Avoiding The Wall

Posted Oct 12, 2010

NFL Network's Mike Mayock believes Chiefs rookies are built to last

Is it too early to talk about the “rookie wall?” Probably, but at the rate that the Chiefs rookies are playing, it’s bound to become a topic at some point in November or December. Consider this a sneak peek into a storyline of the future.

Chiefs head coach Todd Haley talked a lot about cumulative snap tallies late last week, and then did so again in his Indianapolis de-briefing on Monday afternoon. He’s been charting snap totals of offensive, defensive and special teams reps for each player throughout the entire roster. The idea is to crunch the numbers and make sure that the team-wide reps are being administered as efficiently as possible.

“I’ve been doing a lot of research on snaps played by our guys, on both sides of the ball, plus special teams – that includes punt, punt returns, kickoffs, kickoff returns where they’re running and hitting,” Haley said. “Really, just really working hard at trying to find more things, or more jobs for more people to make the guys that we do end up putting in uniform on Sunday have a meaningful, or a bigger role for us each and every week. I think that’s the way we’ll continue to get better.”

Though Haley’s research wasn’t aimed towards battling “the rookie wall,” snap count totals can be useful for a number of things.

Sans Cameron Sheffield, who looked impressive in the preseason before landing on injured reserve with a neck injury, the entire rookie class consistently contributes on gameday. Let’s take a look at each player’s workload thus far.

Eric Berry – Rarely leaves the field

Dexter McCluster – An active member of the Chiefs offensive gameplan and special teams scheme

Javier Arenas – Serves as the Chiefs primary nickel back and is a major contributor on special team; saw extensive defensive action at Indianapolis

Jon Asamoah – Has begun to report as tackle eligible and rep in heavy sets; also a part of field goal unit

Tony Moeaki – Leads the Chiefs in all receiving categories

Kendrick Lewis – Aside from the San Diego game, has rivaled Berry’s playing time

Through the first quarter of the season, five of the six active rookies are seeing extensive play-time. With the way today’s college game is structured, none of those players have had time to take a breath since their collegiate careers ended.

“It turns into an extended-season for a 23-year old,” NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock told “It’s easily the longest 18-months, from a football perspective, of a young man’s life.”   

For today’s NFL rookie, the course of a 12-game college schedule (and sometimes more) leads directly to personal trainers, combine workouts, pro day performances, rookie mini-camps, OTAs, training camps, preseason games and finally to the regular season. It isn’t hard to see how some first-year players begin to break down over time.

Eventually, this will become a worry for Chiefs fans and it will be written about, talked about and asked about. Eventually, it’s something that the Chiefs will guard as weekly schedules are set later in the season.

“Typically, somewhere around mid-season, around Week 9-12, the kids realize how long of a year it is,” Mayock said. “Usually after that they kind of get a second wind.

“Now, I’m not sure your kids are going to get that because there aren’t a whole lot of prima donnas there. They are a bunch of kids that love the game of football. I love the three defensive backs. Eric Berry, boy can he play and how about the guy from Ole Miss? Kendrick Lewis is a guy that a lot of people didn’t like because they didn’t think he ran fast enough, but every time I put the tape on all you saw was a football player.”

As far as Chiefs standards go, the 2010 Draft Class is arguably the most active crop of rookies from the past decade and beyond. The only other rookie class in discussion would be the Class of 2008.

That year Glenn Dorsey, Branden Albert, Brandon Flowers, Jamaal Charles, Brad Cottam and Brandon Carr all played an extensive amount of snaps You’d have to dig back all the way to the mid-1990s to find a rookie class that has made as much of an immediate impact as the groups from 2008 and 2010.

“While I’m a little bit surprised about the number of rookies making solid contributions early in the year, I’m not at all surprised about the rookies playing a lot of football,” Mayock said.

Watch Chiefs LIVE! (Part 1 of 2) to hear more Chiefs observations from Mayock.

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