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Wizard & Genius: Malzahn takes on the master

Sep 18, 2014 -- 9:50am

By  @TJCarpenterWHB

It’s not hyperbole – long before the HUNH offense, Bill Snyder revolutionized the way undersized programs recruit, scheme and attack traditional powerhouses.

He turned upsets into expectations. He did it with unique strategies and a new way of thinking. After 30 years, opposing coaches still can’t figure out him and his Kansas State Wildcats.  Which is what makes this Thursday night’s game against Auburn so much more intriguing.

Similarly, Tigers’ coach Gus Malzahn marches to the beat of his own drummer. He’s often called an offensive “genius”. Is it hyperbole?

I don’t know, but it’s hard to argue with the results.

What I do know is Auburn at Kansas State will be the best coaching match-up of the 2014 college football season.

Perhaps Malzhan’s most valuable coaching attribute is that he has no tendencies as a play-caller. He is unique in this regard.

Everyone has tendencies … but not Malzahn.  His system allows plays that acutely attack the weakness of each specific defense.

In a different way, Snyder has been equally as effective; there is no better coach at finding and exploiting the tendencies/weaknesses of an opponents. Malzahn the master of surprise, Snyder the master of attack.

Thursday isn’t Ali and Liston … it’s Byrne and Fischer.  (HERE - [hperlink - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Game_of_the_Century_(chess)], let me help you!)

For a football junkie, this the match-up you dream about.  One you circle on the calendar and remember forever – all the more so given Snyder’s age.

He’s one of the best coaches in college football history in part because he turned a perennial doormat into a champion out of nothing but cunning and guile.  And he did it twice!

Malzahn is perhaps the hottest young coach in the game today – the star of the hour.  Not simply because he’s been successful everywhere he’s parked his bus on every level in every way, although he has.

Rather, it is because he’s done it without a noticeable blueprint.

He sees situations, assesses them, finds the solution, and then coaches up his players on who to execute it.

Both Malzahn and Snyder are remarkably good at solving problems and adapting to adverse circumstances, and both win at an elite level.  So, which one wins on Thursday … the young upstart wizard or the crafty master?

One thing’s for certain – I wouldn’t miss this for anything.
...

Chiefs Training Camp Report, 8/12/2014

Aug 12, 2014 -- 1:56pm
 
- Eric Berry was kept out as a precaution as his tendonitis flamed up today
 
- Mike Catapano continues to battle a virus, I don't know what kind, but it's kept him out of camp for nearly the entire duration.
 
- Andy Reid said the 1st team quarterback (Alex Smith) will likely get the first half.
 
- Demetrius Harris, after struggling early in training camp displaying the same athleticism and consistency he did in OTAs and minicamp has now started to the same ability again. He had several big "go up and get it" plays today over the middle.
 
- Albert Wilson and Dwayne Bowe both had very bad drops today in practice. Plenty of space, both hands on the ball, just dropped it.
 
- Frankie Hammond has disappeared.
 
- In 11 on 11 drills with Alex Smith throwing the ball he worked in tandem with two different skill position groups that rotated in and out: 1st: Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, Junior Hemingway - Jamaal Charles, Anthony Sherman/Anthony Fasano and 2nd: AJ Jenkins, Kyle Williams, Albert Wilson - Knile Davis, Travis Kelce/Demetrius Harris. (my personal prediction is that this is as close to a 2-deep as you will see to start the season barring injury)
 
- Defensively, Ron Parker and Sean Smith appear to be the 1st team corners to this point in practice. They really like Ron Parker with that first unit.
 
- Hussein Abdullah had a nice snag interception off an AJ Jenkins tipped pass in coverage. 
 
- Cairo Santos did not miss a kick today. Ryan Succop continues to sit out, not even working outside until the final special teams period, which he watches.

Chiefs Training Camp Report, 8/11/2014

Aug 11, 2014 -- 12:52pm
 
NOTES:
 
- Sean Smith had high highs and low lows today in practice. He got a couple INTs and then was flat out dominated off the ball a couple times by Donnie Avery
 
- Ron Parker and Sean Smith were put in with the first team defense on a number of 11 on 11 drills today
 
- Chase Daniel continues to struggle at camp throwing interceptions, but that is not unlike his performance from TC last year.
 
- Frank Zombo may be the odd man out in LB corps, Dezman Moses injury may change that, but as it stands right now, Outside Linebacker group consists of Hali, Houson - Ford, Martin - and then if Zombo were to make the team, he would be the 5th OLB on the 53.
 
