With suspended Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe out a month, Todd Haley needs one of his other players to step up and fill the void. Bob Gretz takes a look at one of those players — Lance Long — that will try to take advantage of the opportunity, even if he doesn’t look the part.
“I’m not the prototypical NFL wide receiver,” Long said with a smile.
But there he is in the Chiefs locker room, and there he is on the football field Sunday afternoon, getting more and more playing time in the Chiefs offense.
“It’s just been a true blessing what’s happened for me,” said Long. “Just to get an opportunity to come in and help the team out, to do whatever I can, whether it’s on offense or special teams. It’s been a lot of fun.
“I’m just trying to get better each day.”
The situation with the Chiefs offense all year has not been good. Nine games into the ‘09 season and this attack still has no identity. From week-to-week, players start and then are not active. It’s opportunity-central for any player who wants to work hard and long.
That’s Lance Long’s game. He will scare no one with his size. But he will work and work and work.
Todd Haley has noticed, Matt Cassel as well. That’s why in the three games he’s been on the active roster (he was promoted from the practice squad on October 25th) Long has been very active. Only Dwayne Bowe was the target for Cassel passes more often in the last three games than the 21 times the ball was thrown to Long. Bowe was a target 26 times. Both Long and Bowe caught 12 of those passes thrown to them in those games.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunity,” Long said. “I knew my time was coming; I just had to be patient. I had to treat every day like it was my last day, but that’s nothing unusual. That’s the way I’ve been playing football for a long time.”
It’s amazing how quickly fans have gravitated to Long, but not surprising given his underdog story. I like to think of him as Bobby Sippio, except he can, well, you know… catch the ball.
The Chiefs passing game has been so inconsistent there is no way to know how losing Bowe will change things. Obviously immediately you think things will get worse, but can they really get that much worse? OK, they can but by how much?
Chris Chambers has shown he can make the big play and guys like Bobby Wade and Long are both looking to prove they belong on an active NFL roster every week.
After being benched late in Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, JaMarcus Russell has been assigned to the sidelines for the immediate future.
Coach Tom Cable said Wednesday that Bruce Gradkowski has replaced Russell as the Raiders’ full-time starting quarterback. Russell now is the No. 2, ahead of Charlie Frye.
“It was an easy decision, because I feel the responsibility for this football team to give them the best chance to succeed,” Cable said.
Russell was unavailable for comment before and after practice. He said Sunday that he supports Cable whether or not he is the starter.
Cable said he has been patient with Russell, cognizant that the Raiders start two rookie wide receivers and were without running back Darren McFadden and left guard Robert Gallery for a large chunk of the season. But Cable said Russell’s inability to improve his accuracy, decision-making and game management and inconsistency in getting the ball to his wide receivers made a change necessary.
Gradkowski provides an upgrade in a number of areas, Cable said.
“His leadership, his management, understanding of what we’re trying to do, accuracy, just a lot of those intangible-type things,” Cable said of Gradkowski’s strengths. “(Let’s) give him a chance to get all the reps and go out and build some chemistry with the receivers.”
Cable said he is hopeful that Russell one day will develop into a dependable player.
“This is in no way giving up on the guy,” Cable said. “This is just trying to jump-start this team and really break it down and make a decision based on what gives us the best chance to win.”
Cable said managing general partner Al Davis supported the decision.
And by “supported the decision” Cable actually means “made the decision”.
It’s a shame that the Raiders gave up on Russell because he was the only reason to watch their games. Because whenever I felt down about how the Chiefs offense looked I would just flip over to the Oakland game on the Sunday Ticket and after a few passes in the dirt in front of open receivers I would feel much better.
Good thing they didn’t hold onto Jeff Garcia, eh?
The Pittsburgh Steelers come to Kansas City this weekend trying to figure out their special teams problems. Some fans in the Steel City have taken to laying the blame on the tackling abilities of kicker Jeff Reed.
“I just look at those people like they don’t know what they’re talking about,” said Reed. “I’m coached to do certain things, and the No. 1 reason I’m here is to kick kickoffs the best I can and make field goals. When it comes to making a tackle, people like [punter] Dan [Sepulveda] kind of ruin it for me because he’s so athletic.”
Sepulveda was a YouTube star for a jarring tackle he made on a punt return in college. He has one tackle on a punt this season. Reed has gotten near the return man on two of the three kickoff returns for touchdowns in the past four games without making a tackle.
He said he has made about eight tackles through the years and missed four, but he also said he actually did his job Sunday on that kickoff return.
“That was about a 50-yard sprint for me, and my job is to make him cut back inside and he went inside of me,” Reed said. “Looking back at the play, if I’d have slowed down a little bit I maybe could have dove in his path a little better. For me, that was fast, and I was cutting him off. I thought we had a chance to get him, and we didn’t get him down.”
We talked about Mike Tomlin refusing to analyze Reed’s tackling abilities yesterday.
Sure, it must be frustrating to see the same problem raise it’s head three times in four weeks, but you think it’s the kicker’s fault? I hold my breath anytime Dustin Colquitt or Ryan Succop get anywhere near a tackle. Yes, they are “football players” but can we please be honest about what they are on the team to do? They aren’t out on the practice field everyday doing tackling drills or running through the gauntlet. You pay them — very well — to kick the ball, not take down ball carriers.