After Wednesday's practice, you couldn't help but wonder how good this Chiefs team can be in 2006. I know we have questions at left and right tackle. The defensive line still needs to be tweaked, but for those who are not in River Falls, there seems to be a quiet confidence amongst the players.
The first thing that struck me about Camp Edwards is that everyone seems in sync and at ease. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of competition, as youngsters like defensive end Tamba Hali try to unseat veterans like Eric Hicks. Safety Bernard Pollard wants to steal one of the two safety spots from either Greg Wesley or Sammy Knight.
The veterans have plenty of intensity, too. Kyle Turley hasn't played a down in two years, but because of his talent he's poised to replace Willie Roaf at left tackle. Tight end Tony Gonzalez might be the hardest practice player I've ever seen, and he's showing that he still has plenty left to offer the offense.
Coach Edwards told me in our season preview edition of Warpaint Illustrated that he wanted his players to play with passion. It's clear that he's been able to instill that value throughout the team. What he might not have expected so soon is the camaraderie that's taken place.
When you see veteran players that are fighting for jobs helping the younger players that are trying to take those jobs, it's clear that everyone is buying into everything that Edwards and his coaching staff is teaching.
Granted, this team has not played a single game, but Friday's scrimmage in Mankato, Minnesota should give us an indicator of what kind of team this is.
The defense is clearly faster and stronger. The offense seems a bit behind its' normal pace. But Brian Waters is out with an injury and Turley is still getting his footing at left tackle. The Chiefs are also still auditioning for a starter at right tackle, so it will take time to gel.
But this team isn't taking any chances. They made a strong move in acquiring veteran running back Michael Bennett from the Saints. And my gut tells me they're not done adding to the roster.
In years past, once the team broke for camp, roster additions didn't happen that often. But that's not the case anymore. The best 53 players will line up on opening day, and there are no assurances that all of them are in training camp at the moment.
With that said, here are 10 opinions I've formulated after watching the Chiefs this week.
10. Kyle Turley can play left tackle. All you need to see are his daily battles with Jared Allen. He's going to be just fine, and if Willie Roaf does come back, then Turley moves to the right side and this line is once again the very best in the NFL. Even without Roaf, it's still pretty darn good.
9. Running back Derrick Ross looks like the real deal. He runs low to the ground, he finds the right holes and has an instinct on the field that reminds me of a young Priest Holmes. How did he slip though the cracks? With Bennett signed, the Chiefs would be wise to keep him as their third back. Last season the team let go of Sam Gado and he did very well for the Packers before getting injured.
8. Quarterback Brodie Croyle is getting better with each practice. His poise in the pocket and quick release are reminiscent of Tom Brady. His accuracy is sharp and he shows no signs of being overwhelmed by his jump from college to the NFL.
7. Safety Jarrad Page might have been a seventh-round pick, but he's shown the ability to be in the right place at the right time in passing situations. The hardest thing for any defensive back, especially a young one, is to watch the quarterback. He's very instinctive on the field and he finds the ball.
6. Running back Larry Johnson might be faster than he was a year ago. Knowing that the offensive line is still trying to mesh, he's running to spots and getting to the outside at a quicker pace. If he breaks the line of scrimmage on the outside, like he did a year ago, his season will be magical. If that happens, there might not be a single defense in the league that can stop him.
5. Ty Law and Patrick Surtain might be the best run-supporting corners in the league. Opposing teams won't be able to gamble like they did a year ago. And while the front seven did a decent job in stopping the run, the secondary was another matter. With Law and Surtain on the field, that weakness is now a strength.
4. Kendrell Bell looks like a completely different player. I admit, I was nervous about him entering the season but his play during OTAs and training camp has me convinced he can be a force this year. Right now he's showing no weaknesses.
3. Will Svitek might end up being the wild card on the Chiefs offensive line. He started training camp backing up Turley, but he's also taking turns at right tackle, competing against Kevin Sampson. Any experience Svitek can get over the next month will be invaluable. He's already pretty good, especially when you consider two years ago he was a defensive end at Stanford.
2. Trent Green amazes me. He has such a solid grasp of the offense, that despite the problems on the line, and some youngsters in his wide receiver corps, he remains unfazed by anything. I watch him make passes in practice that are picture perfect. He either hits the receiver in stride or he puts the ball, for the most part, in the only place his guys can catch it
1. Eddie Kennison is in the best shape of his Chiefs' career. Despite his contract issues, he's acted like a professional. He might not be a number one receiver on some teams, but he's the best one in Kansas City.
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