Camp Report: Chiefs Practices Enter Regular Season Mode

Posted Aug 29, 2011

Chiefs approach fourth preseason game with much to accomplish

A regular season that's rapidly approaching, paired with the anxiety that comes with the week of final cuts, has created an unmistakable sense of urgency surrounding Chiefs camp.

In previous years, the final week of the preseason has been a downhill slope to ready starters for the 17-week regular season grind that waits. But this year isn’t like past years. It hasn’t replicated previous camps from the first day the Chiefs arrived in St. Joseph.

With camp now in its final stage, the lead-up to the fourth preseason game isn’t only about evaluating the players trying to crack the 53-man roster. In Kansas City, the final week of camp is replicating in-season practices.

“We’ve had kind of a method, an idea of how we wanted to do things and I feel like we’ve stayed with that,” Haley said. “Part of that was to move into an in-season type preparation here going into game No. Four.”

Haley was as vocal as he’s been this camp Monday morning and Matt Cassel, along with the Chiefs first-team offense, ran loads of snaps against the first-team defense; far more reps at this time of camp than in Haley’s first two seasons as head coach.

“It’s been different this preseason,” NT Kelly Gregg said. “We started late with that rule that certain guys couldn’t practice and they held us out of that first game. We’ll do whatever we’re asked to do.”

This year, the schedule has flipped. Haley treated the first preseason game the way teams have traditionally approached the fourth. A total of 15 players rested in the exhibition opener, many of them projected as starters.

It’s similar to the way Green Bay approached last year’s preseason finale in Kansas City, resting numerous regulars including QB Aaron Rodgers, CB Charles Woodson and LB Clay Matthews.

“This week is very big for me,” said FB Le’Ron McClain, who was held out of the Chiefs preseason opener. “I’m approaching this game like it’s a regular game week. I’m ready for it.”

As of Monday afternoon, Haley hadn’t told starters how long he expects them to play Thursday night. Based off the first three preseason performances, most front-line players are preparing to see more extensive action than in previous years.

Haley says he’ll treat Thursday’s play-time on a case-by-case basis.

“We’ll kind of stay with the plan that each guy is on his own individual plan,” Haley said. “We’ll see the guys that we feel like need it, will get it and the guys we feel pretty good about, we’ll try to be smart with, I would think.”

“We’ve got to get improvement out of (this last game),” Gregg added. “Luckily these games don’t count – they count towards getting better, but they don’t count towards getting to the playoffs.”

In addition, there’s a lot at stake this week for reserve players as well. A reminder of that arrived early Monday when seven Chiefs were notified of their release.

Carr’s Confidence High

A year ago, people were worried about Brandon Carr. At times, it seemed Brandon Carr was even worried about Brandon Carr. The third-year pro had struggled throughout training camp and, self-admittedly, was searching for answers.

Then, the regular season arrived and Carr’s preseason struggles were all but a memory. The third-year cornerback enjoyed his most productive season defending the pass with a team-leading 22 pass breakups in 2010.

Remembering those struggles, Carr points to last season as a turning point in his career.

“That’s when it all kind of happened and everything started clicking,” Carr said. “My confidence soared for the most part. Todd just kept telling me to stack good games after one another along with good practices. I just kept on believing in myself and trying to outdo the last performance and last game. That’s what I’m trying to do this year as well.”

Haley has noticed last year’s progress carry into camp this preseason.

“Though maybe Brandon Flowers gets a little more of the fanfare, I think Brandon Carr has really done nothing but get better,” Haley said. “I think there was probably some speculation early on by some of us that maybe he was more a Cover 2-type corner, but as he’s understood the system and we’ve continued to teach and develop.

“I think you’re seeing that Brandon Carr is a big, strong, fast corner that is a good presence out there. Like I said, as the entire defense continues to improve, I think you’ll see both those guys hopefully take a little jump and continue to make big plays for us.”

Slated to start at cornerback alongside Flowers for a fourth-straight season, Carr is just three starts shy of tying DE Art Still for the second-most consecutive starts to begin a Chiefs career.

Carr has started 48 straight games since his rookie season. Still opened 51 straight from 1978-81, while DB Gary Barbaro holds the franchise record with 101 consecutive starts to begin a career from 1976-82.

Practice Observations

- Sitting out of Monday’s practice were WR Jonathan Baldwin, OL Bobby Greenwood, OL Darryl Harris, G Ryan Lilja, OLB Gabe Miller, T Ryan O’Callaghan and TE Jake O’Connell. Baldwin worked through portions of practice on route-running with strength and conditioning coach Mike Clark.

- WR Steve Breaston had a nice practice, hauling in a handful of catches including an impressive TD grab just inside the goal line pylon.

- S Kendrick Lewis scooped up a loose football in red zone work after RB Thomas Jones coughed up the rock near the goal line.

- WR Verran Tucker had a nice TD catch in front of CB Travis Daniels on a quick slant in red zone work. The reception caught Haley’s attention, followed by motivation for Tucker to haul in more of those types of catches.

- The Chiefs offense was much better in competitive drills today, especially on third down.

- CB Brandon Flowers picked of Cassel on an ill-advised throw in a crowded area.

- OLB Tamba Hali closed practice with a series of impressive pass rush maneuvers. Earlier in the practice, Hali fell victim to a multitude of open field moves by jitterbug Dexter McCluster.

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