AFC West: Brandon Siler

Chiefs' defensive concerns mount

September, 6, 2012
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The Kansas City Chiefs are dealing with another injury on defense.

The Kansas City Star reported that starting linebacker Jovan Belcher is not practicing Thursday because of a sore groin. He is being replaced at practice by Brandon Siler, who missed all of last season with an Achilles injury.

Belcher is yet another Kansas City defender who is banged up heading into the season opener against visiting Atlanta on Sunday. Among the other injured players are safety Kendrick Lewis (shoulder), cornerback Brandon Flowers (foot) and linebacker Derrick Johnson (ankle). Flowers and Johnson are hopeful of playing Sunday, while Lewis is likely out.

Defensive tackle Anthony Toribio (ankle) also may not play. Plus, star pass-rusher Tamba Hali is serving a one-game NFL suspension. Thus, another injury on defense is the last thing the team needed.

In other AFC West news:

The Raiders confirmed the signing of receiver Derek Hagan. He tweeted that he signed with the team late Wednesday night. He provides depth for a unit that is banged up. Hagan spent a couple of months with Oakland last season. Cornerback Coye Francies, claimed off waivers last week, was waived to make room for Hagan.

Rap star Ice Cube, a huge Raiders fan, will perform inside the stadium before the Raiders-Chargers game on Monday night.

In an Insider piece, ESPN quarterback guru Ron Jawkorski wrote that when he studied film of Peyton Manning’s preseason performance in Denver, he was ”wowed” and he saw a quarterback in his primeInsider.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- This isn’t a training camp for the leisurely.

Armed with the best roster the franchise has seen in years, the Kansas City Chiefs are moving quickly under new coach Romeo Crennel. For those who visited the Chiefs camp last year, this pace is foreign.

“There are no wasted moments,” said quarterback Matt Cassel.

The final training camp under former coach Todd Haley will live in infamy in the Heartland. Last season's camp was essentially a three-week walk-through exercise. Haley chose to go that route because he wanted to ease the players back into the program after a lost offseason due the lockout. The plan didn’t work, because the Chiefs were physically and mentally behind the rest of the league. They suffered several major injuries early in the season, were drubbed in early games, and it set the tone for a disappointing season.

However, speed is back in vogue as Crennel tries for success in his second go-round as a head coach. The tempo change has paid off so far. The Chiefs have looked crisp in practices and they were dominant on both sides of the ball against Arizona in the preseason opener last week.

The idea is to keep the forward tempo moving into the season as Kansas City tries to win the AFC West for the second time in three seasons.

“It’s exciting to see what is happening here,” Cassel said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we are all on the same page and all want to have success together.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

1. The ACL Club: In addition to bringing in several free agents, the Chiefs are getting back three standouts. Safety Eric Berry, running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Tony Moeaki all suffered torn ACLs last September, but all are on pace to be major contributors this season.

“All of those guys look great,” Cassel said. “They’re going to help us a lot.”

2. Dwayne Bowe’s absence: It is over now. Bowe signed his franchise tender Friday, a day after camp ended. The Pro Bowl receiver did not participate in the offseason workouts, either. Bowe likely reported in time to learn the system of new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and get into football shape. With him being out, the Chiefs' offense clicked and it gained a lot of confidence. Having Bowe back heading out of camp should only make this unit stronger

[+] EnlargeKansas City's Romeo Crennel
Denny Medley/US PRESSWIREChiefs coach Romeo Crennel has the respect of his players.
3. Good vibrations: This team is in a good place. The players love playing for Crennel. One of the reasons Crennel was promoted from interim coach was the players’ respect for him. It has continued now that he is the permanent coach. He is the polar opposite of Haley, who was known as somewhat of a loose cannon. Crennel offers a calm, steady hand. Players love that he’s organized and up front. There is a lot of trust.

“They’ve worked hard and they know the possibilities this team has," Crennel said. “Every team feels good about itself this time of year, but this team’s attitude is in the right place.”

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

This is the best overall roster in the AFC West. It is one of the deepest rosters in the AFC. There is proven talent throughout the roster and the team has the right mix of veteran and young players. Still, the Chiefs are the youngest team in the NFL. They are the only team in the league not to have a player over the age of 30.

“When I was on my visit, I just looked up and down this roster and saw so much talent,” free-agent pickup, tight end Kevin Boss said. “It is just loaded with talent.”