- Albert Wilson continues to play well, I still believe Frankie Hammond will make the team over Wilson, but camp is long and right now Wilson looks like the more productive of the two. Kyle Williams also continues with strong performances at camp.
 
- Albert Wilson also may prove to be a better WR option next season than DeAnthony Thomas, who has smaller hands and less weight on his frame. 
 
- DAT is clearly the fastest football player in pads they have at camp. I asked Adam Teicher about how Thomas compares to Dante Hall, who has the same height and about 10-pounds heavier. Teicher said Hall was a stockier player than Thomas, but wasn't nearly as fast as DAT is. Whether he plays on offense much remains to be seen, but I think he'll be a gamer on special teams.
 
- DAT also worked on kickoff drills today as the catch man on several "Music City Miracle" drills. They did a shorter version of the play as well that involved Knile Davis as the catch man.

Chiefs Training Camp Report, 8/4/2014

Aug 04, 2014 -- 2:38pm
 
NOTES:
 
- Mike Catapano has a virus, hasn't practiced in a week, waiting for the virus to run its course.
 
- Mike DeVito suffered a hand injury during practice, will have his hand x-rayed.
 
- Mark Harrison (hamstring), Junior Hemmingway (hamstring), Dezman Moses (elbow), Kyle Love (ankle) all sat out practice due to injury. 
 
- Joe McKnight is off the PUP list and was back out in full pads today.
 
- Kyle Williams had a standout day today at WR, he's been one of many including Hammond and Albert who have had excellent camps at WR.
 
- Daniel Sorensen had a couple more picks today, he's just got a nose for the ball, he has more interceptions than any other player at practice. He's been picking off passes since rookie OTAs earlier this summer.
 
- Demetrius Harris has been slowed significantly by pads. Wanted to wait to make the statement, but he's not as dynamic once the pads have come on as he was when he was snagging balls in OTAs and minicamp. 
 
- That being said, Anthony Fasano and Travis Kelce both continue to look very good at practice. 
 
- From yesterday's practice, Sorensen jumped a route in goal line work and had an interception in his hand, then Fasano grabbed it away from him for the touchdown and then spiked the ball in Sorensen's face.

Chiefs Training Camp Report, 7/30/2014

Jul 30, 2014 -- 1:44pm

By @TJCarpenterWHB

 

- Eric Fisher is still not participating in 1 on 1 drills against the defensive lineman, though he does participate in 11 on 11 team sessions
 
Mike Catapano missed practice today with an illness. Sanders Commings (ankle) and Mark Harrison (hamstring) left practice early.
 
- Travis Kelce continues to engage in all practice drills and activities (not a new development, but he doesn't seem to be bothered at all by previous injury, he's cutting and bursting well.)
 
- Ron Parker continues to get snaps over Sean Smith on defense.
 
- Frankie Hammond and Albert Wilson continue to stand out at WR.
 
- Aaron Murray remarked today that he hasn't had to worry much about the secondary jumping routes against his WRs. Murray hasn't played against the first team defense, but the fact he hasn't felt challenged by the secondary may speak to a lack of depth.
 
- In goal line 11 on 11 today, the 2nd team defense stifled the first team offense on multiple plays, stuffing and tackling Jamaal Charles to the ground. In addition to that, the 2nd team offense with Cyrus Grey and Knile Davis were able to punch it in several times against the first team defense.
 
- DeAnthony Thomas had his best day of camp so far. He's seeing the field much better than he was earlier in camp and even broke multiple tackles as opposed to just outrunning or juking guys to advance his position.

 

Chiefs Training Camp Report, 7/27/2014

Jul 27, 2014 -- 12:12am

JUSTIN HOUSTON’S CONTRACT


I’m with Adam Teicher of ESPN and Terez Paylor of the KC Star on this one. Why antagonize a stud 25-year-old pass rusher who has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL? Pay the young man his money. But at the same time, it’s understandable why the Chiefs are hesitant to make that logical move right away. John Dorsey has been burned once already on a major deal with Dwayne Bowe. He’d rather not go through that again with another player. Also, the nature of the position leaves a certain amount of uncertainty surrounding Houston’s health and ability to produce long term. Finally, if Houston is put under contract, that then puts added uncertainty on Alex Smith’s future with the team and whether or not the Chiefs will ultimately franchise tag him in lieu of committing dollars to Smith long term.


It’s not a good situation to be in for the Chiefs. Houston wants a rumored contract that is somewhere between $11.5 million (Tamba Hali) and $13.5 million (Clay Matthews) and his production to this point (26.5 sacks through 32 games) would suggest he’s worth the investment. But, as we said before, how getting that deal done affects Alex Smith is a relative unknown; one that could potentially derail the season if Smith feels as though the Chiefs aren’t as committed to him as he is to the team.


