The Kansas City Chiefs are practicing football again. In pads. Our long offseason nightmare is finally over!
Here at Arrowhead Pride, we’ve been providing as much training camp coverage as possible. Quotes, lineups, videos...we’ve been hitting a little bit of everything. We’re also just like you, in that when there’s football to watch, there’s also football to overreact about!
On Tuesday, we’re starting off a series of posts involving the Arrowhead Pride Nerd Squad (Kent Swanson, Matt Lane, and Craig Stout) discussing three things about camp thus far that have jumped out at us. As camp goes along, we’ll continue to overreact to all the little bits of information fed to us, and hopefully, you’ll come along for the ride.
You ready? Let’s jump to some conclusions!
Kendall Fuller in the base defense
OVERREACTION (Craig): Should we be worried Kendall Fuller isn’t getting more boundary cornerback snaps? Thus far in training camp, the Chiefs have lined up Steven Nelson and David Amerson as the boundary corners, and the starting corners in the base defense. With Fuller being the only proven cornerback on the roster beyond this season, should we be worried he’s not getting as many snaps outside in the base defense?
COUNTERPOINT (Kent): I’m not worried yet, but that could change as the training camp progresses. Fuller did see some work in base personnel on the first Sunday of camp. If he doesn’t stay there moving forward, I’ll remain nervous until Week 1. Fuller is one of the most instinctual, smart players I’ve seen at the corner position for his age. He’s prepared and quick to process. He needs to be on the field as much as possible. He is one of the best slot corners in football and the best cornerback on this roster. He deserves every opportunity to stay on the field when only two corners are on.
COUNTER-COUNTERPOINT (Matt): I 100 percent agree with Kent’s opinion on Fuller’s play and abilities but can’t help but share Craig’s concern that he didn’t really get much time outside until this last practice. I do find some solace in the fact that we are almost certainly running five or six defensive backs the vast majority of downs so the snaps in which a slot cornerback won’t be needed are very low.
FINAL WORD (Craig): It’s still early in camp, so there’s plenty of time for Fuller to claim one of the outside spots in the base defense. His instincts and ability are certainly better than the rest of the cornerbacks on the roster, and the expectation is certainly that he’ll be on the field in every possible permutation of the Chiefs defense. I’ll shelve my Fuller worry for the time being, but I won’t be afraid to overreact if we get to preseason Week 1 with him exclusively as a slot cornerback.
The pass rush
OVERREACTION (Matt): Is the pass rush this year finally going to be year in which the everything lines up for the Chiefs? Justin Houston finally feels like he’s not playing on a single leg, Dee Ford is seemingly healthy and looks as good as ever, Tanoh Kpassagnon has been a standout since pads have come on blowing up multiple plays and then there is Chris Jones who seems re-motivated this year and is looking trim and quick. Add to this lineup of rushers the, finally, use of different alignments of these players both on sides of the formation as well as in-line and stand-up, it certainly feels we are on the way to an electric pass rush.
COUNTERPOINT (Craig): It’s one thing to say everything feels better, but it’s quite another to show that everything feels better for Justin Houston. While he’s still been a very good outside linebacker, his ability to stay on the field and attack the quarterback hasn’t been the same since his knee injury in 2015. Dee Ford showed flashes against some backup offensive tackles in 2016 from the left side of the defense, can he repeat that performance? While Chris Jones should definitely have a massive impact this season, Kpassagnon and rookie Breeland Speaks are still largely unknown commodities at this point. The pass rush has high potential, but there are more questions than answers with this group.
COUNTER-COUNTERPOINT (Kent): The quantity and quality on the defensive line is noticeably better than last year. Yes, there are less known commodities like Breeland Speaks and Kpassagnon, but they’ve been uniquely positioned to not have the everything expected of them. A committee doesn’t need to be a bad thing. The Chiefs can keep their front fresh with a higher number of players they can trust on the gameday roster. If everything was asked of one of Ford, Kpassagnon and Speaks individually, it would be cause for concern. But all three can be utilized in a more limited role to maximize their abilities. Throw in optimism for Jones and quality depth along the interior (Xavier Williams, Derrick Nnadi and Allen Bailey) and the Chiefs should be able to withstand attrition and still have enough fresh bodies to throw at the quarterback.
FINAL WORD (Matt): I’m all here for the committee approach in terms of pass rushers and I think the NFL has shown it’s trending in that direction. There is a high variance of outcomes with this pass rush but with guys moving around to different positions and guys progressing properly, I can’t help but be excited for this year. If Ford stays healthy, I really do think he changes the dynamic of what the ceiling is for the pass rush. Worse case scenario an improving Kpassagnon should provide a vast improvement over Frank Zombo of last year.
Running back depth chart chaos
POINT (Kent): The running back position is going to be unsettled chaos until the final roster cuts. Kareem Hunt, the NFL’s leading rusher in 2017, is going to be behind schedule with a hamstring injury. Spencer Ware is coming off a season-ending injury. Charcandrick West has already missed time with a concussion. The three Williamses (Damien, Kerwynn and Darrel) all have shown something of value to be rostered and each provides a unique skill set that would be nice to have. Barring injury, there aren’t many answers to the questions in the running back room on the horizon. There’s short and long-term financial and roster decisions at stake and it’s going to go down to the wire.
COUNTERPOINT (Matt): I know everyone is diligently watching the Williamses and West battling out at the bottom of the depth chart, but my eyes are glued at the top. Hunt, between the hamstring and the publicity he’s gained, seems to be walking the line of complacency like he did after his big sophomore year at Toledo. He had a huge year, then took the final two years to get back into shape before the NFL and while there is no way to know if that’s happening now, it just seems like something to monitor. On the flip side, Spencer Ware has looked fantastic in what he’s been able to participate in and everything coming out of coaches is glowing. Can’t forget how good he was two years ago when healthy and the potential of a true 1A and 1B scenario.
COUNTER-COUNTERPOINT (Craig): While I agree that the running back position will be chaos, Matt is absolutely correct about Spencer Ware. Ware has come back to the Chiefs this offseason with a bang and looks ready to contribute and challenge for the starting running back role in 2018. With the Williamses and West challenging for third-down snaps and Ware and Hunt battling it out at the top, the battle will be tight all the way to cutdown day. The Chiefs will truly be spoiled for choice when they have to get to 53, and we could see one of the running backs moved in a trade before then.
FINAL WORD (Kent): We know Hunt and Ware are locks to make the roster at this point. Their availability will be something that will have to be monitored leading up to Week 1. The upside of building your run game around those two is immense. The chaos for me comes if either player is on a snap count or not ready for week one. How do the Chiefs navigate that situation with the rest of the position? What does the trickle-down effect look like if that happens? Does that help West’s chances because he’s a know commodity? Does that keep the Chiefs from holding on to a talented player like Darrel Williams with three years of team control?
While every running back on the roster brings something different to the table, it’s going to interesting if the Chiefs have to manage in uncertainty. If everyone is healthy, what decisions after Hunt and Ware aren’t as critical and lends itself more to schematic preference and special teams. If any wrench is thrown into that machine, who makes the roster will come down to the wire.
What are your biggest overreactions out of Chiefs training camp so far?