I'll be the first to admit that I know very little about the Kansas City Chiefs new tight end Leonard Pope. He's coming from the Arizona Cardinals where his career highs hovered around 23 receptions, 238 yards and five touchdowns. But, he's been consistently inconsistent since he's come into the NFL according to our friend Charles Golden of Revenge of the Birds.
"Well first, I would caution Chiefs' fans that Leonard Pope will not remind you of Tony Gonzalez at any point this year or beyond, unless Gonzalez specialized in jumping off sides and staying on the injury list," Charles told me.
Yes, yes, Charles, I think we all know that. I think.
"In all seriousness," he continued, "Pope has some talent and potential but he's struggled to stay healthy or provide consistent results when he's been on the field. During his sophomore season, 2007, he flashed the potential to become a decent pass receiving option, especially in the red zone (23 receptions, 5 TDs), but a serious ankle injury ended his season after 13 games.
"Despite playing in 13 games again last year, Pope was never really 100% healthy and it showed on the field. Eventually the team signed a guy off the street (Stephen Spach) who became the starter until he got injured in the second round of the playoffs."
Charles also points out that these familiar problems were present during the team's recent training camp. Heading into year four, he doesn't expect him to change much.
Anyway, the most surprising thing that came out of my exchange with Charles was that Pope should not be expected to become a blocker. Because of his size (well, height, really) I saw some folks liken him to Jason Dunn. Not the case in the slightest.
I asked Charles to quickly lay out some strengths and weaknesses on Pope. This is what he had to say:
Strengths: As a pass catcher, Pope has shown some promise. He's tall enough to be a legitimate threat in the red zone and at least has some speed to run down the seem and stretch defenses. His hands can be spotty but his size will always create match ups problems for opposing defenses, if you can establish him as a weapon.
Weaknesses: Everything pertaining to the mental side of the game has caused him problems through his first three seasons. He was infamously known for false start penalties, holding calls and just making the biggest mistakes at the most critical points in a game. His height, while a strength in the red zone, virtually eliminates his effectiveness as a blocker. He simply can not get low enough to get under the pads of a defender and he's not strong enough to keep them at bay once they stand him up.
I then asked if Todd Haley's offense was a good fit for him since he's been in it for a little while in Arizona.
"Ideally I think Pope would play his best ball in a offense that didn't expect much, if any, from him as a blocker," Charles said. "While he certainly doesn't have the skills of Dallas Clark as a receiver, he might be best suited as a stand up tight end who's primary responsibility was catching the ball as opposed to having to block. Standing up might also eliminate his false start problems."
Many thanks to Charles at Revenge of the Birds for filling us in on Leonard Pope.