THE GUNTHER CUNNINGHAM EXPERIENCE
Linebackers coach Gunther Cunningham was all about the details this morning. While his unit practiced backpedals, Cunningham instructed his players to see the ball, and was particularly adamant about their foot placement prior to change of direction. He was demonstrative in performing his own version of the drill.
Then it was back to the sled drill, which was more of an exercise in sheer brutality the first time I viewed it. Today, however, Cunningham harped on little things like hand placement, especially when a linebacker was finished hitting the sled.
Cunningham wanted his players to gain separation from imaginary blockers after striking through them, in order to prevent holding. While it's true that holding is a penalty, it's obviously not always called, so Cunningham clearly wants his linebackers avoiding unnecessary entanglements with linemen capable of hiding the fact they're not exactly playing by the rules.
To do that that, he wanted them to separate from the sled with both hands after hitting it, to get distance from the block, and to keep their eyes up. In a few days we'll see if Cunningham's lessons are sinking in when the Chiefs take on the Chicago Bears.
Napoleon who? Pat Thomas again started at middle linebacker for the Chiefs today.
Tank Tyler replaced Glenn Dorsey with the first-team at right defensive tackle.
Herm Edwards said he's optimistic Glenn Dorsey might play in KC's second preseason game this year. On the subject of Larry Johnson, Edwards said it's likely the running back will receive more carries in exhibition games than he did a year ago, when he was just coming back after a long rest during a contract holdout. Finally, while left tackle Branden Albert will likely miss a large chunk of the preseason, Edwards said that would not affect the number of snaps the Chiefs give starting quarterback Brodie Croyle.
Derrick Johnson looks like he's completely comfortable in KC's defense. There's no hesitation when an offensive player goes in motion, as Johnson knows exactly where he needs to be on the field. It's clear he's no longer thinking, as is the case with many young players. He's simply reacting.
PLAYS OF THE DAY
Brodie Croyle dropped back in the pocket and surveyed the field, cool as a cucumber. He ignored Tank Tyler's outstretched arm, flashing upwards in front of him, and located wide receiver Devard Darling running free down the right sideline with a few steps on cornerback Brandon Carr. With all the time in the world, Croyle made it look easy as he stepped up and fired an absolutely perfect bomb that arced gracefully through the air before settling into Darling's hands for a 40-yard gain.
Dantrell Savage raced down the left side of the line of scrimmage, searching for a hole. As defenders closed, Savage found a crack of daylight, stopped on a dime and cut upfield into open space, showing rare vision for a young running back.
Nine times out of 10, you're not stopping Dwayne Bowe if the ball is coming his way. Today Brandon Carr had perfect coverage on the second-year receiver. Bowe simply hauled in the pass while falling down backwards near the sideline. Just another day at the office for "The Show."
Unfortunately for him, Dantrell Savage just isn't as impressive as running back Jackie Battle. With Larry Johnson resting today, and Kolby Smith still injured, Battle worked with the starters and was an absolute joy to watch. Battle runs with relentless passion, with almost no regard for his body. There's little hesitation in his running style. While he's not the fastest guy in the world, his acceleration is incredible. When Battle gets a full head of steam, it's tough to bring his 240 pounds to the ground, as evidenced today when defensive end Brian Johnston went to tackle him and ended up just bouncing off. The Chiefs should really keep four running backs. Battle's that good.
Jeff Webb isn't flashy, but he's had a consistent camp. Today he made a tough, leaping catch near the sideline with a defensive back all over him, and earlier in practice he hauled in a nice 15-yard grab over the middle. He also had a corner toasted big-time on a deep route similar to Darling's, but Brodie Croyle overthrew him. Webb may never be a 1,000-yard receiver, but he's catching the ball well this year. That wasn't always true a year ago.
Bernard Pollard looks like he's ready to silence all the doubters, myself included. Today he stuck to Tony Gonzalez like glue down by the goal line, and never gave Brodie Croyle an inch to throw the ball, slapping away a pass that probably shouldn't have been thrown. Later, he delivered the hit of training camp, absolutely destroying tight end Brad Cottam when Croyle overthrew the 6-foot-8 tight end on an intermediate route over the middle of the field. Impressive, especially when you consider Cottam has a good 50 pounds on Pollard.
Tank Tyler had all sorts of problems in camp a year ago. This year, he looks like he's ready to emerge as a force. With the first-team defense today, Tyler gave Brian Waters all he could handle in the running game. There was little push from Waters, who had been dominating Glenn Dorsey at times earlier in camp. Tyler's pass rush still needs work, but he appears to be a player who will be a key to KC's run defense this year.
I'm beginning to get really concerned about defensive end Tamba Hali. I've actually seen him rush the passer successfully in the past from his new position, but so far in camp, he doesn't look like a guy who's going to keep offensive coordinators up at night. Left tackle Herb Taylor, who's filling in for Branden Albert, is having few problems giving Brodie Croyle all the time he needs.
Is there some rule that says Brodie Croyle can't impress me two days in a row? Today he was sacked twice and his accuracy, even on short passes, wasn't impressive. He overthrew Dwayne Bowe on a simple, quick sideline route on one snap, and of course he completely hung Brad Cottam out to dry. Saturday was a night to remember, Monday was a morning to forget.
"Hey, defensive ends! If you've got a hammer, you get your butt outside!"
- Gunther Cunningham, disgusted at the play of his defensive linemen after one outside run.
"Hit the sled, men! We need guys to go low to make the tackle."
- Cunningham, inspiring his troops during sled drills.
"I never say why me, because there's always somebody that's got it worse than I do."
- Herm Edwards, explaining why he's not too upset over the injuries hitting his football team.
Trevor Johnson, Damion McIntosh, Branden Albert, Glenn Dorsey, Donnie Edwards, Kolby Smith, Larry Johnson and Kevin Robinson sat out today's practice.
River Falls Recap: Monday, 8/4 AM Practice
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