By Mac Stevenson
Sports fans in Kansas City and the surrounding area are understandably eager—considering the abysmal condition of the KC Royals MLB team—for the start of NFL summer camps. The Kansas City Chiefs will begin their camp at St. Joseph, MO in late July.
The Chiefs focused their 2018 draft on defensive players; KC’s obvious weakness late in the 2017 season was a porous defense. In a startling move, the Chiefs’ coaching staff and CEO Clark Hunt decided to trade all-pro CB Marcus Peters, who had become a problem child because of his personal behavior. That left Kansas City needing two new cornerbacks, which are vital positions on any NFL roster.
Bob Sutton returns as KC’s defensive coordinator; his system revolves around man-to-man coverage by the defensive backs. That means the CBs are under constant pressure because mistakes at these positions are costly indeed.
During the offseason, KC acquired veterans Kendall Fuller and David Amerson to be the starting CBs. Fuller (5-11, 194) is 23 years old and he’ll be starting his fourth year as an NFL defensive back. Last season Fuller was ranked as the top slot CB in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.
Fuller is an established NFL CB and he had some observations following the Chiefs’ recent Organized Team Activities: “I’m just doing a little bit of everything . . . I think that’s one thing the scheme kind of does; everybody has to do everything. You don’t go in there trying to learn one position—you go in there and learn what the corner is doing, what the nickel is doing, what the safety is doing, the dime and the backers. You have to learn how to do everything.”
Amerson (6-2, 205), who is 26-years-old, analyzed the man-to-man aspects of Sutton’s system: “It’s a challenge, but it means you’re going to be in a position to make a lot of plays. Anytime you’re up in somebody’s face every play, they’re going to try you. Most offenses are looking to go outside when they’re being pressed, so it gives you more opportunities to make plays.” It also gives the CBs opportunities to make game-changing mistakes.
Amerson is starting his sixth NFL season has had more ups and downs during his career than Fuller; he was waived by Washington in September of 2015 and then claimed by Oakland. After the 2015 season, Amerson was named the NFL’s Most Improved Player by Pro Football Focus. After two successful seasons with Oakland, he missed the last nine games in 2017 with a foot injury. Amerson has the necessary maturity and talent to be an effective CB this fall.
Fuller and Amerson should constitute a formidable duo at the CB positions; however, KC needs to improve their pass rush, which was a constant weakness last season. If opposing QBs have too much time to throw, they’ll pick apart any defensive secondary in the NFL.
Kansas State’s football team won’t have to wait long for a big game this fall. The Wildcats face Mississippi State of the SEC at Snyder Family Stadium in their second game on September 8.
Joe Moorhead is Mississippi State’s new head coach and the Bulldogs also have a first-year defensive coordinator, Bob Shoop. M-St will be playing just their second game with a new offensive scheme and big changes in their defensive alignments. That’s an advantage for K-State.
M-St had a 9-4 record in 2017 (4-4 in the SEC); one of their losses was 31-24 to national champion Alabama. Coach Moorhead inherits 16 starters from last season’s outstanding ballclub.
Among the returning starters is senior QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230). He is one of just four QBs in SEC history that has passed for more than 4,400 yards and added 2,400 yards rushing. Fitzgerald is a terrific QB. The Bulldogs have eight starters returning on offense and seven on defense; in addition, they return their place kicker who made 12 of 14 field goals last season.
K-State lost at Vanderbilt (14-7) of the SEC last season—Mississippi State will be a more-formidable foe this fall. But the game is in Manhattan instead of Tennessee.
As a freshman guard last season, Marcus Garrett (6-5, 180) played stellar basketball for the Kansas Jayhawks. Garrett had just one glaring weakness and that was his 3-point shooting, which was caused by very poor fundamentals on his outside shots. Garrett is working hard with KU’s coaches to improve his shooting style; if he succeeds, Garrett will become a key player for the Jayhawks next season.
Garrett doesn’t have to become a great shooter, just good enough that opposing defenses can’t afford to leave him alone on the perimeter as they did last season. Don’t be surprised if Garrett is KU’s most-improved player this season.