Chiefs have Much to Do Before Friday

ST. JOSEPH, MO – After watching practice on Saturday afternoon, or should I say a ramped up OTA session, it's hard to fathom that the Kansas City Chiefs or any other NFL team can possibly be ready to play a preseason game next weekend.

First major kudos to all the Kansas City Chiefs fans that managed to come to Saturday's Family Fun Day in St. Joe. The weather was hot, the players signed a lot of autographs and I'm sure based on the crowd that not many were able to gain any insight about this years Chiefs team. Still they came out to support their team and that's something special.

For those more intently viewing the practice, it appeared the Chiefs had stronger, bigger and in some cases faster players on the field. The coaches were their usual self, intense, supportive and feisty. Still they have the toughest task ahead of themselves this week to somehow get the team ready to host their first preseason game next Friday night at Arrowhead.

At first glance on Saturday, the quarterbacks on the Chiefs, outside of starter Matt Cassel, struggled throwing the ball. And when you consider the battle ahead for the men behind last years Pro Bowl alternate, Ricky Stanzi and Tyler Palko, one has to emerge as Cassel's right hand man.

But based on what I saw in team drills, the Chiefs would be wise to add a veteran quarterback in the event that Cassel goes down for more than a game or two. Because offensively it's very clear that this football team has some new toys to play with in 2011.

Saturday was my first glance to see some of the names that Warpaint Illustrated Beat Writer, Josh Scotten has written about in his reports the past week. One player, who caught his eye and mine on Saturday, was wide receiver Jerheme Urban. The other was newly acquired fullback Le'Ron McClain.

Urban will be in a position battle to make the final roster along with second year wide receiver, Verran Tucker. Right now I can't see the Chiefs carrying more than four receivers. With Dexter McCluster taking all his offensive snaps at running back, he'll likely be the teams' fifth receiving option.

But in watching McClain at fullback and the ease in which he does his business on the field, he reminds me so much of Tony Richardson. A couple of times I had to do a double take to make sure T-Rich hadn't snuck on the practice field. At this point in their respective careers, McClain is a more polished running back and Richardson might have the edge as a blocker, but the similarities are right there to be seen. And I can't wait to see what he can do plowing the road for Jamaal Charles or running between the tackles in short yardage situations.

Though he only signed a one-year deal, I suspect with a good first month to the season, he might just stick around Kansas City a bit longer.

On defense, the reports about third pick Justin Houston, appear for the most part to be accurate. He's not off to a good start. However in fairness that's to be expected since his agent took an enormous amount of time to secure his slotted deal.

But while I was watching Houstin, I admit my forgetfulness when I discovered that Cameron Sheffield was back on the field. And yes, I knew he'd been there since the start of camp, but he looked like a man looking to catch up for his lost season a year ago. As you remember, he was knocked out in a preseason game suffering a concussion. The Chiefs decided to put him on injured reserve, which long term was pretty the best decision both the team and the player could make.

But with Houston struggling early, Sheffield looks like a player that's ready to bring his ‘A' game to the table. People forget that he was a sack master at Troy University. And he did turn some heads last summer in camp. So he's definitely a man who could challenge Houston for playing time.

Another item that stood out for me on Saturday was the pace of the secondary. They just appear as a group to be functioning with a greater sense of unity.

And that's in large part to the talent at the safety position. Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis look as if they're already speaking the same language. Last season, when both were on the field and healthy, they were a terrific duo. But watching them from the bleachers in this camp, they appear to be more in sync now than they did for large parts of the 2010 season.

And if we add that dichotomy of cohesiveness by the safeties with the abilities of cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr, who each are entering the final year of their rookie contracts, this secondary could be the best in the AFC West.

Aiding that sentiment is the fact that both players, despite some distractions, look as if they're in the best shape of their careers. And that's a strong statement by both players.

If the Chiefs defense is going to ascend the mountain of a much greater regular season schedule, the secondary has to play with more intensity and ferocity. In other words they must take on the mantra that they can't be or won't be beaten by any receiver coming into their territory. And I think they have that swagger and play making ability inside each of them, to do just that in 2011.

Still the biggest issue for this defense as a whole is going to be the pass rush. We already know what we're going to get from Tamba Hali and Wallace Gilberry in regards to piling up sacks, but where the rest of the sacks are going to come from is pure speculation at this point in time.

But hopefully over the next four to five weeks the Chiefs can identify a few more players that can do just that. And should the linebackers play to their abilities, the Chiefs youthful secondary can make the kind of plays that will change the course of any game this season.

But first up is a date with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Friday. We might not learn very much in that game but nonetheless, ready or not, it's Showtime for Kansas City Chiefs football.

Chiefs Camp Notes:
LB Tamba Hali - With contract in hand and the first couple of practice days behind him, Hali was back on the field today in full pads. It appears that the Missouri heat got to him the last couple of days.

DE Glenn Dorsey - After being carted off the field in practice two days ago, he didn't appear to have a limp. So the leg injury that put him on the sidelines appears to be fine. And for those that saw him on the sidelines, the brace he wears on his left knee is something that he has on for every practice and game.

QB Matt Cassel - He has some nice zip on the ball and a good pace to his throws. The good sign for Cassel is that the jitters and uncomfortable nature that surrounded him a year ago at this time with a change in offensive systems, doesn't appear evident at all in this years camp.

T/G David Mims - I don't care what the Chiefs do with this mountain of a man but they better not let him slip away. For a man that weighs 335 pounds, stands 6'8" tall and moves with a grace not found in some highly touted draft picks, Kansas City needs to develop his game and fast. Can't wait to see what he can do in the preseason.

WR Dwayne Bowe - With Jon Baldwin sidelined with a leg injury, though he didn't have a wrap on his leg like he did in practice the last two days, Bowe appeared to be his usual self. Or should I say his new self. You know the one that had that long touchdown game streak and made it to the Pro Bowl? He's another player in a contract year and if he wants the big bucks, he has to back up what he did last year in all 16 games this season.

DT Amon Gordon - The Chiefs signed journeyman defensive lineman Amon Gordon before practice on Saturday. He's had stints with several NFL teams and played last season for both the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks. He's expected to compete for a back-up job in Kansas City.
So is it possible for the Chiefs to be ready by Friday night to face the Bucs?

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