The K.C. Chiefs and the Freak Aesthetic

 

The K.C. Chiefs and

The Freak Aesthetic

A hundred years ago, you could go down to the traveling carnival side show and be entertained by The Tall Man, The Fire Eater or The Bearded Lady. Not that I’m old enough to remember those days but my father’s father could. Our culture was not attracted to those we would term, “freaks” because they were beautiful, but because they were uncommon or grotesque. Today, we like to call players “freaks” when we think they are uncommonly gifted.

The first player I heard of anyone being called, a freak, was Jevon Kearse of the Tennessee Titans. In fact, he was known as, “The Freak.” Kearse got that moniker from his competitors in the 1996 college season and it stuck with him throughout his career. Now, any time a player has the ability to perform above and beyond the norm of what we already know to be star-status, he is often referred to as a freak.

The latest in a short line of the ultra-outstanding athletes who are being tagged that way includes the Kansas City Chiefs rookie sensation, Tyreek Hill. Hill is so fast that he literally runs circles around the other team’s best players. Last Sunday the Denver Broncos All-Pro Linebacker — Von Miller — watched as the freak ran right around him as Miller chased his own tail, but Hill was 20 yards down field before Miller could get his bearings.

I’ve told this story before but it bears repeating: I was standing on the far side of the Chiefs Practice Field #2, behind the end zone, this past Summer at Chiefs Camp and as the WRs were taking turns fielding punts in the end zone I got the opportunity to witness Tyreek Hill’s speed and quickness. To make the situation more game-like, the WRs took turns planting themselves 3-4 yards in front of the punt returner to give them the feel of a defender breathing down their neck. As Tyreek Hill took his turn to receive (about 15 to 20 feet right in front of me)… as soon as he caught the ball, while looking at the defender, he took 4-or-5 jab steps in place (it could have been more) … then stuck his foot in the ground and darted to his left and did all that all so quickly I actually had to close my mouth because my jaw had dropped and was frozen in place for about 20 second. Then I turned to some other stranger-fans to say, “Did you see that?” and several people just nodded yes, with the same disbelief that I had one my face.

I’ve never witnessed that kind of athleticism in person before but it would be wrong for me to say I was impressed. I was more shocked than anything… because I’d never seen anything like it. I’ve seen Maury Wills steal second base, I’ve seen Joe Montana throw a fastball to a WR on the sideline. I’ve seen Bo Jackson catch line drives on the run. But I have never seen anything like Tyreek Hill’s speed and quickness before.

Television doesn’t do Tyreek Hill justice either. If you go back and watch a replay of Tyreek Hill, don’t watch him… watch the guys around him because so many of them look like they’re playing High School football… and these are cream of the crop athletes, some of the best in the world.

To be clear: calling a player a freak in 2016 is a high compliment. However, it means so much more than that to fans. When the Arrowhead crowd begins to chant a player’s name every time he drops back to receive a punt, that’s no just special… that’s why the word “especial” even exists.

I remember when Bullet Bob Hayes came into the league. His speed was special and you could have called him a freak back then (except people wouldn’t have understood what you were really trying to say). The difference here is that Bob Hayes speed was “straight-line” speed and Tyreek Hill’s speed is more than that. Hill has the ability to change directions and maintain his speed like few players in the history of the game. Gayle Sayers comes to mind but Sayers had the freakish ability to cut sideways leaving defenders grasping at air in his wake. While Hill can change directions, he doesn’t have a Barry Sanders jump cut ability (that we’ve seen yet). Tyreek Hill is just quicker and faster than the other players on the field and his one-on-one juke move can not be covered. The best way to defend Hill is to get to him before he gets the ball… and that ability to force defenses to do that is opening up the rest of the field for another freakishly talented player on the Chiefs offense named Travis Kelce.

When you break down the aspects of a player’s ability, such as in the previous paragraph, you can look over the Chiefs roster and see several players with “freakish” talent.

Travis Kelce’s moves– no, I’m not referring to his end zone antics — although I must admit I have been “freaked out” by those moves a time or two — I’m referring to his ability to get separation from almost anyone who is lined up to cover him. If it’s a linebackers, no contest. 99% of the LBs in the NFL can’t cover Kelce. If it’s a cornerback his height advantage creates a vertical separation 99% of the CBs in the league can’t deal with. He’s been called a beast. So, beast… or freak… call him what you will, he’s a special talent.

