AFC West: Leonard Pope

Reviewing what I missed

April, 16, 2012
4/16/12
2:25
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I took last week off. It was not an overly busy week, but some things did occur, so let’s review the game film of some of the events of the week:

Denver

The Broncos signed defensive tackle Justin Bannan.

My take: Bannan, who also was a Bronco in 2010, is a solid player who will help in the rotation. Denver still needs a young defensive tackle, but this is a good addition.

The Broncos cut cornerback Andre Goodman.

My take: This has been coming since the Broncos signed Tracy Porter to replace Goodman. This is not a shock at all. I wonder if Oakland coach and former Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen will look at Goodman. He will turn 34 this year and he is in decline, but Goodman has strong experience, which could interest Oakland.

Receiver Demaryius Thomas made some critical comments about former quarterback Tim Tebow and expressed happiness with the Peyton Manning signing.

My take: Is anyone surprised by this? Thomas is a receiver. Playing with an erratic passer had to get frustrating for all Denver receivers. A Manning-Tebow swap is a receiver’s dream.

Kansas City

Tight end Leonard Pope signed with Pittsburgh.

My take: He wasn’t in the Chiefs' plans. Pope is a favorite of former Kansas City coach Todd Haley, who will now coach Pope for a third NFL organization. They were in Arizona together before Kansas City.

Oakland

The Raiders signed college basketball player Andre Hardy in hopes of making him a tight end.

My take: Why not? Former college hoopsters turned tight ends have hit it big. So it’s a low-risk endeavor. Don’t expect much from Hardy soon, though. He is probably a practice-squad prospect. This signing does not affect Oakland’s need for another tight end in 2012.

San Diego

The Chargers re-signed fullback Jacob Hester.

My take: He will back up Le'Ron McClain and will play special teams. Hester is a solid role player.

The Chargers signed former Oakland starting offensive lineman Mario Henderson.

My take: This is a depth move. Having a former starter as a backup is never a bad thing.

Chiefs get first down, then TD

September, 25, 2011
9/25/11
5:54
PM ET
SAN DIEGO – With 12:34 remaining in the third quarter, the Kansas City Chiefs registered their first down of Sunday’s game.

Congrats, fellas.

The Chiefs had five possessions in the first half and didn’t gain one first down.

The inaugural first down for Week 3 occurred on Kansas City’s second offensive play of the second half when quarterback Matt Cassel hit tight end Leonard Pope for a short gain.

The first down sparked the Chiefs. Cassel then hit Dwayne Bowe for a big first down inside the Chargers’ five-yard line and then hit Bowe for a touchdown. Remarkably, the Chiefs are in this game. San Diego leads, 10-7, with plenty of time left in the third quarter.
There is a report that Kansas City tight end Tony Moeaki is about to go on the injured reserve. I am looking for more confirmation.

If Moeaki does go on the injured reserve, it will be a major blow to Kansas City’s offense. It would also be a totally avoidable injury. Moeaki was injured Thursday night at Green Bay in the Chiefs’ preseason finale. Early indications were that the injury was not serious.

But, if Moeaki did tear his ACL, it will be another reminder that veterans should not play in the fourth preseason game. Kansas City coach Todd Haley had his starters play extensively in the fourth game after he didn’t use them much early in the preseason. Haley also started camp slow because he wanted to get the team conditioned and make sure it avoided injuries after the lockout ended.

Losing Moeaki would be devastating. He had 47 catches as a rookie and gave the Chiefs’ offense a terrific dynamic. He was a favorite target of quarterback Matt Cassel. The Chiefs really don’t have another reliable pass-catcher at tight end and Leonard Pope would likely be the starter. Kansas City would need to find a tight end pretty quickly if Moeaki is going to be shelved.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- One of the hot topics at the Kansas City Chiefs camp is if Jared Gaither will cause Branden Albert to move to right tackle from left tackle.

Albert
Albert
Gaither
Gaither
Kansas City recently signed Gaither, the former Baltimore left tackle who is coming off a back injury that kept him out all of last year, and he has been practicing behind Albert at left tackle. Yet, Gaither could move into the first team at some point. Or Gaither could move to right tackle and Albert could stay put. The team hasn’t decided what to do yet. But it’s clear they signed Gaither with hopes of him starting.

Whatever happens, Gaither said he and Albert are fine with it. After all, this isn’t their first rodeo together. Gaither and Albert were teammates at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia several years ago as high school players. Gaither said he was the right tackle and Albert was the left tackle. They are close friends.

“It doesn’t matter where we play,” Gaither said. “I just want to play. I just want to fit in wherever I can.”

If I had to guess, this how I see this scenario working: Once Gaither gets the rust off, he’ll get a chance to play left tackle and Albert will be moved. The Chiefs have been taking about moving him for some time.

