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Insider Blog: First Steps For September

Posted Jun 17, 2010

Some players may have strengthened their roster positions during the off-season program

Football without pads doesn’t exactly offer the optimal environment for evaluating a violent game. OTAs and off-season mini-camps in the NFL are what they are. Some consider the sessions no more than glorified flag football games with the time restrictions and physical limitations set in place by the NFL and the NFLPA.

Regardless, OTAs are still important for a number of reasons and players do find opportunities to start separating themselves apart from the competition. The ballgame will change in just six weeks, but there were a group of players who looked like they strengthened their positioning over the on-field portion of the Chiefs off-season program.

Think of the off-season as a tryout, training camp as preparation and pre-season games as a dress rehearsal. When September rolls around, we’ll go live with the best. After the “tryout” portion of 2010, these were the noteworthy performers.

CB Travis Daniels – 6-1, 195

Before OTAs: A veteran in the shadows, Daniels played the role of the third and fourth cornerback during parts of the 2009 season. He originally didn’t’ make the team out of training camp, but was brought back in early November after Jarrad Page was placed on injured reserve. With the addition of Javier Arenas this off-season, Daniels faces plenty of competition around him to continue his role as a reserve.

During OTAs: Daniels was not only one of the biggest surprise of OTAs and mini-camp, but he was also one of the biggest standouts. A role player throughout his six years in the league, Daniels looked like much more in these non-padded workouts. He picked off passes on what seemed like a daily basis and performed well in one-on-one matchups against the best that the Chiefs had to offer. By the end of mini-camp, Daniels was rewarded with first team repetitions at cornerback.

After OTAs: As far as roster battles go, nothing changes for Daniels. He’s still fighting for a roster spot in the midst of one of the most competitive position groups on the Chiefs roster. At the end of the day the Chiefs will keep more than three cornerbacks, but there are a number of players vying for a role. If Daniels can carry this momentum with him throughout training camp, he’s going to be a tough out.

Haley Says: “There are a lot of areas that I'm encouraged about but I think our secondary, to this point, and one of our best players hasn't been out there (Brandon Flowers).”

LB Derrick Johnson – 6-3, 242

Before OTAs: DJ made it perfectly clear he didn’t want to perform the situational role that he occupied in 2009. He sees himself as a starter and was vocal during the off-season about his intentions. His 2010 debut in Denver was the best single-game performance of his career, but what would it carry over when the Chiefs hit the practice field four months later?

During OTAs: Johnson was a full-time participant in Kansas City’s off-season program. When the Chiefs first hit the practice field, Corey Mays and Demorrio Williams occupied the starting roles at inside linebacker, but the Chiefs coaching staff would soon mix and match Johnson and Jovan Belcher with the first team as well. In Johnson’s off-season debut with the first-team defense, he picked up right where he left off; with an interception on the third play from scrimmage.

After OTAs: Johnson doesn’t have a starting position locked up. The fight for roles among inside linebackers will be a battle that runs deep into training camp. Regardless, Johnson is in a much better position than he stood a year ago and he is much closer to meeting his goals as a result.

Haley Says: “He is invested fully. He has been in here, he has stepped it up and he knows he has to be better for us to be better so he is working hard.”

TE Tony Moeaki – 6-3, 252

Before OTAs: The Chiefs traded up to grab the ultra-athletic tight end at the close of the third round in April’s draft. Moeaki reported to rookie mini-camp and immediately showed why the Chiefs chose to move up to select him. Would he have the same success when he mixed in with veterans?

During OTAs: Moeaki was one of the biggest disappointments of OTAs for the first 10 practices, simply because he wasn’t on the field. Injury or not, working on the sidelines wasn’t what people wanted to see from a player who struggled throughout college with his health. But when Moeaki returned to team activities in last weekend’s mini-camp he was an instant standout. On back-to-back days Moeaki turned in the catch of the day and had his teammates celebrating alongside him.

After OTAs: After just a three-day period of work, Moeaki has proven that he has the both the best hands and the most ability to create mismatches among the players in his position group. Putting on pads will yield a lot more info on Moeaki…

1) Can he stay healthy?