When you look at this roster, there isn’t much not to like.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

The Chiefs will be dismissed as playoff contenders until Cassel proves otherwise. Many don't believe in them because they don’t believe in Cassel, even though he has already delivered a division title in Kansas City. Many scouts don’t think he can be a difference-maker, and that because he is the least talented of the four quarterbacks in the AFC West, he will not be able to overcome the other teams in the division. I believe there is enough talent on the roster to help Cassel lead the Chiefs deep into the playoffs, but he must prove his mettle.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • The rap on No. 11 overall pick Dontari Poe is that the defensive tackle wasn’t productive at Memphis. The Chiefs didn’t feel that way. They reviewed every college snap he ever played and were impressed that he played 60 percent of the snaps at 346 pounds. For what it’s worth, Poe’s college statistics and combine measurables compare favorably to Green Bay’s B.J. Raji, who has become a star after being the No. 9 overall pick in 2009. Poe is two inches taller and nine pounds heavier than Raji, yet he ran a 4.9 40-yard dash at the combine compared to Raji’s 5.23. Poe had nine more tackles and four more quarterback hurries than Raji in college despite the fact Raji played 16 more college games. This is not to suggest Poe is going to be a better NFL player than Raji, but it does take some steam out of the argument that Poe wasn’t a productive college player.
  • [+] EnlargeKansas City's Dontari Poe
    John Rieger/US PRESSWIREThe Chiefs like what they've seen from first-round pick Dontari Poe so far.
    When Bowe held out, Jon Baldwin thrived under the professional guidance of veteran receivers Steve Breaston and Terrance Copper. Some folks in camp think Baldwin is making strides because he is taking cues from Copper and Breaston.
  • Defensive ends Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey are plus players for the Chiefs. Neither is spectacular and they will always get grief for not living up to their draft billing. Dorsey was the No. 5 overall pick in 2008 and Jackson went No. 3 a year later. But both players are excellent run-stuffers and are among the best in the league in that area.
  • While the focus is on Poe at nose tackle, Anthony Toribio and 2011 draft choice Jerrell Powe are also in the mix.
  • Inside linebacker Brandon Siler looks good after missing all of last season with an Achilles injury. He could push Jovan Belcher for playing time.
  • While Haley was known for his ranting and raving on the field, Daboll is also fiery. He scoots around the field, barking instruction.
  • His new teammates love running back Peyton Hillis. His toughness and competitiveness have created buzz during camp.
  • Left tackle Branden Albert is quietly becoming the player the former Kansas City regime thought it was getting when it took him No. 15 overall in 2008. I expect the Chiefs to try to extend the pending free agent at some point. He’s been stellar.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brady Quinn-Ricky Stanzi battle to be Cassel’s backup continues all season, but with Quinn winning the job initially. The Chiefs like where they stand with both players.
  • The Chiefs are excited about the potential of tight ends Moeaki and Boss. Expect both to have high-profile roles in the offense.
  • Second-year pass-rusher Justin Houston has been terrific, and the Chiefs are bubbling over at what kind of pass-rush combination Tamba Hali and Houston can become.
  • The team appreciates the flexibility of third-year player Dexter McCluster, who has bounced from receiver to running back to receiver again. McCluster may never have a classically defined role, but he will have a role in this offense.
  • Undrafted rookie receiver Josh Bellamy still has a chance to make the 53-man roster, but in a numbers game, he could wind up on the practice squad.
  • So far, so good for new center Rodney Hudson. The second-year player looks comfortable playing with Cassel and vice versa.
  • Camp observers believe kicker Ryan Succop has gotten bigger and stronger, which will help with his field goal range.
  • The team's fourth-round pick, receiver/returner Devon Wylie, is explosive. He will be given a chance to contribute.
  • Keep an eye on defensive end Ropati Pitoitua. He has outplayed 2011 third-round pick Allen Bailey and he may be a keeper.
  • Brandon Flowers’ foot injury has allowed second-year cornerback Jalil Brown to blossom. I expect Brown to be on the field often in the regular season.
  • Fourth-string quarterback Alex Tanney is a curiosity because of his YouTube trick throwing video. But Tanney isn’t making much real football tread in this camp. The best he could hope for in 2012 is the practice squad.
We continue our position-by-position divisional rankings with a solid group of linebackers:

1. Tamba Hali, Kansas City: This is a special player. He is truly one of the best defensive players in the NFL.

2. Von Miller, Denver: Miller will only improve from a stellar rookie season. He is a gem.

3. Derrick Johnson, Kansas City: An underrated player. He is an A-player.

4. D.J. Williams, Denver: Very talented, but the red flags are piling up. He needs to stay focused on the field.

5. Justin Houston, Kansas City: I’m a big fan of this second-year player. I think he and Hali will be fun to watch rush the passer.

