AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid revealed knee and ankle injuries to quarterback Tyler Bray that otherwise went undetected in the final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. These injuries could be the Chiefs' way out of their quarterback dilemma.

"He got banged up a little bit last night and I hope he’s OK," Reid said.

Those injuries could allow the Chiefs to put Bray on injured-reserve, which would be convenient in that they would like to keep all four of their quarterbacks. To do that, the Chiefs would have to either keep them all on their active roster, which they don’t want to do, or put one on an injured list.

Doing so with Bray would cost him this season, but allow him to remain a part of the picture for the long term.

"If you took one player and you said 'who’s improved and changed themselves physically and mentally in the last year the most,' you probably have to put Tyler in that mix," Reid said. "From where he was to where he is now, there’s a big difference."
Charles
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If anyone knows the demands of being a workhorse NFL running back, it's someone who's been in that spot. Eric Bieniemy never put in the workload during his nine-year career that Jamaal Charles has recently put in, but as a former running back Bieniemy can still appreciate the difficulty Charles faces in doing again in 2014 what he did last year. Charles is No. 11 in the 2014 #NFLRank survey of offensive players.

"The hardest part about being a professional is being a consistent professional," said Bieniemy, who as the Kansas City Chiefs' running backs coach now works with Charles. "Everybody knows Jamaal is a great player, [but] it's going to be a huge challenge for him. The thing that I love about Jamaal is that he doesn't take anything for granted."

It will help Charles that, by all accounts, he worked as hard during the offseason as he did when he was a rookie with the Chiefs. But his recent workload -- 544 carries and 105 catches combined in the past two seasons -- has to take its toll.

If the prevailing theory holds that an NFL back only has so much work in him before his skills start to erode, Charles will have trouble getting to his 2013 numbers of 1,287 yards rushing, 70 pass receptions and 19 total touchdowns.

"I don't believe that," Charles said when asked about that theory. "I think those are just numbers."

That may be. Charles is only 27 and his big 2013 season followed a solid 2012 (1,509 yards rushing, 35 pass receptions, 6 touchdowns). Charles also believes that playing in coach Andy Reid's offense saves him wear and tear.

"[Reid's offense] puts me in space where I can catch the ball out of the backfield and make a move, make somebody miss," Charles said. "He wasn't always trying to get somebody to get a big hit on me."

The Chiefs have talked about trying to lessen Charles' load. They drafted running back Knile Davis in 2013 and another, De'Anthony Thomas, this year. But Charles is their best player, their big-game threat, and they'll go to him often in a close game.

"You have a player who wants the football," Reid said. "He loves playing the game, and you have a coach who kind of likes giving it to him."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A sluggish preseason from the Kansas City Chiefs hasn't dulled the optimism from their chairman, Clark Hunt. He said on Wednesday he expects another postseason appearance from the Chiefs, who haven't made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since 1994 and 1995.

"My expectation is that we build on what we did last year,'' Hunt said before the Chiefs' annual kickoff luncheon. "We obviously set the bar very high for ourselves, not only with the undefeated start but the 11 wins and making the playoffs.

"I expect John [Dorsey] and Andy [Reid] to build on that. It won't always show up week to week in wins and losses but clearly we want to get back to the playoffs and hopefully go further than we did last year.''

Regardless of how the Chiefs do this season, in a sense it's already a success. Interest in the Chiefs in Kansas City has rebounded after a horrible stretch of seasons dating from the late 2000s to the early 2010s.

The Chiefs once sold out Arrowhead Stadium on a seasonal basis except for a few hundred tickets they purposely held back for single-game buyers. By the late 2000s, they were begging their fans to come to games and had their first local TV blackout in more than 15 years in 2009.

The rebound started last year with the hiring of Reid as head coach. But it took an 11-win season and a return to the playoffs before the interest was truly rekindled.

Season-ticket sales swelled from about 50,000 to over 60,000, according to Chiefs president Mark Donovan, who also said TV ratings for the first three preseason games have increased more than 10 percent.

