Chiefs' defense ends offseason program in style
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Matt Cassel misfired on a couple of throws, and the Kansas City defense stuffed the offense during a mock 2-minute drill that ended with a missed field goal Thursday -- an ominous conclusion to the Chiefs' mandatory three-day minicamp.
Unless, of course, you were wearing the red jerseys of the defense.
"Hey, offense sells tickets, they win games, but defense wins championships," said former Oakland Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt, who signed with the Chiefs in the offseason. "That's the way football's always been."
The haphazard performance by the Chiefs' offense on a steamy June morning notwithstanding, coach Romeo Crennel said he was pleased with Kansas City's entire offseason program.
The Chiefs had near-perfect attendance during voluntary workouts, with the only significant player absent for the duration being wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. He has yet to sign his franchise tender, which means he was also exempt from the mandatory minicamp.
The flotilla of guys who missed nearly all of last season due to injury appeared to have made headway in their rehab. Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry missed minicamp due to family issues, but tight end Tony Moeaki and All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles were itching to get back on the field.
All three of them tore the ACL in their left knee by Week 2 last year.
Linebacker Brandon Siler didn't even make it that far -- he tore his Achilles tendon during training camp. But even he was able to participate almost fully in offseason workouts.
"I feel like we've made progress during the offseason," said Crennel, who took over for the fired Todd Haley on an interim basis last season, and then was given the full-time job.
"I'm encouraged by the installation of the offense, installation of the special teams, and defensively we looked at some things we don't normally do, so I was encouraged there."
The Chiefs made plenty of headway in learning the system run by new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, even though more than one player acknowledged during offseason workouts that their "head was spinning" trying to pick up the terminology and scheme.
Fortunately for the rookies, they at least had that opportunity this year.
The group of players coming out of last year's draft were basically handed a playbook and sent on their way because of the NFL lockout. In many cases, they arrived at camp in August and were out of shape physically or grossly behind in learning their team's system.
Sometimes they were both.
"I had these guys around me helping me out, so it wasn't bad for me," said defensive tackle Dontari Poe, the Chiefs' first-round draft pick. "You just come in here the first couple days and it was a lot to go in, let alone go out there in full pads for full-on training camp.
"I'm glad I'm coming in a year after the lockout."
The lockout may have set back last year's crop of rookies, but wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin -- the Chiefs' first-round pick in 2011 -- appeared to have caught up during minicamp.
Baldwin got off to a slow start after hurting his hand during a locker-room incident with departed running back Thomas Jones. But he came on late in the year, and has showed over the past few weeks the playmaking potential the Chiefs saw out of him in college.
It's helped his cause that Bowe remains a no-show.
Baldwin took virtually every snap with the first-team offense while Bowe waits to sign his tender. Bowe has said he'll be on the field when Kansas City reports to camp in St. Joseph, Mo., late next month, but he's already fallen behind in learning the new offense.
Make no mistake, Bowe provides the big-play potential that the Kansas City offense could have used during its mock 2-minute drill at the conclusion of Thursday's practice.
Even though players weren't wearing pads, they were still going close to full speed, giving the first real glimpse at how things are shaping up for next season. Cassel was off target on a few throws, and the defense managed to blanket Baldwin and wide receiver Steve Breaston.
When kicker Ryan Succop trotted onto the field, he yanked his attempt wide left.
The backup offense fared little better behind quarterback Ricky Stanzi. His completion to rookie wide receiver Aaron Weaver resulted in Weaver being tackled in bounds, and the game clock expiring before the offense could get off another play.
A disappointing way to end an otherwise successful offseason program? Only if you're looking at things from the offensive side of the ball.
"That's what the game is all about. Somebody has to leave here that way," Breaston said. "At the end of the season our defense was one of the best out there, so I hope they do that every game this year. We'll be all right."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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