ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – A single practice on any given day during a football season is but a snapshot that in the end helps make up what becomes a feature film of a team’s season.
Making evaluations and assumptions from a single practice like the Chiefs training camp session on Friday morning at Missouri Western State University is foolhardy.
But within the camp practices, there are moments when the skills of individual players show themselves.
No drill makes that happen more than the one-on-one matchup between linemen in pass protection and the pass rush. Once full pads go on in camp, these mano a mano battles are every day affairs.
In Friday’s practice, the Chiefs had 50 snaps of pass pro-pass rush. Here’s a look at what went down in those competitions.
The offensive line must block a pass rusher without help from mates, which seldom happens during a game. But it’s during these plays where the blockers individual skills are visible.
The most proficient pass protectors Friday were left tackle Eric Fisher and left guard Ben Grubbs.
Both men won three of their four chances against the Chiefs defense. Against defensive end Mike Catapano, Fisher struggled on his first opportunity. From that point, he handled outside linebackers Frank Zombo and Josh Martin, along with defensive tackle Charles Tuaau.
Grubbs was dominating in his three victories, handling Tuaau and defensive ends Vaughn Martin and Mike DeVito. Only defensive tackle Jaye Howard got the better of Grubbs, beating him on his outside shoulder with a nice rip move.
Right guard Jeff Allen had a good practice as well in pass protection. Allen split two snaps against DeVito and made a good adjustment with his hands in stopping rookie defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches.
Going into camp, the question marks on the Chiefs offensive line were at center and right tackle. So far Donald Stephenson has been the No. 1 option at right tackle, but he struggled during Friday’s practice.
Against Allen Bailey, Stephenson got his hands on the defensive end but was not able to anchor himself and was driven back into the pocket. Linebacker Dezman Moses beat Stephenson to the inside, as did Vaughn Martin. Against Josh Martin, he lost the hand-to-hand battle. On his last snap in protection, Stephenson saw outside linebacker Justin Houston beat him to the outside.
At center, Eric Kush had six snaps and won half of those. Kush was beaten badly by Howard on his first chance, but came back later and handled the big defensive tackle. He had a pair of victories against defensive tackle Hebron Fangupo, but was beaten badly by Tuaau on a straight-up bull rush.
Among the backups, rookie Mitch Morse worked at right guard and center, winning twice. Right guard Zach Fulton won two of his snaps. Working at left guard, Paul Fanaika had two good snaps, followed by two not so good efforts.
Catapano and Howard were the best pass rushers on the field for the Chiefs defense in Friday’s work. The bigger and leaner Catapano came on the rush from end and inside at tackle. He beat Fisher to the outside, ran over tackle Jarrod Pughsley with a bull rush and beat Fanaika with an inside move.
Howard showed great quickness and technique when he beat Kush with a swim move, leaving the center grabbing at air. He used the same move to beat right guard Marcus Reed. Howard was the only rusher to dent Grubbs’ day, with a move on the left shoulder of the left guard that gave him a leverage advantage.
Vaughn Martin and Tuaau both had some nice snaps bringing pressure inside. Bailey had several victories, but also was stopped cold other times.
Undrafted rookie linebacker Sage Harold showed he has pass rush skills, with a quick first step and a powerful first contact with the blocker. He beat offensive tackle Tavon Rooks to the outside and got inside against Pughsley.
Overall, it was good work for both the offense and defense.
They’ll do it all again on Saturday and in just about every practice until January.