THE GUNTHER CUNNINGHAM EXPERIENCE
Pat Thomas was right. Gunther Cunningham isn't as crazy as everyone thinks. It was no more evident than today when he took his linebackers through drills at the beginning of practice.
Here's what stood out – Cunningham was almost completely calm. He didn't yell at anyone, and barely raised his voice. There were no explosions, no outbursts of anger at a missed assignment or an incorrect answer. Today, even though they were in spider pads and football helmets, and on a football field, Gunther Cunningham simply taught his linebackers as if they were in a classroom and he was a professor.
What did Cunningham teach? Well, I'm no football expert, but it appeared he was expounding upon his lesson from two days ago, informing his linebackers on how to react to motion and offensive formations.
Today, Cunningham used backup linebackers as down linemen, and also attempted to show his strongside linebacker how to blitz the quarterback efficiently, by hitting the uncovered gap at the line of scrimmage. Cunningham had his unit practice against a variety of formations – tight, wide, a tight end split out wide, etc.
But it didn't stop there. Cunningham wanted his players to know the assignments for other members on defense – for instance, the nickel corner, or the safety, which was Cunningham's role today, in fact.
Later, Cunningham continued his lessons in walkthroughs, and it was apparent it flowed into the afternoon's 11-on-11 session, as the Chiefs' defense used similar defensive calls. Someone evidently got the lesson, because Cunningham actually called one player's performance on two snaps, "Perfect."
Pat Thomas started at middle linebacker for the fourth consecutive day. It's probably too early to pencil him in as the regular-season starter, but we'll see who gets the nod in Chicago for the first preseason game – Thomas or Napoleon Harris.
Jamaal Charles appears to have pretty solid vision for a rookie running back. It seems every day he finds a little gap to slip through in the offensive line, which is impressive because he's played behind multiple units at this point. He can't be totally in-sync with his blockers.
Today was defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey's birthday. Chiefs fans greeted him with a cake after practice. Don't eat the whole thing, Glenn.
Second-team left tackle Herb Taylor replaced Branden Albert with the starters today. Albert is nursing a sprained foot, and Herm Edwards said he's "more out than in" for the first preseason game in Chicago next week
The Chiefs were scheduled for a special-teams practice tomorrow morning, but Herm Edwards announced to the media that a full team practice will take place. The players will apparently find out at dinner Friday evening.
PLAYS OF THE DAY
Dwayne Bowe against Tyron Brackenridge was definitely a mismatch, but even so, the young cornerback stayed with the receiver down the field. Brodie Croyle still fired the ball into tight coverage, but purposefully threw behind his favorite target. Bowe twisted his body around, plucked the ball out of the air and fell backwards out of bounds, keeping his feet in for a gain of about 11 yards. Sometimes, there's just no way to defend a pass, especially when it's headed for Bowe.
Occasionally, Brodie Croyle looks like he's headed to the Pro Bowl – particularly when he throws on the run. Today, off bootleg action, Croyle zipped another ball down the sideline to Bowe. The pass was so well thrown, placed perfectly outside Bowe's right shoulder, that there was no way anyone else could have caught it. Had the ball been placed in front of Bowe's left shoulder, the completion might have ended up out of bounds.
OK, so someone finally stopped Dwayne Bowe. Today it was cornerback Maurice Leggett, who stayed with the LSU product in man-to-man coverage down the right sideline with little help. Tyler Thigpen had no choice but to practically throw the ball up for grabs, because Bowe got almost no separation. Fortunately for Leggett, Bowe's leaping, one-handed stab at the ball came up empty.
OK, yes, Bowe is hot. He was again all over the place today, and is clearly in no danger of a sophomore slump. He's constantly using his body to shield the ball from defenders, and his hands look incredibly strong. I'll be shocked if Bowe comes up short of 1,000 yards again.
Give it up for Brad Cottam, who caught everything thrown his way today. That hasn't always been the case here in River Falls. Cottam's last catch of practice drew praise from Head Coach Herm Edwards.
Brodie Croyle probably had his best day of practice in awhile, despite the fact Branden Albert sat out. Other than a bad interception thrown right to Brandon Carr in 11-on-11's, and a near-pick by Patrick Surtain on the next play, Croyle was accurate and again used audibles at the line. According to my notes, he was 10 out of 13 between 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, with a nifty touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez, squeezed in just ahead of Derrick Johnson's reach down by the goal line. Croyle's rocket arm makes all the difference down there when the yards get tight.
Is Tamba Hali really capable of playing right defensive end? I expected him to beat Herb Taylor over and over again today, but Brodie Croyle had plenty of time on most snaps. There was more pressure coming from the middle and right side of the offensive line, or from blitzes. If Hali can't get the better of John Tait next week against the Bears, the Chiefs may have a problem.
"Hey coach, it doesn't count! You can't play with 12! Good try, though."
- Herm Edwards, amused when the offense lined up with 12 players on one snap.
"Don't grab him, 4-6! You're better than that. You can cut him, but don't grab. Ray Charles could have seen that."
- Edwards, chastising fullback Oliver Hoyte for what appeared to be an uncalled holding penalty.
"Lerue, you see that? That's what it takes."
Gunther Cunningham, pointing out a great play by Derrick Johnson to backup linebacker LeRue Rumph.
"I've got some advil, Pat."
- Cunningham, offering medication to his new middle linebacker after a rough play.
Donnie Edwards (hamstring), Kolby Smith (groin), Branden Albert (foot), Brandon Flowers (hip), TJ Jackson and Jackie Battle sat out this afternoon's practice
River Falls Recap: Friday, 8/1 PM Practice
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