 

 

From Dan O’Shea at 12UP.com, “Kelce has been a huge part of Kansas City’s success this season. He’s solidified himself as the best weapon on the field for the Chiefs, if not the best tight end in the league.” Kelce is special and now everyone knows it.

 

Marcus Peters’ mental processing– Peters has become one of the shutdown corners in this league. However, he’s not your typical “shutdown” corner. Even after making the Pro Bowl in his rookie season, Peters has been criticized for taking risks and allowing his man to beat him deep on occasion. As this year has proceeded, Peters has progressed into a more complete corner. When Marcus Peters was coming out of college, NFL evaluator Buck Brooks said he had, “outstanding instincts and awareness.” Add coaching, film study and the second go round against some of the best WR in the league, and you have what you have now: a gifted CB. Brooks also said Peters has superior technique, ball skills and X-factor. Now, Peters has developed his considerable gifts as a corner… and it’s translating to the field. Marcus Peters has taken his freaky-good skills and gifts… and made them even better this year.

Chris Jones’ ability to penetrate– at 6-foot-6, with 34.5 inch arms, Chris Jones has the uncanny ability to beat blockers with his arms and superior upper-body strength and quickness. Chris Collinsworth said Jones has quickly become a “Superstar” in the NFL. Superstar? Beast? I just think his ability to get upfield so quickly is freaky.

In an article written by Michael Renner for ProFootballFocus.com called “Why We Should All Pay More Attetion to DT Prospect Chris Jones” he states, “If I were to sum up Jones’ freakish potential in one play, it would be the one below from MSU’s game against Arkansas this year.”

Chris Jones blows right the Right Guard and makes his way to the QB before he knows what hits him.

Alex Smith’s legs– on Sunday Night Football announcer Chris Collinsworth said Alex Smith has 4.5 (40) speed. Fact Check- Smith once ran a 4.61 — 40, the best of his 3 combine times. To place that in perspective, Derrick Johnson, thought to be one of the fastest linebackers ever timed in the forty also ran three 40 times and his slowest was a 4.61. IOW… you could say Alex Speed is better than most linebackers in this league. Yes, I would classify that as a bit freaky.

While his legs may be the one-and-only aspect of Alex Smith’s game which may fall in that category, it does, nevertheless.

Chris Conley’s body– while the Chiefs have a number of players with “freakish” potential, they also have a WR who has untapped freak potential and that would be Chris Conley. There were no other wide receivers at the NFL Combine in 2015 who ran better than a 4.35 — 40-yard dash… who happened to be at least 6-foot-2. What really separates Conley from most other WRs.. or humans for that matter… is his ability to leap. His 139” in the standing broad jump (you’ll see in the video below that the arch of his feet land squarely on the 12’ marker) is better than outstanding, it was the best by any wide receiver… EVER. Don’t believe it? Click →  here.

A big part of playing wide receiver is being able to go up and fight for the football. Basically, you must be able to out-jump the opposition. Chris Conley set the record at the combine in the vertical jump too at 45”.  Here’s Conley Combine workout.

 

 

Obviously, Chris Conley’s incredible God-given abilities are off the charts but… they must be utilized or they mean nothing. Conley worked as hard as anyone last offseason and you can tell it has paid off when you see him getting open at will. The problem is… he’s not being seen when he’s open.

While you could make an argument that Eric Berry has a bit of “freak” in him, you’d probably want to include Dontari Poe in that group for sure. After all, how many 346 pound players do you have on your team who throws and runs for touchdowns? The point is, the Kansas City Chiefs could be on their way to being called, the Kansas City Freaks. A few more guys like this… and why not? Now that’s a beautiful thing.

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  • Chiefly Bacon

    Chiefs have a QB waiting in the wings with another freak skill. Tyler Bray’s arm is among the more impressive in the NFL. If he ever gets the mental part of the game down, Bray can be a special passer in the NFL.

    • Laurels and limitations

      that arm….that arm.

      • berttheclock

        Ah yes, Frank Sinatra in “The Man with the Golden Arm”, but, that was for a completely different reason.

    • Laurels and limitations

      wasn’t it Hill who Bray was constantly trying to hit in the pre-season games? Hill might be the only one on the team who Bray cannot overthrow.