"The fan base really responded to the success the team had last year,'' Hunt said. "There's a lot of interest in the Kansas City Chiefs right now.''

 
Most significant move: When the Kansas City Chiefs released Jerron McMillian, they parted ways with their only reserve safety who has started an NFL game. Two of the four backup safety candidates, Jonathon Amaya and Kelcie McCray, have NFL experience, but the others, Malcolm Bronson and undrafted rookie Daniel Sorensen, have never played in an NFL game. This should be of concern because starter Eric Berry has yet to play in a preseason game because of what the Chiefs are calling tendonitis in his heel. Berry has returned to practice, but look for the Chiefs to shop for an experienced backup depending on how they feel about Berry's prospects of making it through the season.

Dressler gets released: Former CFL star Weston Dressler didn’t even make it to the final round of cuts. Dressler never showed the skills for the Chiefs that made him a prolific receiver in the CFL, and it became obvious early in training camp Dressler wasn't going to stick with the Chiefs. After signing Dressler, the Chiefs drafted a small, fast slot receiver candidate in De'Anthony Thomas and signed another one in Albert Wilson. Both players showed more aptitude for the NFL game as a receiver and kick return specialist than Dressler did.

What’s next: The Chiefs still have interesting roster decisions at several positions. Among them is quarterback, where they will likely have to decide between developmental candidates Tyler Bray and rookie Aaron Murray. At wide receiver, the Chiefs have to decide whether younger players like Frankie Hammond Jr. and Albert Wilson are more valuable as backups than returning players such as Junior Hemingway and A.J. Jenkins. The Chiefs will also have to choose between veteran kicker Ryan Succop and rookie Cairo Santos.

Chiefs' cuts: WR Deon Anthony, DL Jairus Campbell, DB Sanders Commings, DL Jermelle Cudjo, WR Weston Dressler, OL Otis Hudson, WR Jerrell Jackson, CB Brandon Jones, CB Vernon Kearney, OL Ryan McKee, DB Jerron McMillian, CB Kevin Rutland, TE Adam Schiltz, CB Damond Smith, WR Darryl Surgent.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs allowed two long pass plays, one for a touchdown, on the Minnesota Vikings’ opening drive of last week’s preseason game. It was that drive that told defensive coordinator Bob Sutton the Chiefs are close to being ready for the start of the regular season.

Howard
Not that drive, exactly, but how the Chiefs responded to it. After the Vikings went down the field for that opening score, they managed just 74 yards and a field goal against the starting Chiefs defense over the next two quarters.

The Chiefs also scored a safety when Jaye Howard knocked the ball away from Minnesota quarterback Matt Cassel and out of the end zone.

“One of the things you’re looking for that’s always a dynamic you’re never quite sure of is, what are we going to do when things go bad?’’ Sutton said. “How are we going to respond?

“This is the NFL. Things aren’t going to go the way you want them to every play, every quarter, every game. If you want to be good on defense, you have to be able to handle those swings and not lose your focus, not lose your confidence, not stay back on your heels.

The Chiefs’ defense is having its share of issues. The Chiefs have allowed several big pass plays, which was a problem for them last season. They’re trying to identify a starting inside linebacker to replace the injured Joe Mays. Two starters, safety Eric Berry and end Mike DeVito, have yet to play in the preseason because of injuries.

But the defense appears much closer than the offense to being regular-season game ready. Sutton is hopeful the defense will play well in the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against Tennessee at Arrowhead Stadium, but acknowledged he isn’t certain.

“If you’re going to be honest and frank about it, you’ll probably not know what your team is going to be like until you play [in the regular season],’’ he said.

Then he rattled off a list of players who have done well in the preseason, including Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Allen Bailey, Dontari Poe and Howard.

That made him feel better.

“Those are things we’ve been watching over the last 10 days to where we can say, ‘We’re finally inching forward to where we want to be,’ ’’ Sutton said.

