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Camp Notebook: Abram Elam helps expand defensive options

Posted Aug 14, 2012

Training Camp Notebook Presented by Heartland Health

St. Joseph, Mo. – Abram Elam made a good first impression in the Chiefs preseason opener, but the play of the seventh-year pro could make Kansas City’s defense more dangerous over the long-haul.

The Chiefs aligned in a familiar third-down look when Elam recorded a second quarter interception off Arizona quarterback John Skelton.

Romeo Crennel had six defensive backs in the game for the third-and-long snap, but Eric Berry wasn’t playing safety.

Kansas City’s most versatile defender lined up at linebacker level.

Elam’s veteran presence has allowed the Chiefs to expand Berry’s defensive reach. At linebacker level Berry essentially has a license to create havoc. He can blitz, play the run as an inside-the-box defender or drop into pass coverage.

Berry’s duty on Elam’s interception called for a zone pass drop.

“I was just reading my keys and saw the quarterback scramble while I was playing my deep part of the field,” Elam remembered of the play. “I was able to make a good break on the ball and got some solid blocks from my teammates. I was trying to take it all the way back to the end zone.”

Berry was one of the teammates who threw a block during Elam’s 37-yard interception return. The pick helped setup a field goal drive that gave Kansas City a 17-0 first half lead.

Crennel showed the defensive look several times against Arizona with Berry roving the middle and Elam playing alongside Kendrick Lewis overtop. Jon McGraw, who remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent, typically played the sub-package look at linebacker level over the past two seasons.

“My role is still a work in progress,” Elam said. “I’ve done a good job working with the guys and coaches have done a good job getting me ready. It really is exciting. I just need to continue to work and continue to improve as the preseason moves forward.”

Elam’s addition currently looks like of the more underrated signings of the Chiefs offseason. A 16-game starter for Dallas last year, Elam has looked comfortable working with Berry and Lewis since arriving in early June.

He can also play both safety positions, which is significant considering the Chiefs saw six different players start at strong or free safety last season.

“I’m just trying to take advantage of my opportunity and fit into whichever role I’m playing at that moment,” Elam said. “Wherever I’m asked to go in, I’m definitely going to go out there and give it my best.”

Jalil Brown has also seen looks as a hybrid sixth defense back in training camp, but he’s currently getting looks as an outside cornerback with Brandon Flowers nursing a foot injury. The six defensive backs on the field for Elam’s interception featured Elam, Berry, Lewis, Brown, Javier Arenas and Stanford Routt.

“Our secondary has a nice nucleolus of guys who are athletic and can play multiple positions,” Elam said. “That will only make our defense more dangerous.”

Gray nursing hamstring issue

Chiefs sixth-round draft pick Cyrus Gray enters the second week of preseason play as the AFC’s leading rusher, but he might not get an opportunity to add to his rushing total this weekend.

Gray pulled up with a hamstring issue during Monday’s practice and did not take part in Tuesday’s morning walk-thru or afternoon practice. Coach Romeo Crennel says the Chiefs will monitor Gray’s progress leading into to Saturday’s second preseason game in St. Louis.

“We’ll work on that and bring him along,” Crennel said.

Gray rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown in Kansas City’s preseason opener against Arizona. Most of his damage came in the second half when he gained 56 yards on 13 carries and delivered a fourth quarter score that put the Chiefs up  by 17 points.

“I got a lot of confidence in that first game and I needed that,” Gray said. “Sometimes in training camp you don’t have good practices, so you have to stack the good ones when they happen. I had an alright game, so I’m looking forward to building on that performance as we move forward.”

The rookie out of Texas A&M was sidelined with a hamstring issue earlier this offseason as well. He missed roughly two weeks of OTA practices before returning to the field.

AFC Preseason Rushing Leaders (Through August 13th)

Rank

Player

Team

Rush

Yds

Avg.

Lg

TD

1

Cyrus Gray

KC

15

65

4.3

13

1

2

Shane Vereen

NE

11

64

5.8

18

0

3

Rashad Jennings

JAX

12

56

4.7

17

0

4

Tyrod Taylor

BAL

5

51

10.2

18

0

Keith Toston

JAX

5

51

10.2

32

1

 

Take Five: Quick Hitters from Tuesday’s Practice

1. It’s now been two weeks since Brandon Flowers last practiced. Flowers has tested his injured foot multiple times over the past week and even arrived at last Tuesday’s joint practice with the Cardinals in full pads. Still, he’s yet to fully re-take the field.

“Tomorrow if he doesn’t do anything then you can probably rule him out (vs. St. Louis),” Crennel said. “Because if you don’t practice it’s hard to put you into the game because I think at that time we might be exposing him to more injury risk. So if you don’t practice it’s hard to play you.”

2. A decision on this weekend’s second quarterback will come on Wednesday. Brady Quinn worked with the second-team offense in last Friday’s preseason opener with Ricky Stanzi filling in with the third unit. Quinn finished his Chiefs debut completing seven of 13 passes for 81 yards with an interception. Stanzi was two of seven passing for 42 yards.

Quinn worked with the second offensive grouping throughout practice on Tuesday.

3. Rookie receiver Junior Hemingway is getting closer to returning from a groin injury. The seventh-round pick worked on the sidelines in full pads during Tuesday’s practice. Other injured players include Flowers, Gray, linebacker Cameron Sheffield (groin), defensive back Travis Daniels (groin) and defensive lineman Ethan Johnson (head). Franchised receiver Dwayne Bowe remains away from training camp as well.

4.  There was a trick shot competition during the morning walk-thru and guess who hit the crossbar with his throw…YouTube sensation Alex Tanney. He was the only quarterback to connect on his attempt from 25 yards away.

Next, all four quarterbacks threw at the port-a-potty situated 10 yards behind the goal post in the corner of the far field. They were joined by RB Peyton Hillis, WRs Steve Breaston (a former high school quarterback) and Jonathan Baldwin, as well as offensive linemen Ryan Lilja, and Eric Winston. All four of the quarterbacks hit the target, but none of the other players did.

5.  Running back Shaun Draughn continued his strong camp with several strong runs during 11-on-11 work. He rotated into reps with the first-team offense and opened team drills with an impressive cutback run.