Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil put his players through an extensive workout on Wednesday. Vermeil made some strong statements on Tuesday in his weekly news conference about the disappointment that he had with his teams performance against the Broncos. But now he has to focus on the Carolina Panthers who come into Arrowhead after being spanked in their season opener at home against the Green Bay Packers.
The buzz around Chiefs camp still centers around the defense and their performance on Sunday. Despite the effort, Vermeil put a positive spin on the poor performance and it's obvious that he's trying to pump his football team as morale is a bit low; especially on the defensive side of the ball.
"I like the direction of our defense is going. Gunther (Cunningham) doesn't play, but I like the direction our defense is going. Our defensive line is getting better. Whenever you're doing something new, within that process there's a period of time that it takes to do under the full speed timing that is a little bit different, especially when you add the intensity. We broke down; they broke us down. We've had problems up (Denver) for three years and almost duplicated the same problems. But I do believe we'll get better as we play together. You just can't duplicate that environment on the practice field. You can't play them enough in pre-season games to get them that far along," said Vermeil.
For the Chiefs they'll face a Panthers team that lost their best wide receiver in their season opener on Monday Night. Steve Smith broke his leg and had surgery late Tuesday that will keep him out of action for the next ten weeks. That means the Chiefs can focus on the run and trying to stop Stephen Davis who only had nine carries for a pauldry 26 yards.
The Panthers could not establish any rythem rushing the ball as the Packers tore up the Carolina offensive line. That is something the Chiefs must do this weekend. Quarterback Jake Delhomme had a decent game but he's ineffective if Davis and company don't rush the ball.
That means the Chiefs who are banged up on the defensive line with veteran Vonnie Holliday likley to miss the game, need to make a decision at defensive end. John Browning could slide outside and Junior Siavii could play in the middle with Ryan Sims. Browining played defensive end in the pre-season and its likley he along with rookie Jared Allen could see significant action replacing Holliday.
Linebacker Kawika Mitchell appears to be recovered from his severly sprained ankle and practice for the first time in three weeks with the team on Wednseday.
That means Monty Beisel could get some company at middle linebacker on Sunday but Vermeil was really impressed with the performace of Beisel and it's clear that Mitchell has to play exceptional to get his starting middle linebacker spot back.
"We've seen a lot of Monty and like the improvement we've seen," said Vermeil. "He's got a ways to go. I think Kawika has certain things that Monty doesn't have and Monty has certain things that Kawika doesn't have. It's actually a blessing in disguise as far as training another middle linebacker."
Vermeil has a solid point and with depth on defense a problem an extra productive linebacker could prove huge dividends for the defense down the road. The Chiefs are going to need to develop a solid cover linebackers and Mitchell has the ability to cover a tight end or running back out of the backfield.
One of the issues in the loss on Sunday was the inability for the Chiefs linebackers to cover a slot receiver. Mithcell excelled at that in college and the more time he can get on the field and the more time Beisel can learn his new position; Kansas City can take more chances on blitzes.
Greg Wesley could be a game time decision. The Chiefs starting safety sat out of practice on Wednesday with a sore hamstring and if he can't play on Sunday rookie Willie Pile will get the nod over Shaunard Harts.
On offense the Chiefs should be ready for a breakout game especially in their passing game. Priest Holmes was the man on Sunday scoring three touchdowns and rushing for 151 yards. But despite his heroics the All-Pro running back knows that the offense has to find a balance between the run and pass.
"Last week you could tell that the running game had a number of good runs in it, but at the same time we weren't very consistent in terms of the running game and the passing game. In the type of offense we run, we try to mix it up – 50 percent on the run and 50 percent on the pass. It's just getting everyone working towards the same goal and we'll definitely bounce back this week."
It's obvious that the wide receivers ar under the gun but so is tight end Tony Gonzalez who was clearly frustrated on Sunday. Still the Chiefs outside of one play never threw much over the defense nor stretched it out and in order for Gonzalez to be successful; the receivers have to make some plays.
Both Eddie Kennison and Johnnie Morton made significant contributions when called upon but Gonzalez needs to step up and not allow the defense to take him out of the offense. It should be interesting to see how the Panthers defense Gonzalez. They have quality players at linebacker and at safety that could cause more frustration for the Chiefs All-Pro tight end.
Wide receiver Samie Parker made it back to practice and could see some action this weekend. Parker is the fastest receiver on the roster and if the Chiefs can use him as a deep threat it will bring in to play more options for their offense. Its absolutely essential that the Chiefs strech the field and a healthy Parker could do that even if he's used as a decoy.
One player who won't be helping the Chiefs on offense is Tampa Bay holdout wide receiver Keenan McCardell. Dick Vermeil shot down that idea today when asked by local reporters. "No. First off, you've got to have room in the salary cap," said Vermeil. "It's not like you go shopping and buy what you want. We brought Keenan McCardell in here and liked him and tried to sign him, but in signing Johnnie Morton at the same time we couldn't give them equal dollars and Tampa Bay stepped up and gave him more money. I don't blame him. I enjoyed having him here. He's a fine receiver, but he's not a burner. He just catches the ball."