During my playing days in the 1990s, I watched three of my Pro Football Hall of Fame teammates (Reggie White, Bruce Smith and Derrick Thomas) abuse opposing offensive tackles at home. Each pass rusher would utilize initial quickness and snap-count anticipation to get a head start at the line. Thomas, in particular, would capitalize on the raucous environment at Arrowhead Stadium. He not only fed off the energy of the crowd, but he overwhelmed hesitant pass protectors with his exceptional first-step quickness and anticipation of the snap. No. 58’s get-off, burst and acceleration made him an unstoppable force off the edge on obvious passing downs at home.
I was on the field during the 1998 season opener against the Raiders when he sacked Jeff George six times — one of which resulted in a safety — and forced a fumble. It was the most dominant individual defensive performance that I’ve witnessed during my 20-plus years in and around the league. It also illustrated how an elite pass rusher can take over a game when the home crowd is whipped into a frenzy. My belief in this notion was only strengthened after studying the largest home-to-road sack differentials among the 34 members of the 100-plus sacks club:
Derrick Thomas, Chiefs: +42.5
1 Patrick Mahomes
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS QB
This was an easy choice. He missed time last season, which hurt his MVP chances, but he will be right back in the race this year. He’s the best player in the league.
That’s all well and good, of course. But as so often applies in the world of the NFL, it’s time for the immortal words of Taylor Swift to enter the conversation.
You need to calm down.
The “you” in this conversation would be the Kansas City Chiefs themselves. One might imagine that winning a Super Bowl — aka completing the ultimate quest of every football player — would be enough to make Chiefs players happy. Alas, mere moments after beating the 49ers, both Travis Kelce and Chris Jones declared that a Chiefs dynasty had begun.
Maybe you could chalk that one up to youthful exuberance, being caught up in a moment and feeling indestructible. They don’t call it cloud nine for nothing.
Yet here months later, the dynastic promises continue. Jones recently reiterated his stance, tweeting “The Dynasty Continues” after signing his new deal with the Chiefs. He added to that bold claim in a radio interview.
“This is only the beginning. We plan to have another parade and another parade and another parade. We’re going to make sure we bring not one, not two, not three, not four, but five-plus rings to Kansas City,” Jones said. “It’s been 50 years of waiting, but the wait is over now. It’s time to create a dynasty.”
Once again, if most interesting was the topic, wide receiver would be the choice. Mecole Hardman should see an increased workload despite the return of Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins. Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson are competent options behind them. The depth chart seems to be largely settled so the conversation for most important turns to another position: cornerback.
Kansas City returns both starting corners — Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward. Breeland is amidst an appeal of his four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy against substance abuse. His case was probably not helped by his April arrest in South Carolina. Fans should operate as though he will be unavailable when the season starts. Cornerback was already a position that needed some attention. The Chiefs brought in four rookies: BoPete Keyes, Javaris Davis, Lavert Hill and L’Jarius Sneed. There is a bunch of length and speed in that group. Raw ability will be tested early because someone has to start for Breeland. Rashad Fenton gets the start in the nickelback spot.
According to projections from Over The Cap’s Jason Fitzgerald, the Kansas City Chiefs would be $25.7 million over the salary cap with a $175 million salary cap in 2021. It’s good for the fourth-worst salary-cap situations in the NFL under the new proposal. That number doesn’t include the cap charges for the Chiefs’ unsigned 2020 rookie draft class. Also, consider that it comes before Kansas City has re-signed any pending free agents for 2021. That list includes players such as Sammy Watkins, Bashaud Breeland, Mike Pennel, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Daniel Sorensen, Austin Reiter, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and so on.
Around the NFL
“Everyone was in agreement that my bone was in a really good place,” Smith told ESPN on Friday. “I had healed a lot. They said that given the combination of the rod and where I was with the healing process, I had zero limitations and could even resume some football activities.
“To hear them say that, from a life standpoint, they wouldn’t restrict me from doing anything — I could go skiing or snowboarding tomorrow if I wanted — then on top of that, to get the green light that I could practice, get contact, that I had healed up, that much was pretty wild to hear. I didn’t know if I would ever hear those words.”
1 DeAndre Hopkins
Arizona Cardinals · WR
I’m not going to get into a debate about whether or not Texans coach Bill O’Brien made the right move in trading Hopkins to the Cardinals — time will tell on that. What I know for sure is that Arizona was able to unexpectedly add a top-five receiver for a relative pittance in the offseason’s most stunning swap. Hopkins will help second-year quarterback Kyler Murray’s development and have a positive trickle-down effect on the offense, drawing coverage away from receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. This team might not be quite ready for a playoff run, with the defense (32nd-ranked in 2019) still needing to improve under coordinator Vance Joseph, but this move goes a long way toward establishing the Cardinals as a legitimate presence in the only division to field three winning teams last season.
My first proposed change is a no-brainer: Increase the value of touchdown passes to six points. (“Four points per TD pass” is arbitrary at best and the unhinged rantings of a mad man at worst.) This change gives quarterbacks’ value a boost, but only a slight boost, because TD totals are relatively consistent among the top QBs. A six-point TD moves the value-over-replacement for Jackson (from 9.9) to 11.8 fantasy points, still nowhere near McCaffrey’s 15.3.
Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is known for relying on his rushing attack. That’s why Gordon, who rushed for 612 yards and added 296 receiving yards in 2019, is a notable addition. Gordon missed four games with the Chargers following a holdout last year, but he has previously shown he can be a lead ball carrier. Lindsay is coming off his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season. Third-year tailback Royce Freeman combines with the pair to form one of the NFL’s deeper backfields. Gordon and Lindsay should receive the lion’s share of the work and help ease Lock into things. Lock could become the latest in a recent trend of quarterbacks taking tremendous leaps in their sophomore year, joining the ranks of Jared Goff, Lamar Jackson, and Patrick Mahomes. The Broncos could become a must-watch offense.
“It’s really not structured right,” Gurley said on Tiki and Tierney. “There’s not a proper plan in place that I’m comfortable with. I don’t have a wife. I don’t have any kids. But you have to look at guys on the other side who have pregnant wives, kids and a wife that they go home to every single day. I just feel like in general we just need to come up with something a lot better than what they’re giving us. Everything they gave us is pretty last minute. We should have been able to have answers weeks ago, if not months ago.”
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Given the worldwide sanitary crisis we are currently experiencing, the NFL and the NFLPA have agreed to significant health and safety protocols to protect the players. There is no doubt in my mind the Chiefs’ medical staff have put together a strong plan to minimize the health risks associated with COVID-19 but some risks will remain.
This is one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make in my life but I must follow my convictions and do what I believe is right for me personally. That is why I have decided to take the Opt Out Option negotiated by the League and the NFLPA and officially opt out of the 2020 NFL season.
Being at the frontline during this offseason has given me a different perspective on this pandemic and the stress it puts on individuals and our healthcare system. I cannot allow myself to potentially transmit the virus in our communities simply to play the sport that I love. If I am to take risks, I will do it caring for patients.
I want to thank everyone in the Kansas City Chiefs organization for their support and understanding.
Laurent Duvernay Tardif
A tweet to make you think
Gonna miss my brother in locker room , but I love this move ❤️ https://t.co/QABgoRZWod— Ty Hill (@cheetah) July 25, 2020
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