 

Monday's Chiefs practice report

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
5:25
PM ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some thoughts and observations on Monday's Kansas City Chiefs practice:
  • Injured starters Jamaal Charles (foot), Eric Berry (heel) and Mike DeVito (hand) returned to practice. Charles hasn't played in the preseason since the opener against Cincinnati while Berry and DeVito have yet to play. But the Chiefs practiced without tackle Eric Fisher (illness) and wide receivers Dwayne Bowe (quad) and Junior Hemingway (hip), among others. Ryan Harris took Fisher's spot at left tackle.
  • The Chiefs appeared no closer to settling on a starter at left guard, the spot vacated when Jeff Allen moved to right tackle. They again rotated between Ricky Henry and Jeffrey Linkenbach, an indication this decision could go down to the wire.
  • Undrafted rookie Daniel Sorensen was bumped from the starting lineup by Berry's return, but he continues to make big plays. He stepped in front of Frankie Hammond Jr. in the end zone to make an interception of a Chase Daniel pass.
  • Daniel, Alex Smith and snapper Thomas Gafford wore small cameras on their helmets but this had nothing to do with football. It was at the request of the Chiefs' promotional department, which may use the video from those cameras in upcoming features.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- ESPN is in the middle of unveiling this year's top 100 offensive and defensive players, but I'm already going to issue an opinion for the 2015 version.

Linebacker Justin Houston will be ranked higher next year than he was this season, when he's No. 42.

Imagine where Houston might be if he'd played an entire season last year. He was tied for the AFC lead in sacks with 11, when in the season's 11th game, Houston dislocated his elbow, ending his 2013 regular season.

So it's not a stretch to believe Houston will have another big season for the Kansas City Chiefs and, if he stays healthy, challenge for the sack title. Then he will rise above the ranking of 42.

A better question is whether Houston will be playing for the Chiefs when he is ranked higher. He's in the final year of his contract and the sides have had no success in coming to an agreement on a long-term contract.

So I'll make no prediction yet on that issue.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After Saturday night's lopsided loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the Kansas City Chiefs have the look of a team that could use another month of training camp before being ready for the regular season.

They won’t have that luxury. They have a couple of practices and the final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers this week and then the Chiefs begin preparations for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener.

Despite indications that their problems are widespread, coach Andy Reid said he didn’t believe the Chiefs were far from being ready for that opener against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium.

“It sure didn’t seem this way last night but as you study the film you’re not that far away from being where you need to be," Reid said.

“It’s important we get some of guys back that are right on the edge of being able to practice ... because of injury. Then as many reps as we can get, whether it’s in practice or in games, I think are important at some positions."

Among the injured players who weren’t available against the Vikings, running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe appear they could return soon. Charles, who has a bruised foot, suited up for the Minnesota game but didn’t play.

Reid indicated Berry, who has yet to play in the preseason because of a sore heel, would try to get at least some work in this week.

Reid didn’t specify position groups that could use the extra work but is most likely referring to the offensive line, where things have been unsettled. Most of the starting linemen stayed in the game on Saturday night after starters at other positions were finished for the night.

Reid didn’t say the starters at any of the positions wouldn’t play in Green Bay, but indicated he usually holds his starters out of the final exhibition game.

The Chiefs on defense allowed pass plays of 31 and 53 yards on Minnesota's first possession. Long pass plays were a consistent problem for the Chiefs last season.

“Then our defense came out and played just like they play," Reid said. "They weren’t fully loaded at every position from a defensive standpoint but they just really played good football."

The starting offense moved the ball but repeatedly bogged down inside the Minnesota 20. Once there, quarterback Alex Smith threw two interceptions and the Chiefs had to settle once for a field goal.

“The interceptions aren't normally Alex's M.O.," Reid said. “They’re very correctable. I can help him with that, with the play-call and design of things and so on."

The Chiefs are usually dominant on special teams but even there showed some cracks against Minnesota. They allowed a 75-yard punt return.

