NFL Nation: Verran Tucker

Kansas City Chiefs cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
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Check here for a complete list of the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster moves.

Surprise move: The Chiefs kept Keary Colbert ahead of fellow receivers Verran Tucker and Jeremy Horne. Colbert signed during the summer. He hasn’t been on an NFL roster since 2008. Yet, Colbert became a favorite of Kansas City coach Todd Haley. Defensive tackle Amon Gordon is another vet enjoying a career resurgence in Kansas City. He has played in just 17 games since entering the league in 2004. The Chiefs like Gordon as a run stuffer.

No-brainers: The big news out of Kansas City on Saturday is that standout tight end Tony Moeaki was put on the injured reserve with a knee injury he suffered at Green Bay on Thursday. Thus, the Chiefs kept both backups Jake O'Connell and Anthony Becht. Both players were considered bubble players but they are needed now.

What's next: It starts at tight end. The Chiefs could use a pass catcher. They could look at Donald Lee, who was cut Saturday, among other players. Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli could also make a run at safety Brandon Meriweather. He was cut by New England. Pioli was part of the team when it drafted Meriweather. The Chiefs also could scour the waiver wire at receiver, offensive line, inside linebacker and on the defensive line. So, yes, the Chiefs could look to upgrade throughout the roster. Also, if an interesting backup quarterback becomes available, the Cheifs could pursue him in favor of current backup Tyler Palko.
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.

Chargers' Antonio Gates is active

October, 24, 2010
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San Diego tight end Antonio Gates is active and expected to start against New England. He missed the entire week of practice with a toe injury he suffered at St. Louis.

The Chargers will need Gates, even if he’s not at full strength.

San Diego starting receivers Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee are inactive with hamstring injuries. Buster Davis and Patrick Crayton will start for the Chargers.

Naanee is listed as the third quarterback and he could only quarterback if starter Philip Rivers and backup Billy Volek were injured. The team cut No. 3 quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan to make room for kicker Kris Brown.

He will kick for a game or two while kicker Nate Kaeding is out with a groin injury.

In other AFC West related news and notes:

The Kansas City Chiefs promoted receiver Verran Tucker from the practice squad. He is a rookie free agent. To make room for Tucker, Kansas City cut undrafted rookie Jeremy Horne. He was a preseason star, who didn’t make an impact in the regular season. Horne could end up on the Chiefs’ practice squad.

The San Francisco Chronicle has an interesting look at the slow start by No. 8 overall pick Rolando McClain. It’s early, but McClain has not made many big plays.

Apparently, former Kansas City czar Carl Peterson does not have a future with the Dolphins. That marriage has been speculated about since Peterson was shown the door by the Chiefs nearly two years ago.

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