Kansas City Chiefs: Winners and Losers of Training Camp
If the game against the Cardinals was any indication, Kansas City is a winner coming out of training camp.
In what has been a relatively quiet few weeks in St. Joe, the cream is starting to rise to the top for Romeo Crennel’s team. The dead weight is starting to show, but it’s a lot less than in previous seasons and that’s an extremely good sign for the direction of the team.
Still, while some have shown they belong, others are struggling to make an impact.
Who’s winning, who’s losing at Chiefs' camp?
Winner: Brian Daboll
You would think any change at offensive coordinator would be welcome after the feeble train wreck that was Kansas City’s offensive unit in 2011. That wasn’t the case when the Chiefs announced Brian Daboll had been selected as the sixth offensive coordinator in six years.
Having most recently served the same position in Cleveland in 2010 and Miami in 2011 with few wins to show for it, Daboll was seen as just another comfort hire by GM Scott Pioli, a known commodity who Pioli knew from their days with the New England Patriots.
“Great,” Chiefs fans groaned, “another Belichick cronie.”
Then the Chiefs played Arizona last Friday.
The unit was organized, getting to the line of scrimmage well before the play clock started winding down (a surprisingly difficult task under Bill Muir aka Mr. Haley's puppet). The plays were well thought out and effective, with Dexter McCluster staying well clear of inside draws. The offensive line was moving Cardinals defenders like they were chaff in the wind.
And then, lo and behold, a small miracle occurred. Matt Cassel changed the play at the line of scrimmage.
Radio voice of the Chiefs Mitch Holthus thought he saw Cassel change the play seven of the 16 snaps he was in the game.
If Daboll has given Cassel the freedom to change plays with that kind of frequency, he’s got a grasp on Cassel’s abilities that Haley never bothered to try. Daboll wins.
Loser: Dwayne Bowe
If you’re a Chiefs fan, you know what’s up by now. Dwayne Bowe didn’t get the long term deal he wanted, got stuck with the franchise tender, and he’s tried to prove a point to Pioli to pony up and give him his dough by avoiding St. Joe like the plague until he signed on Friday.
It didn’t go quite how he thought it would. The Chiefs offense doesn’t go without Dwayne Bowe, or will it?
It’s only one preseason game, but things aren’t looking good for Bowe’s play of “Your offense might as well bring Tyler Palko back without me,” because it’s looking like they will be just fine. Throw in that Jon Baldwin is starting to show flashes of being a high-flying animal and Bowe finds there’s less and less reason his holdout made any sense at all.
Sure, he has absolutely nothing to lose financially in the short term; he will get his $9.5 million once he signs the franchise tag and he’s not getting fined for skipping camp.
But, he fell behind learning Daboll’s offense and gaining a familiarity with the terminology. And though he most assuredly worked out and stayed in shape in his absence, there’s no way to recreate live football and get your body used to taking hits.
Not only is Bowe setting himself up to be less productive, he’s leaving himself open to unnecessary risk of injury. Both of which will most assuredly come back to bite him in the wallet.
Winner: Dexter McCluster
The heir-apparent to the Human Joystick seemed like he was headed for the bust label in 2011. Trying to split time between halfback and slot receiver left the diminutive playmaker leaving much to be desired in both departments.
Now that he isn’t expected to be a interchangeable part on offense (or dive headfirst into the middle of the scrum like a fullback) and can focus on the slot, McCluster is showing he can be the weapon he was billed as coming out of Ole Miss.
In the preseason game, McCluster finished with three receptions for 45 yards, with a long of 29 and looks to be a much more integral part of the offense. After finally finding a niche as Matt Cassel’s safety blanket, McCluster has re-established his place on the roster.
Loser: Brandon Flowers
This certainly isn’t a reflection on Flowers’ work ethic, attitude or ability. He’s just the victim of a freak injury.
It seemed like the foot injury Flowers sustained in the annual night practice in St. Joseph was a bump that would require nothing more than taking it easy for a few days.
That was almost two weeks ago.
Flowers won’t necessarily be falling behind in the mental aspect of things, but he certainly is missing out on getting in football shape for the start of the regular season. Maybe Crennel is being a little overly-cautious with Flowers and it doesn’t seem to be an injury that’s particularly serious.
But with the length of his absence, Julio Jones and Roddy White are getting a little scarier to think about each day.
Winner: Anthony Toribio
Once again, Romeo Crennel shows his ability to take an unproven, slightly pudgy lump of clay and shape it into a starting-caliber defensive lineman.
Largely an afterthought after he was plucked off waivers from Green Bay, Toribio has seen limited action in the two seasons he has spent with the Chiefs, and his situation didn’t seem to be improving with a first-rounder being brought in at his position.
So why does he find himself at the top of the nosetackle depth chart?
According to Crennel, Toribio has distinguished himself with masterful technique. If you watch Dontari Poe in the first preseason game, that seems to be an area he doesn’t have the greatest grasp on yet.
Until Poe learns how to not rely on his brute strength and use his hands better, Toribio is sitting pretty with a starting job.
Loser: Jake O'Connell
Jake O’Connell is like a bad penny. He somehow finds his way onto the Chiefs roster every year since he was a seventh round draft choice in 2009. He just won’t go away despite only have 12 receptions for 90 yards for no touchdowns in four seasons with the team.
It looks like this may finally be the year the Chiefs give up on him, because a converted tackle is making a better impression than him.
When training camp first started, no one outside of Steve Maneri thought he had a snowball’s chance to make the 53-man roster as a tight end after being a reserve tackle for Kansas City.
Fast-forward to today and Maneri has impressed in camp after dropping 40 pounds and had a few nice catches in the Arizona game.
O’Connell? Haven’t heard a peep, and unless you’re Terrell Owens that’s a very bad thing. Don’t expect to see him around come September.
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