“We have the guys to fix the problem," Reid said.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Except for one glaring problem, you might be able to overlook the Kansas City Chiefs’ continuing offensive woes. Except for that same glaring problem, you might be able to pass off Saturday night’s 30-12 loss to the Minnesota Vikings as one of those preseason hiccups.

But the offensive struggles and the blowout loss have meaning for the same reason: Turnovers by quarterback Alex Smith.

Smith
Smith threw two interceptions Saturday night, both coming with the Chiefs inside the Minnesota 20. Both were bad interceptions, the kind generally thrown by a rookie still feeling his way around the NFL game and not a veteran like Smith, who has built his career around protecting the ball.

If Smith is going to commit turnovers like that when the regular season begins, the Chiefs are sunk. Smith doesn’t make enough big plays to overcome that.

The Chiefs are well aware of that. As quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy said during training camp of turnovers by Smith, “We can’t do that at this position. That’s one of our strengths."

The strength was a weakness against the Vikings. Smith’s first interception happened on a first down, when a quarterback should never take a chance. But Smith made a late throw intended for Frankie Hammond Jr. in the end zone that the Vikings got instead. He was guilty of staring down his intended receiver, Travis Kelce, on the second interception.

They are plays Smith normally avoids. He threw just seven interceptions last season.

“They’re two things that are very fixable," Smith said. “Certainly they need to be fixed."

The Chiefs don’t have much time left to fix them. They’ll have a couple of days of practice this week and a final preseason game on Thursday night against the Packers in Green Bay.

But the starters might not play in Green Bay. If they do, they probably won’t play much.

If this was it for Smith and the starters in the preseason, they wound up where they started, as the starters failed to score a touchdown in 16 possessions.

“You do expect to take steps as the preseason moves on," Smith said. “We all would have loved to end it here on a better note. I’m still very comfortable with where we’re at. We got a ton of great work in at camp and throughout this preseason. We just needed to finish. I don’t think it’s anything to panic about or get too worried about."

Maybe not. Maybe when running back Jamaal Charles and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe get back in the lineup, the Chiefs will perk up offensively and all of this will be forgotten.

But not everyone was so quick to shrug off these problems as no big deal.

“That’s something you don’t want to have to turn on," tackle Jeff Allen said, referring to the Chiefs’ inability to finish drives with touchdowns. “You want to be efficient now. You want to have that sense of urgency now."

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The starting offense for the Kansas City Chiefs still can't finish a drive. The starters failed to score a touchdown in eight possessions in what would become a 30-12 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs even had the ball inside the Minnesota 20 three times but came away with just a field goal and two Alex Smith interceptions. The starting offense hasn't scored a touchdown in 16 preseason possessions.

Here are some other thoughts on the Chiefs' third preseason game of the year:
  • The starting defense similarly doesn't look ready for the regular season. The Chiefs allowed pass plays of 31 and 53 yards on Minnesota's first possession. The Chiefs again played without safety Eric Berry, who has an injured heel. His replacement is Daniel Sorensen, an undrafted rookie. Sorensen took a bad angle on the 53-yard touchdown pass.
  • Smith threw only seven interceptions all of last season. He's built his career on being able to protect the ball. So when he throws two red zone interceptions, one on first down, it's disturbing. On the first interception, Smith tried to force a throw for Frankie Hammond Jr. On the second he stared down his intended receiver, Travis Kelce. Perhaps the pressure of a touchdown-less preseason is wearing on Smith.
  • The Chiefs are still trying to solidify their starting offensive line in wake of right tackle Donald Stephenson's season-opening suspension. Left guard Jeff Allen started in Stephenson's place. The Chiefs rotated by series Jeff Linkenbach and Ricky Henry at left guard. Allen played tackle in college at Illinois and got some work there this year in training camp. Stephenson will miss the first four games of the season because of NFL suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
  • Quarterback Tyler Bray rebounded from a slow start to lead the Chiefs to their only touchdown. Bray's first pass was intercepted, but he completed his final seven passes, the last one going to rookie Albert Wilson for a 1-yard touchdown with 25 seconds left. Bray finished 9-of-15 for 85 yards.
  • Running back Jamaal Charles dressed for the game but -- wisely on the part of the Chiefs -- he did not play. After missing two straight games because of what the Chiefs are calling a bruised foot, Charles could play in Thursday night's final preseason game against the Packers in Green Bay.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs lost three regulars from last season’s offensive line during the opening days of free agency, but were confident they could absorb those blows. They still had Eric Fisher, the first pick in the 2013 draft, plus three other linemen who played a lot last season and were drafted in recent seasons in the top three rounds.

