AFC West: Rico Richardson

Chiefs roster predictions, part I

August, 28, 2013
8/28/13
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Not much intrigue left to the preseason for the Kansas City Chiefs. Just trying to stay healthy through Thursday night’s final exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers at Arrowhead Stadium.

That, and the final round of roster cuts that loom afterward. The Chiefs, like all NFL teams, must trim their active roster from 75 to 53 players by Saturday evening.

Here’s my prediction on how their roster will look for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla., at offensive positions and in the kicking game. I’ll post defensive predictions later today.

Quarterback (3): Alex Smith, Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray. This might be the only position where there is no intrigue. They are set and in this order on the depth chart.

Running back (4): Jamaal Charles, Anthony Sherman, Knile Davis, Shaun Draughn. The only real mystery here is whether the Chiefs keep Draughn or Cyrus Gray as the third halfback. Draughn has been more productive than Gray. The Chiefs don’t use their fullback enough to keep more than just Sherman.

Wide receiver (6): Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, Dexter McCluster, Junior Hemingway, Devon Wylie, A.J. Jenkins. This position has come into focus since the Chiefs traded Jon Baldwin and released Terrance Copper. Bowe and Avery are the starters, McCluster the slot receiver. Hemingway has been steady during camp and the preseason and deserves a spot. Wiley and Jenkins are fast, and coach Andy Reid likes speed. The Chiefs might also keep undrafted rookie Rico Richardson, who caught the touchdown pass in overtime in Pittsburgh last week, but I’m not going to predict that.

Tight end (4): Anthony Fasano, Tony Moeaki, Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris. The shoulder injury to Moeaki might lead the Chiefs to place him on the injured-reserve list. Either way, the Chiefs will need to keep another tight end now, and that’s likely to be Harris. A former basketball player who didn’t play football in college, Harris needs more time to develop, so the Chiefs might be in search of veteran help at this position.

Offensive line (8): Branden Albert, Eric Fisher, Donald Stephenson, Jeff Allen, Jon Asamoah, Geoff Schwartz, Rodney Hudson, Eric Kush. Stephenson is too good to be a backup for long. He and Schwartz will be the first reserves off the bench. Kush is a developmental player.

Specialists (3): Ryan Succop, Dustin Colquitt, Thomas Gafford. They’re the only players still on the roster at their respective positions.
Random thoughts from the Kansas City Chiefs’ 26-20 overtime win at Pittsburgh on Saturday night:

A week after he sagged against his former team, San Francisco, new Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith was terrific in the most important preseason game of the summer. Smith was 17-of-24 passing for 158 yards and he added a 38-yard run. I think people forget that about Smith. He can make things happen with his feet.

It was the type of performance the Chiefs are looking for from Smith. He played smart, ball-control football. Smith was good in the Chiefs’ preseason opener at New Orleans and he had a strong camp. The Chiefs have to be feeling great about him as the season opener at Jacksonville looms in two weeks.

Smith’s backup, Chase Daniel, also played well as he led the overtime win.

The Chiefs’ unbelievable summer on special teams continued. Rookie running back Knile Davis had a 109-yard kickoff return for a score. Last week, Quintin Demps returned a kick 104 yards for a score. The Chiefs had success in the return game in the preseason opener as well. Also, Saturday night, the Chiefs blocked a Pittsburgh field-goal attempt. As a unit, the Kansas City special teams has been brilliant in all three preseason games. New coach Dave Toub is making a huge difference. That type of work on special teams can win some games in the regular season.

Receiver A.J. Jenkins played some Saturday night. He was targeted once, but he didn’t have a catch. He was acquired in a deal with San Francisco for fellow former first-round pick Jon Baldwin. Jenkins was San Francisco’s first-round pick last year. He didn’t have a catch as a rookie.

Kansas City’s pass-rush continued to excel. The Chiefs had five sacks against the Steelers.

Starting receivers Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery each had six catches.

Kansas City’s offensive line wasn’t great for the second straight game. It allowed five sacks.

Reserve receivers Rico Richardson (who caught eh game winner) and Junior Hemingway helped their causes with touchdown catches.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs and Andy Reid needed each other.

