By Steven St. John
What Chiefs players are you most excited to watch this season? Yes, the pre-season was ugly, but hope still remains that Kansas City can figure things out in time for the regular season. So, here’s my list of the top 10 Chiefs players that I’m most excited to watch in 2014.
1) Jamaal Charles – JC is the best running back in football and he’s an absolute joy to watch on the field. The sky is the limit for #25 in Andy Reid’s offense and I can’t wait to watch how Big Red will use him in their second season together.
2) Travis Kelce – Kelce looked fantastic during the preseason, giving the Chiefs a game-breaking threat at the tight end position. If Kelce can stay healthy, he will provide Alex Smith with a huge target over the middle and in the red zone that the Chiefs were missing last season.
3) De’Anthony Thomas – How will Reid utilize the tantalizing skills that DAT offers? I’m sure that DAT will have an impact on special teams, but how many touches will he get from scrimmage? He might get fewer touches than Dexter McCluster did last year, but I think he will do more damage with his opportunities than Dex ever did.
4) Justin Houston – There are still some doubters out there that question whether Houston is an elite pass rusher. I think he is. It will be interesting to watch how Houston responds to not getting a new contract. Will it bother him? Or, will it drive him to have his best season, yet?
5) Alex Smith – Smith did get his fat new contract and now all the questions have been answered. This is Alex Smith’s team and he needs to show the Chiefs fan base that Reid and John Dorsey did not make a mistake by signing him to an extension. Smith got the money, so there are no more excuses. Play like a top 10 quarterback, lead this team back to the playoffs and win a playoff game. Because, that’s what franchise quarterbacks are supposed to do.
6) Dontari Poe – If the Chiefs defensive front seven is to play well enough to overcome a shaky secondary, Poe must be the anchor. The big man in the middle led all defensive tackles in snaps last season with over 1,000. I repeat…over 1,000! He should have more help in the defensive line rotation this season, so maybe that can help Bob Sutton can keep Poe fresher down the stretch.
7) Eric Berry – The secondary looked awful without Berry in the preseason. The secondary also looked awful with Berry during the second half of last season. Berry is one of the highest paid safeties in the NFL and he must play like it. He has to single-handedly make the secondary better. He needs to be a playmaker. Oh, and please stay healthy…Thanks.
8) Dwayne Bowe – Bowe wasn’t very good last season until the playoff loss against the Colts. Is that playoff performance more of an indication of what the Smith-to-Bowe connection is capable of in this offense or will we see more inconsistencies from #82? We won’t see anything from Bowe in week one against the Titans because he’s suspended, so he’ll have 15 games to prove to this team and this city that he can be Smith’s go-to man in this offense.
9) Dee Ford – The Chiefs could have picked a wide receiver or a cornerback in the first round of the 2014 draft and many fans would have been pleased. Instead, they selected Ford and many fans were perplexed. Ford didn’t do much in the preseason, so all eyes will be on the Auburn product once the games start to count. If nothing else, it should be entertaining to watch how Sutton chooses to utilize Ford, Houston and Tamba Hali when they’re on the field at the same time.
10) Albert Wilson – He was my favorite player to watch in training camp and the Chiefs could certainly use some speed and big-play ability from their wide receivers. He may be a boom and he might be a bust, but this kid was electric in St. Joseph. Hopefully, some of those skills he displayed in camp will translate to the field on Sundays.
By Steven St. John
I grew up watching sports with my maternal grandfather, Danny Ontiveros. He was born in Mexico, raised in Texas and moved to Kansas City as a young man. He coached boxing and he was one of the main reasons I developed a love for the sweet science as a boy. His three favorite teams were the Royals, Chiefs and El Tri, the Mexican national futbol team.
I spent many countless hours as a kid, watching our favorite fighters and our favorite teams as they took us on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. I remember watching my Grandpa cry after the Royals lost in the 1980 World Series to the Phillies. I watched him cry again as he embraced me moments after the Royals finally won the title in 1985 against the Cardinals.
Now, whenever I watch the Chiefs or Royals in a big game or I’m enjoying a pay-per-view fight with my sons, I often wonder what my Grandpa’s reaction would be to that game or fight. So, when El Tri lost to the Netherlands in the World Cup this past weekend in such heartbreaking fashion, I could only imagine what my Grandpa’s reaction would have been to Mexico’s devastating collapse. I’m almost afraid to consider what effect the loss would have had on him.
My sons love to laugh at me whenever I’m flipping out during a Chiefs or Mizzou football game. They watch in enjoyment as I rant and rave during a Juan Manuel Marquez fight. And, many times, they end up emulating their old man during those same games and fights.
