In Part 2 of The People’s Mailbag, I’ll continue to tackle your Chiefs questions as the bye week comes to a close.
Topics include the running-back workload over the next few weeks, Andy Reid’s playcalling duties (and whether they miss Doug Pederson), Nick Foles and whether he can take Alex Smith’s job (hint: barring a disaster of a season, no) and the recent resurrection of former Chief Marcus Cooper, who’d sure look good in red and gold right now. All that and much more — plus my Mount Rushmore of throwback jerseys — inside.
OK, so if you missed Part 1 of the mailbag, click here. Without further ado, let’s get going.
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I think Charles was ready to go last week against the Steelers, despite a minimal workload. The Chiefs have been extra careful with him, but with the offense desperately needing a spark — and Charles now having a game under his belt, plus a bye week of rest — I wouldn’t be surprised if he started against the Raiders and got a healthy amount of touches. But the truth is, none of us knows how it will play out, especially with the next guy we’re about to talk about still on the roster …
Gotta love when “The Blogfather” chimes in. This is in reference to Spencer Ware, and my story on his recent fumbling “issue.” The thing is, Ware isn’t a known fumbler, and at least one of his fumbles — the one against the Jets, where he dived for the pylon — probably shouldn’t count. I’d be really surprised if the Chiefs stop using him — he’s averaging a stellar 5.3 yards per carry in 54 attempts — but the truth is, Charles is a more dynamic player who should get the bulk of the touches at some point … the problem is figuring out when. My fantasy advice would be to wait until Jamaal breaks out before you play him, barring a mid-week announcement from Andy Reid or something. Ware is a versatile bulldozer who probably deserves a role even with Charles at 100 percent, so let’s just see how it all plays out.
I feel like a lot of Cooper’s success has been related to reps and opportunity, as he’s got five passes defended and three interceptions in five games (three starts) with the Cardinals. The fact the guy is a contract year doesn’t hurt either, as he’s playing with an aggressiveness and edge we didn’t see much in Kansas City. Still, it’s easy to forget that Coop does have talent — he was named the Chiefs rookie of the year in 2013 — so we shouldn’t necessarily be shocked he’s thriving in a new environment. Cooper is a good seed — he always spoke after rough games — and a willing learner who continued to pick cornerbacks coach Al Harris’ brain over the past several years, even as his playing time dwindled, in hopes of being ready for the next opportunity. He also had a nice 2016 camp, in my opinion, but got pushed out by the improvement of 2015 third-rounder Steven Nelson and the emergence of rookie sixth-rounder D.J. White.
Playing devil’s advocate, you can argue they should have kept Cooper instead of trading a future seventh-rounder for Kenneth Acker, who hasn’t made much of an impact yet. But here’s the thing; while Acker is under contract on the cheap next year ($690K base salary), Cooper is set to be a free agent at the end of this season and would have almost certainly fled for greener pastures had he played this well with the Chiefs. As a general manager, if you feel Acker has the tools to be a similar player, why not trade for him and take care of Cooper by dealing him away? The Chiefs sent Cooper to a place he could thrive, and I’d be surprised if Coop was unhappy about that.
Carson Wentz has gotten off to a terrific start, and good for him. But he’s played four games. Let’s hold off on making either/or statements like that — Smith’s track record is far superior to Wentz’s, and you’re forgetting that he will eventually struggle some, as all rookies do, once NFL defensive coordinators get more and more tape on him.
As far as Pederson, I’d be willing to entertain the idea that his absence is missed some. But his replacements, Brad Childress and Matt Nagy, have been in Kansas City since Reid’s arrival in 2013. They’ve been in the install meetings. They’ve heard the playcalls. They know what has worked over the past three-plus years. It is too early to give up on this arrangement, or this team. But I understand the frustration.