6. Jarret Johnson, San Diego: Free agent is a very solid pro. He will help this defense.

7. Melvin Ingram, San Diego: I’m very high on this versatile rookie. I expect big things right away.

8. Donald Butler, San Diego: A very talented player. He has a real future.

9. Rolando McClain, Oakland: McClain has to make fast improvements or his Oakland career may be on the rocks.

10. Shaun Phillips, San Diego: He can help, but he may be nearing the end.

11. Aaron Curry, Oakland: He can make some big plays, but he needs to become more consistent.

12. Takeo Spikes, San Diego: Spikes is getting way up there in age, but he isn’t the type of guy who you count out.

13. Philip Wheeler, Oakland: The Raiders will give this free-agent pickup a chance to prove he can be a better-than-average player.

14. Antwan Barnes, San Diego: He is limited but he has a real burst as a pass-rusher.

15. Jovan Belcher, Kansas City: A solid inside starting linebacker.

16. Joe Mays, Denver: Same here.

17. Wesley Woodyard, Denver: He will likely start if Williams’ six-game suspension sticks.

18. Brandon Siler, Kansas City: He was injured last year. He will help the Chiefs.

19. Larry English, San Diego: Make-or-break year for former No. 16 overall pick.

20. Travis Goethel, Oakland: If McClain gets suspended, he’ll get a chance.

21. Nate Irving, Denver: The Broncos want to see this 2011 third-round pick push Mays.

22. Miles Burris, Oakland: He likely won’t play much early, but the rookie is a player to keep an eye on.
Weekend mail call:

Lincoln from Kemmerer, Wyo., wants to know if the Kansas City Chiefs would be moved from the AFC West if a team other than the Raiders or the Chargers move to Los Angeles.

Bill Williamson: It’s an interesting question. Something would have to happen. Now that Minnesota is getting a new stadium; the current candidates to move to L.A. are the Chargers, Raiders, Bills, Jaguars and Rams. The easiest solution, if the team that moves to L.A. isn’t in the AFC West, would be for the Rams to move to L.A. They would easily stay in the NFC West. If the Bills or the Jaguars end up out West, eventually something would have to be done and because the Chiefs are the furthest East team in the division, an eventual move from the AFC West could be a possibility. Again, it’s down the road. If that happens, it would be a shame. The Chiefs forever belong in this division.

Christian from Greifswald, Germany, wants to know if I think the Raiders can re-sign receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

BW: I think that ship has sailed. The only way I see it happening is if the Raiders suffer a major injury at receiver or if the team is desparate for a veteran. Houshmanzadeh gave Carson Palmer a familiar target last year, but Palmer is now comfortable in Oakland. So, there really isn’t much need for Houshmandzadeh at this point.

Dylan from Hoxie, Kan., wants to know if Brandon Siler can push Jovan Belcher for a starting linebacker job in Kansas City.

BW: Siler suffered an Achilles injury last training camp. I like him from his San Diego days. The Chiefs like Belcher, but Siler is a pro and if he has a good training camp, he can press Belcher. At the very least, Siler will be good on special teams.

Mailbag: Brandon Carr to San Diego?

February, 29, 2012
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Mid-week mail call:

Jesse from San Antonio wants to know if I think the Chargers could sign Kansas City cornerback Brandon Carr.

Bill Williamson: I don’t think so. I guess it’s possible, but I think the Chargers have bigger in-house needs and outside needs at linebacker, the defensive line and at safety. Carr would certainly start in San Diego, but because the Chargers have other needs, they would likely be willing to spend less on Carr than other teams would. I expect Carr to be very popular on the open market and he could command between $7 million to $9 million per season. I just don’t see the Chargers making that type of commitment to a cornerback this year.

Dan from Fort Collins, Co., wants to know if the Broncos could bring back running back Clinton Portis.

BW: No chance. He is cooked. Remember, there have been two regime changes in Denver since Portis played there. I can’t believe this regime would have any interest in Portis. The Broncos will bring in a running back, but it will be a player with more to offer than Portis.

Peter from New York wants to know what type of production the Chiefs should expect from linebacker Brandon Siler.

BW: He could vie for a starting inside linebacker job if the Chiefs don’t address the position early in the draft or in free agency. Siler is back with the Chiefs this upcoming season after he blew out his Achilles tendon in training camp last year after he signed from San Diego. He was a solid role player and a special teamer in San Diego. I could see him filling the same type of role with the Chiefs.

