Things I’m tracking in training camp
Kansas City Chiefs’ defensive overhaul
The Chiefs are switching to a different base defense (4-3) under a new defensive coordinator (Steve Spagnuolo). They also added (defensive end Frank Clark, as well as safeties Tyrann Mathieu and second-rounder Juan Thornhill) and subtracted (pass rushers Dee Ford and Justin Houston) a bunch of key players. All of this means a number of new looks for Kansas City. While I have tracked Spagnuolo for a long time, the personnel and strategy changes -- and how complementary the defense can be to Patrick Mahomes’ high-flying attack -- projects to be a big factor in my AFC playoff predictions
Will the considerable defensive changes make a difference?
They can’t hurt. The Chiefs can’t be much worse than last year, when their defensive deficiencies kept them out of the Super Bowl. The Chiefs, with their potent offense, don’t need to be dominant on defense. They need to be competent and that’s an achievable goal. Kansas City, with Steve Spagnuolo as the new defensive coordinator, will be better coached. There are also as many as seven new defensive starters, led by safety Tyrann Mathieu and end Frank Clark. They are too talented on defense to rank near the bottom once again.
Clark received a five-year, $104 million contract in connection with his trade from the Seahawks, who had designated him as a franchise player, as late April’s NFL draft approached. The Chiefs were comfortable giving Clark $62.305 million in player-friendly guarantees where $43.805 million was fully guaranteed at signing, although he has a checkered past.
A Hill contract at the top of the wide receiver market in terms of total value and average yearly salary should be too concerning. The most important metrics in NFL contracts are the amount of money fully guaranteed at signing, or will become fully guaranteed early, and compensation in the first three years of a multi-year deal.
There are several things the Chiefs could do to protect themselves in a Hill contract should they choose to deviate from their preferred structure. How the 49ers structure contracts could provide a blueprint for the Chiefs.
Teammates are bullish on Thornhill’s development. Last month, veteran safety Tyrann Mathieu, who signed a three-year deal in March, said he was impressed with his fellow newcomer.
“Anybody watching our practices saw he’s getting his hands on the ball,” Mathieu said. “That’s hard to do as a guy coming in. The game is a lot faster playing against an MVP quarterback and a lot of weapons on offense. He believes in his ability and that confidence always puts you above the rest of the group.”
Tier Seven - Youth Gone Wild
Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs
Notes: The writing might be on the wall for a number of these talented, young wideouts. Sutton, Kirk and Pettis will be among the target leaders for their respective teams, while Watkins and Fuller will be No. 2 wideouts in explosive offenses. Samuel, Washington and Shepard saw an increase in value, in part, due to the departure of a veteran in the offseason. Fantasy fans would also be wise to target Westbrook, Coutee and Harry in the late rounds as potential fantasy risers in 2019.
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end: Alex Okafor vs. Emmanuel Ogbah vs. Breeland Speaks vs. Tanoh Kpassagnon.
The Chiefs jettisoned star pass rushers Justin Houston and Dee Ford in anticipation of transitioning to new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s 4-3 scheme. Trade acquisition Frank Clark will hold one starting job, while general manager Brett Veach did an underrated job building quality depth throughout the position. Okafor and Ogbah are solid, if unspectacular, rotational ends. Kpassagnon and especially Speaks showed flashes of potential last year. If the Chiefs’ defense is going to improve, this group will need to step up.
“We’ve got to come out with tight ends out of this, and they know they have opportunities,” head coach Andy Reid said after practice on Wednesday.
Six of the seven tight ends on the roster reported to camp early. That includes Kelce, who participated in his first practice since offseason ankle surgery. Veteran free agent Blake Bell also arrived early, joined by youngsters Deon Yelder, David Wells, John Lovett and Nick Keizer. Only fifth-year pro Neal Sterling, who signed with the club last month, doesn’t arrive until Friday.
Around the league
Lewan said he voluntarily took a polygraph test and posted the results to his Instagram account.
He was asked two questions: “Have you ever knowingly ingested ostarine?” and “Have you ever deliberately ingested ANY illegal drug to enhance your performance?”
Lewan answered “no” to both questions and passed the polygraph test.
”I’ve never taken anything that would cheat the game. I’m so sorry to the Tennessee Titans,” Lewan said in the video before choking up.
Jaguars’ Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey certainly has money on his mind these days. In fact, he showed up to training camp in Jacksonville, FL by coming out of an armored money truck. Ramsey has been vocal about his desire to be paid more and on Wednesday he made a bold statement with his eye-catching entrance.
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“It felt great, honestly,” Thornhill said, “especially having a couple weeks off not playing football and being able to get back out there, get your legs working again and get yourself moving is always a great feeling to get back on the field.”
A reporter later asked Thornhill if he was nervous with the first professional training camp of his career.
“Listen— I ain’t ever nervous. I’m ready to go at all times. I’m going to get in here — I might have to throw up with a couple of them,” he laughed, “but I’ll definitely have to get my feet wet sooner or later because we got a game in two weeks. I’m not nervous; I’m just ready to go out there and play football.”
While it may seem odd to pursue a defensive lineman before they have agreed to terms with Chris Jones, Daniels could be a great addition for the Chiefs. He would add talent to an already promising defensive line, and it makes sense for a team trying to cash in on their Super Bowl window to sign short-term deals for great players.
Is calling our offense “The Legion of Zoom” creative or stupid?
Great question, Austen. Thanks!
I’ve seen the argument that the nickname isn’t creative — that it owes too much to the one the Seattle Seahawks used. But The Greatest Show on Turf and The New York Sack Exchange were derivative, too — and I don’t see anybody complaining about either of those.
And yes... it’s a little stupid. So were The Purple People Eaters and The Hogs — or for that matter, The No-Name Defense. So what?
The Legion of Zoom is memorable, has a nice ring and totally describes what the Chiefs offense is all about. Isn’t that the whole point of a nickname?
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So who is going to be the first Chiefs player to embrace the nickname, “Legion of Zoom” ?Yes, we are still using it, and no, we will not be stopping any time soon.
I, for one, cannot wait to see Travis Kelce back in action. With so many players to account for already, I just can’t fathom how hard a defensive co-ordinator’s task is when you have to account for Zeus as well.