THE YEAR OF JAMAAL

In 2013, Jamaal Charles was 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards, first in both rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns, and 2nd in yards from scrimmage. He did everything for a Chiefs offense that for most of the season was pedestrian but sound. He accounted for 33% of the offense’s total production and did so while getting “Priest-Holmesian” touches of the football. He WAS the offense. That’s the way Andy Reid wants it, so don’t expect it to change.


Charles is also only 247 yards shy of becoming the all-time career rushing leader in Chiefs franchise history. He may surpass that mark week 2 against the Denver Broncos, in Denver. He’s also only 278 attempts shy of becoming the all-time carries leader in franchise history as well. He had 259 carries (though significantly more touches) in his first year under coach Reid.


As much potential as Knile Davis and DeAnthony Thomas seem to possess, don’t expect touches to be taken away from Charles to give to Davis or Thomas, those touches will have to come from somewhere else. Charles is too good. This offense was tailor-made for Jamaal Charles who is entering into what will likely be his peak year of production based upon age.


In Andy Reid’s system, which while being mostly based around the West Coast, the running back position is heavily featured because protecting the football is paramount. Check down’s are a large bulk of the offense. That means Jamaal Charles is a huge part of the passing game as well as the running game. That makes getting on the ground with minimal contact easier; it makes going out of bounds easier. Perhaps the best thing about Charles is his ability to make the right decision at the right time on the field. He knows when to make a cut, he knows when to  go out of bounds and he knows when to go to the ground. Not all touches are created equal, sometimes you can deem a touch “free” because the amount of contact on the tackle was minimal or non-existent, thus saving the body. Charles gets a lot of free touches which will keep him healthier longer. Other than staying healthy though, how does his decision-making help him this coming season?


There is perhaps not another running back in the NFL currently who is as good as Jamaal Charles when it comes to finding space or creating space where there didn’t seem to be any to pick up yards. The way he weaves in and out of tackles is unique. His vision is second to none. It makes him an asset to the Chiefs because he’s an outlier. No one else has his intuition at that position in the league. He isn’t Adrian Peterson, who is a perfect blend of size and speed, or LeSean McCoy who like Charles has great vision, but is more physical than he sometimes needs to be on the field. He’s faster, smarter and more agile, but the emphasis should be on smart. His football IQ and natural intuition are excellent tools, tools that separate him from most of the NFL.


Tom Brady and Peyton Manning aren’t great because of their physical domination, they’re great because of their focus and intelligence. The same can be said for every great player in the NFL. It takes a physical prerequisite to play in the NFL, as long as you meet it you’re good enough to play, it’s the rest of the equation - the focus, intelligence, work ethic - that will set truly great players apart, and Charles possesses all those qualities.


Coming into this season, Charles is in the best physical condition he’s ever been in or may ever be again, he plays in a system and for a coach who highlights things he is naturally good at and wants to rely on him, he’s not only well-established but now excelling in an offense he now has a background in and he’s confident, focused, football-intelligent and has impeccable work ethic. I wouldn’t bet against him. In fact, I’m going all in on Jamaal Charles this season.


In 2012 I saw a player who had been torn down and forced to rebuild himself, and he regained the confidence to be great in the process. In 2014, I’m ready for the year of Jamaal.


THE WEST COAST OFFENSE YEAR TWO

Bob Glauber of New York’s Newsday said something that changed my perception of how good Alex Smith still has the potential to be this offseason. He said Steve Young acknowledged he didn’t fully understand, or have the capacity to understand, the West Coast offense until after age 30. Smith is now beyond that threshold, which leads me to believe the possibility for greater production is still there. Smith can not only be better, but significantly better this season because of where he is in his career and where he is in terms of his own development as a West Coast quarterback.


Smith will still need help however, and where its going to come from is anyone’s guess past Jamaal Charles on the list of playmakers. Here’s what we know: Jamaal Charles is incredible and will carry the load this season. AND… that’s it. We DON’T know is this: We don’t know whether or not Dwayne Bowe will rebound from an unproductive 2013. We don’t know if Travis Kelce or Demetrius Harris can play at the NFL level. We don’t know if Junior Hemingway will impress the coaches enough to garner more playing time than he did last season. We don’t know if really anyone else can produce on a regular basis.


Trusting the system? Everything we saw in OTAs and minicamp was positive. The offense looks crisp and the players seem to have an excellent understanding of what Reid and the coaches want them to do. Whether we see that in the season is still an unknown. But seeing things to make us optimistic about the season is better than the alternative.

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