Kansas City Chiefs' Winners and Losers from Training Camp
Training camp is over and teams around the NFL have shifted into regular-season mode. The third preseason game is basically treated like a watered-down regular-season week.
That means most of the evaluation period is over (some of it never ends). The roster is being finalized now, and there are very few opportunities left to make an impression on Scott Piol, Romeo Crennel and the other coaches.
Training camp always gives rise to a few unexpected stars, but there always are a few players who disappoint and leave the coaches and fans wanting more. The Kansas City Chiefs have several players that had impressive training camps and several others that had poor training camps.
Winner: Jamaal Charles
A running back coming off an ACL injury is always going to be a huge question mark. Charles is almost a full year removed from his injury, giving him the best possible odds of being 100 percent when the regular season starts.
Charles hasn't had any reported swelling, and he looked fantastic in the first preseason games. The talk about Charles' knee has almost disappeared because he looks so good.
The only thing that's hurting Charles from getting more national run is Peyton Hillis. Fantasy football does drive some of the coverage, and Charles has perceived risk with Hillis stealing the goal-line and short-yardage work.
Fantasy football aside, Charles looks like he's ready to help the Chiefs make a playoff push.
Loser: Dontari Poe
Unfortunately, expectations come with being a first-round draft selection. Typically you want your first-round pick to be a starter and impact player right away. That's what the fans expect, and that's what most teams expect.
That's not going to be Poe, and if only the Chiefs knew he was only going to be a sub-package player to start. Poe is going to get snaps, but how many will be determined by his performance.
It might take some time before we know what kind of player Poe will be, and it might even be a couple years before we know. If not for the emergence of Anthony Toribio, Poe's disappointing training camp might be a bigger issue.
For now, the Chiefs have some flexibility with how Poe is used, and they can continue to try and bring him along slowly.
Winner: Shaun Draughn
Entering camp there was an opening for a No. 3 running back in Kansas City's backfield. Shaun Draughn and Cyrus Gray were competing for a spot behind Charles and Hillis. Training camp is now over, and it was Draughn who emerged as the No. 3 option.
Draughn even received snaps with the No. 1 offense this preseason. Gray looked good against the No. 3 defenses, but Draughn has maintained his spot every week.
The Chiefs might be favoring Draughn because he sports a 225-pound build compared to Gray's 200-pound frame. Draughn's size alone gives him more potential as a blocker, and he appears to have the No. 3 job solidified with only a couple weeks until final cuts.
Loser: Brandon Flowers
Missing most of training camp qualifies you for loser status, even if you are the No. 1 cornerback on the roster. Flowers has been nursing an injured heel and was recently spotted in a walking boot by beat writer Adam Teicher.
Flowers has missed nearly three weeks of practice, and there is something to be said for using camp and the preseason to knock off the rust and get ready to play. The lack of practice reps shouldn't impact him too much, but it is a major concern that he has missed so much time.
The Chiefs might be preparing to be without Flowers for a while as Jalil Brown and Javier Arenas have been getting reps with the No. 1 defense in his absence.
Winner: Jon Baldwin
For all the talk about how well Jon Baldwin has looked during training camp, he hasn't shown up in the preseason games. It's just preseason, and there is a good chance the Chiefs already know what they have in Baldwin and were content to test out other options.
Chiefs fans are hoping all the talk about Baldwin was not simply to distract everyone from Dwayne Bowe's holdout. That doesn't seem likely since even the media has been impressed with Baldwin.
With Bowe in the fold, Baldwin could be even more effective because coverage will roll to Bowe's side of the field. Baldwin's impressive camp might lead to a breakout campaign in 2012 because he will draw a lot of single coverage.
Loser: Dwayne Bowe
You can't be a camp winner if you don't even show up. Bowe finally signed his franchise tag, but only after camp had wrapped up.
I don't understand why players with no other option than to sign their franchise tag holdout. They can't sign a long-term deal, so they aren't holding out for a tangible reason.
Basically, Bowe was making a public statement that he was displeased with the Chiefs. It's childish. You couldn't work out a deal, so sign your tag and go to work.
It's not ideal for franchise players to be held captive by an organization that might not want to give them a fair market deal, but that's the system that makes you millions. By not reporting to camp, Bowe was putting himself above the team, and the Chiefs will probably let Bowe go next offseason.
Winner: Anthony Toribio
I got a chance to talk with the legendary Gil Brandt for a few minutes, and he was really impressed with Anthony Toribio after his visit to camp. Brandt said Toribio had great technique.
It might seem like Toribio was just a convenient option to talk about with the struggles of Dontari Poe, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Toribio looks like a legitimate nose tackle and could keep Poe as a pass-rush specialist for a while.
The nose tackle in the 3-4 defense is one of the most demanding positions on the football field and one of the keys to the success of the 3-4. Toribio will have to be as advertised for the defense in Kansas City to be strong, and his performances in the first two preseason games have been promising.
Loser: Kendrick Lewis
Kendrick Lewis is a big part of the defense in Kansas City, and he injured his shoulder in the Chiefs' second preseason game against the Rams. According to the Associated Press, he'll miss time, and there is no definitive timetable for his return.
Even prior to Lewis' injury there were a few serious concerns about his play. For example, you can see my game breakdown from earlier this week. Lewis looked very slow to read and react to plays in front of him.
Lewis was just an average safety last year, and the Chiefs were hoping he could make a jump his third season. It doesn't look like that is going to happen.
Winner: Ryan Lilja
The rebuilt offensive line had only one major competition coming into training camp. The veteran Ryan Lilja was to be pushed by rookie Jeff Allen. It made sense, too, because Lilja was a possible cap casualty, according to NFL.com's Brian McIntyre.
Lilja looks revitalized and has even taken some snaps at center in case Rodney Hudson was to go down with an injury.
Allen still figures into the plan, and Lilja is in the final year of his contract, but it looks for now that the Chiefs will have a really hard time releasing the veteran left guard, even if he makes more than the team would like.
Loser: Steve Breaston
Steve Breaston doesn't have a catch this preseason and has been a relatively quiet camp participant. With Dwayne Bowe missing all of training camp, you would expect to hear Breaston's name called a lot, and that hasn't been the case.
Like Baldwin, it could be that the Chiefs know what they have and are simply testing other players. Breaston still figures to see time as the slot receiver for the Chiefs, but the preseason performance of Dexter McCluster could cut into his opportunities.
Despite a quiet camp, it's hard to expect any difference in production for Breaston. He's a veteran, and he knows how to get open. It's possible this is all a product of a small media market and more interesting storylines elsewhere on the team.