Shawn is referring to my recent Sunday story about Alex being unable to kill teams with his legs anymore. Read it — it’s a good story with good information about how teams have taken away one of Smith’s best weapons during the Chiefs’ 2-2 start. But yes, if teams are spying him, there should be a gap in the coverage somewhere. Alex said that in the story … and he knows he has to do a better job of making teams pay with his arm. If defenses drop eight defenders into coverage and spy the quarterback, the Chiefs are best by served running the ball, which they have either been unable (due to the score) or unwilling (due to Reid’s desire to pass) to do. The good news is that Reid is good about making adjustments, especially after the bye. Let’s see what happens this week against Oakland.
Reid is not a dude that rode Brett Favre’s coattails to success. He legitimately had to coach up Donovan McNabb — who came from an option offense in college — in Philly, and groomed him into a quarterback that made five NFC Championship Game appearances. He’s also gotten the best out of Jeff Garcia, Kevin Kolb and Mike Vick — all guys with limitations — and has done a nice job with Alex Smith, though I know everyone is down on Alex right now. Look, the season is longer than four games. We should not forget what Alex did last year. We should not forget what this team did last year. There are 12 more games left. You have the right to feel however the way you feel about this team — you pay good money to support them — but my advice is to chill out. They could beat Oakland this weekend and you’ll forget all about the last two weeks.
(By the way, I say all that as a reporter who has to ask tough questions in news conferences and grades their performances as honestly as possible. My all “Fs” report card from the embarrassing 43-14 loss to the Steelers in Week 4 is proof of that.)
We don’t need any word on that. If any of us asked Andy about that right now we’d probably get the Belichick look. If they lose their next four games or something, maybe you talk about it, though.
For the record, we watched Nick Foles during training camp, and there was not one day — to the naked eye, at least — that he was better than Smith. He does have some skills, though, and is a really nice backup with some upside, provided he can clean up his footwork (I honestly don’t think he was coached well in St. Louis).
Bene “The Bat” Benwikere was claimed by the Dolphins on Monday, and while I generally like aggressive, tough defensive backs, I’d imagine he was released for a reason during the season. I want to see more of Steven Nelson, Phillip Gaines, D.J. White and Kenneth Acker — who I’m doing a story on — anyway. At some point, we need to know if these guys can play.
I’m taking what I’m presuming to be a smart-aleck question and using it as an excuse to discuss the situation. The Chiefs’ interest in Moore makes some sense; the former third-round pick was easily one of the most athletic linebackers in the 2013 NFL Draft, grading out as a top Combine tester at his position in the 40 (4.65), bench press (29 reps), vertical jump (38 inches) and broad jump (127 inches). In case you guys haven’t noticed yet, the Chiefs put a great deal of emphasis on a player’s physical/athletic ability, though they also look at intangibles and game tape. Throw in the fact he’s a former Raider — Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie and Chiefs general manager John Dorsey both come from the Ron Wolf GM tree and tend to like the same players — and it makes sense the Chiefs would want to kick the tires on Moore.
Now, the question is where they see him helping out, which is something I’ll dive into once we get access Wednesday. He played inside linebacker in Indianapolis but he’s racked up 7 1/2 sacks in his career and, given his physical skills, might have some juice as a situational edge rusher. That’s where my thinking is right now — the Chiefs might think it’s worth seeing if they have a pass-rushing find on their hands — but we’ll see.
Here is my personal Mount Rushmore of football jerseys (not in order): 1. Charles Woodson, ’97 Michigan (home blue). 2. Deion Sanders, ’94 49ers (road white late ’50s throwbacks). 3. Barry Sanders, ’94 Detroit (home blue ’57 throwbacks). 4. Sean Taylor, ’03 Miami (road white).
(One caveat: Had I grown up a fan of the Chiefs, and did not grow up to cover the team, I’d certainly rock the Derrick Thomas mid-’90s road white. But alas.)
That will do it for this week, folks. Remember, football is back on Sunday when the Chiefs take on the Raiders, but Andy Reid and a select number of players will meet with the media Wednesday. Remember to follow me on Twitter, as well as his partner on the Chiefs beat, do-it-all writer Blair Kerkhoff, to stay abreast of all your Chiefs news. Deuces.