Mankato Thoughts


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Jan 22, 2006
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Mankato Thoughts
Aug 05, 2006, 12:06:05 PM by Bob Gretz - FAQ

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MANKATO, MN – For the first time in recent memory, the Chiefs left here Friday evening without hard feelings, harsh words or major injuries. They returned to River Falls with a couple of hours of practice under their belt against the Vikings and plenty of tape to review.

This is the way these sessions should go. But recent history between these teams has included trading cheap shots and verbal jabs. Edwards told the Chiefs he did not want to see any of that. This team was listening, because there were no incidents. There were a couple of moments that could have turned into something more, but both teams walked away from escalating the confrontations.

So there’s only football to talk about out of Mankato … how refreshing. The Chiefs looked strong in some areas, had their problems in others, but generally put together a good evening against the Vikings.

The star of the night was the Chiefs fans who turned out in force for this event unlike any other visit to Mankato. Crowd estimates ranged from 2,500 to 2,700 and it was at least 45 to 50 percent of those in attendance were wearing red. They were loud and apparently having their own training camp for the 2006 season at Arrowhead.

Most of my time was spent watching the defense and there were plenty of hopeful signs on that side of the football. In the nine-on-seven drill, which is designed to test the running game for both the offense and defense, the Chiefs were gashed on the first play when Greg Wesley failed to fill a gap. But from that point on, Gunther Cunningham’s group really dominated. New faces Ron Edwards and James Reed were running with the first team at defensive tackle and they did the job. So did Ryan Sims and especially Lional Dalton, who were moved down to the second team. Dalton was nursing a hamstring pull on Thursday, but he showed up and really was a force against the run.

Among the linebackers, Derrick Johnson continued what has been an excellent training camp, as he was constantly at the point of attack. Same goes for Keyaron Fox with the second group.

When the Chiefs went to a blitz session against the No. 1 Minnesota offense, they had trouble getting to quarterback Brad Johnson, who continually was able to get the ball off. The second unit got to the backup quarterbacks several times in the blitz.

The Chiefs coverage guys, especially the cornerbacks did not look nearly as good in their one-on-one battles with the Vikings. On it’s face, the coverage man is at a disadvantage in these sessions because he’s alone, with no deep help. These drills are where the corner develops a thick skin and there were plenty of opportunities for Benny Sapp, Julian Battle, Chris Johnson and Justin Perkins to learn that. And remember, this Minnesota team no longer has receivers like Randy Moss or Nate Burleson to cover.

Derrick Johnson and Kawika Mitchell looked strong in coverage, with Mitchell getting deep down the field in the Chiefs zone schemes. Rookie Jarrad Page was everywhere, not only rushing the passer on the blitz, but out in coverage as well. He always seems to be around the football.

Once the teams all came together, we got a chance to see the Chiefs offense on the stadium field. Well, most of the Chiefs offense. Trent Green did not take any snaps in these drills, nor did Larry Johnson, or Will Shields. Brian Waters is still out with his foot injury and Tony Gonzalez was in Canton, Ohio for Saturday’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Newly acquired Michael Bennett was there, but did not participate as he nurses a sore hamstring and tries to gain a grasp of the Chiefs offense.

One guy who did play and grabbed everybody’s attention was Kyle Turley at left tackle. Minnesota’s young DE Erasmus James had quite an evening trying to get around Turley, who showed no signs of rust from two years of not playing.

Overall, the Chiefs did a nice job running the football, especially with Dee Brown. Damon Huard also looked good throwing the ball. Draft choice Brodie Croyle has a sore shoulder and did not participate. Casey Printers looked ragged, as he continues to take off and run at the slightest hint of pressure in the pocket.

In the end, it was a good evening for the Chiefs. They had a break in the routine, they worked against another team and there’s two hours of tape to dissect and review.

The opinions offered in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the Kansas City Chiefs.

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