AFC West notes

December, 31, 2011
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Agent David Canter announced on Twitter that injured Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Brandon Siler has signed a one-year extension. He had signed a one-year deal in the summer with the Chiefs after leaving San Diego.

Siler had a chance to win a starting job, but he blew out his Achilles on the final play of a preseason practice. It was Kansas City's second re-signing in two days. They signed kicker Ryan Succop to a five-year extension Friday.

Jon Gruden said he will remain at ESPN after a report stated he could have ended up in St. Louis with Chargers general manager A.J. Smith if Smith is fired in San Diego.

Tim Tebow will get a chance for a different kind of payback on Kyle Orton Sunday.

Eric Berry injury is 'a killer'

September, 12, 2011
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As I traveled from San Diego to Denver on Monday, I prepared myself to receive news on Eric Berry’s injury and I was prepared for what I heard.

That’s just the way life is going for the Kansas City Chiefs. In a wicked stream of terrible blows, the Chiefs may have just endured the blow that will be the hardest and most difficult to overcome. Berry is out for the season with a torn ACL he suffered Sunday in a stunning 41-7 home loss to Buffalo for the defending AFC West champions. I know it’s early and anything can happen, but I don’t see how the Chiefs work their way of out this hole to make a strong division-title defense.

In just his second season, Berry is the team’s most important defensive player, in a virtual dead heat with champion pass-rusher Tamba Hali. As a rookie, Berry made the Pro Bowl and he established himself as one of the team’s most reliable players. The No. 5 overall pick of the draft was instinctive and he made key plays. Most importantly, he played every snap of the season.

He didn’t make it through the first game this year.

It makes you wonder if this is going to be one of those seasons for the Chiefs, who have endured a stunning spate of injuries. In the preseason finale, fellow 2010 rookie star, tight end Tony Moeaki, blew out his knee and was lost for the season. Add a thumb injury to No. 1 pick, receiver Jonathan Baldwin, that he reportedly suffered in a late-camp fight with teammate Thomas Jones, and a season-ending Achilles injury suffered after camp by key free-agent pickup Brandon Siler and the Chiefs are up against it.

And that’s not even taking into account how unorganized and unprepared they look on the field.

The show has to march on and the Chiefs have to find a way to move on without Berry. They surely will look at the waiver wire, but it will mean bigger roles for the likes of Kendrick Lewis and Jon McGraw. Berry can’t be replaced, though. He was an elite presence at the back of the defense that gave Kansas City’s defense both creditability and toughness. This is the next Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu we’re talking about.

How can the Chiefs rebound from this blow? Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. doesn’t know if they can.

“Berry -- like Moeaki on defense -- is one of those guys that is a matchup beater,” Williamson said. “He can hang with any type of receiving threat, a [Oakland running back] Darren McFadden or [San Diego tight end] Antonio Gates for example. That is invaluable. Not only is it brutal for this season, but also both these injuries slow down the long-term growth of the franchise. It’s a killer.”

Wrap-up: Bills 41, Chiefs 7

September, 11, 2011
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Wow. Let’s wrap-up this 41-7 rout in Kansas City

What it means: One game does not make a season. But, come on folks, the Kansas City Chiefs can’t be feeling good after this one. To allow the Buffalo Bills to come in and ruin opening day like this is stunning, and, frankly, it’s inexcusable. Remember last year’s opener when the Chiefs played with spunk and outworked the Chargers? It started a special season. What will this stinker be the start of? After a poor preseason, the Chiefs played like a team that was unprepared for the regular season on Sunday. It was outworked and outplayed and it was sloppy and ineffective. Add anything else you like. It was just plain bad and the Chiefs will have to quickly get it together in all phases or they could be in big trouble this season.

Trending: It all started with the reported Jonathan Baldwin-Thomas Jones fight. Until the reported fight in late August, all was fairly solid for the Chiefs. They started slow, but they were healthy and all was good. Then, the bout occurred and Baldwin hasn’t practiced since with a thumb injury. It started a flurry of bad news for the Chiefs. Free-agent pickup, linebacker Brandon Siler, was soon lost for the year with a torn Achilles. Then, standout tight end Tony Moeaki was lost for the season with a torn ACL in his knee. Then the Chiefs went 0-4 in the preseason and now this horrible performance in the opener.

What’s really scary: Going into this game, no one expected the Bills’ offense to be a juggernaut and no one will likely expect it to be after this game. But the Bills rammed it down the Chiefs’ throats. The Chiefs couldn’t do anything defensively against the pass or the run. Kansas City won 10 games last year because the defense was stout. It was awful Sunday.

