THE GUNTHER CUNNINGHAM EXPERIENCE
This afternoon's position group session began quietly, as Gunther Cunningham observed his unit practicing interception drills and another exercise which is best described as the "reroute the tight end" drill. Then the real coaching began.
Cunningham began a drill that tested his unit's competency in reaction to offensive motion. Twice, the first-team linebacker unit – Derrick Johnson, Pat Thomas, Donnie Edwards – appeared to react in the incorrect way. After Cunningham calmly explained what they were doing wrong, the error appeared to be corrected. But the drill wasn't even close to being finished.
Now that the linebackers had the appropriate reaction down, Cunningham had them run it multiple times in a row. Back and forth they swayed, again and again, reacting to mock tight ends and halfbacks. Over and over, Cunningham repeated the drill. What was the point?
It soon became clear, at least to me, that Cunningham was attempting to make the way his linebackers react to offensive motion an instinct. He was trying to eliminate the possibility of a mental error during a game, when a real halfback or tight end went in motion. The only way to do that, of course, is to make players run something until it becomes second nature.
The teaching didn't end there. During walkthroughs, Cunningham reinforced his earlier lesson. From his reactions, it was safe to say that it wasn't quite instinctive just yet. Fortunately there are a few weeks until the regular season begins. Back to work, coach.
The Chiefs practiced their two-minute offense again today. Damon Huard's drive ended in an interception in the end zone. Tyler Thigpen brought the second-team offense down for a score, as he did yesterday.
National media superstars – Jay Glazer, John Clayton, etc – are flocking to River Falls. It's clear tomorrow's practice, which features Jared Allen going up against his old team, is going to be a circus of sorts.
Edwin Harrison, who had been playing left tackle with the third-team offense, was spotted at guard with the second team today. Apparently the Chiefs read Pat Clifton's column.
PLAYS OF THE DAY
Tyler Thigpen faked a handoff, bootlegged to his left, flipped his hips around and fired the ball. Bobby Sippio was open near the sideline, and Thigpen's pass was just accurate enough to reach his receiver's outstretched hands as he jumped. Sippio tiptoed in bounds for a beautiful 25-yard gain with a defensive back breathing down his neck.
Damon Huard may have had a terrible camp so far, but there's some fight left in the old dog. Today he unspooled a 40-yard bomb down the right sideline, slipping the ball in just beyond Patrick Surtain's grasp. It might have been the best deep throw of training camp so far.
Finally, Brad Cottam's 6-foot-8 frame came in handy when he made a one-handed catch in 7-on-7 drills this afternoon, extending one long arm to haul in a 25-yard grab along the right sideline after running a near-perfect corner route.
Dimitri Patterson was all alone in man coverage against Dwayne Bowe. To make matters worse, the second-year receiver was streaking down the sideline toward the end zone. Damon Huard saw the mismatch (Bowe is a good four inches taller than Patterson) and let fly. Fortunately, Patterson maintained his inside positioning on Bowe and snuffed out a potential touchdown by securing an interception.
It was the last play of practice, and Tyler Thigpen was under extreme pressure. As he scrambled, Bobby Sippio mirrored his quarterback and headed for the right corner of the end zone. Thigpen let fly with a desperation attempt at a touchdown, and Sippio leapt high in the air, caught the ball, and landed in bounds for a touchdown.
Yes, Tyler Thigpen wasn't half bad this afternoon. You can see why the Chiefs think he has potential. The young passer still threw a bad interception to cornerback Brandon Flowers, but his work in the two-minute drill was nothing short of phenomenal, as he started the drive with three straight completions, before a fourth was dropped. Thigpen then escaped the rush and hit Will Franklin with a pass, stopped the clock, and then threw a strike down the middle of the field to tight end Michael Allan before hitting Sippio for six. I've been annoying Pat Clifton since this epic moment transpired by comparing Thigpen to John Elway.
Speaking of Will Franklin, he was all over the place this afternoon. The former Missouri receiver snatched three of Thigpen's passes during the two-minute drill, including one catch that featured a terrific leaping adjustment. We raved about Jeff Webb and Chris Hannon last training camp, but so far Franklin looks like a much more polished receiver than either Webb or Hannon did a year ago.
Turk McBride showed some dominant flashes at right defensive end today. First, he blew up a screen pass by staying home, despite the fact the screen was run to his side, and then closing on the pass and slapping it away. Later, McBride did it again, except this time the screen went away from his position. He still ran Larry Johnson down from behind and brought him to the ground.
Give it up for Barry Richardson. After an awful last few days, he managed to hold off Alfonso Boone during the two-minute drill today.
Tight end John Paul Foschi is already a long shot to make the roster. Dropping a perfectly placed Damon Huard pass 20 yards down the field and false starting won't help his case.
Maurice Price was considered a sleeper during OTAs. Today he was nowhere to be seen while Will Franklin and Jeff Webb made plays, and he dropped two passes, one of which was a potential touchdown.
"We're dead wrong. This is why the ball is being run up your ass."
- Linebackers coach Gunther Cunningham, pointing out a giant flaw in his defense during linebacker drills.
"I'm gonna kill you. There is no excuse for that pass. None."
- Cunningham, incensed during 7-on-7 drills after a completion over the middle.
"Don't worry about it. We're on the road. Ain't gonna be called on the road."
- Herm Edwards, after blatant offensive pass interference on Dwayne Bowe went uncalled, much to a defender's chagrin.
"It can happen at any time, especially with Gunther breathing down our necks."
- Linebacker Pat Thomas, explaining the fight he was involved in this morning.
"He's really not as crazy as people think he is."
- Thomas on his linebackers coach, Gunther Cunningham.
"Let's see, are there 80,000 fans here? No. But I'm gonna give you a little taste."
- Dwayne Bowe, offering a preview of tomorrow's scrimmage with the Minnesota Vikings.
"Oh, no. No no no no no no no no no no no."
- Bowe, on whether or not he watches hunting DVDs with his roommate, Brodie Croyle.
Brodie Croyle, Brian Waters, Trevor Johnson and Tamba Hali sat out this afternoon's practice.
River Falls Recap: Wednesday 7/30 PM Practice
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