Camp Notebook: Romeo ramps up the tempo

Posted Aug 3, 2012

Training Camp Notebook Presented by Heartland Health

St. Joseph, Mo. – Romeo Crennel saw the way his players gingerly jogged to the post-walkthrough huddle. They’re sore, and after a series of heated practices they had reason to be.

But this the time of year that gets players from “in shape” to “game shape”.  And Crennel said he won’t pull any punches with practices as his team gears up for its first preseason game.

“It seems to me like they’re sorer today than they have been all camp, and when you’re sore a little bit, sometimes you have a tendency not to push yourself as much,” said Crennel during his press conference on Friday. “I told them already that we’ll be pushing in the afternoon to make sure we can complete the things we need to get done.”

The Chiefs open their preseason schedule in just one week at home against the Arizona Cardinals. So the intensity of this week’s afternoon practice is scheduled to reflect what the team will do during game week –minus the permitted contact of the regular season.

The defensive backs and receivers worked together in physical press coverage drills.  Cornerback Stanford Routt shoved Terrance Copper at the line, causing the receiver to stumble off the line and miss a pass thrown his way. And minutes later, safety Terrance Parks backpedaled, reacted to the ball in the air, and aggressively ripped it away from the waiting arms of Jeremy Horne.

The intensity didn’t trail off in the team scrimmage. An airborne Devon Wylie dove for extra yards. Linebacker Justin Houston left his feet too, tipping away a swing pass out of the backfield. Jon Asamoah tried to get Derrick Johnson on the ground, but the linebacker hurdled over him to pursue Peyton Hillis.

But until they take the field at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs won’t be tackling. Crennel wants his players to ratchet up the intensity of practice, but not at the expense of their health. And as always, the head coach reserves the right to pull any at-risk players during a hot or overly-physical practice.

For instance, the ACL-tear trio of Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki, and Eric Berry could see their snaps reduced until Friday’s game to keep them fresh. Same goes for Brandon Flowers, who will be brought back slowly from a foot bruise he suffered under the lights on Tuesday night.

All the other players are expected to be physical without hitting, a rule that could end up working in the Chiefs’ favor. The Cardinals will come to Missouri Western State fresh off their first preseason game. The Chiefs, on the other hand, will be expected to pull back on potential hits for another week.

That week will end soon enough, though, and when it does, the Chiefs head coach expects his team to be ready for its first meaningful contact.

“I like the way they’re approaching at it,” Crennel said about his team. “The thing I reminded them is that in one week, we’ll be playing a preseason game. So they better make sure they make the best impression.”

Fullback Mix and Match

Shane Bannon (abdominal) is sidelined and new addition Patrick DiMarco is out of padded practice through the weekend due to acclimation rules in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. So the Chiefs had to get creative with some new lead blockers during Friday’s practices.  

One unexpected player promoted to pave the way for Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis was Nate Eachus, an undrafted rookie running back from Colgate.

Eachus is just under six feet tall and just over 200 pounds, so he’s undersized for an NFL fullback. But the Chiefs aren’t looking for an ideal replacement – they just need some fresh blockers until they can evaluate DiMarco or until Bannon heals up.

Eachus found the end zone 53 times over four years as a Colgate Raider. On Thursday, he found the end zone again when he leapt over a defender to grab a touchdown pass from Brady Quinn in 11-on-11 drills. And on Friday, he found the end zone again after catching a pass in the flat.

“Fullback just comes naturally to me,” said Eachus. “I haven’t ran a lot of fullback in college, but I was a wrestler (in high school), and that toughness just comes naturally to me.”

Other emergency fullbacks included tight ends Tony Moeaki and Jake O’Connell, but not lineman-turned-tight-end Steve Maneri.

Those players will have an expanded role as backfield blockers in the short-term, but for the time being, Romeo Crennel said he is hesitant to convert any of those players into full time fullbacks.

“We like to have a fullback to be able to use, but it’s not a necessity with what we have,” said Crennel.  “If you have tight ends that can get the job done, then you can put those guys in that fullback role. Generally, tight ends are tight ends and they’re not fullbacks, so you have to determine what your tight ends can do, what you can ask them to do and then what are their chances of being successful doing what you ask them to do.”

Take Five: Quick-Hitters from Friday’s Practice

1) The Chiefs announced today that they will hold a joint practice with the visiting Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday, August 7th at 3:15 p.m. The two teams will participate in multiple drills together on the practice fields at Missouri Western State University. Admission is $5 with children three and under free of charge.

2) Jamaal Charles continued where he left off from practice yesterday. On the first carry of red zone drills, he juked Houston as he cut to the sidelines, then dipped in front of Eric Berry in the front corner of the end zone for a score.

3) The hot streak for Charles and the running backs continued. Shaun Draughn took a handoff and ran 30 yards untouched after a great block thrown by Eric Winston. Cyrus Gray had a powerful run keyed by a great stiff arm, and then followed it up with a great cut back to the weak side for a big gain. Gray used his vision to find big holes a few times during OTAs and minicamp, and looks to be continuing that trend in camp.

4) Rookie De’Quan Menzie had his best day of camp. The fifth-round safety from Alabama batted two passes, including a perfect diving tip to keep the ball away from receiver Brandon Kinnie. After both plays, teammates swarmed Menzie to congratulate him

5) Brandon Flowers (foot) was able to do some drills in the morning, but missed afternoon practice. Cornerback Jacques Reeves (personal) hasn’t been in attendance all camp and did not return today as expected. Brandon Siler (ankle), Ethan Johnson (chin/head), Shane Bannon (abdominal), Donald Washington (personal), Ray Willis (CBA acclimation), Patrick DiMarco (CBA acclimation) and Dwayne Bowe (contract) all missed practice as well.

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