Regardless of where they play, adding a healthy Gaither will be a boon for Kansas City. He insists his health is not an issue.

“I’m 100 percent healthy now,” said the 6-foot-9, 340-pound Gaither who doesn’t move like a man with a ginger back. “I’m ready to go.”

Their coach at Hargrave, Robert Prunty, is bursting with pride to have his two former players on the same line.

“What a story, can you imagine two players from the same high school line are on the same line in the NFL,” said Prunty, now an assistant at Texas Tech. “It’s amazing … Kansas City has two good players. I’m so proud of them. They are both great kids.”

Remarkably, Prunty coached three other current Kansas City players at Hargrave over the years. They are cornerback Brandon Flowers, tight end Leonard Pope and defensive tackle Jerrell Powe.

Gaither ended up in Kansas City after he visited Oakland early in training camp, but he departed without a contract. It’s been reported the Raiders didn’t like what they saw in his physical. Gaither said he wasn’t sure what the situation was, but added he is pleased the Chiefs wanted him.

If he doesn’t suffer a setback, the feelings surely will be mutual.
NFL.com is reporting that San Diego free-agent receiver Malcom Floyd is close to making a decision and there are about five teams vying for him, including the Chargers.

I know the Chargers would like him back, but they aren’t going to break the bank. So, if there is a bidding war, I don’t see the Chargers playing along. I think the best chance of Floyd returning to San Diego is if all of the offers are similar and he wants to stay in San Diego.

If Floyd isn’t signed, the Chargers will likely look for a veteran receiver at some point.

In other AFC West nuggets:
  • The Raiders have brought back center Samson Satele. He is good insurance on the line. The team is starting second-round pick draft Stefen Wisniewski. Satele would potentially play guard as the Raiders try to figure out the best mix on the line. It seems the team is continuing to stay away from tackle Mario Henderson because of conditioning concerns.
  • ESPN’s John Clayton tweets that the Raiders still have to clear $10 million in cap room. With a major need at tight end (Kevin Boss, anyone?), the Raiders better clear the room. While $10 million seems like a lot, it is not overly daunting. Oakland can get there with some restructured deals.
  • The Chargers tried to reunite a new coach with a former player, but it didn’t work.
  • In an Insider piece, here are the over/under projections for each NFL team in 2011.
  • Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel talks about the progress of training camp in a radio interview.
  • ESPN’s Rick Reilly has a wonderful story on how Kansas City tight end Leonard Pope saved a boy from drowning during the lockout. A must read.
UPDATE: ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the Giants are no longer allowing defensive and Osi Umenyiora to seek a trade. It has been reported that Denver and San Diego had interest. It will be interesting to see where this story goes after this twist.

AFC West links: Plans for Julius Thomas

June, 29, 2011
6/29/11
12:45
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Denver Broncos

The Broncos are hopeful tight end Julius Thomas can make the transition from basketball to football.

The Broncos' official website sat down for a Q&A with former running back Terrell Davis.

Kansas City Chiefs

A few weeks removed from saving a child from downing, Leonard Pope is redirecting some of his foundation's focus to give swimming lessons to young children.

Oakland Raiders

To put it mildly, Warren Sapp isn't a fan of Michael Huff.

Former Raiders receiver Tim Brown was on the field Tuesday for the 9-1-1 for Kids/CHP Tim Brown Mentor Mini Camp.

San Diego Chargers

Camden Pasch has five reasons the Chargers' running game will be back in 2011.

Safety Eric Weddle comes in at No. 6 on Pete Prisco's list of the top 50 free agents.
Yahoo Sports reported the New Orleans Saints gave running back Reggie Bush permission to talk to other teams prior to the lockout.

None of the teams listed as potential suitors are from the AFC West. I know there has been some speculation that Bush could resurface in his hometown of San Diego, especially with Darren Sproles likely leaving as a free agent. Still, I’m not sure the Chargers would want to pay Bush a premium deal. If he gave San Diego a hometown discount, perhaps it would be interested. But it looks like he will have other options.

In other AFC West nuggets Friday afternoon:

Kansas City tight end Leonard Pope talked to Michael Irvin on his radio show about his experience saving a 6-year-old from drowning last weekend in his Georgia hometown.

“You don’t get but one life,” Pope told Irvin. “You can lose a championship and you can lose a Super Bowl or whatever, but you have a chance to repeat that the following year. A life, you don’t. You don’t get but one. You don’t get a chance to repeat another life.”

Pope sounds like a man who gets it.

In an interview with a Denver radio station, Broncos’ receiver Brandon Lloyd said he was pleased with his recent workout session with second-season quarterback Tim Tebow in Jacksonville. Lloyd was impressed by Tebow’s progress.