    • berttheclock

      I happened to be living in LA when Vince Ferragamo was known as having the strongest arm in the NFL and could throw a deep out better than anyone. However, what the DCs of the league learned is that if you could stop that throw, you could pick him off when he attempted to shorten his passes. After that, his time in the NFL became very limited and he was no longer the Golden Boy of LA Rams’ Fandom.

  • Delaware Chief

    Wow,great article! Never thought about it that way,but very true about these players. Have to give credit it to John Dorsey and the scouts for their talent evaluations on these players. I am a defense-first kind of fan,one of the reasons I have rooted for the Chiefs since Super Bowl IV(I was 7),but it is exciting to have all of those weapons on offense for once. If they can continue to find the playmakers,they have a chance to have a good run in the playoffs. I have noticed that Conley seems to get open a lot,but is missed by Alex Smith or is not the first or second read,but he could have a big role in the playoffs as well as future seasons. I would love to see them utilize him and Kelce more in the red zone. The good spurts they have had in some of the games such as Tennessee,Denver and Oakland have all come about because they have stretched the field with these guys. Beat the Chargers tomorrow and hopefully get that first round bye

  • berttheclock

    That photo above showing Jones splitting the center and OG of the Razorbacks is the type of play, Papa Bear Halas and Bill Walsh used to see and not listen to other scouts about the player as all they wanted to see was the potential, draft the player and have their coaches coach them up. Dorsey is very similar.

    Now, who was Number 72 at OG for Arkansas? He is Frank Ragnow, who was a sophomore and had split his time between playing center and OG. This year, he was moved to OG full time and on October 3rd of 2016, he was named the SEC Lineman of the Week for his great blocking. He is six five and weighs 319 and NFL Draft Scout has him listed as the 4th best offensive lineman in the land.

    • ladner morse

      I guess that makes Jones’ move all the more impressive.

  • freshmeat62

    Hope they can find some freaks for the o-line!

    • Laurels and limitations

      you ever see LDT up close and in person? He is a freakishly large human.

      • berttheclock

        He has said he will go into sports medicine, but, imagine, if he decided to become an OBGYN, he would not even have to brush up his Shakespeare to wow the ladies.

        • Laurels and limitations

          most would probably run

        • Laurels and limitations

          I have never heard Shakespeare spoken in French….pretty sure it would lose some of it’s appeal.

          • berttheclock

            Actually, “Kiss Me Kate” where the goons Slugs and Lippy sing “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” has been done in Paris with rave reviews. The characters sing in English, but, the audience is supplied with French surtitles.

      • Chiefs-Kings-A’s

        He is the exact height and stature of my younger brother.
        Everywhere we go people stare and we even get asked what team he plays for from time to time.

        • Laurels and limitations

          lol, I’d be making stuff up…one day it would be the Ravens, the next I would be a florist, then the Pats, then a florist.

      • Chiefs-Kings-A’s
        • ladner morse

          Looks like he has to go thru sideways too.

      • Chiefly Bacon

        He also is freakishly athletic for his size.

        • Laurels and limitations

          truthy

  • berttheclock

    Hey Laddie, one of your favorite college TEs, Jake Butts of Michigan, tweaked his knee in the 2nd quarter of the loss to FSU. Early reports suggest it is, either, his ACL or MCL. That could drop him in the next draft.

    • ladner morse

      Some teams back way from prospects with injuries… others view them as opportunities to get a good player or less.

  • berttheclock

    With the many tatts I see on the arms and necks of many players, I believe some of them may be approaching the world record number of Tattoos held by Captain Costentenus of the PT Barnum days. But, several times this season, I have thought some false starts by certain players and calls made by certain HCs and/or OCs have qualified them as being the NFL version of Zip the Pinhead.

  • berttheclock

    BTW, yesterday, there was a discussion about the Northwestern ILB, Anthony Walker, JR. He has made a decision and will enter the 2017 draft. For whatever it is worth, that brought a response from Kiper, JR, who says he is the 6th best ILB in the upcoming draft.

    • berttheclock

      Perhaps, it was the Northwestern grad, Micahael Wilbon, who tried to advise him to remain in school for one more year as he wants Northwestern to keep winning.

    • Merlin

      Watch him move up after the Combines.

      • ladner morse

        Probably right but, the Combine won’t show his lack of instincts and slowness to diagnose plays.