2) Will he make those same catches with the threat of contact?

3) How is his physicality in blocking at the line of scrimmage?

Haley Says: “Tony, much like what has me encouraged with all of these young guys, there is not one of them that has been put in a different class than any of the others and he is right in that group. Of all these young guys, they have a good look; they all have ability there is no doubt about that. They have a good demeanor about them and a quiet confidence. They have been able to overcome setbacks without too much hoopla and I think those are good signs.”

RB Kestahn Moore – 5-10, 214

Before OTAs: We didn’t know much about Moore heading into OTAs. He was a late addition to the Chiefs practice squad in 2009 and quietly went about his business in non-game situations. The first-year player signed a future contract shortly after the close of the regular season that would give him a chance to continue his development in the off-season.

During OTAs: Moore showed explosive bursts and good hands out of the backfield while working in a reserve role behind Thomas Jones this off-season. With Jamaal Charles sitting out of workouts, Moore received extra touches and looked like he made the best of them. He was a noticeable player on a daily basis.

After OTAs: Behind Jones and Charles are a number of runners trying to find their way onto a roster with limited spots at the position. Moore is still one of those players, although he does have one less runner to compete with following the release of Kolby Smith. Moore can become more than just a pleasant surprise if he displays the same speed and power with the pads as he did without the pads.

Haley Say: “Thomas Jones, you can’t work any harder than this guy and he has this young Kestahn Moore who is following him around non-stop. You can’t look at Thomas without Kestahn being somewhere close by, it is guaranteed. It may be five feet but it is close and that is good. Thomas is trying to get this guy better, a guy that, who knows, could be the next Walter Payton.”

QB Tyler Palko – 6’2, 215

Before OTAs: The new quarterback in town, Palko joined the Chiefs shortly before the start of free agency. The opening of unrestricted free agency didn’t apply to him, because he didn’t have a job to end the 2009 season. Palko had been signed and cut by three teams in three years, yet to take a regular season snap. He came into OTA work as the fourth arm in the position group.

During OTAs: The southpaw got a chance to show his stuff with increased repetitions when Brodie Croyle suffered a minor hand injury midway through OTAs. During Croyle’s absence, Palko received the majority of the second-team repetitions and looked to gain an edge on incumbent third quarterback Matt Gutierrez.

After OTAs: Palko made enough plays in practice that the Chiefs felt comfortable in handing him the duties of third quarterback for the time being. A year ago the Chiefs carried four quarterbacks to camp and that could still happen, but for now Palko looks to have punched a ticket to training camp with the release of Gutierrez earlier this week.

Haley Says: “I think that Tyler has a chance. He comes from a football background, he is energetic and he has been around some really good quarterbacks in the years following school.”

WR Jerheme Urban – 6-3, 207

Before OTAs: An addition via unrestricted free agency, Urban was in line to compete for an opportunity of everyday offensive work for the first time in his six-year career.

During OTAs: Urban had a lousy first week of practice. He dropped passes and, self-admittedly, was trying to do too much on the field. After Memorial Day, however, something clicked. Urban came back like a new man, catching pass after pass and finding the end zone on a consistent basis. In the process, he became a favorite of Matt Cassel on mid-level routes.

After OTAs: Urban looks to be in line for the most extensive action of his career. If he’s not in the Chiefs game plan once the regular season rolls around, something will have to take a downturn in training camp and/or the preseason. Urban left OTAs as one of the Chiefs most reliable targets.

Haley Says: “I think he gets pigeon-holed in this possession-type role, at least some of the things I’ve heard or even talking to him. What Jerheme can do is run. He’s big and fast and can stretch the field and you can’t have enough of those guys and he’s a guy at least he’s proven to me that he’ll do anything asked of him on special teams to give him a chance to help us.”

Honorable Mention: T Branden Albert, CB Javier Arenas, QB Matt Cassel, RB Tim Castille, WR Chris Chambers, DE Glenn Dorsey, S Kendrick Lewis, WR Dexter McCluster, K Ryan Succop

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