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June 18, 2005

WR or DT? (UPDATED) « Kansas City Chiefs »

UPDATE: ...and the Chiefs sign Freddie Mitchell. It's the right move.

Payzone asks a good question in the comments to this post: Now that Az-Zahir Hakim decided to go to the New Orleans Saints (although he reached an agreement with the Chiefs, he had not yet signed the contract), should the Chiefs go after a WR or a DT?

I'd have to say: In a perfect world, you would go for a DT.

Both areas are potential weak spots, true.

However, from the reports, it looks like...

they've decided to open talks with Freddie Mitchell again. That doesn't mean the coaches disagree with me as much as it means that you have to work with the opportunities you have, not the ones you want. If there were a good DT on the market who could be had for the veteran minimum, I think KC would be in contract negotiations. There are no DTs on the market of the same caliber as Mitchell right now.

The problem at DT is that we have no obvious top-tier players (much less anyone pushing for a pro-bowl slot). Lionel Dalton (despite playing well last year) is aging and historically has been only journeyman level. Ryan Sims has never played to his potential and is on the verge of being a bust. John Browning is decent, and has the additional strength of being able to play every position along the DL, but isn't really starter quality. Unless Ryan Sims finally steps up this year, the best prospect KC has at DT is Junior Siavii, a player who showed flashes of dominance last year as a rookie. He missed the mini-camp last year due to Oregon's late graduation date, and was injured later in the season by a Denver Bronco cheap shot. Normal progression would indicate he should be at least a solid starter this year. But "normal progression" indicated Ryan Sims should have played in two pro-bowls by now, so I don't like to trust that idea. Maybe improved play by the DEs and LBs will mean that we mainly just need bodies to occupy blockers at the DT position? I don't know. I'm worried about being soft against up-the-gut, line-plunge runs by big backs. DT is the one position KC hasn't addressed in any way...sure, you can't take care of everything, and DT may be the least vital position. Here's hoping.

The problem at WR is that we haven't had a true #1 WR, a go-to guy, for years.

Johnnie Morton was supposed to be that for us...but never really got there. He eventually became a pretty good 3rd-down receiver who moved the chains (reminding me somewhat of Henry Ellard), but his drops, lack of speed, and inability to make defenders pay for triple-teaming Tony Gonzales on 1st and 2nd down made him expendable for his salary levels, and he refused to restructure.

Kennison is excellent. He's got speed, and has decent hands and runs decent routes. But he's not that tall, and as has been pointed out, he doesn't make the tough catch. He's often a non-factor on many plays, and like Morton, isn't enough of a threat to make teams pay for focusing on Gonzales. And yet he still got 1000+ yards last year. Imagine what he could do if paired with a true #1 receiver!

Now, the problem isn't that we don't have other talent. The problem is we don't know what we have. We have a few candidates for #1

Mark Boerigter looked ready to take over the #1 spot last year, before being sidelined with a knee injury. Tall, strong, fast, he had 8 TDs as a rookie on only 20 catches! But is he fully recovered from his injury? Or will a year of rust cause him to revert to his 2nd-year level, in which he had no TDs on only 11 catches?

Samie Parker came on strong at the end of last year. He's got speed, runs crisp routes, and makes tough catches, even over the middle. But he's a little short (5'11"), and has only NFL catches.

Craphonso Thorpe is tall, fast, and good hands, but is coming off of a disappointing senior season after recovering from a badly-broken leg...but is that due to a reduction in his ability or sub-par QBs? Even if the latter, can he get used to NFL speed quickly enough to contribute this season? If he can contribute, could he become a starter? If he becomes a starter, can he become a true #1? That seems too much to ask.

I'm still a fan of Chris Horn, but despite developing, he's unlikely to rise higher than #3 or #4 on the depth chart. Richard Smith is still improving, but from an undrafted Rookie FA, #3 is about the highest that could be expected. Jerys MacIntyre apparently blossomed in NFL-E, and John Booth also did well, but coming from the NFL's minor league, I doubt they can be any better than a #3 WR. Nathaniel Curry is apparently tearing things up in OTAs and Training Camp, but as another undrafted Rookie FA, he'll be lucky to make the team. Dante Hall is the classic #3 WR, but they want to limit his snaps.