        • Merlin

          It’s amazing how much we differ on Walker. How do you explain 29 tackles for loss and 6 sacks over the last two years if he has a lack of instincts and is slow to diagnose plays?

          • ladner morse

            Walker had a much better 2015 season with 19 tackles for a loss a 4 sacks… so I went back and watched Northwestern’s game tape vs. both Michigan and Duke but found the same bad habits and traits I’d noticed previously. I don’t know what you see in him but I’m sure you have your reasons for supporting him. We just disagree.

  • berttheclock

    John Clayton of ESPN has been floating ideas in his “Insider” threads (Ran across it on a Buffalo blog) of Chip Kelly trying to get whomever his GM next year in the Bay to acquire Foles from the Chiefs.

    • Chiefs-Kings-A’s

      Chip isn’t actually chasing Foles though is he?
      I think John is just throwing out suggestions of what Chip could do.

      • berttheclock

        Much will depend on two things. First, will the Yorks fire Baalke? Will the Yorks retain Kelly?

        Actually, I ran across the comment by Clayton on a Buffalo site suggesting who might become the Buffalo QB next year.

      • Laurels and limitations

        whatever Chip decides to do, I’m sure it will be comical.

    • Laurels and limitations

      they can have him, I’d even throw in a little extra, like a DH for example, in order to diminish the possibility of a retread QB being next up for KC….again, *le sigh*.

    • Merlin

      I expect the Chiefs to renegotiate his salary, failing that, cut Foles. I suspect his contract was really a one year deal with protection for Foles if Smith went down and he played well.

      • ladner morse

        It may be lost on many that next year will not only be Alex’ 5th year with KC but… it would also Bray’s 5th season. I’d bet that they want to give a bunch of 2nd team reps to Bray next summer to see … finally… what they’ve got. Otherwise, why invest this much time into Bray?

  • Chiefs-Kings-A’s

    So with us picking #32 in the first round of the upcoming draft…… I wonder who Dorsey will be looking at?
    😁

    • ladner morse

      You sneaky devil, you! I see what you did there……….. you have Dorsey trading down to pick #32???
      .
      .
      .
      hehe (see, 2 can play this game)

      • Chiefs-Kings-A’s

        Lol

  • Frank Leggio

    Nice article. I hadn’t thought of the freak skills in aggregate. We have a lot of freaky talent. I wish we could see more use of Conley. As you point out, Hill is freeing up Kelce. I would think Maclin and Conley should be seeing some space too. If we can make teams respect the receivers, the rushing should open up more too.

    • Merlin

      Conley has been a bit of a disappointment this year. I thought he would step up more.

      • Frank Leggio

        I haven’t analyzed him. Do you think it is his issue? Or, plays not called his way? Or AS11 not seeing him? Wondering why you think he is disappointing? When I have noticed him, he seems open, just not getting the ball his way.

        • ladner morse

          I would support your analysis on Conley. He looks open and he looks like he’s running good routes. He just seems to be too far down the list of players Alex sees or has time to get to.

          • Laurels and limitations

            or the arm…Bwahahahaha!!!

  • So let’s freak on til the morning of Feb 6th with a parade in KC MO. Just sayin’

  • Chiefly Bacon

    Justin Houston, Jamaal Charles and Dontari Poe would all also clearly fit into the freak category.

  • ladner morse

    On Friday, #Chiefs coach Andy Reid spoke about the passing of his mentor, former BYU coach LaVell Edwards.READ: https://t.co/pVpgN3qocm pic.twitter.com/xWRgXlJAKw— BJ Kissel (@ChiefsReporter) December 30, 2016

    • berttheclock

      The interesting part of the story is how Edwards kept pushing and prodding Andy to go into coaching. But, Andy first learned about Edwards’ version of the old Ohio River system, then, honed it while working with Holmgren.

  • ladner morse

    I wonder if Sunday’s game will be an emotional game with Alex growing up 9 miles eat of SD in La Mesa and Reid growing up 2hours drive north of their? I can see Reid wanting to win won for his old skipper… and Alex wanting to play well in front of his home town folks.

    • berttheclock

      Alex said he even played some high school games there.

      • ladner morse

        Right again sage of the nw.