We long for the Chiefs to win a playoff game…We dream of what it would be like to attend a Royals post-season game together…We shout for our favorite fighters like we are huddled in their corner and they can actually hear our frantic instructions.
On Tuesday, we’ll be watching the U.S. national team as they battle Belgium for the right to advance in the World Cup. And, as we are screaming and shouting, convinced our cheers can make a difference, I’ll silently remember my Grandpa…thanking him for turning me into a sports fanatic. Giving me a common ground to share with my sons, bonding us the way I bonded with him. All the while, hoping he’s over that damn loss to the Netherlands.
By Steven St. John
ESPN and Sports Illustrated NFL analyst, Andrew Brandt, was on the Border Patrol this week and offered a unique perspective into the possible thought process of the Kansas Chiefs during the NFL Draft.
Before becoming a member of the media, Brandtworked as a sports representative for ProServ and Woolf Associates, general manager of the Barcelona Dragons in the NFL’s World League and served as a team vice president of the Green Bay Packers along with John Dorsey from 1999 to 2008, negotiating player contracts and managing the team’s salary cap.
Brandt also spent the 2009 off-season as a consultant to the Philadelphia Eagles, working with Andy Reid.
Here are some excerpts from Brandt, discussing various topics concerning the Chiefs and the draft.
Brandt on trade rumors involving Brandon Flowers:
“ I think one thing people should know about in the draft room in addition to the decision maker and his trusted assistants, you have sort of the cap contract/operator and that would be a situation like a trade, where you always have numbers at the ready because things can get hectic when you get offered a pick for a player, so you have to be able to show the difference financially.
So, if you get a player like a Flowers, what are the ongoing salaries that you mentioned and if you trade him what is the acceleration, what’s the hit on the cap, how do you replace him...etc. I think the draft has become such an important tool at developing players at such a low fixed cost in terms of money that its unlikely to see these players with high salary going for picks because sure the high salary player will be good in the short term but in the long run you can have a better player for four, six, eight , ten years; where the player coming may only have one or two years left. I think there are more general managers, like Dorsey, coming from the college scouting background, having as many picks as possible rather than taking on veteran players. So, I’d say unlikely but when you see floated out that guys are available for trades, there is a probably a reason why its out there. “
Brandt on the possibility of the Chiefs drafting a QB vs. signing a long-term deal with Alex Smith:
“I was with the Packers and we had one of the most durable quarterbacks in NFL history in Brett Favre and he wasn’t going anywhere the whole time I was there. We drafted numerous quarterbacks before I got there and all of those guys were really drafted to be traded. So what you did was develop them, so by the time they are up for contract you have to get something for him or lose him to free agency. Now, later in my career and Favre’s career, we drafted Aaron (Rodgers) and that was an eye towards him being “the guy” rather than him being a guy that we are going to trade. I think you always take a quarterback with that in mind. I don’t think that Alex Smith is like the legend of Brett Favre where the guy won’t play if you pick him because Alex isn’t going anywhere. In terms of contact negotiations, you know what that is. That is an agent coming in and wanting a certain level and the team doesn’t think that the player is deserving of that level.
There are flashpoint times and I think the next one is Training Camp. Whatever the discrepancy is that has to be resolved. Now, if the team is in serious contract negotiations with the player and is making an effort to sign him even if its not what the player wants, I think is a good sign. It shows that you are making a commitment to that player for the long term but if the team is stonewalling the negotiations, that’s not a good sign because they are showing that they are content to let it play out and see how it goes, kind of like the discussion on the fifth year options with these rookies.”
“He was definitely a big part of drafting Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. He was at Ted Thompson’s side and was for many years. I truly believe that he will take the highest rated player and this isn’t a positional need thing with him. I think that is true for all of us Packer disciples…best player available.. trust the board … if you have a guy rated higher no matter the position. I think the issue you have is when you come to two similar rated picks, then you go for more of a need or trade down because you think you can get the same player later.
By Steven St. John
Last week in this blog, I predicted the outcome of the rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley.
I think Pacquiao wins an entertaining decision on Saturday night, maybe 116-112 or 115-113…
I was pretty close as Pacquiao won a unanimous decision by the scores of 116-112, 116-112, 118-110. I scored the exciting, action-packed bout 116-112.
I also explained my concern for Bradley’s game plan heading into this fight.