What's next: The Chiefs have to go to Detroit and play the improved and dangerous Detroit Lions before playing at San Diego in Week 3. Yes, Todd Haley’s crew must get it in gear, pronto.

Injuries come back to bite Chiefs

September, 5, 2011
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When I visited the Kansas City Chiefs’ on the final week of training camp in mid-August, the buzz around the team was its cautious approach to camp and the first preseason game.

Kansas City coach Todd Haley was criticized in some circles for not getting his team properly ready for the season. He defended the slow start. Due to the missed time because of the lockout, Haley said he was using much of training camp as a time to condition and to prepare. Haley said the “heavy football” work would come closer to the season.

The approach worked as the Chiefs were fairly healthy in camp. Now, after playing his starters extensively in the preseason finale at Green Bay on Thursday, and the team is suddenly banged up on the eve of the season.

Second-year tight end Tony Moeaki was lost for the season with a knee injury he suffered in the second quarter. The Kansas City Star reported quarterback Matt Cassel suffered a rib injury that could keep him out of next week’s game.

Also, the Chiefs suffered a season-ending Achilles injury to inside linebacker Brandon Siler (who was competing for a starting job after signing as a free agent San Diego) on the final play of a practice after the Chiefs broke camp.

So, this all goes to show you, injuries can happen no matter the approach a coach takes. And I’m sure Haley will re-evaluate playing his starters in the final preseason game because of the Moeaki and Cassel injuries.

Late-summer AFC West checkpoint

August, 26, 2011
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This unusual NFL season is about to start in two weeks. A lot has happened in the month since the lockout has been lifted. With the signing period and training camps over, let’s take a checkpoint look at each AFC West team:

Denver

Key pickups: Running back Willis McGahee, defensive tackle Ty Warren (he could be out for the year with a triceps injury), defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley, defensive end Derrick Harvey, tight end Daniel Fells.

Key losses: Offensive tackle Ryan Harris.

Story of camp: There has been quarterback news nearly at a daily clip. The fallout is this: Kyle Orton is the starter, Brady Quinn looks like he has the edge to be the backup and second-year quarterback Tim Tebow is currently the third-stringer after a less-than-spectacular training camp. Don’t expect Denver to trade or cut Tebow. He should be in Denver this year, but perhaps being nothing more than a special-package player. Give credit to both Orton (who was nearly dealt to Miami in the days right after the lockout ended) and to Quinn. Both have played well during the tumultuous time at the position.

Keep an eye on: Denver’s defense. The Broncos took a hit with Warren’s injury. He was the team’s big-ticket pickup and he was signed to give stability at the team’s weakest area. But the Broncos seem to have made some strides on defense this summer. The unit, which was No. 32 in the NFL last year, seems more aggressive and it has some playmakers. Pass-rushers Elvis Dumervil (back from missing all of last season with a pectoral injury) and No. 2 overall pick Von Miller look like they could give this unit life. It's clear new head coach John Fox has already positively impacted this unit.

Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson's view: "Denver may be better than people realize. I don’t love the offense, but it will be OK. Defensively, I think they will be much better. I think the front office had a promising offseason as they rebuild.”

Kansas City

Key pickups: Receiver Steve Breaston, defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, fullback Le'Ron McClain, offensive tackle Jared Gaither, linebacker Brandon Siler (he is out for season with a torn Achilles).

Key losses: Defensive linemen Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith

Story of camp: The defending AFC West champions had a nice, quiet, productive camp -- until the final days of it. The Chiefs built great momentum after adding several key veterans to an already-impressive roster. The only controversy was whether or not coach Todd Haley was taking a chance by taking camp slowly as a precaution because of missed time during the offseason due to the lockout. Then, the bombshell hit. It was reported that first-round pick Jon Baldwin and veteran running Thomas Jones had a locker room fight. Baldwin hurt his hand as a result and he is expected to miss the rest of the preseason. The Chiefs aren’t talking about it, but it is a strike against Baldwin, who had character concerns at Pitt. The Chiefs took Baldwin to help them win right away. This event isn’t a devastating blow, but it has to raise concerns.

Keep an eye on: Of all of the Chiefs’ moves, the signing of Gaither may be the most intriguing -- and the most promising if he can stay healthy. Before he missed all of last season with a back injury, Gaither was considered one of the better young left tackles in the NFL. Assuming he can play, Gaither could play either left tackle or right tackle. If he plays left tackle, Branden Albert would move to right tackle. He could further solidify a good line.

Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson's view: “I think Kansas City is the second-best team in the division. Give the Chiefs credit. They have surrounded Matt Cassel with every possible weapon to help make him successful. They are also solid on defense. I just don’t think they are as good as the Chargers.”

Oakland

Key pickups: Tight end Kevin Boss, quarterback Trent Edwards, quarterback Terrelle Pryor

Key losses: Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, tight end Zach Miller, guard Robert Gallery

Story of camp: The Raiders lost some big names and they added some big names as they began the Hue Jackson era. However, a late-round pick from Tennessee stole the show in camp. It has been all about receiver Denarius Moore. He made headlines virtually every day in camp with one spectacular catch after another. Most importantly, he has played well in preseason games and he looks polished. Expect the Raiders to give this kid a chance to contribute right away once the regular season starts.

Keep an eye on: The Raiders’ health has been an issue all camp. Several players have missed serious time. Thus far, though, it doesn’t look like many key players will miss time in the regular season other than receiver Louis Murphy, who had surgery on an undisclosed injury, and young linebacker Travis Goethel is likely out for the year with a knee injury. The team said he won’t play at Denver on Sept. 12, but it hasn’t said how long he will be out. Other players such as Boss, receiver Chaz Schilens and cornerback Chris Johnson all could be back for the opener, which is part of an ESPN “Monday Night Football” doubleheader. Thus far, most of the injuries have been nagging and fairly minor. But sometimes the injury bug hits a team and doesn’t stop all season. For now, this is mostly a preseason nuisance.

Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson's view: "There are things I like. I love the front seven. I love Darren McFadden. But Jason Campbell is an average quarterback on a good day and the offensive line is in flux. Overall, inconsistencies make this the third best team in the division.”

San Diego

Key pickups: Linebacker Takeo Spikes, safety Bob Sanders, pass-rusher Travis LaBoy

Key losses: Running back Darren Sproles, linebacker Kevin Burnett, receiver Legedu Naanee.

Story of camp: I didn't sense this team scrambling to make up for lost time following the lockout. For the most part, the key components of this team are in place and several players worked out together locally during the length of the lockout. The Chargers had seemingly a zillion free agents and they kept the players they wanted. So, it has been a smooth camp in San Diego as continuity has been the key.

Keep an eye on: A lot has been made of the arrival of Spikes and Sanders to the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL. But don’t discount impact of No. 18 overall pick Corey Liuget. The Illinois product has been outstanding. He has taken over the preseason games at times. He is an explosive defensive end who quickly gets into the backfield. The game doesn’t seem too big for Liuget. Expect him to be an instant starter and have a chance to be a premier player early in his career.

Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson's view: “I think San Diego is clearly the class of the division. I don’t think people are paying enough attention to this team. I love the offense. Philip Rivers is good as it gets. He has great weapons. Defensively, this team has added playmakers at every level. If the special teams can improve even marginally, they are going to win a lot more games. This could be the year. I think they are a sleeper team that could win it all.”
This is a prime example of why Kansas City coach Todd Haley took it slow during training camp.

Haley spent much of training camp working on conditioning rather than hard-core football because of the extended lockout. Haley wanted to make sure his players were in shape and he wanted to avoid injuries. Haley took heat for the approach, but it made sense. The Chiefs have stayed pretty healthy. Until now.

Free agent linebacker Brandon Siler was lost for the season after tearing an Achilles tendon during a full-contact, goal-line drill on the final play of practice Tuesday. He has already undergone surgery.

Siler, who was signed from San Diego on a one-year deal, had been pushing Jovan Belcher at inside linebacker for playing time and is also a special teams ace.

He is only 25 and is an intriguing player. Now, he will have to wait a year to play and hope to get a chance somewhere to prove himself.

Camp Confidential: Chiefs

August, 19, 2011
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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Been looking for post-lockout, smashmouth NFL action?

Hope you didn’t come to Chiefs camp during the past three weeks.

Kansas City's training camp wasn’t the most exciting place in the NFL. The Chiefs started very slowly, only going to pads last Sunday. The team’s starters did virtually nothing in a 25-0 loss to Tampa Bay last Friday night. Coach Todd Haley said he may take the same approach this Friday at Baltimore.

It’s a lockout-caused plan for Haley as the Chiefs take the big-picture approach and begin their AFC West title defense.

Haley was concerned about the length of the lockout and didn’t want to rush his team into action because of the lost time. He wants this team to be fresh for the season. Other teams have crammed in as much physical play as possible. Haley, known for his physical camps in his first two years in Kansas City, is taking a much different approach.

