Chiefs Final Mini-Camp Evaluations
On the first day of camp a large group of media ascended on the Chiefs indoor practice facility to watch former Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. As a former Heisman Trophy winner White created quite a buzz and his after practice media session drew as much attention as Chiefs first round pick Derrick Johnson.
Despite all of the hype White was never able to separate himself from Tulsa quarterback James Killian. Throughout the weekend Killian showed the coaches that he had slightly better arm strength and a touch more accuracy than White on deep pass. In the end this meant that White's days in a Chiefs uniform would be short lived as he left town on Sunday evening without a contract. It should be noted that neither quarterback was very impressive the entire weekend. Both littered the field with passes that were either to high, to low, or dropped.
Fifth round draft pick Craphonso Thorpe had a difficult time adjusting during rookie camp. You didn't see a consistent showing of his speed and he dropped several passes that hit him right in the hands. When you consider his draft day expectations I think the coaches and scouting department had to be a little disappointed in his performance over the weekend
On the bright side Craphonso strikes me as a kid who will work night and day to get better. I have a felling that we will see an improved version of Craphonso Thorpe as early as the June mini-camp.
The single star throughout the weekend was none other than first round draft pick Derrick Johnson. Even though camp participants were merely clad in helmets and shorts Johnson easily stood out as the most talented player on the field. His ability to read the play, process it, and then explode to the point of attack is nothing short of remarkable.
Johnson's best day of practice came on Sunday during 11-on-11 drills. Out of the 25 plays he defended; Johnson had 15 tackles. From the left side of the offense he was darting all over the field and taking the form of a one man wrecking crew. Not to build up false expectations but the last time I saw a linebacker who could move like that it was 1995, the player wore number 55 and played for the Chargers, Junior Seau.
Playing next to Derrick Johnson at the middle linebacker position was fifth round pick Boomer Grigsby. Grigsby had an impressive practice on the first day of camp but fell back to the pack in days two and three. At times he would get washed out of the middle on plays that went right up the "A" gaps and other times he would struggle in pass coverage by not being able to stick with his man or not being aware of the flight of the ball.
Regardless of his performance, Boomer showed the leadership qualities you look for in a middle linebacker. He was able to rally the defense and take charge even though he wasn't accustomed to the scheme. Being he comes from a smaller college program; he might be a little behind the learning curve when it comes to pro style defenses but that is something I expect him to catch up on before the team practices again.
But clearly the one thing stands out about Boomer, is his tremendous character. He clearly has the desire to be the best at what he does. He is a talented player who simply needs time to adjust to the NFL speed. I would expect to see great things from a player with that much heart.
Another linebacker that caught my eye during the weekend was Kris Griffin from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Griffin stood out in position drills as well as scrimmages. He is a similar player to Johnson and played opposite Johnson at right outside linebacker.
Griffin showed pretty good quickness and usually stayed in a good linebacker position that allowed him to change direction and flow to the ball. He is a very similar body type to Johnson and every once and a while you would mistake him for Johnson when he made a play on the field.
I would expect Griffin to get an invite to River Falls where he would have a decent shot of making the practice squad or being allocated to NFL Europe.
Undrafted rookie free agent Willie Walden jumped out at me on more than one occasion. This massive Tight End from Montana was surprisingly fast for a guy who is 6'7" 275lbs. His forty yard dash time is listed as a 4.9 but from what I saw of him in the mini-camp; you would have thought he was capable of running 4.7 at the very least.
Walden has nice hands and he displayed them when he caught a deep over the shoulder pass down the sideline that went for a touchdown. He might be another player that the Chiefs will consider taking to River Falls and placing on their developmental list.
Rookie free agent Sam Gado was a pleasant surprise and the Chiefs scouting department deserves some credit for finding this guy. Gado played for tiny Liberty University, a 1-AA school in the Big South Conference. Though he finished 27th in the country in rushing yards per game last season; it still would have been easy to pass right over Gado while looking for prospect from larger programs.
Gado showed impressive vision and cutback ability in each of the practices. He also flashed some very nice speed as he blew past the entire defense on more than one occasion. I never had a chance to see him catch the ball out of the backfield but looking at his college stats' it's something that wasn't been required of him too often.
It will be interesting to watch him during June's minicamp to see what he might be capable of doing behind the starting offensive line. Gado reminded me an awful lot of Derrick Blaylock, who now plays for the New York Jets.
Special teams' players usually aren't practicing at the same time as the offense and defense, at least not on the same field. That means no members of the media have seen Dustin Colquitt punt. Therefore we will have to take Coach Vermeils word for it when he says "I've been impressed." Of course, it's not live. But on both mornings he did a good job punting."
Alphonso Hodge did a fairly decent job during rookie camp. Like the rest of the rookies he was trying to adjust to a new system and he struggled at times to make the initial transition.
Hodge showed very good coordination and reaction to the ball during one-on-one drills. He was always running stride for stride with the wide receiver though he wasn't always in the right position. Hodge struggled at times jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage; though it looked as if he had improved by day three. Every one of Hodge's shortcomings can be corrected through coaching.
Jeremy Parquet performed fairly well over the duration of rookie camp. His strength was definitely his run blocking skills and he is surprisingly nimble for a guy that is 6'7" 325lbs. Despite his agility I did notice that Parquet was vulnerable against a speedy outside pass rush. Yet like the rest of the rookies in this draft I think Parquet's weaknesses can be corrected by the Chiefs coaching staff.
Will Svitek was another player working at offensive tackle throughout the weekend. Unlike Parquet, Svitek has never played offensive tackle and is actually being converted over from a defensive end. I didn't notice much of Svitek over the weekend so their isn't much I can tell you about him but the Chiefs have indicated that they think he's athletic enough to jump to the offensive side of the ball. He was a former Decathlon Champion in high school and Kansas City has kept an eye on him since the East-West shrine game. Still Svitek has a long road ahead of him if he is going to become a starting tackle in the NFL. It is hard enough transition for guys who have played the position through high school and college much less a defensive end.
Defensive End Khari Long made a few nice plays over the weekend and the one thing that stood out to me about him was his raw power. Long is explosive when coming out of his stance and he strikes you as a rough and powerful guy.
If Long is able to stick with the team I believe his role will most likely be on special teams for now.
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