The Chiefs reached the halfway mark of their first voluntary offseason program under their new regime, and general manager John Dorsey was as upbeat on Tuesday as when he was hired on Jan. 14.
Dorsey and new head coach Andy Reid have had a rookie minicamp and four days of on-field practices to evaluate their first draft class, the veteran players they acquired and those who were inherited.
“So far, so good,” Dorsey said. “I’m excited with the direction we’re headed. I can’t say enough about how the guys have practiced, how the coaching staff has begun to teach these young men It couldn’t be any better. These five months have been everything I thought it would be.”
The Chiefs have turned over half the roster from the wreckage of last year’s team that went 2-14. Of the 90 players on the current roster, 53 are newcomers, and Dorsey and Reid aren’t done yet.
“Each team on a year-to-year basis has its own identity, and I’m trying to work through ... who is this team? That’s what I’m trying to see.
“We haven’t played a game yet. We’re still in the honeymoon period. We’ll be judged for what we do on the football field.”
Dorsey, who spent the previous 13 years in the Green Bay Packers’ personnel department, cited several pleasant surprises he’s seen so far.
“I knew (safety) Eric Berry was a good player, but I didn’t realize what a really good football player he is,” Dorsey said of the two-time Pro Bowler. “I didn’t realize (wide receiver) Dwayne Bowe could be as good as Dwayne Bowe wants to be. (Running back) Jamaal Charles, you have to utilize a guy like him. Our two outside linebackers (Tamba Hali and Justin Houston) are as good as advertised.”
Dorsey’s biggest offseason acquisition was trading a second-round pick in this year’s draft and conditional second- or third-rounder in next year’s draft to San Francisco for quarterback Alex Smith. He hasn’t been disappointed with Smith.
“I really like what Alex Smith is doing,” Dorsey said. “How far he’s grasped this offense, and I can see the head coach loading him up, because he’s a smart kid, he’s physically talented.”
Dorsey signed former Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel as Smith’s backup. Dorsey is confident Daniel can be productive in the event Smith goes down with an injury — as Smith did a year ago with a concussion at San Francisco. Daniel attempted just nine passes in three years as Drew Brees’ backup at New Orleans and has no proven track record.
“You could have said that about Matt Hasselbeck,” Dorsey said of Brett Favre’s one-time backup in Green Bay who eventually led Seattle to a Super Bowl. “He was like Mr. August. When you look at the backup quarterback, you want a highly motivated, competitive individual who understands his role and is willing to step up on a moment’s notice and is ready to take the baton when it’s handed to him.
“I feel very comfortable with Chase in his role and in his abilities. Once you get him in this offense in the preseason, he’ll show people why we brought him into this organization.”
Dorsey’s other marquee move was the selection of offensive tackle Eric Fisher of Central Michigan with the first pick of the NFL draft over Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel. Fisher, a left tackle in college, is running with the first unit at right tackle as veteran Branden Albert occupies the left side.
“I find it interesting with offensive linemen who are selected so high, when they begin to blend into the group, you forget about them,” Dorsey said. “It’s like, ‘My gosh, it’s like he’s a veteran out there.’ Athletically, Eric is as talented as we thought he was. Like any rookie coming into the NFL, going to a new team, he’s going to have to work at the technical stuff. That comes with a little time. Everything he’s done to this point, I couldn’t be happier.
“I’m very happy with this draft class. I think there are a couple of surprises among the college free agents. I’m not going to name any names, but all along, we have said, if we can find three, four free agents to make this team, that helps down the road. “
In addition to Daniel, the Chiefs brought in several veteran free agents, and already it appears tight end Anthony Fasano, defensive end Mike DeVito, cornerbacks Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson and possibly inside linebackers Akeem Jordan and Zac Diles are going to play key roles this season.
“(Defensive coordinator) Bob Sutton likes big press corners, so you have to give him players like Sean Smith,” Dorsey said. “I like Dunta Robinson’s approach to the game, his true professionalism. Everybody has done everything I thought they’d be doing.”
Certainly, there have been some disappointments, but Dorsey did not want to address them.
“Are there positions on the roster that need to be improved?” he said. “Yes there are. I’m not going to say which ones, but we’re not done turning this roster over until training camp or I wouldn’t be doing my job. I’m living in the present with an eye on the future.
“When you get a chance to be with a coaching staff like Andy Reid, you want to make sure you give him all the tools you can to succeed.”
One of those tools was hiring former Nevada head football coach Chris Ault as a consultant. Ault is the guru of the pistol offense that San Francisco used so effectively last season, and the Chiefs have dabbled with the formation in the offseason program.
“In today’s football you’ve seen a high degree of success with the pistol offense,” Dorsey said. “It was pretty ingenious by Andy to get the guy who was the architect of the pistol offense and give him a consultant’s role to help defend it and to run it. I think that was pretty sharp.”
Dorsey, who worked with Reid at Green Bay in the 1990s, believes the veteran Reid, at 55, has been re-energized in Kansas City.
“What’s good about him is he’s got a bounce in his step and is loving the heck out of coaching,” Dorsey said of Reid, who spent the last 14 years as Philadelphia’s head coach. “He’s breaking down every little detail. Guys don’t realize how much he sees.
“I love how much fun he’s having. He’s enjoying himself. When he can enjoy himself, that means good things for this organization.”