It’s remarkable that the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs were able to retain their entire coaching staff; it’s rare for a championship team to keep all three coordinators — let alone the position coaches, too. With the chaos of NFL offseason, staff continuity will be as important as it has ever been.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the team or coaches will pick up right where they left off. Speaking to reporters after the team’s practice on Thursday, Chiefs defensive line coach Brendan Daly noted that there’s still an adjustment period — even with so much familiarity between coaches.
“None of us have coached since February,” Daly pointed out. “None of us have been on the practice field since February. There was some rust — to be quite honest — for players and coaches; we’ve all got to go through it.”
That being said, Daly is happy with how the team has constructed training camp practices so far.
“I love the way that we practice in terms of getting long drives, consecutive reps — there’s a lot of throws in there as well,” Daly said. “The conditioning element, the pursuit element, the progression in terms of getting ready to play a game is excellent in my opinion. You can go and run gassers and sprints and all those types of things if you want, but there’s nothing like playing football.”
This summer, a couple of players in Daly’s position room took it upon themselves to get in shape. Defensive ends Tanoh Kpassagnon and Breeland Speaks will always be naturally paired together because they’re roughly the same age and play the same position. Kpassagnon may be motivated by the fact that 2020 is a contract year for him.
“Very pleased with where [Kpassagnon] is at from a conditioning standpoint,” Daly declared. “From the way he approached the offseason work — and he’s a physical specimen in a lot of ways — but he’s in excellent physical condition. When you look at the guys that can go all day out there, he’s one of the first guys that comes to mind.”
Speaks — who is coming off of a knee injury that cost him the entire 2019 season — not only conditioned himself well, he also completely transformed his physique. There is no official number on how much weight Speaks lost, but Daly was nonetheless impressed.
“Breeland [Speaks] did a tremendous job in terms of working through the offseason,” Daly admitted. “He got himself into great physical shape. I got to give him a lot of credit for what he did — and the work that he put in.”
Daly also spoke about how Speaks has fit into the defense during this camp.
“He’s worked at a number of different spots here as we’ve gotten back — that’s one thing I give him a lot of credit for. He’s a football-smart guy; he can handle multiple roles, he does a very good job on that side of things.”
As much as Speaks feels like a first-year player in Daly’s system, there are other defensive linemen that are actually new to the team this year. Fourth-year defensive end Taco Charlton was signed in May after two unsuccessful stints with the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys. The former first-round pick has shown Daly some good things at camp.
“It’s been fun to watch him,” said Daly of Charlton. “He’s a very good athlete, he’s got great length, and he’s got some natural ability. He’s picking things up and he’s making some mistakes, but he’s working through it. I’ve liked his energy, his attitude, his effort — and he’s coming along.”
Another newcomer is a fifth-round pick: rookie defensive end Mike Danna. When the team drafted him, Daly wasn’t shy about expressing his excitement for the former Michigan Wolverine defender. After spending a virtual offseason together, Daly may be even more optimistic for Danna’s future.
“I was very impressed with the way [Danna] came to camp and the level of understanding with the material that we had gone through over the offseason program,” Daly told reporters. “He had a very good recall on that. I’ve been impressed with his work ethic; he’s getting better every day. He’s been fun to be around for sure.”
All those positive words, but not a mention of stars like defensive tackles Chris Jones and Derrick Nnadi — or defensive end Frank Clark. All three have missed time since padded practices began last Friday.
The play of Daly’s unit down the stretch in 2019 was vital to the championship. If the depth has improved with players like Speaks, Charlton and Danna, the group could be one of the strongest positions on the team in 2020.