Webb and Hannon ready for 2007

As I finish my interview with Chris Hannon and Jeff Webb, the Chiefs young wide receivers, Webb walks out of the locker room. Hannon leans in close to tell me something.

"I'm faster than he is," says Hannon.

"Really?" I answer, incredulously.

"Yeah," he confirms, "I'm the fastest guy on the team."

Webb reenters the locker room, and approaches us.

"Webb," Hannon asks, "who the fastest guy on the team?"

Webb points at Hannon.

"Chris."

"Whoa," says Hannon with a big smile, "I can't believe he actually admitted it."

The first thing you notice about Hannon is youthful exuberance. Webb is a bit more low key, but emotional nonetheless. Who could forget the image of tears running down his face after being told by the media he would be a member of the 2006 Chiefs?

Both guys are confident, with that swagger that only NFL wide receivers and cornerbacks possess. Webb was selected in the fifth round of last year's draft out of San Diego State University. Hannon was an undrafted free agent, but both guys know they belong and can play in this league. Neither is a particularly cocky guy, but both seem very self assured and comfortable with being a Chief, despite their lack of experience.

Maybe it's the cornerbacks. Everyday in practice, Hannon and Webb go against two of the NFL's finest defensive backs - Patrick Surtain and Ty Law. For a young wide receiver, going against a premier cornerback every other rep or so is like taking a class on being an NFL wide receiver. Going against two is like taking a master's class. You can't take a rep off.

Webb's eyes widen as he talks about the opportunity to practice against KC's veteran corners.

"We compete a lot against Ty Law and Surtain, and we just look at that as a privilege to go against two of the best corners in the league and getting our average up," says Webb. "I just look at that as a blessing, to go against those two, getting better everyday. I don't look at it like just another practice. I look at it as getting better for the future, for the organization."

Hannon nods in agreement.

"They show us the ins and outs of how cornerbacks think," says Hannon, "how they do the things they can get away with. When we go against regular corners, it's easier."

"A lot easier," adds Webb.

Webb and Hannon have been anointed by some as the future of the Chiefs at the wide receiver position, and are figuring huge in the team's plans for 2007. Webb has been on the roster all season. The Chiefs pulled Hannon up from the practice squad before the last regular season game to protect him from would-be pilferers in the offseason. The two plan to stay in Kansas City this offseason to workout with the quarterbacks and each other.

Of the two, only Webb got the opportunity to see the field this past season, but he made the most of his chances. He played quite a bit of special teams as a gunner, and got to return seven kicks thoughout the season - and his first was special. In a game against the Arizona Cardinals, Webb took the ball 50 yards, giving fans and the coaches a glimpse of his playmaking ability. If he's able to be that sort of game breaker in the passing game, the Chiefs will have caught lightning in a bottle. He could add a spark to an ailing passing attack next season.

Hannon is more of an unknown commodity. The coaches are impressed with his size and speed, and apparently he's an excellent route runner, something that many young wide receivers struggle with in their initial years. Of the pair, Hannon is the less polished, but got plenty of big game experience at the University of Tennessee.

Next season could be the breakout year for these two. Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards has already said there will be open competition for most positions next year, and wide receiver appears to be no different. There likely will be some changes in the receiver corps this offseason, so with a strong showing one or maybe even both could get the opportunity to be a starter.

For now, Webb and Hannon are both focused on developing themselves so that when they finally get the call from the coaching staff, they'll be ready. Both receivers are on the roster. Both have a great receivers coach in Charlie Joiner, and both have the raw talent to make it in the NFL. It's just a matter of getting the mental part down - learning the playbook, the reads and adjustments, the types of things really good wide receivers are fluent at.

"For me, it's been a learning experience, learning the ins and outs of the NFL, learning the ins and outs of the playbook," says Hannon. "I was on the practice squad, so I had to learn multiple receiver positions, and it's been very challenging for me, but I conquered it. Man, I'm back on the roster."

They have to learn how to be pros. It's one thing to have ability, and it's another to have drive. To be successful, they need to have both. Having role models on the team to teach them how to be pros also helps.

"The terminology, the playbooks, that's been the difference between college and the pros," says Webb. "The team chemistry is a lot different from college to pros. I've just been a sponge with everything people say and everything people do. I watch the way Eddie Kennison and Dante Hall carry themselves. I look at that and try to better myself as a player."

Looking at the two players, it appears the Chiefs could have picked up both their future wide receivers in the same year. The coaching staff believes that and constantly reminds Webb and Hannon that they are the new generation of Chiefs receivers.

"The coaches will say stuff like that," says Hannon. "They put us on the scout team to go against the number one defense, and we eat ‘em up."

This article originally appeared in Warpaint Illustrated the Magazine. If you want more information about the only Magazine Dedicated to the Kansas City Chiefs, hit the banner below to learn how you can get 56 issues of Sports Illustrated when you order Warpaint Illustrated the magazine.

 

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