“I thought it was good,” Lloyd said. “It’s better for morale going into the season when you see how good of shape guys are in. It’s kind of like, I want to see where dude’s at with his training and guys want to see where we’re at so we have some confidence going into the season. That’s how I took it. It was good to see that Tim’s improving on his drops, he’s improving on his timing, and within the first day we got into rhythm, within the first 20 minutes of it.”

Former Denver middle linebacker Al Wilson lost a negligence suit he filed against a doctor while playing for the Broncos.

In an ESPN.com piece, Jeffri Chadida looks at Nnamdi Asomugha’s value as a free agent. Here’s a hint: It’s high.

Video: Chiefs tight end Leonard Pope

June, 14, 2011
6/14/11
5:45
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Chiefs tight end Leonard Pope talks about saving a six-year-old boy from drowning, his foundation, and his expectations for Kansas City this season.
Leonard Pope is a hero.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ backup tight end saved the 6-year-old son of a longtime friend from drowning in his hometown of Americus, Georgia over the weekend.

Anne Moore told the Americus Times Recorder that Pope jumped into a pool when her son, Bryson, was struggling.

“We were attending a pool party, and Bryson was in the water with the other kids,” Moore said. “All of a sudden, I saw Bryson going down in the water and I started screaming. Leonard was inside, and he came out of nowhere and dove into the water without any hesitation, cell phone in his pocket and all. He saved my son’s life, and I am so thankful that he was there for me and my child.”

Moore said Pope was the only person at the party who knew how to swim.

“My prayers were answered by God when Leonard jumped in and saved my son,” Moore said. “The fact that he is normally at camp and could have been in Kansas City just proved to me that he was placed here to save my son from drowning, and I thank God that he was here. He truly lived up to his nickname 'Champ' because he was truly a champion for me and my son this past weekend.”

Kudos to Pope for saving the child’s life.

As Arrowhead Pride points out, the Chiefs are an organization that has dealt with a similar tragedy. It was 28 years ago this month that star running back Joe Delaney drowned while trying to save three children from drowning in a Louisiana pond. Two of the children also died.

While the Chiefs can’t currently communicate with Pope, I’m sure the Hunt family is beaming with pride after his heroics during the weekend.
KC Joyner isn’t sure we’ll see a repeat playoff performance by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011.

[+] EnlargeMatt Cassel
John Rieger/US PresswireThe Chiefs need Matt Cassel to hit more deep passes if they hope to return to the playoffs next season.
In an ESPN.com Insider piece, Joyner points to quarterback Matt Cassel’s struggles to complete long passes as a major reason why he thinks the Chiefs -- who went 10-6 and won the 2011 AFC West title after winning a grand total of 10 games in the previous three seasons combined -- could slip this season.

Here is some of what worries Joyner about Cassel: His metrics in this category range from mediocre to abysmal. His 10.2 vertical YPA (vertical being defined as passes thrown 11 or more yards downfield) ranked 20th in the league last season. His 9.0 stretch vertical YPA (defined as passes thrown 20 or more yards) was even worse, as it ranked next to last among qualifying quarterbacks (175 pass attempts needed to qualify). (Note: these numbers include attempts and yardage totals posted on pass penalties such as defensive holding, illegal contact, pass interference, etc.)

Many might come to Cassel's defense by pointing out the subpar state of the Kansas City wide receiver/tight ends corps last season. It would seem awfully difficult to put together an effective vertical passing game when mediocre pass catchers such as Chris Chambers, Terrance Copper, Verran Tucker, Leonard Pope and Tim Castille all post at least 10 targets, as was the case last season.

Some will point to the addition of former Pitt wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin in the first round of the 2011 draft as a reason for optimism here.

However, the primary counter to that statement would be that Baldwin's first-year learning curve could be steep, given that a) the lockout could prevent him from getting much practice time prior to the start of the season and b) Scouts Inc. said that he is inconsistent and erratic in many areas.

Throw in the fact that Baldwin's 15.51 yards per reception average last season ranked him 68th among FBS pass catchers and it shows just how far he has to go before he can be considered an answer to the Chiefs' vertical receiving woes.

My thoughts? Cassel’s inability to complete the deep pass is clearly an issue. That’s why Baldwin was drafted in the first round. Kansas City recognized the issue and tried to fix it. That’s what good teams do.

The key is how fast Baldwin can make a difference in this area. Joyner points out the learning curve and he’s right, but he will be given every chance to succeed.

This season surely will not be easy for Kansas City. It is now the hunted. It has a tougher schedule than it did in 2010. But, in the end, this is a balanced team with good coaching. The Chiefs appear to be headed in the right direction, regardless of potential obstacles.
When he was taken in the third round in 2008, the Kansas City Chiefs had high hopes for tight end Brad Cottam.