A year ago, as the Chiefs were toiling through their summer preparations, this pairing seemed more than unlikely. It appeared implausible.

The Chiefs were embarking on the Romeo Crennel era. The franchise was focused on salvaging the Scott Pioli leadership by having one of his former New England colleagues take over the coach's headset on a full-time basis after he had guided the team following Todd Haley's dismissal in December 2011. There were no thoughts of Crennel being a temporary caretaker for one of the biggest coaching names in the game. Reid was entering his 14th season in Philadelphia.

But 2012 ended up being an awful year for the Chiefs and for Reid. Change was necessary for both.

When Reid was let go by the Eagles, Kansas City owner Clark Hunt acted swiftly, turning from Pioli and Crennel to Reid. It was a bold move from the Heartland, where the Chiefs usually stay out of the national spotlight.

Hiring Reid was bold. And while technically neither Reid nor his new team has accomplished anything just yet, the fit seems right. Reid is resplendent in red. The Chiefs’ players are energized by the top-notch coaching and energy Reid has brought.

“I don’t look to the past and we can’t look to the future yet; all we got is right now,” Reid said. “And the 'right now' is pretty good. … I really like where we are and what these guys are doing.”

While it is just August, the Chiefs look nothing like the 2-14 team they were in 2012. Most teams that earn the No. 1 overall draft pick look like it the following training camp. Instead, the Chiefs look like a complete team with few holes, one that is ready to make a big move.

“We don’t even talk about 2-14 anymore,” said safety Eric Berry, one of six Pro Bowl players from what was, despite the record, a talented 2012 outfit. “We are all focused on getting better and getting coached by Coach Reid and his staff. … We can’t wait to get out here every day to see how we can get better. Everybody feels that way. We’re all so happy right now.”

THREE HOT TOPICS

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesAlex Smith's smooth transition at quarterback is just one reason behind the Chiefs' bright outlook.
1. The quarterback: Thus far, the transition to Alex Smith has been a success in Kansas City. Of course, we won’t find out anything tangible until we see if he can make a difference in the regular season. But so far, Smith has taken to Reid’s coaching and shown he is the leader of this team. He has been good in training camp, and he was excellent in the first preseason game. If Smith can be the smart, mistake-free player he was in his best San Francisco days, the Chiefs can be a real contender. This team has been screaming for solid quarterback play, and it may be about to get it.

“He’s a smart guy,” Reid said of his quarterback. “He gets it. He makes it easy. He doesn’t run out of gigabytes.”

2. Finding a No. 2 receiver: There aren’t a lot of issues with this roster, but finding a solid No. 2 receiver behind star Dwayne Bowe is a focal point of this camp. Free-agent pickup Donnie Avery will likely be the guy, and he has shown he can be a capable NFL player. He can get open. The team would like to see 2011 first-round pick Jon Baldwin finally develop. He has big ability but has failed to show the consistency to be a top-of-the rotation player. The Chiefs have a varied offense, so this will not be a huge problem, but it would be beneficial if Bowe had some legitimate help opposite of him.

3. Dontari Poe: If training camp is any indication, Poe has a chance to be among the breakout players in the NFL this season. The No. 11 overall pick of the 2012 draft has been terrific. He has taken to the new coaching. The light has come on. The super-athletic Poe is getting the playbook and has been dominant at times. Nose tackle sets the tone for the defense, and it seems Poe is up to the task. To his credit, Poe made strides late in his rookie season and seems to have carried it over to his second training camp.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

The Chiefs' roster is loaded. There are not a lot of holes. Sure, the Chiefs could use a deeper group of receivers, a deeper defensive line and a few odds and ends here and there. But in today’s NFL, that is not a deep list of concerns. Add a top coach like Reid, a capable quarterback like Smith and several fine free-agent additions to a roster that featured six Pro Bowl players, and there is a lot to like about this team. This is not your average club trying to rebound from 2-14.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

There isn’t much not to like here. The worst thing Kansas City has going for it is simply rebuilding from a 2-14 season. Just how many wins can a 2-14 team expect in the first year of a new regime? The Chiefs will be much better. But what does that mean? A 7-9 season in Kansas City would signify great progress. But if the Chiefs want to make a run at the playoffs, they likely will have to go 9-7 or better. A seven-win improvement is never an easy task in the NFL.