  • berttheclock

    Speaking of freaks of nature heading into the draft, consider OJ Howard of Alabama and Jordan Leggett of Clemson. Both are TEs. Howard, at this point is considered to be the best of a very good group of TEs in the draft. However, Leggett might be the steal. He has a huge frame and very long arms. However, at Clemson, he has only been used to go out for passes and will need a ton of work by coaches to teach him blocking skills. He has the frame, but, at this point, he only tries to throw a shoulder at a back. He really needs to use his hands and long arms to shove players. But, he would be a well worth project. Chiefly Bacon likes the former QB turned TE. Very good group.

    • Chiefly Bacon

      A small school guy to keep an eye on is Jonnu Smith out of Florida International. TE/WR tweener who could be tricky for defenses to cover. Might also be able to play a FB or HB role.

    • ladner morse

      Bert, I’d like to see Dorsey pick up Jeremy Sprinkle of Arkansas who was mostly used as a blocking TE (and is an excellent blocker) but only had 33 catches this year. However… you know how you like to evaluate a guy’s potential based one one play? Go to the 14:00 minute mark of this video… then tell me what you think. CBS has him as a 5th or 6th rounder… I say he’d be a steal there.

      http://draftbreakdown.com/video/jeremy-sprinkle-vs-tcu-2016/

      • berttheclock

        Loved the way he was used on both sides of the line blocking, to the point, where, defenses forgot about him. He really used his six five frame on the OT TD, but, kept his feet dancing to stay in bounds. BTW, he has been well coached by Barry Lunney, Jr, the same TE coach who developed Hunter Henry, now the Chargers and A J Derby, of the Pats and this season with the Broncos.

  • berttheclock

    Now, if Bob Sutton can figure out how to stop the once 3rd round pick by Denver, Hillman. Hillman had a fairly decent season in Denver two years ago, then, fell off and passed through the Vikings before being picked up in late November by the Bolts. Also, they have added a short yardage runner from the Giants in Andre Williams.

    • Laurels and limitations

      if Sutton is going to be preoccupied with stopping a RB that means KC is either in a tight game or losing….Let’s hope Reid brings his A-game, gets a lead, and allows Sutton to pin his ears back and get after Rivers.

      • berttheclock

        Up until the injury to Gordon, Gates was being used as a very fine blocker which curtailed his mission to surpass the Tony G TD record. However, what will they do, now? Get him out in the open to try to break the record or try to use him to block for Hillman?

        • Laurels and limitations

          I always expect Gates to get his, he’s one helluva competitor and also River’s safety valve….but they will have to use him to block also. S.D. understands that KC’s weakness on defense is versus the run so I’m sure they will try to exploit this early on.

          • berttheclock

            I saw a play from earlier in the year when he set up next to LOT, but, came back across the line to lead blocking up the middle.

          • Laurels and limitations

            even though the team is in the AFC West, I have mad respect for both Gates and Rivers, those two have been making lemonade our of lemons for years. When they retire the NFL is going to miss them.

          • berttheclock

            One other factor is using Gates this way is how the rookie TE from Arkansas has truly blossomed.

  • berttheclock

    Looks as though King Dunlap is going to come up $400,000 short this season. He had his contract reworked going into the season and had his overall pay turned into incentives. Much of that had to do with actual snaps. He lost a couple of games earlier, but, made his quota for the first and second parts of the deal. But, with his recent injury, he will not be able to collect on the last 3rd which comes to the $400 grand figure.

  • Laurels and limitations

    If you are not following this guy on Twitter, you are wrong…he’s hilarious.

    pic.twitter.com/FHyy6mGjIs— Way Clendler (@WayClendler) December 30, 2016

  • ladner morse

    Speaking of “Freaks”… take a peek at 6-foot-8 TE Phazahn Odom out of Fordham. Here he is against Army.
    .

    http://draftbreakdown.com/video/phazahn-odom-vs-army-2015-2/

    • berttheclock

      Lombardi would approve.

  • tm1946

    Side issue – Recently talked about new helmets. watching LSU vs Louisville game, how about those shiny red helmets of Louisville with a arrowhead logo on side?

    • berttheclock

      The LSU defense dented those arrowheads.

      • berttheclock

        Except they are not arrowheads, but, a head of a Cardinal bird.

        • tm1946

          Talking the shiny red , if you want the modern look.

  • berttheclock

    Laddie, I know you don’t follow BB that much, but, in your nearby back yard, the former Pittsburgh HC, