NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - INSIDE SLANT
It has become the early storyline of the first weeks of training camp for the Chiefs at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri.
Running back Jamaal Charles - receiver Jamaal Charles.
From the moment Andy Reid said yes to the job offer from the Hunt Family, the head coach has been plotting how to use Charles. In 14 years leading the Eagles, he had some talented players in the backfield that were incredibly productive in different forms.
But he's never had a player with the overall ability - speed, strength, vision, athletic ability - like Charles.
"He's a legitimate threat with his speed, his route-running ability and his hands," Reid said of Charles. "He catches the ball really easily."
It's just that Charles hasn't caught many passes over his five-year NFL career since being selected in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft. In 65 games, he averaged 2.3 catches and 19.7 yards per game - that's 152 receptions for 1,281 yards and seven touchdowns. His best season was in 2010, when he caught 45 passes for 468 yards and three scoring catches.
In the past five years, his per-game average ranks No. 28 among receiving running backs.
There is no doubt watching the Chiefs offense work in camp that he will average more than two catches for 20 yards in the coming season.
"He's a really versatile player; he's a matchup, a mismatch," said quarterback Alex Smith. "You flip the ball in his hands all over the field. I don't think there's really any situation in football you couldn't really have him in. I think it really helps us expand our playbook because he can do so much."
The Chiefs' franchise record for a running back being a receiver was set in 2003 by Priest Holmes - he caught 74 passes that season for 690 yards, or 43.1 yards per game. The Kansas City record for best average receiving yards per game by a Chiefs running back was set by MacArthur Lane in 1976 when he caught 66 passes for 686 yards or 49 yards per game.
In 14 seasons with the Eagles, Reid had three running backs that were major players in the Philly passing game - Brian Westbrook, Duce Staley and LeSean McCoy. Throwing to running backs has always been a staple of the West Coast offense made popular by the San Francisco 49ers under Bill Walsh and then exported around the league to Green Bay (Mike Holmgren), Philadelphia (Reid), and many other offenses.
Charles admits that his time in camp has been dominated by keeping his nose in the playbook.
"This is the most plays I've had to remember in my whole life playing football," Charles said. "It's a lot of studying, a lot of focus and hearing what the quarterbacks say at the right time. I have to learn signals, coverages and I have to learn all that especially when I'm out playing wide receiver. It's a lot of stuff that I have to focus on."
Some running backs like to run the ball, and don't much care for becoming a receiver. Charles is not one of them; he's welcoming the ability to catch the ball in space, which should be to his advantage when it comes to making big plays.
"I'm glad I'm in an offense like this," Charles said. "I can show everybody where my versatility is. I can play running back and go out and play wide receiver."
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - NOTES, QUOTES
--Wide receiver Dexter McCluster is all over the place in the Chiefs' offense, as Andy Reid and his coordinator Doug Pederson have him lined up and playing wide receiver, running back, wing back, in the slot and even some snaps where he's an H-back. How many ways can the offense get the ball to McCluster? "About one million, five hundred and thirty-six ways that I can get the football," McCluster said. "This offense right here is wide open. You get opportunities everywhere, inside, outside, wherever. It's a fun offense and you have to be in shape."
--They were more than teammates at Creekside High School in Fairburn, Georgia - Eric Berry and Rokevious Watkins were brothers from different mothers. Now, they are teammates again as Watkins signed with the Chiefs after he was released by the St. Louis Rams.
"That's my brother," the Chiefs Pro Bowl strong safety said. "We played high school ball together and we went to middle school together. We stayed right in the same neighborhood and we hung out every day. He chilled with my family and my dad called him his son and stuff like that."
Watkins was a fifth-round choice in the 2012 draft and was released by the Rams because he was overweight and poorly conditioned when he showed up for the start of camp. "I was upset when the Rams had released him," said Berry. "I told him to stay focused and it would work out for the best. I didn't know he would end up here. Like I told him, just take advantage of the opportunity."
--Former Buffalo Bills wide receiver Andre Reed is in training camp with the Chiefs as a coaching intern, working with the club's wide receivers.
"I played with some of the best who ever played the game," said Reed. "We were all in tune with what was happening in Buffalo, every detail. With younger guys it is tough, those little details. The smallest of things mean a lot and are going to make the difference between winning and losing." Reed says everyone in the NFL can run. Everyone can run routes. Everyone can catch. But not everyone puts in the time and effort to be on the same page with the quarterback every play. Not everyone can put those skills to work at critical junctures in the game. "The physical part of the game is only about 10 percent because everybody out here can run," Reed said. "You get beat up mentally. It is the effort. How do you run the route? What did the quarterback think? I just try to keep them mentally sharp about the game."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think he did come here with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. He's our guy and we're going to war with him. He's come in here and he's led this team on and off the field. He's studied, prepared himself and he's improving every day." -- Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson on starting quarterback Alex Smith.
