OTA's also allow the veterans and new acquisitions a chance to work together for the first time. This is the point where teams initially start to gel and players begin to push one another in preparation for the season. It also sparks a second round of personnel decisions as the coaching staff has to look at what possible changes might need to be made at or around June 1st.
Are they comfortable at specific positions and do they feel they could take that position group to camp without making an upgrade?
Those are all legitimate questions that are partially answered during OTA's. As far as the Chiefs are concerned I believe that their first day of OTA's went rather well. The defense was the topic of the day but I hope no one was expecting to see the rebirth of the 1995 defense the minute that all of these strangers took the field together for the first time. With at least four new defensive starters, it is going to take a while for each of them to learn their calls and responsibilities within the scheme. Once they have conquered that challenge; then they have to learn to play as a unit rather than group of individuals. By the time mini-camp rolls around on June 19th, we will be seeing a much more organized and lethal Chiefs defense than the one that is taking the field this week.
This offseason defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham is putting an emphasis on his defensive players touching the ball. "We are starting some new phases on defense, I believe you have to touch the ball on defense, you every play you have get to try and touch the ball. And what I mean by that you strip it, knock it down, and do anything you can do to dominate the ball and make believe like its your ball, " said Cunningham.
Gunther constantly pushing that point home and he routinely yells at the defense telling them "That is our ball! Take it away, everybody touch the ball". In watching the way they cover and tackle it is safe to say that Cunningham's players have already begun to respond to his request. Near interceptions and ball hawking by the defensive backs and linebackers has been the one noticeable difference I have seen in this defense throughout rookie camp and the beginning of OTA's.
Staying on the topic of defense there was another thing that stood out to me as I watched the defense during practice. It was easy to spot the improved athletic ability of the outside linebackers and the ability they brought to the defense. On both the first and second team, Keyaron Fox and Derrick Johnson put on an exhibition at left outside linebacker. Both of them have big play capability and a range that can take them sideline to sideline. They were using those skills to their advantage and causing fits for the offenses trying to contain them. I will be very interested to see how Cunningham uses both of them and I can say right now that Fox is the most improved player I have seen on the defense so far.
With all of the buzz and speculation about defensive side of the ball there were still some offense players on the practice field that drew plenty attention of their own. Even with a few key absences such as Priest Holmes and Johnnie Morton, it appeared that the offense hadn't missed a beat since the conclusion of the 2004 season. Eddie Kennison, Dante Hall, Richard Smith and Samie Parker looked like they had spent the past three months working out with Trent Green on a daily basis while Green looked just as sharp in turn. Smith was injured in yesterday's practice and will be out at least two weeks with a deep thigh bruise.
Running back Larry Johnson looked marvelous and H-back Kris Wilson was picking up where he left prior to breaking his leg in last years pre-season. The offense however was of little concern and it was the revamped defense that everyone present was waiting to see.
All in all it was a spirited workout and its clear this team is focused on regaining that offensive magic and developing a defense that will turn some heads once the season opens.