AFC West: Terrance Copper
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.
CBSSports.com reports that Kansas City worked out nickel cornerback Chris Carr this week. The Chiefs are banged up at the position.
Kansas City legend Tony Gonzalez told Kansas City reporters that he has prepared his Atlanta Falcons teammates for the noise they will experience this weekend at Arrowhead Stadium. Gonzalez was traded from Kansas City to Atlanta in 2009.
A year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs could have been forgiven if they had buyer’s remorse after drafting receiver Jon Baldwin with the No. 26 overall pick.
The pick was somewhat surprising because the team had other needs, and the supremely athletic Baldwin was considered a player with the potential to be an off-field problem after having some issues while at the University of Pittsburgh.
At the end of his first NFL training camp, Baldwin reportedly was involved in a locker-room scuffle with then-Chiefs running back Thomas Jones. Baldwin suffered a broken thumb in the incident, which severely affected his rookie season. It wasn’t a great start to a career that was being scrutinized anyway.
Now, however, the Chiefs are not questioning the decision to draft Baldwin. They view him the same way they did when they drafted him. They believe he can be a dynamic player who can make an impact on a varied offense because of his ability as a deep threat.
Most important, the Chiefs like the way Baldwin, who turned 23 this month, is developing off the field.
“I think he has matured a lot in the past year,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said late in training camp. “I really like the way he has handled himself.”
The team was impressed that Baldwin hunkered down and gleaned as much information and knowledge as possible from veteran receivers Steve Breaston and Terrance Copper. They are two of the more respected veterans on the roster because of their professional approach. For a player who needed to gain his team’s trust, it seems Baldwin has done just that this summer.
“Jon has done a great job of taking to the coaching that has been given to him,” Chiefs receivers coach Nick Sirianni said during training camp. “He takes his weaknesses and turns them into strengths. He comes to practice every day, just like all of our guys. He’s a professional trying to improve every day.”
The key to his success, Baldwin said, has been his study habits.
“I take a lot of notes at night. I study those notes so that I don’t come back and make the same mistake,” Baldwin said. “That is one thing Coach Nick jars on; don’t make the same mistake twice. I just make plays, and if there are any corrections needed, I go make the corrections and get better tomorrow.”
Labeled as a “wide target" by quarterback coach Jim Zorn, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver has made highlight-film catches on a regular basis in training camp. Baldwin, who showed flashes of brilliance late in his rookie season, has one catch in the preseason, but he hasn’t been targeted much. Still, quarterback Matt Cassel has praised Baldwin for stretching the field and keeping defenses honest in the preseason.
Expect the targets to rise dramatically for Baldwin in September. There is no doubt Cassel, who has taken Baldwin under his wing since shortly after he was drafted, is a Baldwin believer.
“Unfortunately, he was out with an injury for the first six games of the season,” Cassel said. “This year we had a whole offseason to work together and also all of camp. I feel very comfortable with Jon. He’s making a lot of progress himself.”
Baldwin credits a strong relationship with his quarterback for helping him becoming a better player.
“We talk a lot,” Baldwin said. “He tells me where he wants me to be on certain things and we talk back and forth. It makes the communication a lot better with him. He understands where I’m going to be on certain routes. I know where he’s going to put the ball on certain routes.
“The main thing is trust. One thing I always say to him is that I’m going to try to make every play possible. He understands that and just gives me a chance to make a play. I try to make as many plays as I possibly can for him.”
If the maturation of Baldwin continues, the Chiefs will never regret their once-questioned decision to draft him.
1. Dwayne Bowe
Best-case scenario: Bowe quickly catches up with his teammates and learns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s system and continues to be the No. 1 receiver he has been.
Worst-case scenario: Bowe suffers a muscle-related injury, fails to grasp Daboll’s system and does not make an immediate impact.
2. Jon Baldwin
Best-case scenario: Baldwin continues to develop at a rapid pace and becomes a reliable NFL starter.
Worst-case scenario: Baldwin takes a step back and shows he’s not ready to start.
3. Steve Breaston
Best-case scenario: Breaston continues to be an underrated receiver and, playing behind Bowe and Baldwin, makes a huge impact as a slot receiver.
Worst-case scenario: Bowe or Baldwin suffers an injury and Breaston fails to make a big impact as a starter.
4. Dexter McCluster
Best-case scenario: McCluster settles into the receiver position in his third NFL season and utilizes his natural skills.
Worst-case scenario: McCluster still doesn’t show he is ready to be an impact rotational player.
5. Devon Wylie
Best-case scenario: The fourth-round pick shines as a returner and occasional receiver.
Worst-case scenario: The game proves to be too big for him as a rookie and he doesn’t play much.
6. Terrance Copper
Best-case scenario: A favorite of the team, Copper continues to be a special-teams ace and occasional receiving target.
Worst-case scenario: Copper gets hurt and falls out of the rotation.
Others to watch:
Junior Hemingway, Josh Bellamy.
Why: The team likes the rookies, but there likely won’t be any room for them. Both could be bound for the practice squad.
