching right now is the approach, then they are going to go after the quarterback with multiple blitzes.
The big question is will they be blitzing because they want to cause confusion, or will they be blitzing because that’s the only way they can get to the quarterback?
The Chiefs had the most embarrassing pass rush in NFL history last season, pulling the passer down 10 times, a league record for sacking ineptitude. Pioli/Haley have not gone out and sought pass rushers to bulk up the roster. Instead, they are going to rely on a different coaching staff, different scheme and player development from within to improve the rush. That’s a gamble on their part, especially if Pendergast has to generate a pass rush by gambling with the blitz.
With Arizona last year, Pendergast was not blitz crazy. One statistical service estimated the Cardinals blitzed 25 percent of the time in the 993 plays they faced on defense. Most of those came on second and third down plays when the opponent needed four to six yards for a first down.
How often the Chiefs will use the blitz remains to be seen. There’s no question the Chiefs will have a lot of options in their defensive playbook, if they need to use them.
Again, it’s June. It’s a new defensive coaching staff (save DL coach Tim Krumrie). It’s a new scheme. It’s a new head coach. There are a bunch of key new players in Jackson, Alex Magee, Zach Thomas, Mike Vrabel and Monty Beisel.
But there’s a look about this defense that provides hope that negative NFL records will not be set in the 2009 season.
JUSTIN MEDLOCK RESURFACES IN CANADA
His NFL career so far consists of a single game, with two field goal attempts. The first one went wide left from 30 yards. He made the second one from 27 yards. Less than 48 hours later, Justin Medlock was out of work, released by the Chiefs despite his status as a fifth-round choice in the 2007 NFL Draft.
Medlock is trying to make it back into pro football, but this time in the Canadian Football League, where the teams are currently in training camp. He’s with the Toronto Argonauts and he’s chances of making the squad depends on his punting as well as his kicking. His competition is Eddie Johnson, a punter trying to also kick FGs. The Argos will keep just one kicker to kickoff, handle placements and punt.
“The plan is to get one who can do all three,” said Toronto head coach Bart Andrus. “Both of them did kickoffs, so that’s not an issue. And that’s something that is a high priority for us: someone who can put the ball on the goal-line. But we figured we’d get one of each and let it play out.
“One of the things we’re looking at is, when you’re a place-kicker and you’ve gone out and had to win or lose a game, that’s something that becomes a mental thing.”
Oh, oh … “mental thing.” That’s something that Medlock is going to have to overcome. He showed during his time with the Chiefs that mental toughness was not a strong point.
“I just had a mental breakdown,” Medlock said of his time with the Chiefs. “I kicked great in pre-season with Kansas City, but I just never kicked well in games. I’d love to get another shot.”
Last year, Medlock went to camp with the Rams, but was released in the pre-season. He worked on his golf game by joining girlfriend Hannah Jun on the LPGA Tour as her caddy.
“At first, you have to learn to put the relationship to the side, because her money is my money and my money is her money,” he said. “So it’s kind of hard. But it was definitely fun. I read the greens and made sure she was focused. But pretty much, I made sure she had the right club.”
MORE FROM NORTH OF THE BORDER
With the CFL in training camp, we took a quick check of the rosters on the eight teams and saw a few names that will be familiar to Chiefs fans. In Calgary are WR Jabari Arthur and LB E.J. Kuale, who were both with the Chiefs in the pre-season last year.
Over in Winnipeg is QB James Kilian, a Chiefs seventh-round pick in 2005. In Toronto with Medlock is another 2005 draft choice, fifth-round pick CB Alphonso Hodge. Also with the Argos is LB Willie Pile (Chiefs seventh-round choice in 2003) and WR Arland Bruce out of Olathe.
On Hamilton’s pre-season roster are WR LaShaun Ward and DE Brandon Guillory, both pre-season participants with the Chiefs.
CHIEFS ESTABLISH PRE-SEASON TV NETWORK
The Chiefs announced a 10-station television network to carry their pre-season games this year.
Just about every corner of the Chiefs Nation will have an outlet come August. The question will be whether those two home games against Houston and Seattle will be telecast live or on tape delay. There’s no chance that those games will be sold out.
Here are the network stations: Kansas City (KCTV), Topeka (WIBW), St. Joseph (KQTV), Wichita (KWCH), Omaha (KMTV), Joplin/Pittsburg (KODE), Columbia (KMIZ), Springfield (KSFX), Des Moines (KCWI) and Tulsa (KWBT).
SIGNINGS & MOVEMENT AROUND THE LEAGUE
BILLS – signed RB Justise Hairston.
COLTS — signed K Shane Andrus.
EAGLES – signed seventh-round draft choices G Paul Fanaika and LB Moise Fokou.
JETS – released LB Nate Harris and DT Brian Schaefering.
SEAHAWKS – signed sixth-round draft choice QB Mike Teel and seventh-round choice DE Nick Reed.
TITIANS – signed seventh-round draft choice S Nick Schommer.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on June 10, 1938 in West Memphis, Arkansas was G Marvin Terrell. He joined the Texans for the 1960 season and played four years with the Texans and Chiefs, appearing in 38 games.
Born on June 10, 1945 in Clinton, Louisiana was LB Billy Andrews. He played 11 seasons in the NFL, the last two years with the Chiefs (1976-77). Andrews started in 28 games over those two seasons and had one interception.
Born on June 10, 1960 in Cleveland was WR Anthony Hancock
(left). He was the Chiefs first-round choice in the 1982 NFL Draft out of Tennessee. Hancock played five seasons with the Chiefs (1982-86), appearing in 59 games with nine starts. He caught 73 passes for 1,266 yards and five touchdowns. He also returned 64 kickoffs for 1,281 yards and 29 punts for 198 yards.