Jeff Herr, a finalist in the 2011 Big Gig Contest on 610 Sports Radio, was born and raised in Kansas City. Following the Chiefs, Royals, and Jayhawks all his life has led him to blog about all three extensively at the-jeff-report.blogspot.com. He has also spent time covering the Royals for the blog site kingsofkauffman.com as well as serving for a period as the lead editor of throughthephog.com a blog covering the Kansas Jayhawks. When not writing about the local sports scene, he pays the bills by serving as an accountant.
Jeff Herr: Chiefs Training Camp, What to Watch For
by Jeff Herr,posted Jul 23 2012 6:31PM
It’s the annual rite of passage here in Kansas City. As spring turns into the sweltering heat of late July and the Royals figuratively end their season, the rest of the sports eyes of Kansas City turn towards the Chiefs.
Usually right about this time is when training camp is gearing up to start up for all NFL teams. This year has occurred in lock step with years prior. Just at the Royals are reaching a new low point for the season, training camp will start for the Chiefs on Friday.
So what are we looking for this coming weekend and into August as the city’s consciousness turns towards football? There are many things to keep an eye on as the Chiefs will field what looks to be their best team in quite a while.
Stanford Routt – The Brandon Carr situation is still not far from the minds of Chiefs fans. Carr is a player who was undoubtedly what general manager Scott Pioli was talking was about when he touted the “right 53.” Carr was valued as a number one cornerback by the Dallas Cowboys, and that was more value than what the Chiefs placed on him, so he left town and went to play for Dallas with a brand new $50M contract. In anticipation of this possible development, the Chiefs went out and signed free agent corner Routt, formerly of the Oakland Raiders.
What everyone will be watching for is whether or not Routt can match what Carr did. Lots of fans in KC seem to think that Routt won’t measure up because they’ve bought into the narrative about him. They look at the penalties he had last year and think the same thing will happen this year. What they don’t realize is that the Chiefs and the Raiders play in different schemes with different philosophies.
Over the last two years, the players statistical output is nearly identical. Carr has 102 tackles and 5 interceptions. Routt has 104 tackles and 6 interceptions. This doesn’t take into effect the yards either gave up in that time, and by most accounts, Routt was worse. However, Carr was not immune to giving up yards and Routt should benefit to playing in a less man-to-man/bump-and-run scheme.
Dontari Poe – This is the biggest question mark for the Chiefs. Many considered this pick a reach at #11 overall in the draft, but the Chiefs contend he was one of the highest rated players on their board. He fills the biggest need on this defense, but how well remains to be seen. The Chiefs, like many others, were no doubt enamored with the size and athleticism of a player like Poe. At 6’5” and 350 pounds Poe was still able to run a 4.98 40 yard dash and impress many with his abilities.
Even still, his production in college wasn’t what you’d expect from an athlete of his caliber. This was a trust pick. Pioli trusts Romeo Crennell and Anthony Pleasant (defensive line coach) to mold this player into the nose tackle the Chiefs have needed ever since Pioli arrived. Training camp should be a good window into how Poe is developing and what the Chiefs think of him based on how he’s being used.
Offensive line – There have been some changes to the offensive, all of which seem better on paper. The replacement of Casey Weigmann with 2011 second round pick Rodney Hudson looks good from a high level view. Take the aging veteran and replace him with the young talented player always seems good, but will have to be proven.
Eric Winston was signed as a free agent in the offseason and was one of the biggest most high profile pickups in the NFL. Winston is regarded by many as one of (if not the) best right tackle in the league. He should be an immediate and noticeable upgrade over Barry Richardson at RT.
The question will be how these new players mesh with the ones already there. The Chiefs should have one of the best offensive lines in the league in 2012 and underperformance in this area will be one of the biggest failures of the season. This will definitely be something to watch.
Matt Cassel – We have been over this and over this before. At this point, Cassel is what he is. The difference this year is there will be no excuses. If Cassel isn’t an elite quarterback he has proven that teams can at least win with him (11-5 season with New England; 10-6 here in KC in 2010). At his ceiling he’s the average QB who might be not able to win you the game, but won’t lose it either. He needs to reach that ceiling and solidify that role this year. He has the offensive line, he has the weapons, and he apparently has a more stable environment. It’s time for Cassel to prove he’s worth that contract he signed.
ACL Injury Returns – Everyone knows about how the Chiefs 2011 season was hampered by key injuries to playmakers Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles, and Tony Moeaki. The big “if” tied to this season will be how well those players and come back from those injuries and help this team. The ACL tear isn’t what it once was in terms of ruining a career. Many players have been able to come back and have fruitful careers, post surgery (Wes Welker is one of the most recent examples).
The ceiling of this team will depend in large part on how much of an impact Charles and Berry can make. Both are one of the most important players on either side of the ball. If Berry can come back and flash that elite talent he showed in 2010 (especially in the playoff game) and Charles is still that homerun threat, then this team is one of the scariest in the league.
There are some questions going in to training camp this year, as there are for every team. This year, for the Chiefs, they seem to think they have a lot of the answers. If they are as positive as the Chiefs hope then it could be a very exciting year for football in Kansas City.