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
“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.
- 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.
- 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.[+] EnlargeJohn Rieger/US PRESSWIREThe Chiefs like what they've seen from first-round pick Dontari Poe so far.
- 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.
Because the Chiefs are moving along business as usual as the receiver continues to stay away. In my first day around the Chiefs this summer, I haven’t gotten the sense that they are overly fretting about Bowe's absence. The focus is on hosting the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 9 -- not on Bowe’s whereabouts.
The offense is learning the system of new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and it is apparently learning it quickly and successfully. The first-team offense scored two touchdowns in two possessions in the preseason opener, a 27-17 victory over Arizona on Friday, and all three offensive units performed well in the game.
Second-year receiver Jon Baldwin has been a camp star; fellow veteran receivers Steve Breaston and Terrance Copper have been model professionals. All are clicking with quarterback Matt Cassel, as are young slot receivers Dexter McCluster and Devon Wylie.
Coach Romeo Crennel has said often that he is only worrying about the players who are in camp. I believe that. I don’t get the feeling Crennel and Daboll are pulling their hair out at night because Bowe is not ready to sign his franchise tender.
Don’t get me wrong, I know the Chiefs would prefer to have Bowe in camp. He’s a talented player and he’d make the offense better. But they aren’t waiting for him.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chiefs feel the same way about Bowe’s holdout as I do. It’s pointless. There really isn’t much to be gained for Bowe, who can’t sign a new deal until after the season.
He has to perform well in 2012 if he is going to get a new deal, whether it’s from the Chiefs or from another team in unrestricted free agency (if the Chiefs don’t franchise him again if they can't agree on an extension).
The longer Bowe -- who is expected to show up shortly before the start of the regular season -- waits to report, the more difficult it will be for him to have a great season. He has had issues with coming into camp in shape before and it is going to take him time to get into football shape. Plus, he has to learn Daboll’s style. But if Bowe ends his holdout soon, he has a chance to be a major factor come Week 1.
If not, his chances of making an impact early in the season will dissipate quickly -- and that means if he heads to free agency next year, he will have more dings on a resume that already has a few blotches.
While Bowe is risking future earning,s the Chiefs refuse to stand around and wait for him.
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.
The following is a look at the AFC West players who are currently in the top five of the fan vote:
Third place: Philip Rivers, San Diego
Fifth place: Darren McFadden, Oakland
Second place: Mike Tolbert, San Diego
Fifth place: Jacob Hester, San Diego
First place: Antonio Gates, San Diego
Fifth place: Zach Miller, Oakland
Fourth place: Richard Seymour, Oakland
Fourth place: Shaun Phillips, San Diego
First place: Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland
Third place: Champ Bailey, Denver
Third place: Eric Berry, Kansas City
Fifth place: Tyvon Branch, Oakland
Fourth place: Brian Dawkins, Denver
First place: Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland
First place: Shane Lechler, Oakland
Fourth place: Darren Sproles, San Diego.
Fifth place: Jacoby Ford, Oakland
Fifth place: Terrance Copper, Kansas City
That is very interesting. I like it.
Last week, at the NFL combine, Kansas City coach Todd Haley said the team needs to get help for budding star Jamaal Charles. He will be best served if the Chiefs find another back that can run the ball 8-12 times. Jones could be the perfect player for Kansas City to pursue.
This signing would add a nice dimension if Kansas City can get it done.
Kansas City guard Andy Alleman has reportedly signed with Indianapolis. The Chiefs choose not to give Alleman a restricted free agency tender this week. He was acquired in a trade with Miami last year.
A day after not be able to land Anquan Boldin in a trade Kansas City re-signed backup receiver Terrance Copper. Copper played in 15 games and he had two starts for Kansas City in 2009. He was second on the team with 16 special teams tackles.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The Kansas City Chiefs have salary cap room and needs on both sides of the ball.
Yet, aside from a trade early in the free agency period that netted quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel, the Chiefs were quiet. Kansas City's free agent signings were mostly little-known bottom-of-the-roster types.
Tuesday, however, Kansas City got busy.
The signing of Engram and Beisel won't rival the additions of Cassel and Vrabel in terms of impact but both should be decent role players.
Engram could battle for the No. 2 receiver spot if he stays healthy, or be a top backup. He has 113 starts in 13 NFL seasons. He has 645 careers catches, including 94 in 2007. He was injured often in 2008. He will be a reliable target for Cassel.
Beisel started his career in 2001 in Kansas City and stayed for four seasons. He has 19 career starts in eight seasons. He could vie for a starting role on a weak Kansas City linebackers unit but most likely will be a backup and a special teams player.
Beisel has ties to the Chiefs' new management. He played in New England in 2005 under new Chiefs' general manager Scott Pioli. He was in Arizona the past three years. He played there for new Chiefs' coach Todd Haley and new Kansas City defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.
Copper played in Dallas when Haley was the receivers coach.
Meanwhile, San Diego free agent Mike Goff visited the Chiefs on Tuesday. The Chargers are not going to bring Goff back but he could start in Kansas City.