But the blocking tight end never truly established himself in his first two seasons and he likely won’t play in his third. The Chiefs put him on the reserve/physically unable-to-perform list, which likely ends his season. He broke his neck in Week 15 during a game against Cleveland. Cottam didn’t practice in the offseason program. The Chiefs’ top tight ends now are Leonard Pope and rookie Tony Moeaki, who the coaching staff has high hopes for.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the Chiefs and No. 5 overall pick Eric Berry may be closing in on a deal.

Oakland receiver Chaz Schilens left the afternoon practice and did not return. He was seen walking into the team’s field house several minutes later and he didn’t have an apparent limp or any other issue. The team said they had no word on Schilens’ status. He missed eight games last year with a broken foot and had offseason surgery.

Former Dallas tackle Flozell Adams signed with Pittsburgh. He previously visited Denver, but the Broncos never pursued him any further. The Broncos were looking at Adams as a potential issuance policy for Ryan Clady, who is recovering from a knee injury and who may miss some time at the start of the season.

Chiefs notes

November, 22, 2009
11/22/09
4:53
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Random notes from Kansas City’s 27-24 overtime win:

  • Chris Chambers continued to be a bright light for the Chiefs in his third game with the team. He had four catches for 119 yards. He has been a major sparkplug for the Chiefs since they claimed him off waivers from San Diego.
  • Lance Long had two catches for 37 yards. He has looked good since being promoted from the practice squad last month.
  • New Kansas City starting tight end Leonard Pope caught a 21-yard touchdown pass.
  • Matt Cassel wasn’t fancy for the Chiefs, but the quarterback played his typical smart game. He completed 15 of 30 passes for 248 yards. He threw two touchdown passes and he wasn’t intercepted.
  • Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles had 58 yards on 17 carries. But he set the tone early with a 97-yard kickoff return to open the game.

Kansas City linebacker Andy Studebaker likely earned himself future playing time with two interceptions and four tackles in his NFL start. He was playing for the injured Mike Vrabel.

The Chiefs have won back-to-back games for the first time since September, 2007.

Pregame notes from Oakland

November, 15, 2009
11/15/09
3:28
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OAKLAND -- Oakland coach Tom Cable isn’t expected to face NFL discipline stemming from physical abuse allegations, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.

This has to be a relief for Cable. However, his biggest problem remains -- keeping his job. The Raiders are just 6-14 under Cable.

  • Oakland defensive end Greg Ellis is inactive after he had knee and shoulder surgery. Rookie Matt Shaughnessy will start in Ellis’ place.
  • Tight end Leonard Pope will make his first start with Kansas City. Sean Ryan had started the previous eight games.
  • Receiver Chaz Schilens is active for Oakland for the first time this season. He suffered a broken foot in August.
  • Oakland guard Robert Gallery is active for the first time since suffering a broken leg in Week 2.
  • Oakland running back Darren McFadden is active after missing four games with a knee injury.

AFC West mailbag

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
12:00
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Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson


Jim from Mojave wants to know if I think Richard Seymour will be back in Oakland in 2010.

Bill Williamson: I do think Seymour will be back in 2010. I don’t think there is any other option. Oakland is not going to let Seymour escape months after giving up a first-round pick in 2011 for him. If Oakland can’t come to an agreement on a contract extension with Seymour, he’ll likely be given the franchise tag, ensuring he stays with the Raiders. Seymour, who turns 30 on Tuesday, will likely be overpaid if given the franchise tag, but the Raiders will have no choice. He was acquired by Oakland because it wants him for the rest of his career. The Raiders have to do everything in their power to keep Seymour and I think they will. Oakland has shown it is not afraid of shelling out big dollars to keep players. Seymour should be no different.


Kelly from Astoria, N.Y., wants to know if the fact that Kansas City signed Leonard Pope is acknowledgment from coach Todd Haley that the team needs more of a tight end presence and that it shouldn’t have traded Tony Gonzalez.

BW: I’m not sure about that, Kelly. I think it is a case that Haley liked Pope from their days in Arizona together when Haley was the offensive coordinator. Haley thought Pope was an upgrade and signed him. Haley never used the tight end much in his offenses in the past and that won’t change. But he is comfortable with Pope and when the tight end position is used, Pope is a candidate. I don’t think it has anything to do with the departure of Gonzalez. That move had more to do with Gonzalez wanting to move on.


Raidersith from Fremont, Calif., wants to know if the return of receiver Chaz Schilens will help Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

BW: It can’t hurt. Schilens is a talented player who will get open. So, he will be another weapon for Russell. Schilens could come back from a broken foot in the next few weeks. But let’s face it: Russell’s biggest problem has been himself, not his receivers. Yes, he doesn’t have Pro Bowl help. But even if Vincent Jackson and Roddy White were his targets, Russell would have trouble connecting with them.

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