Chiefs forced to shuffle secondary after Governor’s Cup loss

Posted Aug 19, 2012

A shoulder injury will sideline Kendrick Lewis, but the safety isn’t a candidate for injured reserve

Romeo Crennel watched the film from Saturday night’s Governor’s Cup loss and confirmed the obvious.

The Chiefs young roster lacks consistency.

Just eight days separated Kansas City’s mistake-filled performance in St. Louis from its dominant win over Arizona. These games don’t count in the standings, but they couldn’t have been more different from one another and that’s an issue for Crennel.

“After looking at things, not much really changed overnight,” Crennel said. “Some of the critical issues are still there. We turned the ball over; we couldn’t stop them on defense. We had a couple of penalties at crucial times and I think that was the outcome of the game. I think the Rams, playing their first game at home, probably had more energy overall than our team had and I think they showed up on the field as well.

“It was disappointing; we were very disappointed in the way we played and the outcome of the game. I still think that we can make it a learning experience.”

Learning is what the preseason is for and the Chiefs were dealt a reality check after flying high coming off their 27-17 win over Arizona in the preseason opener.

Linebacker Derrick Johnson offered a steady veteran view when comparing the Chiefs two vastly different performances.

“You’re never as good as you think you are,” Johnson said. “But you’re never as bad as you thought you were after a loss like this either.”

While the Chiefs search for more consistency, good news came in the form of Kendrick Lewis’ injured shoulder.

Lewis left Saturday’s game in visible pain with a right shoulder injury. His reaction coming off the field wasn’t encouraging and trainers immediately removed his shoulder brace for further evaluation.

It was the same shoulder that required surgery after last season and kept Lewis out of practices throughout the offseason program.

“He injured the same shoulder that he had injured before, but it was a different injury,” Crennel said. “He doesn’t have to have surgery or anything like that, but he has to rest that shoulder and have it immobilized for a little bit before we can start some movement and exercises. We will see how quickly we can get him back.”

There’s no timetable for Lewis’ return, but the fact that he won’t require a season-ending procedure is encouraging - especially considering the Chiefs safety situation a year ago.

Six different players started and strong or free safety last year after Eric Berry suffered a season-ending left knee injury on the first defensive series of the season. Of those six starters, only Berry and Lewis are currently listed on the Chiefs defensive two-deep.

Veteran Abram Elam, who started 16 games for Dallas last year, is expected to assume starting duties at free safety in Lewis’ absence. He’s currently listed as the backup to Berry at strong safety, but can play both positions on the defensive back line.

“That will be his job to lose right now,” Crennel said of Abram. “Travis Daniels is the other guy that we have played back there some of the time and I think Travis is very capable. He is an experienced, sharp young man and he understands the system and knows all the calls. He can handle the back end as well.”

Daniels moved from cornerback to safety during offseason practices with Berry and Lewis both rehabilitating injuries. He’s perhaps Kansas City’s most versatile defensive back, but has yet to play in a preseason game this year due to a groin injury.

“Because he is coming off of a slight injury, I don’t know when he is going to be back full speed,” Crennel said. “He has been out there in individuals and he was on the sideline last night. I don’t think that he will be able to go full tomorrow. As a result of that, Abe will have to handle the back end.”

Lewis’ injury could also alter Kansas City’s sub-package look where Berry worked alongside Johnson at linebacker level. The alignment gives Berry freedom to play inside the box, blitz or drop into coverage with Lewis and Elam working overtop in the six defensive back look.

Jalil Brown also worked in the sub-package specialty role this offseason, but has been starting at cornerback because of Brandon Flowers’ foot injury.

“If we’d been able to stay healthy then it was a good situation,” Crennel said of the depth in the Chiefs defensive backfield. “But after our first couple guys in there we’ve got young guys behind those guys and we have to kind of bring some young guys along to see what they can do.”

One of those players is undrafted rookie Tysyn Hartman. The former K-State safety has seen action with the second-team during portions of training camp and saw his workload increase in St. Louis following Lewis’ injury.

The Chiefs also have Donald Washington. The former 2009 fourth-round draft pick started three games last season, but entered Saturday’s game third on the depth chart at free safety behind Lewis and Daniels.

“(Lewis) is going to be down for a little bit, probably be in a sling for a couple days, and then we will start rehabbing and see how quickly he can come along,” Crennel said.

The fact that Lewis isn’t a candidate for injured reserve might be the best news to come out of Saturday night’s loss.

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