1. Defense - I’ve talked about it so much I actually had fans ask me not to mention the Colts playoff meltdown any more. So here it is, one last time. If this defense learned anything from that game heading into training camp, they certainly appear more focused and have set their sights to a level of all business in 2014.
At the helm of that defensive mindset, All Pro Linebacker, Justin Houston. He is their leader. For a man in a contract dispute with management, he was all over the field at Saturday mornings practice. It didn’t matter if it was in one-on-one position drills, lining up against the offense or watching the second team from the sidelines, he already has his game face on display.
I would assume the Chiefs and his representatives have been hammering out a contract solution but they best hurry. Houston came into camp in phenomenal shape proving that he’s motivated and dedicated to becoming the best defensive player in the NFL. The fact, he did all that on his own in the off-season, tells me he’s a man on a mission.
Today’s honorable mention defensive standout belongs to Defensive Tackle, Dontari Poe. In drills against the offensive line, he just blew them up inside. He looks quicker and just has that look like he has every intention of playing every down on defense in 2014.
2. LB Dee Ford - I couldn’t wait to see him line up on defense with the extra hardware attached to his frame. His first step off the line of scrimmage is so eerily familiar to the late, Derrick Thomas, its amazing he wasn’t a Top Ten draft pick.
The fact the Kansas City Chiefs stole him with the 23rd selection is a testament to outstanding scouting and luck. Ford has all the intangibles in regards to creating havoc on opposing quarterbacks. But what I hadn’t seen until today was his ability to be disruptive when he was forced to drop back in pass coverage. He broke up one pass over the middle that was pure perfection in regards to technique and outcome.
If he can do both those items equally well this season, he will push Tamba Hali for playing time on every down. In fact, if Defensive Coordinator, Bob Sutton, dials up his plays properly, the rotation of Ford, Houston and Hali, would be the most feared combination of pass rushers in the NFL.
3. QB Tyler Bray - If you want a hint as to how Head Coach, Andy Reid, feels about the second year quarterback from Tennessee, just watch him tutor him on the field. Reid spends more class time on the field with Bray than any other quarterback on the roster.
That should lend the theory I’ve been stating for months. Bray could open the season as the back-up to veteran starter, Alex Smith. Bray still has some issues throwing the ball to the outside shoulder of his receivers. But when he’s zinging the ball over the middle of the field, he’s the Chiefs best quarterback on the field. He has mastered the ability to put the ball between the numbers or throw it perfectly over the top allowing them to run underneath his passes.
Don’t get me wrong Smith is the starter for now but Bray has something special that Reid is hoping to refine. Still he’s not alone in having something special. Quarterback, Aaron Murray is very similar to Bray just five inches shorter and a one less year of experience in the system. It’s a good position for the Chiefs to be in unless your quarterback, Chase Daniel, who has struggled mightily to date in camp.
4. Wide Receivers - We pretty much know what we’re going to get with Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, Junior Hemingway and A.J. Jenkins. But if this unit is going to rise from the dropped balls and missed opportunities they squandered last season, two more receivers have to step up.
Luckily the Chiefs might have solved that problem thus far in camp with the likes of journeymen, Kyle Williams and Rutgers rookie, Mark Harrison. Williams made some nice down the field catches in traffic that had to do wonders for his confidence. Helping his cause is the fact he’s healthy and actually appears ahead of some of the aforementioned receivers.
Harrison is the Chiefs tallest receiver and might have the best hands of the entire unit. All he does is catch the ball wherever it’s thrown. Even better for a young receiver, I can’t think of a single time that I saw Harrison drop a pass.
So why is it so easy for Harrison to catch the ball while some of his teammates were dropping balls all over the field Saturday morning? Harrison knows where to place his hands. It’s really that simple. He finds the ball first, secures it second, and then continues on with the play.
On the flip side, Canadian standout, Weston Dressler, didn’t have a good day. His size is an issue but he also let some very easy passes fall to the ground. At least, he runs good routes but if you can’t secure the ball like Harrison did time after time, you don’t belong in the big leagues.
5. Offensive Line - If Andy Reid, plays the best five offensive lineman, regardless of their natural positions prior to camp, this group might just find some success.
Eric Fisher and Donald Stephenson were the best of the bunch playing both tackle positions. To me, Fisher still seems bothered by his off-season surgeries. Not that he’s still hurt but I’m not sure he’s ready to play in an NFL game yet from a physical standpoint. Regardless, Stephenson should open the season at left tackle.
After that only Rodney Hudson, Eric Kush and rookie, Zach Fulton, caught my eye. If I had to line them up right now, those five would open the season against Tennessee. In drills against the Chiefs pass rushers and defensive linemen; the rest of the non-mentioned players simply didn’t hold their ground.
Now it was the first day in pads but right now KC’s offensive line might have five solid starters but I’m not sure what’s behind them should this unit get hit with injuries. Good news is that there is time to develop one or two and scour the waiver wire for a seasoned veteran or two.
Photos: (1) Justin Olson Warpaint Illustrated & (2) John Rieger USA Today Sports
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