The last three years Kansas City Chiefs cornerback William Bartee has struggled to make plays on defense. Now he'll get a chance to do that playing a new position. The Chiefs made it official on Wednesday that they were moving him back to his college position of Safety.
It seems to be working as Bartee made an amazing interception to close out the 11 on 11 drills. He leaped high above wide receiver Samie Parker and made the defensive play of the workout. Bartee appears much more comfortable facing the action instead of playing with his back to the quarterback.
Last years starting Safety Jerome Woods has yet to show up for OTA's and that has drawn the wrath of his Head Coach Dick Vermeil. He was not very happy that he's yet to show up but the Chiefs are expecting him on the field on Thursday.
Staying in the secondary; keep an eye on Connecticut cornerback Justin Perkins. He would have had at least two interceptions on the afternoon if the defense was allowed to play at full speed. He had a reputation for making plays in college and it was shocking that he wasn't drafted. He has a nose for the football and appears to be someone who could exceed the Chiefs expectations. As a rookie he looks far more comfortable on the field that three year man Julian Battle. Another impressive performer was rookie Alphonso Hodge. He like Perkins would have made more plays had he been able to hit people. His coverage skills need to improve but he clearly has tremendous speed; that if nurtured; could give this team a lift this season.
Patrick Surtain almost had a nifty interception covering Eddie Kennison but could not hold on before going out of bounds. He and safety Sammy Knight spent a considerable time talking to each other and it's obvious that they'll be the leaders in the defensive secondary. Safety Greg Wesley looks like he's shaken off the rust of a poor 2004 season. He was solid in all the drills on Wednesday.
Linebacker Keyaron Fox was impressive playing on the outside and looked as nimble as Derrick Johnson. He's beefed up and looks very solid. He is lining up as one of the starting linebackers opposite Kendrell Bell. He could have easily had a pair of sacks. He did manage to lay out wide receiver Dante Hall in seven on seven drills. Hall went down after colliding with Fox and that turned some heads. At Georgia Tech, Fox was a tackling machine and he's light year ahead of where he was last year at this time. Right now, he's ahead of Derrick Johnson on the depth chart.
I can't say that I'm all that impressed with Kawika Mitchell who was torched on a couple of pass patterns by back-up tight end Jason Dunn. Rookie Boomer Grigsby, who is second on the depth chart at middle linebacker; showed a little more pop than he did on Tuesday. If Mitchell does not play well, the Chiefs could be forced to use NFL Europe standout Rich Scanlon in the middle.
Another positive on defense was defensive End Carlos Hall who batted down several passes and was productive in the 11 on 11 drills. He looked very comfortable on defense. I can't say the same for last year's standout rookie Jared Allen, who took a lot of ribbing from defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. Allen has put on some extra weight and that could be one of the reasons that he has been unable to get off the line of scrimmage faster.
One player who may or may not make a contribution this year is Mike Maslowski. Maz worked by himself after practice running and cutting long after the players left the field. It's clear that he's itching to get back on the practice field but the Chiefs are being cautious. Vermeil did indicate to reporters that he's close to doing just that.
On offense I was very impressed with wide receiver Samie Parker. Outside of Eddie Kennison he was the star of the workouts. He looks nowhere like the rookie he was a year ago. He ran the sharpest routes of the bunch and only needs to spend more time with quarterback Trent Green to get even more comfortable in this offense. I can't see anything at this point that going to make me think he won't start opposite Kennison in the season opener against the New York Jets on September 11th. That does not bode well for the return of Johnnie Morton who is likely going to be released in June.
Another young rookie wide receiver who caught my eye was Craphonso Thorpe. It's clear his speed has returned from the broken leg he suffered at the end of the 2003 season at Florida State. It also appears he's a bit overwhelmed learning this offense. On Tuesday he dropped several balls but was much better at bringing the ball into his body on Wednesday. He started to gain more confidence as the workouts went on and he receiver a lot of encouragement from offensive coordinator Al Saunders. Once he learns where to go on the field and he can run crisper pass patterns; he'll get more playing time on offense.
One player who had a terrible day was third string quarterback Damon Huard. He fumbled the ball several times and looked like a rookie out their on the field. He showed little command of the offense and it appears that second year man Casey Clausen or rookie James Kilian could unseat him for clipboard duty in 2005.