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Heartland Health Practice Report: Monday

Posted Aug 2, 2010

The grind of training camp kicked in with another set of two-a-days on Monday. How did the Chiefs respond?

In terms of the training camp schedule, Monday presented a big test for the Chiefs. With four practices under the belt and a second session of two-a-days on the horizon, Monday officially marked the beginning of the grind. Bodies are beginning to tire, it’s hot outside and the days seem to be getting longer. Human nature alone generally calls for a step back.

“It’s hard,” LB Derrick Johnson said of the heat. “It’s definitely time to grind.”

For the Chiefs, charging through Monday’s double-day is the next step in progression forward. Through one practice, head coach Todd Haley likes what he sees.

“I am having fun as a head coach,” Haley said. “What makes it fun when you’re a head coach is when you come outside on a 95 degree day and guys are grinding to go and it’s not like pulling teeth. That’s what I’m excited about.”

To LB Demorrio Williams, it’s all the same. He, like so many of the Chiefs, is just aiming for the next level.

“Whether you practice once a day, or you practice twice a day, it really doesn’t matter,” LB Demorrio Williams said. “This is what it’s all about.”

We’ll see how the team responds in practice number six later this evening.

Practice Inactives

G Brian Waters

OLB Pierre Walters

DB Maurice Leggett

S Jarrad Page

Waters continues to ride an exercise bike during practice sessions in St. Joseph. Once again, he was joined in workout gear by Walters. The two were on the only Chiefs in the “rehab zone.”

DB Maurice Leggett was off the field in the morning session and head coach Todd Haley didn’t elaborate on the circumstances. Leggett had been practicing in-full at cornerback and was also active in special teams drills during the first four practices of camp.

Page remains absent from camp altogether.

Feeding Off Competition

Coaches often point to increased levels of competition as the perfect formula for bringing out the best in their players. For the Chiefs, there’s no better example of this than veteran linebackers Corey Mays, Demorrio Williams and Derrick Johnson.

The trio have been feeding off one another early this camp, often racing each other from drill to drill. Today, all three players raced to be the first at bag drills after the full squad broke from pre-practice stretching. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel gave chase with words of encouragement to help fuel the competition and effort levels – “Who’s going to be the leader? Who’s going to lead?

The fight for starting jobs at inside linebacker is believed to be one of the fiercest of training camp. According to Johnson, each of the men vying for starting duties have been told that it’s still anyone’s game.

“My plan is to always be a starter, even last year that was my mindset,” Johnson said. “That’s never changed. We’re mixing up first and second team right now. Coach is saying that it’s an open competition and I’m loving it. That’s right up my alley and it’s just brining the competitive edge out of everybody.”

Hear more from both Johnson and Williams tonight on Training Camp LIVE!

Speaking of the Linebackers…

It’s getting clearer as to why the Chiefs 9-on-7 inside run drill is now a must-watch period of camp practices. As we’ve noted in the opening practices of camp, this drill is providing the most thumps at the line of scrimmage and are generally some of the most competitive plays of practice sessions as a whole.

“As a linebacker, (stopping the run) is the number one thing to do,” Williams said. “We have to come out and stop the run, so that’s what we’ve been focusing on as inside guys – stopping the run and making plays.”

All the linebackers, both inside and outside, have taken a blue-collar approach to improving the club’s run game. As a whole, run defense was one of the Chiefs biggest weaknesses in 2009.

Lawrence Working Extra

Second-year WR Quinten Lawrence missed a handful of the 2010 off-season program (on-field portion) due to injury rehabilitation, but received plenty of praise from Haley during the process; most notably for his toughness and work ethic in 2009. Since camp has opened, Lawrence has been back at full speed and become a special team’s madman in the process.

Lawrence reppped with the first-team kickoff unit today, just one practice after taking the first reps at gunner on the Chiefs punt team. He’s also been active in plenty of other special teams drills as well.

Players like Terrance Copper, Andy Studebaker, Pierre Walters and Jovan Belcher received extensive special  teams action in the preseason a year ago. It will be interesting to see which players on the roster will make their case for 53 on special teams this preseason. The opportunity to showcase has already begun.

Plays of the Day

Two nice offensive plays highlighted Monday’s morning session.

QB Matt Cassel hit WR Dexter McCluster in stride on a crossing route. The play showed positive signs of the two becoming familiar with one another timing-wise.

During the team’s competitive period, the Chiefs offense worked on “coming out” plays. These are scenarios when the offense is backed up and trying to stay on the field with a first down. With the second-team offense, QB Brodie Croyle made a nice throw to rookie TE Cody Slate from the offense’s own one-yard line. It was a key play, giving the circumstances of the mocked gameday setting.

 

AFTERNOON PRACTICE UPDATE

The most noteworthy snippet from the afternoon sessions was in the way that Todd Haley chose to conclude the day. After what definitely seemed like hottest practice of camp, Haley finished off the second practice with a competitive two-minute period between the offense and the defense.

Why was this noteworthy?

It fit the overall theme of the day in general. After a grueling two-practice day in the sun, the Chiefs were put in a situation designed to test them mentally as they drained physically. With the weather and the training camp schedule, the setting of today’s two-minute drill was about as close as you can get to mocking the fourth quarter of a regular season game. Something tells me that this wasn’t scheduled by accident.

So how did it turn out?

Matt Cassel started out fast, connecting on his first three throws; two medium gains to Dexter McCluster and one 15-yarder to Chris Chambers. But as the offense started to drive, the Chiefs first-team defense came up with the play of the day.

Facing a fourth-and-two, Cassel looked to fire his pass to a receiver sitting open across the middle. As Cassel delivered the football, Eric Berry broke from his safety position, dove in front of the receiver and swatted the football to the ground. An animated Romeo Crennel cheered on the defense as they celebrated along with Berry.

The play was a great read and an even better break to the football by Berry. Hopefully there is plenty more of that to come.

Linebackers in the Nickel Defense

The Chiefs are showing a number of personnel looks with their linebackers In the nickel defense as they search for the best combination to enter the regular season. Mike Vrabel has taken a few reps at inside linebacker, much as he did this spring (in nickel sets only) and Andy Studebaker has gotten some first-team reps in team portions towards the end of practices.

There are a lot of moving parts right now and it’s impossible to tell who the Chiefs prefer at a number of positions, but linebacker personnel in the nickel is at least something to keep an eye on once the preseason games get here (August 13th is sneaking up on us).

Other Notable Plays in the Afternoon

  • WR Terrance Copper had an excellent catch on a corner route to get in the end zone. QB Brodie Croyle delivered the ball to a place that only Copper could reach.
  • TE Tony Moeaki showed off his athleticism once again in one-on-one coverage drills with the linebackers. Moeaki got past OLB Tamba Hali and made an outstretched, over the shoulder, catch in stride. He even bobbled the ball once during the full extension before hauling it in and keeping balance.
  • WR Dexter McCluster showed his quickness as he turned the corner after a catch in the flats. He circled a would-be tackler on the play and outraced the rest of the defensive pursuit to the front right pylon.
  • S Donald Washington laid a solid hit on McCluster in the flats to break up a pass. Washington definitely had a nose for the football on the play.
  • WR Rich Gunnell showed why he was Boston College’s career receiving leader when he boxed out two taller defenders – Washignton and CB Travis Daniels – to haul in a deep pass near the goal line.

Tomorrow we are back to just one practice a day with the team scheduled to take the field at 1:50 PM.

*Please note that Wednesday’s morning session has been moved indoors and is closed to the public. However, Wednesday evening will provide a practice that you won’t want to miss as Spratt Stadium will host the Chiefs first night practice of training camp. “Voice of the Chiefs” Mitch Holthus will handle in the in-practice PA.

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