Insider Blog: Sweat The Small Stuff

Posted May 20, 2010

The veterans jumped in with the coaches to deliver detail-oriented messages in this week's OTAs

When the Chiefs began seven-on-seven drills yesterday, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis harped on the details.

“Know where the sticks are,” Weis instructed a receiver. “You always have to know the down and distance…every play.”

On few plays later, OLB Mike Vrabel reminded DB Maurice Leggett to give him a “China” call. For defenders, “China” is a term called out by cornerbacks to alert outside linebackers of a wide receiver’s actions (this call always signaled a WR delay in my experiences, but it could mean something different across various playbooks).

While Weis worked on details with his players returning to the huddle, and while Vrabel helped take command of the defense from a player’s perspective, head coach Todd Haley roamed the field to give fundamental advice to players from various position groups.

While all this was taking place on one of the football fields, offensive line coach Bill Muir had his platoon flanked in the opposite corner for drill work. As he instructed technique, several Chiefs re-did the drill until they got it right.

When it came to performing the small details this week at OTAs, everything going on at practice was a collective effort in “getting it right.” The teaching ultimately began with the coaching staff and ended with the veteran players.

“ From a veteran standpoint, one of their jobs is to mentor these young guys that are now being integrated into this team and that’s a big part of what good teams do is those veterans take charge in that role and play a big part in it,” Haley said.

Over the course of the week it was clear that the Chiefs coaching staff made basics the club’s number one priority. Ask the players and the majority of them agreed that the biggest challenge is getting back into the playbook, learning the terminology and correctly placing feet, hands and breaks where they should be.

“The key thing is getting these guys acclimated to how we’re going to do things on a full-time basis, that’s number one,” Haley said. “They’ve got to know how we practice so we don’t have injuries, so we don’t have people on the ground doing things that end up causing injuries, that’s an important part of it. Seeing how much they can learn and understand is another part of it. So it’s two-fold for us. We’re trying to get multiple things done with the young guys.”

There wasn’t a bigger example of this philosophy than when it came to addressing dropped passes during this week’s practice sessions. Quite simply, when the coaches addressed the drops they did so quietly. What we continually heard from the sidelines were elevated voices of instruction, replacing the voice of frustration we heard last year.

“You have to make that catch,” has seemed to turn into “The route has to break off at (insert football term here).”

Yes, the drops were there this week if there has to be something that’s nitpicked from an otherwise incredibly productive and impressive first week of OTAs.

Dwayne Bowe and Jerheme Urban received the most public attention for their drops, even though everyone was a culprit at some point or another. On the flip side, each rebounded with nice catches – particularly Urban on Wednesday as he took a load of snaps with the first-team offense out of the slot position.

For a team that led the NFL with 49 drops a year ago, improvements will be both demanded and expected. That aspect of the game, however, isn’t something that Haley is hampering on this early in the game.

“Every ball is not going to be caught,” Haley said. “The key is to minimize it, keep it at the small end as best you can and the guys are working hard at it and that part of the game, these guys haven’t spent a lot of time together – we’ve done some throwing, but not a lot and I think if you worry too much about some of that stuff right now I think you’re going to miss what this part of the year is about.”

Right now this part of the year seems to be about learning how to do the respective job at a winning level. Some players are further along than others, but as time goes on everyone has no choice but to progress.

The less you think, the better you play. The challenge is to take the new coaching philosophies and terminology and make them become natural.

As for the drops; I’m fairly certain that if/when Haley feels that they are once again becoming a problem, we’ll hear about it.

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