You knew it was going to be a spirited workout when Chiefs defensive coordinator was yelling at his players and demanding excellence from them at every snap. You knew it was serious business when rookie Boomer Grigsby addressed Cunningham as ‘Sir' and the rest of his defensive mates have been getting an ear full from their leader when they don't so something right. It's clear that Cunningham is going to leave it all on the field with his players as he hopes to revamp the defensive mindset.
Cunningham spent a good portion of Thursday's workout trying to get his players to find a way to get to the ball. He was on cornerback Eric Warfield and complained that he was ‘Killing Grass' a reference to standing around and not moving. The incumbent starter has not looked very good at practice thus far and that has to be a concern to the Chiefs. Second year linebacker Keyaron Fox also caught the ire of his coach but he responded by stepping up his game as the workout went on.
We finally saw the real Kendrell Bell on Thursday as he began to move with more surety when he was on the field. I think part of his early struggles was the teams decision to play him at outside linebacker instead of in the middle. But that could change as the workouts continue. For now the middle will be patrolled by Kawika Mitchell, who has not looked all that strong thus far in the workouts. Boomer Grigsby is the back-up but that could change when Rich Scanlon returns from NFL Europe. He's been tearing it up in that league and he could be challenge for the starting middle linebacker spot unless Bell moves back to the middle.
Props have to go to the defensive line who played much better as a unit than they did on Wednesday. The starting line of Eric Hicks, Lional Dalton, Ryan Sims and Jared Allen looked very solid. They put more pressure on the quarterbacks on Thursday than I had seen in the last two days combined. Those four could comprise the teams starting lineup come opening day.
On offense free agent rookie Nathaniel Curry showed more skills at the wide receiver spot. Taking advantage of the injuries to Richard Smith and Dante Hall, the rookie free agent made a spectacular one-handed catch in 11 on 11 drills. But the star once again on offense was wide receiver Samie Parker who torched Eric Warfield on a long pass play that resulted in a touchdown. He's clearly given this offense a new dimension and he looks like he's been on the field three or four seasons.
Priest Holmes in his second day of workouts had a little trouble catching passes out of the backfield but once again showed a new burst of speed running the ball. That leads me to believe that he's ready for the season. After practice he talked with the media and says that he's ready to score 30 touchdowns this season. He certainly has no plans on giving up any carries to Larry Johnson but he did mention the possibility of the Chiefs lining up both backs on the field at the same time. Now that would be something to see.
In other Camp Notes:
Safety Jerome Woods was a no-show for the workouts. On Wednesday, Chiefs Head Coach Dick Vermeil indicated that he expected the former Memphis standout to be at the OTA's on Thursday but that didn't happen. If Woods is not at practice next week, that could mean an end to his tenure in Kansas City. With William Bartee moving from cornerback to safety, it appears that Greg Wesley and Sammy Knight will line up as the starters in September. That leaves Woods as the odd man out for now. It's not helping his position that he's yet to show up.
Another player who has looked good is wide receiver Eddie Kennison. In talking to him after practice, he's rejuvenated by the teams' defensive additions. He already appears to be in rhythm with quarterback Trent Green. After a career year last season, Kennison appears to be getting better with age and I expect him to exceed those numbers from last year in 2005.
Tight End Kris Wilson has also been very impressive over the last three days. He looks to be 100% recovered from his broken leg of a year ago and once again should be a focal point in the Chiefs offense this season.
On defense, I have to continue to praise the Chiefs young cornerbacks. Both Alphonso Hodge and rookie free agent Justin Perkins from Connecticut continue to shine in workouts. The thing that stands out about both of them is the way they line up and play cornerback. They are aggressive, they both have very good footwork and it will be interesting to see how they do when they the pads go on and they can hit people.
I can tell you that they look far more comfortable on the field then Julian Battle who stands too upright and looks very rigid in back-peddling and jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage. Warfield has the same problem and that's a bit of a surprise to me that he continues to struggle while the rookies like veterans.
LB Shawn Barber – Has been walking around practice with no noticeable limp. According to Vermeil he's ahead of schedule and could be practicing in River Falls sooner than most expected.
CB Benny Sapp – Has missed all of the workouts thus far with a groin pull. Sapp is the teams' best blitzing cornerback and he could be out another week. He needs to get on the field and show his skills because he'll be pushed by Hodge and Perkins for the teams nickel positions.