OBSERVATION DECK
    [+] EnlargeJamaal Charles
    AP Photo/Gerald HerbertJamaal Charles' role in the offense does not figure to be diminished considering he touched the ball eight times and scored a TD on the Chiefs' first drive of the preseason.

  • The Chiefs like their offensive line. They think they have a lot of depth. Jeff Allen, Geoff Schwartz and Donald Stephenson give the team a lot of options.
  • The Chiefs have no remorse over using the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft on right tackle Eric Fisher. He is a natural talent who works hard and fits in with his teammates. He is a hard-hat player who just happened to be the top pick in the draft.
  • The coaching staff is pleased with the way star running back Jamaal Charles has adapted to the offense. He has embraced the chance to catch more balls out of the backfield. For anyone who thought Charles’ role would be diminished because of Reid’s arrival, just look at the New Orleans game last week. Charles touched the ball on eight of the 14 plays the Chiefs’ first-team offense was on the field.
  • Players love the scheme of new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. It is aggressive and player-friendly.
  • One of the strengths of this team going into camp was the defensive backfield. It continues to be. This is a deep, talented unit.
  • One young player to keep an eye is undrafted rookie receiver Rico Richardson. He is catching everything that comes his way. He's a long shot, but there could be room for him.
  • Reid is pleased with the addition of spread game analyst Brad Childress and consultant Chris Ault. They are focusing on the pistol offense and working with both the offense and defense in installing it.
  • The Chiefs’ special teams look good. The return game was fantastic against New Orleans.
  • Berry came on strong at the end of last season after missing virtually all of the 2011 season with a torn ACL, and he looks to be in top form this camp. Expect a brilliant season from this young star.
  • The team likes the work of fullback Anthony Sherman, who was acquired in a deal with Arizona for cornerback Javier Arenas. Sherman will be a part of the offense.
  • Fourth-round pick Nico Johnson continues to push Akeem Jordan at inside linebacker. The instinctive, bright Johnson has been a camp standout.

AFC West links: Woodson to visit Raiders

May, 21, 2013
5/21/13
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Denver Broncos

With the addition of Wes Welker, the Broncos now have three receivers who caught a combined 291 passes last season. So how will Peyton Manning distribute passes next season? "What we try to develop around here is the idea that everyone wants to touch it, everybody wants the ball," Broncos coach John Fox said via Mike Klis of the Denver Post. "But what our guys understand is this game is about matchups. And you put it on the defense who gets the ball each game."

Negotiations with Charles Woodson have hit a snag, and the free-agent safety is visiting the Oakland Raiders Tuesday, reports Klis. Manning, Rahim Moore and Champ Bailey expressed support for adding Woodson.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are going to be much more blitz-happy under new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, writes the Kansas City Star's Adam Teicher in his notes from organized team activities (OTAs).

Undrafted free agent Rico Richardson has been impressed with what he's seen so far at Chiefs OTAs. "These guys are the real deal, there's no fake advertising," Richardson said via Michael Kerekes of the Natchez Democrat.

Oakland Raiders

Woodson, expected to visit the Raiders on Tuesday, sounds open to finishing his career where he started it. “It would be a really big thing to go back to Oakland being that I played there really most of my career,” Woodson said via Matt Pargoff of MaizeandBlueNews.com. “I played there eight years and Green Bay seven. So I spent most of my career in Oakland and I still have a lot of friends there. I still know people in the organization. It would be a homecoming of sorts if it were to happen, so we’ll see.”

Monte Poole of the Bay Area News Group has seven reasons Woodson and the Raiders should reunite.

Every eligible player was present during the first day of OTAs, reports Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group.

San Diego Chargers

Rookie Keenan Allen heard about it from Chargers fans after he tweeted out a photo of himself wearing a Raiders cap, writes Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego. "It won't happen again," the receiver said.

Newly signed Dwight Freeney will not participate this week in OTAs, reports U-T San Diego's Michael Gehlken. Freeney hasn't arrived in San Diego due to what the team has called a “prior commitment.”

Manti Te'o is off limits to the media and will continue to be until minicamp in mid-June, the AP reports.

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