Add all that up, and it means we have two #2 WRs (Kennison and Parker), a couple potential #1s that will probably perform as #2s at best (Boerigter and Thorpe), and a whole host of guys trying to win the #3 or #4 post.

The thing I find intriguing about Freddie Mitchell is that he was a first-round draft choice who never met his potential. But he was playing with a QB who wasn't necessarily the classic pocket passer with pin-point accuracy (like Trent Green is). McNabb is obviously quite good, but won games with his ability to innovate, scramble, and make stuff happen himself, not necessarily helping his WRs excel. Mitchell may blossom in a different situation, with a coach like Vermeil (who can resurrect careers if the player is committed) and a QB like Green. If he signs, and if he blossoms in the new environment, he has the talent to be a true #1, someone who can win games almost by himself. If the Chiefs can get him at the veteran minimum, it's worth the gamble to shore up one possible weakness. But if they don't get him, there is enough developing talent on the team that I'm not that worried. And Kris Wilson is probably the talent that's going to punish opponents for keying on TG, anyway, not the WRs.

Bottom line: Freddie Mitchell is the best player available at the best price. Even if DT is a more pressing need than WR, you work with what's available. And that's Freddie Mitchell right now.

Posted by Nathan at 11:40 AM | Comments (5)

I feel confident in Mitchell. As you mentioned, he is a legit, number one wide out.
But it seems we have another problem on our hands. Julian Battle suffered a torn achilles heel today. An MRI is slated for Sunday but DV did not sound optimistic about his availability to the team in the near future. So, dare I mention the two words that I have maintained my refusal to acknowlede, Ty Law.
Warfield will more than likely face at least a two game suspension, probably four. We have been grooming Wesley for his absence with the first string and he is progressing nicely, but my concern now is depth at corner for the first quarter of the season. We cannot start out like last season. If we do we may be lucky to end up 8-8, imo.
Law has suffered a much more serious injury to his foot than most people realize. In fact many speculate that he may not play this year, and possibly never again.

My question is, how serious are we with Law? This afternnon it was reported that the Chiefs have contacted Laws agent (Poston?) to schedule another meeting early this next week.

Can we afford him?
Will he play this year?
Will he require a second surgery for this lesnacic (or whatever) fracture?
Is Law just looking for a confortable retirement plan, and the team that signs him to a big fact contract take it in the shorts?

I have my doubts with Ty Law, as you can probably tell.

Speaking with a Chiefs official at mini-camp on Saturday, Kansas City has been in contact with Law and are hoping to have him in town as early as next week.

Posted by: Warpaint at June 18, 2005 08:40 PM

wow! every thing both of you guys said is completely true. finally i have found some people in KC that totally understand the KC Chiefs. but vermiel had said julian battle was most likely to be the starter for the season. that really suprised me. but its obvious battle has been practicing and trying hard to become the starter and for an injury like this that could possibly be serious, its not a good thing at all. i couldnt tell if it was a serious injury or not, but i could tell that coach vermiel was very upset about it. and as far as Ty Law goes, it would be great if Kansas city could get him, but i dont feel that they have enough money to get him. i think they just spent the last of it on freddie mitchell. but know doubt about it if eric warfield,dexter mcleon,and benny sapp cant fill in julian battles shoes then they should try to pursue Ty Law. that would mean Superbowl expericence on BOTH sides of the football(freddie mitchell and Ty Law)

Posted by: Mike at June 19, 2005 10:24 AM

Good post Mike. Nathan knows his Chiefs alright.

Back to Hakim for a minute; looks like the Chiefs org may be in hot water for letting him practice the other day. I doesn't make much sense to my why they would be, but:

Stranger than the fact that receiver Az Hakim spurned the Chiefs in favor of the Saints is the fact that Hakim actually practiced with Kansas City on Wednesday.
Although the quotes and quips flowing from Hakim's presence for the Chiefs' final involuntary voluntary session of the offseason clearly indicated that Hakim was now a member of the team, he hadn't actually signed a contract yet.
So what was he doing on the practice field?
Per a league source, a player who is not under contract cannot practice with the team. The only exception applies where the player participates on a tryout basis, with league approval.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs have replaced Hakim with former Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell.