Stephenson
The Chiefs still might be right, but with the suspension of starting right tackle Donald Stephenson for the season’s first four games for violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, that premise is looking shaky.

Fisher hasn’t played well in the preseason. His arrival as a top left tackle appears a way off, it if ever happens. Neither of the guards, Jeff Allen and Zach Fulton, have been much better. The sum is a line that was pushed around in the Aug. 17 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers.

And now the Chiefs will have to find a right tackle for the first four games between veterans Ryan Harris and Jeff Linkenbach. Harris was signed by the Chiefs shortly before the start of training camp. Linkenbach came as a free agent in March.

Another option is Allen, who played tackle in college at Illinois and has received some work there during training camp.

But whatever the Chiefs do, they can’t afford any more hits to the offensive line. The player they were initially counting on to start at right guard, Rishaw Johnson, was so disappointing in training camp that he was recently traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As backups now, the Chiefs have center Eric Kush and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who look promising as developmental players but probably aren’t ready now. There’s also Harris or Linkenbach, whoever doesn’t get bumped into the starting lineup, and guard Ricky Henry, who has played well enough at camp to get the attention of the Chiefs, but has little experience.

Maybe everything will work out for the Chiefs on the offensive line, but a better guess is that at least for a while, things are going to look he way they did against Carolina. Then, they looked like the Chiefs made a bad decision to let Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz walk as free agents.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Some thoughts and observations on Wednesday’s Kansas City Chiefs practice:
  • Coach Andy Reid moved up the start of practice three hours because of extreme heat in Kansas City. The Chiefs were obviously gearing down in preparation for Saturday night’s preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs didn’t wear full pads and practice was conducted at something less than full speed. Evidently it wasn’t close enough to the speed Reid was looking for because at one point he interrupted practice to yell, “This isn’t a walk-through."
  • Reid said the starters would play into the third quarter against the Vikings and that Tyler Bray would be the first quarterback in the game after Alex Smith.
  • The Chiefs may not have a lot of starters to play into the third quarter. The list of players not practicing included running backs Jamaal Charles (foot) and De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring), wide receivers Dwayne Bowe (quad) and Junior Hemingway (hip), linebacker Joe Mays (wrist) and safety Eric Berry (heel). Nickel back Chris Owens left practice with a knee injury. As cautious as the Chiefs tend to be with injuries this time of year, don’t expect any of these players on the field on Saturday night.
  • The Chiefs continued to feature young wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. He was again the starter in Bowe’s place and also was the first punt returner in line in Thomas’ absence.

Chiefs practice report

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
6:10
PM ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some thoughts and observations on Tuesday's Kansas City Chiefs practice:
  • Wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. took a lot of the starter's snaps that otherwise would have gone to Dwayne Bowe, who didn't practice because of what the Chiefs called a sore quad muscle. If that's a sign the Chiefs are seriously considering Hammond for their roster, that's a good move. Hammond is fast and is still growing as a receiver. He had a big game in Carolina on Sunday night when he caught three passes for 57 yards and lost a 51-yard catch and run on a holding penalty.
  • The third preseason game is usually the big dress rehearsal for the starters and that's how the Chiefs will treat Saturday night's contest against the Minnesota Vikings at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs had their backups running the Vikings' offensive plays against the starting defense and Minnesota's defensive schemes against the starting offense.
  • Two ailing defensive linemen, Mike DeVito and Mike Catapano, returned to practice after lengthy absences. DeVito has a broken hand while Catapano had a virus that was causing flu-like symptoms. Neither one has yet to play in a preseason game. The Chiefs wasted no time getting Catapano involved as a pass-rusher with their first-team defense.
  • Bowe, running back Jamaal Charles, wide receiver Junior Hemingway and linebackers Joe Mays and Josh Martin were among the injured players who did not practice. Charles, who bruised his foot while moving out of the dorm last week when the Chiefs broke training camp, may not be far from a return to practice. He was with the Chiefs for their walk-through practice earlier in the day.
The Kansas City Chiefs continue to look for encouraging signs from left tackle Eric Fisher, and they continue to be disappointed. Fisher had another difficult game in Sunday night's preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Fisher
Alex Smith took more physical punishment than the Chiefs would like their starting quarterback to absorb, but it wasn't all Fisher's fault. Still, he had a hand in it, and Fisher is now 0-for-2 when it comes to playing well in the preseason.