At this point, he said, getting his team conditioned to make up for lost time is more important to him than practicing hard. Haley said he will concentrate on heavy football drills toward the end of the preseason to ensure the team stays as healthy as possible heading into the regular season.

The coach is taking some heat for taking the cautious approach. Many fans are concerned that the Chiefs will not be ready when they open the regular season against visiting Buffalo on Sept. 11.

“I’m sticking to my convictions,” Haley said. “This is what is best for this team. I believe we will be ready for the season.”

The Chiefs picked up the intensity in practice this week, but they will not turn their starters loose until the third preseason game. There is even a chance that the starters will play in the final preseason game, which routinely doesn’t happen around the league.

“This is the approach Coach Haley wants us to take,” Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel. “We are fully behind him.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

1. Work with the quarterback: Cassel’s development is still the No. 1 priority for this team, and camp time is essential. There is no doubt that Cassel progressed last season, but he fell off at the end of the season and now has to get used to working with new quarterback coach Jim Zorn after a one-year stint with Charlie Weis as a his offensive coordinator. Weis now has the same job at the University of Florida. Cassel and Zorn lost valuable time due to the lockout. However, they are said to have built a good relationship and gotten comfortable working together this summer.

[+] EnlargeMatt Cassel
Kirby Lee/US PresswireChiefs quarterback Matt Cassel will have plenty of options when distributing the ball this season.
2. Spread the ball around: The Chiefs are spending this camp getting their varied passing-game weapons in order. This can be a dangerous passing offense and this camp is being spent on how to best utilize it. Cassel has many directions in which to look. It starts with No. 1 receiver Dwayne Bowe, but the Chiefs have given him help by drafting Jon Baldwin in the first round and signing slot receiver Steve Breaston, who played for Haley in Arizona and caught 77 passes in 2008 under Haley’s guidance. Add tight end Tony Moeaki and running back/receiver Dexter McCluster and there are a lot of options. Figuring out the best way to utilize all of them is what camp is for.

3. Figuring what’s best for Charles: It has driven many Kansas City fans crazy that the Chiefs don’t give Jamaal Charles more carries. Thomas Jones had 245 rushing attempts last season, while Charles had 230. Jones fell off toward the end of the season, but Charles was spectacular. He had 1,467 rushing yards, second in the league. The Chiefs want to increase his numbers but also want him to stay fresh and healthy, so don’t expect his workload to fly through the roof. To help both Charles and Jones, who will likely get 8-10 carries per game, the Chiefs signed former Baltimore fullback Le'Ron McClain, who runs the ball more than the average fullback. The Chiefs are working all three backs during this camp to figure out the most advantageous carry distribution.

ARE THEY GOING TO JARED?

The Chiefs’ camp got interesting last week when the team picked up former Baltimore left tackle Jared Gaither. Known as an above-average left tackle, Gaither missed all of last season with a back injury. The Raiders considered signing him early in camp, but they passed because of his back.

The Chiefs signed Gaither during camp and he is now practicing with the second team. If his back holds up, there is a strong chance he could move into the starting lineup and send Branden Albert to right tackle. Albert, a first-round pick in 2008, has been a decent but not great left tackle. The Chiefs have long considered making him a right tackle, where many scouts think he’d flourish. If he moves to right tackle, Albert would replace Barry Richardson. If the massive Gaither (6-foot-9, 340 pounds) is healthy and motivated, this could be a significant move for Kansas City.

CHIEFS MAY NEED TO BACK IT UP AT QB

The Chiefs are keeping a close eye on backup quarterbacks Tyler Palko and rookie Ricky Stanzi during camp. The two struggled in the preseason opener last week. If they continue to struggle, Kansas City could potentially consider bringing in a veteran backup such as Jake Delhomme to be the No. 2 quarterback. Still, Stanzi, a fifth-round pick from Iowa, should be a lock to make the team. Palko will have to increase his production to survive the final cuts.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • The team loves the addition of nose tackle Kelly Gregg. He has been a leader, has been working hard in camp and has been a positive influence on young players, including draft pick Jerrell Powe.

  • The Chiefs are working on increasing their turnover numbers on defense. They had the eighth-fewest takeaways in the NFL last season.
    [+] EnlargeKansas City's Jon Baldwin
    Denny Medley/US PRESSWIREFirst-round draft pick Jon Baldwin, along with new acquisition Steve Breaston, are expected to make an impact this season.

