THE GUNTHER CUNNINGHAM EXPERIENCE
The old linebackers coach was at it again this morning, preparing his position group for tomorrow night’s contest with the Minnesota Vikings. As his linebackers took individual turns practicing zone drops in front of a mock offensive line, Cunningham preached that they must lock their hips and explode through their zone drops laterally and vertically. He wanted continual movement from their feet as they moved quickly, low in their stance and at the proper angle.
In fact, Cunningham was so obsessed with the details of this particular drill, he instructed Aden Durde and Steve Octavien to repeat their attempts. And Cunningham was absolutely specific on where his players had to be lined up before the ball was hiked – exactly four yards from the line of scrimmage.
After a quick repeat of Tuesday’s primal sled drill (Cunningham harped on his linebacker’s crossover steps today), it was time for lessons in gap control. Cunningham instructed his players how to attack different types of runs, including lead draws. For a brief moment, he played fullback, showing how one might block in a particular play. Later, he quizzed a group on their responsibilities in run defense depending on the defensive secondary call – Cover Two or Cover Four.
And then came the classic moment. Disgusted with the speed at which his starting group of linebackers was performing the exercise, Cunningham kicked them out of the drill and brought in another group. There’s no loafing when Gunther Cunningham is your linebackers coach.
Linebacker Pat Thomas remained with the starting defense at middle linebacker today. The Chiefs are getting a good, long look at Thomas, who appears to be a more instinctive and physical player than Napoleon Harris. It’ll be interesting to see who starts tomorrow’s practice with the Minnesota Vikings.
The heat and tension of training camp is getting to the Chiefs. Two full-fledged fights broke out today, the first between Herb Taylor and a defensive lineman. The second was between offensive tackle Damion McIntosh and a linebacker. Despite the flaring tempers – and temperatures – this morning, Herm Edwards did not call the practice off early, as he’s done in the past. Defensive line coach Tim Krumrie broke up the first fight.
The Chiefs are running so many bootlegs I feel like I’m at Denver Broncos training camp. The good news is KC’s defense has defended the play pretty well, which is key, of course, because they play the Broncos twice a year.
PLAYS OF THE DAY
Alfonso Boone might not be the quickest defensive end in the NFL, but he looked like one of the strongest on one play this morning. Brad Cottam was way out of his league trying to block Boone, who shoved the tight end yards deep into the backfield, and moved laterally to blow up a running play. Cottam had absolutely no chance.
Tyron Brackenridge is fighting with Dimitri Patterson and a few other young players for spots on KC’s roster because the Chiefs drafted two cornerbacks last April. Today he showed up big time, smacking Dantrell Savage across the middle in 11-on-11’s with the second team. Brackenridge’s hit dislodged an ill-advised pass attempt intended for Savage.
Oliver Hoyte turned to face his quarterback and cleanly caught a short pass. As he turned around, Rashad Barksdale came screaming up to make a tackle, but there was one problem – he tried to tackle the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Hoyte high. Barksdale got flat run over.
Jamaal Charles carried out his play fake on the bootleg and paused at the line of scrimmage before turning upfield. He caught Tyler Thigpen’s pass cleanly, and needed only one block to find open field before he turned on the jets. There wasn’t a football player in Wisconsin who could have caught him.
Pat Thomas was simply all over the place this morning. In 11-on-11’s he penetrated to bring down a running back for a loss, and was part of a wrecking crew that blew up a screen pass. Later, Thomas pursued Tyler Thigpen on the bootleg and forced him out of bounds for a negligible gain. Finally, Thomas locked up on tight end Tony Gonzalez on another bootleg attempt, and stuck to him like glue before slapping away the ball. If you ask me, in one practice, Thomas showed up more than Napoleon Harris has all camp.
Donnie Edwards is still an ageless wonder. He’s moving around like he’s in his prime, and today he made two plays on the football, tipping an interception to Brandon Flowers and snagging one of his own in the left flat.
The first-team defense really looks ready for the Vikings tomorrow night. They repeatedly stuffed running attempts early in practice and the secondary swarmed over receivers. There’s a reason Tyler Thigpen and Damon Huard had such a terrible morning practice.
And yes, it was that bad. Neither Thigpen nor Huard looked anything close to a competent NFL starter this morning. Thigpen threw two interceptions – one to Brandon Flowers and another to Donnie Edwards. Quite frankly, watching the second pick, I was wondering if Thigpen even saw Edwards lurking in the left flat. The longest completion of the day was a screen pass to Jamaal Charles. Thigpen and Huard didn’t present any threat of downfield passing, meaning zero catches from Dwayne Bowe, and both had some incomplete passes that were absolute head-scratchers. I was only joking the other day about the waiver wire, but now it looks a lot more serious. The Chiefs need to find a backup quarterback.
I’m not really sure what to think about defensive end Turk McBride, who played for Tamba Hali today at right defensive end. On one hand, he does a good job of penetrating on running plays. On the other hand, his pass rush still needs work. Considering the fact he jumped offsides twice today, I’ll give him a down mark for the morning. Why have the Chiefs given up on McBride as an inside pass rusher?
“Hit him where he doesn’t want to be hit.”
- Linebackers coach Gunther Cunningham, delivering a bit of inspiration during sled drills.
“Give me another group! This one is walking!”
- Cunningham, disgusted with one sluggish linebacker unit.
“Time out! Time out! Time out! If you’re going to be the middle linebacker on this football team, you’ve got to make the call!”
- Cunningham, frustrated with linebacker Pat Thomas.
“COME ON! We just did it SIX TIMES!”
- Defensive line coach Tim Krumie, mad at his defensive line during walkthroughs.
“TYLER! Get off the ground!”
- Krumrie, attempting to yell the sloth right out of Tank Tyler.
Brodie Croyle, Larry Johnson and Tamba Hali sat out this morning’s session
Chiefs Arrive In River Falls