He needs to throw more punches, but that doesn’t mean take wild chances like he did against Provodnikov. Bradley needs to control the pace of the fight with his jab. He needs to use lateral movement, avoid standing and trading, and trust his speed and footwork. Bradley can still test Pacquiao’s chin by taking advantage of counter-punching opportunities when the moment is right, but if he gets into a brawl, he will likely lose.
Bradley did well in the first half of the fight. I had my scorecard even after six rounds. However, Bradley decided to stand and slug with Pacquiao early and often. That mistake gave Bradley some early points, but cost him in the second half of the fight. He wore down because he fought Pacquiao’s fight. It made for a more crowd-pleasing fight than their first match-up, but everything played right into Pacquiao’s hands.
Now, Pacquiao is likely to fight his nemesis Juan Manual Marquez for a fifth time later this year while Bradley could rematch Ruslan Provodnikov. But, if I were Bradley’s advisor, I’d give him an easier fight before stepping in the ring with Provodnikov again. Maybe a fight with Brandon Rios would work for both sides looking to bounce back from a loss to Pacquiao.
By Steven St. John
Manny Pacquiao did not lose to Timothy Bradley. Ignore Bradley’s undefeated record and pay no attention to the judge’s incorrect scorecards that shocked the boxing world on June 9, 2012 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Pacquiao won the fight and the judges got it wrong. However, that doesn’t mean Bradley won’t win this Saturday night when they fight again.
Since that first fight, Pacquiao was knocked out cold by his nemesis, Juan Manuel Marquez and then won a lopsided decision over an out-classed Brandon Rios.Bradley also fought twice since facing Pacquiao, winning a slugfest with the Gatti-like Ruslan Provodnikov and earning a narrow decision over a surprisingly lackadaisical Marquez.
With the win over Marquez and a fight with Floyd Mayweather nowhere in sight, Bradley was left as the next logical opponent for Pacquiao. A rematch that would give Pacquiao on opportunity to right the wrong of a loss he didn’t deserve while facing a pay-per-view quality opponent that most people felt he handled with ease the first time around.
For Bradley, the rematch gives him the opportunity to validate his “win” against Pacquiao and the actual wins against Provodnikov and Marquez. Bradley’s reputation suffered after that first fight against Pacquiao, despite building a career that has placed him among the top-ten best pound-for-pound boxers in the world. He actually fought a decent fight against Pacquiao, battling through serious injuries to both ankles. He simply didn’t win the fight. And, instead of the public’s outrage being directed at the ridiculous judges scorecards, the fans turned on Bradley, blaming him for something he had no control over. But, with his last two impressive wins, the thriller against Provodnikov and the triumph over the man that destroyed Pacquiao, Bradley has fought his way back into the good graces of fight fans around the world.
Now, one question remains…Can Bradley actually beat Pacquiao? The answer is yes. But, he must be more aggressive than he was in the first fight. He needs to throw more punches, but that doesn’t mean take wild chances like he did against Provodnikov. Bradley needs to control the pace of the fight with his jab. He needs to use lateral movement, avoid standing and trading, and trust his speed and footwork. Bradley can still test Pacquiao’s chin by taking advantage of counter-punching opportunities when the moment is right, but if he gets into a brawl, he will likely lose.
Pacquiao’s recipe for success is also to be more active. Don’t assume anything with the judges and don’t coast just because you think you are leading on points. He needs to cut-off the ring effectively, don’t let Bradley get into a comfortable rhythm and he can’t lose focus and get caught with a counter-punch ala Marquez.
I think Pacquiao wins an entertaining decision on Saturday night, maybe 116-112 or 115-113 and moves on to a fifth fight with Marquez in September. If he loses, he just might retire. As for Bradley, a win could propel him into a mega-fight with Mayweather or a rematch with Marquez.
Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley II will be shown live at the 810 Zone inside Harrah’s North Kansas City Casino and at the 810 Zone in Lee’s Summit.
By Steven St. John
If the WAC Tournament started today, the seeds would be as follows:
No. 1 Utah Valley, No. 2 New Mexico St., No. 3 Chicago State, No. 4 UMKC,
No. 5 Seattle U, No. 6 Idaho, No. 7 UTPA, and No. 8 Bakersfield.
If UMKC goes 2-0 this week: It will be either the No. 3 or No. 4 seed. The only way it could be the 3 is if Chicago St. goes 0-2 vs. Idaho and Seattle.
If UMKC goes 1-1: It will be the No. 4 seed, even if tied in the standings with Idaho and/or Seattle.
If UMKC goes 0-2: It could be the 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 seed, depending on other game results.