Fisher's transformation into a solid left tackle evidently will take some time, if it ever happens. That said, the Chiefs have little choice but to work with the No. 1 overall pick from the 2013 draft and hope for the best.

The Chiefs have too much invested in Fisher to give up on him. They did the smart thing last season by letting him play right tackle as a rookie while Branden Albert played out his contract on the left side.

Moving Fisher to the left side was inevitable. The Chiefs might feel better about that move had Fisher earned the promotion with his play as a rookie, but that didn't happen. They couldn't afford Albert, not with big contracts due to players like Jamaal Charles, Smith and Justin Houston.

And even if the Chiefs wanted to replace Fisher, their options are limited. They're having trouble identifying a third tackle on their roster, much less one they're comfortable with in the starting lineup. High-quality tackles aren't available through free agency or trade this time of year. They could have him and right tackle Donald Stephenson switch positions, but things haven't reached that point yet.

The Chiefs need to make Fisher into the player they believed they were getting when they drafted him. They simply are going through some tough growing pains with Fisher, and they have little choice but to suffer through them.

The Kansas City Chiefs finished their scoring drives in the first half with field goals. The Carolina Panthers finished theirs with touchdowns. That was the deciding factor while the teams played their starters. The Panthers led 14-6 at halftime, and the reserves finished off the game in the second half for a 28-16 win over the Chiefs.

Here are some other thoughts on the Chiefs' second preseason game of the year.
  • The starting offensive line, left tackle Eric Fisher in particular, didn't play well. Fisher, who also struggled in last week's game against Cincinnati, consistently had trouble handling Carolina's Greg Hardy. Quarterback Alex Smith played the entire first half and did well, as he completed 14 of 22 passes for 127 yards. But he was under consistent pressure and took far more punishment than the Chiefs would prefer him to take in a practice game.
  • Dwayne Bowe's night was encouraging. He had five catches for 62 yards and looked nothing like he did at training camp. There, he had been dropping more than his share of passes, and coach Andy Reid said Bowe had a finger injury. A productive Bowe becomes even more important to the Chiefs if Junior Hemingway is out of their lineup for a prolonged period. Hemingway left the Carolina game in the first half with what the Chiefs called a hip injury, and he didn't return.
  • The tight ends will easily surpass the 53 catches they had for the Chiefs the past season if Anthony Fasano and Travis Kelce stay healthy. Fasano caught two passes for 29 yards in the first half, and Kelce caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from rookie Aaron Murray a week after scoring on a 69-yard pass play. Kelce's ability to make plays down the field will be valuable to a team that isn't deep at wide receiver.
  • Murray was the first of the developmental quarterbacks to enter the game. He followed his touchdown pass to Kelce with a bad interception when he tried to force a pass to Demetrius Harris.
  • The Chiefs need to use Sean Smith and Marcus Cooper as their starting cornerbacks and make Ron Parker a reserve. Parker picked up a 32-yard pass interference penalty that set up Carolina's first touchdown. Smith and Cooper started the game, but Parker rotated in the lineup with the first team. Parker had a lousy game last week -- that time as the starter.

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