  • Baldwin was hampered by some minor issues. Camp observers said he struggled early in camp getting off the line of scrimmage, but the coaching staff is confident the No. 26 overall pick in the 2011 draft will catch up quickly. Baldwin had a reputation for being difficult in college, but the Chiefs haven’t seen any of indications of that and are more than satisfied with his attitude.
UPDATE: ESPN’s Adam Schefter confirmed that Baldwin is doubtful for the rest of training camp after a locker-room fight with Jones. Baldwin’s incident occurred after the Chiefs brass praised his attitude. This event has to be alarming for the team.

  • Veteran backup Jerheme Urban has been running with the first team with Bowe as Baldwin and Breaston get acclimated. Don’t expect that to last. Baldwin and Breaston were brought in to play a lot of snaps.

  • Haley has paired veterans with rookies to help the younger players through camp. The players room together, and Haley often matches up players from opposite sides of the ball to help team continuity.

  • Veteran Andy Studebaker has been working with the first team at outside linebacker opposite star pass-rusher Tamba Hali. The Chiefs are going to use several players to pressure the quarterback, but Studebaker has a chance to have a key role while rookie Justin Houston learns the team’s system.

  • McCluster has been working mostly out of the backfield as Haley suggested he would in May. Still, expect McCluster to line up at receiver some as well. The Chiefs are looking to create as many matchup problems as they can with McCluster, especially on third downs.

  • Rookie DE Allen Bailey has a chance to contribute right away as a pass-rusher. He has been working diligently in that area in camp.

  • Rookie offensive lineman Rodney Hudson has been looking good. The second-round pick could play at guard and at center.

  • The team also likes the progress of second-year guard Jon Asamoah, who has a chance to shine in the aftermath of the release of Brian Waters.

  • Former San Diego inside linebacker Brandon Siler is making a push for major playing time. He is a solid talent who also helps on special teams.

  • Linebacker Cameron Sheffield has played well. And he could be a contributor. He missed all of last season after suffering a neck injury in the preseason.

  • One undrafted free agent to watch is Temple linebacker Amara Kamara. He has caught on to the defensive scheme very quickly.

  • Cornerback Jalil Brown, a fourth-round pick out of Colorado, has been impressive and has a chance to be contributor in some packages and on special teams.
Kansas City Chiefs’ fans believe the signing of slot receiver Steve Breaston is going to be the most important of the Chiefs’ moves in unrestricted free agency.

I can’t say I disagree.

I think Breaston is a valuable added dimension for a varied passing game. Combine the fact that he played for Kansas City coach Todd Haley in Arizona and the Breaston addition could be enormous for the Chiefs, who had a strong offseason-signing period.

As of 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Breaston received 45 percent of the vote. Former Baltimore defensive tackle Kelly Gregg received 23 percent. Former Baltimore Fullback Le'Ron McClain received 15 percent. In-house free-agent center Casey Wiegmann received 14 percent of the vote and former San Diego linebacker Brandon Siler received three percent of the vote.

We didn’t include the re-signing of franchised linebacker Tamba Hali because we were only dealing with unrestricted free agency in the poll. Nearly 5,000 votes were cast. Thanks for playing along.
Editor's Note: Due to technical difficulties, Steve Breaston was left off of this poll when it initially published. The poll has been reset to include Breaston.

The defending AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs had a strong run in unrestricted free agency. They didn’t make many splashes but they kept a key veteran in center Casey Wiegmann and they signed several veterans who will all play key roles in 2011.

Please take our poll and let us know who you think is the most important move. Please express your thoughts why below in the comment section. We will review the results Wednesday.
The Kansas City Chiefs continue to make under-the-radar moves. Yet, the defending AFC West champions continue to improve their team.

The Chiefs’ latest move was signing former Baltimore fullback Le'Ron McClain for a one-year deal. This is an interesting signing.

McClain has value as both as a runner and a blocker, so he isn’t a typical fullback although his weight is usually in the 250 -270 range. He had 920 rushing yards in 2008. His carries went down in the past two seasons.

In Kansas City, he gives bulk behind star Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. Charles is expected to get more carries than Jones this season, so I can see a situation in which Jones and McClain split Jones’ carries from last season. In 2010, Jones had 245 carries and Charles had 230 carries. I could see Charles getting a few more carries than last year, although the Chiefs like to keep him fresh. Jones’ production slipped at the end of the season. With McClain in the mix, it could refresh all three players.

The Chiefs have been selective in free agency. They know they have a good, young roster. Yet, they have cherry picked valuable veterans when they see a good fit. McClain joins receiver Steve Breaston, nose tackle Kelly Gregg and linebacker Brandon Siler as new Chiefs.

Again, there are no headlines stars in the group, but they should make Kansas City a better team.

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