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Quarterback Tyler Bray. The undrafted free agent out of the University of Tennessee has shown continued growth as camp has gone on. During recent practices he's been the most productive passer on the field. Granted he's going against the No. 3 defense, but Bray only gets a handful of snaps, and he's making those plays count. Bray has taken control of the battle for the No. 3 quarterback spot over Ricky Stanzi and behind Alex Smith and Chase Daniel. He has the strongest arm of any of the quarterbacks and his practice accuracy has improved dramatically from the team's spring workouts.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: The Mike linebacker spot next to Derrick Johnson inside the Chiefs 3-4 defense is a wide open battle between free-agent veteran Akeem Jordan and draft choice Nico Johnson out of the University of Alabama. "It's competitive, it's an open position," said defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. Jordan came to Kansas City from Andy Reid's team in Philadelphia where he was a versatile linebacker playing strong, mike and weak linebacker spots. Johnson was one of the defensive leaders of the Crimson Tide's championship defenses. "He's done a good job here," Sutton said of Johnson. "I think everybody's been pleased with what he's done. He has to keep getting better and better. He can't let the amount of things we are installing slow him down."
--DB Sanders Commings suffered a broken left clavicle in the Chiefs first practice session of training camp. Commings jumped attempting to knock down a pass and landed awkwardly on his left shoulder. He walked off the field in pain and x-rays showed the break. He's now wearing his left arm in a sling and recovery time is expected to be four to six weeks.
--WR Junior Hemingway suffered a sprained thumb and faced an MRI on the digit.
--OT Dustin Waldron went down with what appeared to be a dislocated knee cap.
--OLB/DE Mike Catapano has missed almost a full week of practices with a calf injury.
--OT Donald Stephenson broke the pinkie finger on his left hand and underwent surgery. He will miss the pre-season opener at New Orleans but should return to practice the next week.
--OT Colin Kelly, an undrafted rookie out of Oregon State suffered a torn ACL during practice and was placed on the injured reserve list after being waived/injured.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: T Branden Albert (tendered at $9.828 million; signed tender March 21).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--CB Travis Daniels (not tendered as UFA).
--S Abram Elam (not tendered as UFA).
--G Russ Hochstein (not tendered as UFA).
--DB Kyle McCarthy (not tendered as ERFA).
--TE Martin Rucker (not tendered as RFA).
--LB Brandon Siler (not tendered as UFA).
--DT Shaun Smith (not tendered as UFA).
--LB Leon Williams (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--TE Travis Kelce (3/63): $3,126,304/4 yrs, $703,304 SB/$188,000 max RB playing time 20014-2016.
--RB Knile Davis (3/96): $2,741,000/4 yrs, $506,016 SB.
--LB Nico Johnson (4/99): $2,671,000/4 yrs, $486,000 SB.
--CB Sanford Commings (5/134): $2,400,512//4 yrs, $215,512 SB.
--C Eric Kush (6/170): $2,310,116//4 yrs, $125,116 SB.
--FB Braden Wilson (6/204): $2.263,680/4 yrs, $78,680 SB.
--LB Mike Catapano (7/207): $2,254,124/4 yrs, $69,124 SB.
DRAFT CHOICES UNSIGNED
--T Eric Fisher (1/1).
--T Branden Albert: FFA; $9.828M/1 yr.
--WR Dwayne Bowe: Potential UFA; $56M/5 yrs, $15M SB/$26M guaranteed.
--P Dustin Colquitt: Potential UFA; $18.75M/5 yrs, $8.9M guaranteed.
--LS Thomas Gafford: UFA; $715,000/1 yr.
--LB Edgar Jones: UFA; terms unknown.
--S Husain Abdullah: FA; $715,000/1 yr.
--WR Donnie Avery: UFA Colts; $8.55M/3 yrs, $2.25M SB/$2.55M guaranteed.
--QB Chase Daniel: UFA Saints; $10M/3 yrs, $3M SB/$4.8M guaranteed.
--S Quintin Demps: UFA Texans; $715,000/1 yr.
--LB Zac Diles: UFA Titans; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Mike DeVito: UFA Jets; $12.6M/3 yrs, $6.2M guaranteed.
--TE Anthony Fasano: UFA Dolphins; $16M/4 yrs, $4.5M guaranteed.
--LB Akeem Jordan: UFA Eagles; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Austen Lane (waivers Jaguars).
--LB Orie Lemon: Not tendered as ERFA by Cowboys; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Dunta Robinson: FA Falcons; $15M/3 yrs, $3M SB/$3.95M guaranteed.
--G/T Geoff Schwartz: UFA Vikings; $630,000/1 yr.
--QB Alex Smith (trade).
--CB Sean Smith: UFA Dolphins; $18M/3 yrs, $12M guaranteed.
--G Rokevious Watkins: FA Rams; terms unknown.
--LB Frank Zombo: Not tendered as RFA by Packers; terms unknown.
--TE Kevin Boss (failed physical).
--WR Steve Breaston (released).
--QB Matt Cassel (released).
--FB Patrick DiMarco (released).
--DE Glenn Dorsey: UFA 49ers; $6M/2 yrs, $2.285M SB.
--LB Cory Greenwood (released).
--RB Peyton Hillis: Not tendered as UFA/Buccaneers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--G Ryan Lilja: Not tendered as UFA/Broncos; terms unknown.
--TE Steve Maneri: Not tendered as ERFA/Bears; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--G Bryan Mattison (released).
--TE Jake O'Connell: Not tendered as UFA/Broncos; terms unknown.
--DE Ropati Pitoitua: UFA Titans; terms unknown.
--QB Brady Quinn: UFA Seahawks; terms unknown.
--G/C Rich Ranglin (released/non-football injury).
--LB Andy Studebaker (released).
--QB Alex Tanney (released).
--T Eric Winston (released).