Kansas City Chiefs: LB Willie Gay
Since the 2020 campaign went so well, relatively speaking, too many forget teams didn’t have much of an offseason leading into the regular season.
Some rookies adjusted well. Others did not.
The Kansas City Chiefs chose linebacker Willie Gay in last year’s second round. Gay’s athletic profile makes him an ideal second-line defender in today’s pass-first league. But he admitted to struggling last year. Now, he’s making up for the lost time.
“It was tough,” Gay admitted told reporters. “To only see the playbook for the first time during training camp, it was hard. To get that head start right now in OTAs, it’s definitely helping a lot. I’m catching on to the things that I didn’t catch on to last year.
“I learned the basics. Now it’s the small details that make good great.”
Kansas City Chiefs
TE Noah Gray
The fifth-round draft pick has impressed the Chiefs with his smarts, pass catching and route running. With the Chiefs looking to keep Travis Kelce fresh over the course of a 17-game schedule, it’s easy to see how Gray could get a significant amount of playing time, both in occasionally replacing Kelce and as part of multiple-tight-end formations. — Adam Teicher
“There are things we’re implementing to get the ball to the backs, to spread it out more,” Edwards-Helaire said last week before the Chiefs concluded offseason practice. “That’s one of the things on why I chose to work on my hands and just be more of a threat. ... Just being able to get out not just on routes out of the backfield but also spread out in the slot position and wide out position. Just being able to expand my skill set was my thing.
“I feel like I was a decent receiving back in college ... we’re just kind of enhancing it.”
The Chiefs have moved on from veteran back Le’Veon Bell, who arrived in the middle of last season to some hype but wound up having little impact. His contract expired at the end of the season and the Chiefs showed no interest in re-signing Bell.
4. Edge Justin Houston
Justin Houston might not have a whole lot left at age 32, but the four-time Pro Bowler has put up at least eight sacks in each of the last four seasons with the Chiefs and Colts.
The key is you can no longer consider him an every-down player after he was on the field for just 59 percent of Indy’s defensive snaps despite starting 16 games in 2020. But there’s little reason to believe he can’t continue to serve as an effective situational pass-rusher for a contending team that has some money to spend on a short-term deal.
Besides, he’s far from a liability, having missed just four tackles the last two seasons combined.
Colts owner Jim Irsay said in April the team could bring Houston back, but the club has since used two premium draft picks on edge defenders Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo, so there’s a good chance he lands somewhere new in 2021.
Logical landing spots: Cowboys, Dolphins, Ravens, Vikings, Chiefs
Running back Brandon Bolden has spent his entire eight-year career with AFC East teams, playing for the Patriots and Dolphins.
Bolden wore jersey number 38 for both franchises, including the 2019 season with New England. He opted out of last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When he takes the field this fall, Bolden will have a new number: 25.
The reason for the change? He’s honoring his grandfather, Frank Pitts, who was a receiver for the Chiefs from 1965-70.
Pitts, who is now 77 years old, caught three passes for 33 yards and rushed three times for 37 yards in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl IV victory over the Minnesota Vikings. He was also part of the Super Bowl I team that lost to the Packers.
Former Chiefs QB Tyler Palso was arrested early Sunday morning in Johnson County, Kansas. The 37-year old was arrested for suspected driving under the influence, according to Johnson County Detention Bureau. He posted bail later that morning with no further details of his arrest.
Palko had his only two statistical NFL seasons with the Chiefs, spending both 2010 and 2011 with the team after going undrafted in 2007. In 2007, Palko signed with the New Orleans Saints serving primarily as a practice squad player before similar stops with the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers.
What are AFC Teams’ Dynamic Gameday advantages?
Below are names and descriptions for each of the AFC teams’ home-field advantages or X-Factors available. They’ll either help the home team, or create disadvantages for the visiting team.
Baltimore Ravens – Truzz the System (While winning, home team gets bonus momentum on running plays)
Buffalo Bills – Downwind (Away team kick meter moves erratically)
Cincinnati Bengals – Who Dey? (No Huddle Results in reduced clock runoff)
Cleveland Browns – Dog Pound (Hot routes in the red zone have chance to fail)
Denver Broncos – Mile High (Away team has less stamina for plays)
Houston Texans – The Bullpen (Away team gains less momentum for touchdown
Indianapolis Colts – Hat Count (Home team defense sees Hat count via Coach Cam)
Jacksonville Jaguars – Duvall (Bonus momentum on touchdowns)
Kansas City Chiefs – Home of the Chiefs (Away team’s audibles have chance to fail)
Around the NFL
With a nonchalance that belied the significance of the moment — ”I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay” — Carl Nassib changed the NFL on Monday and challenged it, too.
Nassib is the first active player to come out as gay in NFL history and what he said a few sentences later, that he hopes these coming out announcements won’t even be necessary in the future, is just as important. Is the NFL ready for players to be out in the first place? Nassib’s statement took an extraordinary amount of courage — he agonized over it for 15 years, he said, not even mentioning that it is more than half as long as he has been alive. But what does it say about the culture of the NFL that it took so long for a player to feel comfortable coming out, that this still felt like an earthquake.
“Bro, this dude’s a bad MF-er,” McVay said of Stafford. “Whatever people say about him, as good as it can be, he’s even better than advertised. It makes sense to him. The guy’s ability to see the game, his ability to draw on his experiences, the feel that he has, it’s pretty special and unique. And man, his feel for people, his authentic way of connecting with his teammates, his coaches, this guy, it’s great being around him.”
6 - Rashod Bateman
Draft pick: Round 1, No. 27 overall
Ravens wideouts only logged 41 receptions of 10-plus air yards last season, as well as just 78 catches for 952 receiving yards when aligned out wide — all NFL lows, per Next Gen Stats. (Baltimore was the only team to earn fewer than 1,200 yards from wide alignments.) Route-running precision is a metric my model values more than most, and Bateman thrives in this area, especially when aligned on the outside. I’ve found that route-running precision leading to separation in college typically plays well in the NFL. Over the past two seasons in the FBS, Bateman ranked No. 3 among wide receivers in terms of route-running efficiency (as measured by reliable timing and the ability to create separation) on routes run from outside alignment. Pro Football Focus adds additional context here: Over the past two seasons when it came to intermediate targets (10-19 air yards), Bateman ranked second in the FBS with 44 catches and third with 697 yards. The only reason he ranks sixth on this list is the volume of rushing plays the Ravens are still likely to run.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
As I noted last time, one of the reasons the Brown deal was so good for the Chiefs was that it gave them the freedom to address other needs in the draft. Humphrey — taken with the 63rd overall pick in the second round — has seemed like the obvious starter right from the moment he was drafted.
Since then, the perception has only grown stronger. In my second projection — just days after he was drafted — I said it was “his job to lose.” Now it seems clear that it is simply his job. Only the fact that he is a rookie gives this any uncertainty.
And as you’ll see, that leads us to the last two positions on the line.
A tweet to make you think
Air Tyreek— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) June 21, 2021
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