Posted by: Warpaint at June 19, 2005 04:12 PM

Battle out for season:

This is not good for our CB depth department. Should we be looking for a FA CB like Buckley or Beasley? We can't afford Law so thats a waste of breath. Even if we could, I'm leary.
Can we rely on Sapp, Harts, Pile, and Wesley? Will Bartee's transition to safety or nickel be a successful one?
Will Wesleys transition to corner be a successful one?

I dont really know what to think. This season ending injury to Battle is bad timing.

Posted by: Warpaint at June 19, 2005 09:55 PM

Well, there's alot about the Chiefs I still don't know, being stuck out here in Hawaii and having to try and figure out anything I can from the bits I glean from the KC Star Online and

For instance, I'm a little confused about discussing Harts, Pile and Wesley in reference to Battle's injury. Those are all safeties. I could see maybe trying Wesley out at CB because he's got decent range...but he's got decent range for a safety, and the last thing I'd heard is that he has the inside track over woods for the starting safety spot opposite Knight.

That's one of the problems of not being in the area and able to go see all the practices myself...Oh, how I wish I knew how to jump into writing full-time! [grin]

To tell the truth, I'd already pretty much written off Battle in my book. Apparently that was premature, as he was finally coming on strong this off-season. The light clicked on, and his tendon snapped. That does suck.

But we can hope that Warfield gets a light sentence and misses only two or zero games...

But whether he's out for two or four, his absence highlights that we're only an injury away from being in that boat for the rest of the season.

Here's what I think (keeping in mind that I haven't seen any of the practices):
McLeon had more than a season of success at CB. Bartee has had a few good games at CB. Benny Sapp didn't make any glaring errors that I saw when he came in as the nickel or dime last season, and he's got another off-season in the system.

Bartee: covers fine, hits fine. Weakness: defending the actual ball.
McLeon: A little slow, but smart enough to be in position. Biggest weakness: short, combined with slowness makes him a target.
Sapp: short, inexperienced. But he's got good instincts. Again, makes a good target if you've got experienced WRs and a good QB.

Obviously, none is the long-term answer. But it seems to me that all could perform adequately in the short-term (i.e. 2 games).

Furthermore, despite being nearly the worst in the league in passing yards allowed over the last few seasons, the problem wasn't really the cornerbacks. It was that the front seven couldn't get much pressure on the opposing QB, and the front seven couldn't shut down the run well enough to minimize the effect of run-fakes. And then Woods started allowing plays that a decent safety should stop (going for the ball instead of the tackle) and the play from the safeties alone lost two games for us (the Saints and the Texans, as I remember it).
So improved play from the safety position, the LBs, and the DL should help protect our CBs.

And that's not even including Alphonso Hodge, who has been doing quite well, from what I've heard. Even in college, he was a good shut-down corner. He didn't get drafted because he didn't make interceptions and was a little weak in run support and maybe too many teams were afraid he couldn't make the transition to the NFL. But reports from the OTAs were he succeeded at everything the coaches asked him to do, and was impressing people with his body control, speed, and fluidity. If he can shut down his player, who cares if he doesn't get interceptions? If the front seven can tackle securely, it doesn't matter if he shies away from contact. If he gets a chance to start two games, there's always the chance he performs well enough that Warfield doesn't get his spot back.

Bottom Line: while you always want a player of Warfield's talent in the game, the improved front 7, more players that fit Gunther's scheme, another year in Gunther's system, and a rotation of existing CBs of near-starter level (Hodge, Bartee, McLeon, and Sapp) should be enough to get it done until Warfield gets back, without having to sign another CB.
I still would prefer a starter-quality DT, myself.

Posted by: Nathan at June 19, 2005 11:29 PM
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