4. Speaking of the defense, Hitchens explained how that group can still properly prepare for the season and continue to excel as a unit despite limited contact in practice
“I think there are a lot of different ways. Going into my seventh year now, there are a lot of different ways you can get ready for a game without throwing your body and hitting people in practice,” Hitchens explained. “It starts in the meeting room, with walk throughs and just with repetition. That’s how we got better last year – we got to practice early and we did walk throughs. You can see a lot in slow motion – you don’t have to be going a hundred miles-per-hour to get better – and I think that’s what we did last year. We took the pads off early but we got better as a team, so Coach Reid is doing a good job of putting our schedule together and getting us ready. He’s been around for a long time, so we’re just going to listen to him and go from there.”
2.) Kansas City Chiefs:
2019 record: 12-4
Offensive DVOA: 3rd (Pass: 2nd/Run: 14th)
Defensive DVOA: 14th (Pass: 6th/Run: 29th)
A large majority of the Chiefs’ roster returns from their Super Bowl-winning squad last season. As long as Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes are together, their offense will be near the top in the league. Their defense is not a powerhouse, but they still have some talented pieces throughout. Obviously, they have the offensive aptitude to overcome most defensive deficiencies.
“I’m sure that everybody in Kansas City is really excited because, like me, they’ve adopted Patrick Mahomes,” Brett said. “I came here as a 20-year-old, I didn’t know anybody in this city, and I’ve lived here now for 47 years. Patrick bought a home here and I think he’s already upgraded as of last week supposedly. He got rid of the little two or three-bedroom house he has, now he has about a six-bedroom house… The town is excited to have him obviously and I think the town is really excited to have him as a part of the ownership group.”
1. Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City Chiefs
The best home-field advantage lies in the very heart of the country, in the home of blues and BBQ, at 1 Arrowhead Drive in Kansas City, MO. Stuffed the brim with 76,000+ fans every home game, every year, Arrowhead Stadium boasts one of the most passionate fan bases, and coolest traditional stadium designs, in the NFL.
And as Bryan Zarpentine notes that “If you want noise, it doesn’t get much better than Arrowhead Stadium. To be fair, there’s some stiff competition in that department, but the folks in Kansas City know how to get rowdy, putting Arrowhead in the Guinness Book of World Records as the loudest outdoor stadium in the world.”
This was a 10-team, non-PPR draft. For the uninitiated, PPR stands for point per reception, which means running backs, wide receivers and tight ends get a point for every catch they make. This being a non-PPR format, there is no bonus for receptions, so players who rely on heavy pass-catching volume take a hit in fantasy value. You can compare this one to our recent 10-team, PPR draft to see the differences.
One thing worth noting in this draft was that Kansas City Chiefs rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire went in Round 1 for the first time. His value has been on the rise, and it will be interesting to see if this trend continues as Week 1 nears.
Kansas City Chiefs: 2019*
15-4 overall record
Won franchise’s first Super Bowl since AFL-NFL merger
First team in NFL history to overcome three double-digit deficits in the playoffs
After a 7-4 start, the Chiefs won their final nine games that included a 31-20 win over the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. Patrick Mahomes, the league’s MVP the previous season, became the first player in league history to win a league and Super Bowl MVP before his 25th birthday. And while Mahomes was a major reason for their first championship in 50 years, the Chiefs were hardly a one-man show. Along with Mahomes, the Chiefs’ 2019 roster featured five other Pro Bowlers in receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce (97 catches, 1,229 yards), defensive linemen Chris Jones and Frank Clark, and safety Tyrann Mathieu.
While the ‘19 Chiefs won the title as the franchise’s best team, a tip of the cap goes out to the ‘69 Chiefs, the second and final AFL team to win the Super Bowl. The ‘69 Chiefs featured eight Hall of Famers in coach Hank Stram, quarterback Len Dawson, defensive tackles Curly Culp and Buck Buchanan, linebackers Bobby Bell and Willie Lanier and safety Johnny Robinson.
Around the NFL
That system is about to undergo a stress test. The Patriots lost more approximate value this offseason (a stat that combines playing time and performance level) than any defense has in the past 17 years, according to the 2020 Football Outsiders Almanac. That was before Hightower and Chung opted out. Combine those two with Collins, Van Noy, and Shelton, and the Patriots have lost almost half of their starters from the defense that allowed the fewest yards and points in the NFL last year. Belichick rarely has a problem when he needs one of his young players to contribute, but now he needs five of them to do so simultaneously. Not only will he have to figure it out, but he’ll have to do so with less practice time than ever after the NFL and NFLPA agreed to alter training camp rules during the pandemic. Last year, New England’s first padded practice was on July 27. This year, teams won’t be allowed to have a padded practice until August 17.
Foles then left for a return to Philadelphia and reunion with Pederson (Foles’ former QBs coach in Philadephia) in 2017, and ended up replacing the injured Carson Wentz to lead the Eagles on a storybook run to a victory in Super Bowl LII. We know the rest of the tale from there, with Nagy ending up in Chicago in 2018, Foles going to Jacksonville in 2019 and the two reuniting in Chicago in 2020.
Foles has cleared the first hurdle, then, and is comfortable enough with the health and safety protocols for that to not be an issue, either. All that’s left is to take command of the offense and beat out the former second-overall pick, Mitch Trubisky.
“I think the big thing is just don’t focus on winning,” Foles explained. “The big thing is focus on getting to be myself out there on the field. When a play is called, playing to the best of my ability.
“…It’s been a year since I was in that sort of offense, but it’s nice to have that verbiage and have this feel and understand why we’re doing it, this is how we do it, this is the history. Because the history of the Philly offense came from K.C., we evolved it in Philly but coach Nagy brought the K.C. offense here and it’s become the Bears offense.”
“I’m looking at everything that makes us safer,” Sills said. “So I would certainly hope that we arrive at a design that offers protection and doesn’t hinder performance, and I think if we do that, it would certainly be something I would want to see everyone adopt. If we can hit that sweet spot, if we can find something that does offer protection and doesn’t hinder how guys breathe or communicate on the field, I would have to think the players would buy into that and want that.”
As it stands, there is expected to be some voluntary use of masks during practice and games. The league’s game-day protocol strongly recommends that coaches, staff members and non-participating players wear them on the sideline. Referees and other officials are likely to be in masks too, to be used in conjunction with electronic whistles.
CYNTHIA FRELUND: The Los Angeles Chargers narrowly edge out the Baltimore Ravens as my pick for best complete secondary in the NFL. The acquisition of corner Chris Harris Jr. to a position group that already included Casey Hayward, Derwin James, who’s returning from injury, and Desmond King II, makes it the perfect complement to the Chargers’ extremely efficient pressure front.
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As the days continue on, it has become apparent this point of emphasis will be stressed league-wide. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden — Reid’s close friend from their Packers days — calls it “crushing the virus.” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin refers to “off-field actions detrimental to the team.”
Every coach will have his own spin, but the point should sound uniform: don’t be dumb outside the damn bubble.
If it comes to it, teams will reportedly be able to issue fines for “reckless behavior” as necessary. That could include eating out in restaurants — or something as simple as riding in an Uber. It is by no means ideal, but that will be part of the job in 2020.
During Thursday’s Chiefs media availability, it was apparent that message had already been heard loud and clear by two of the team’s Super Bowl LIV captains.
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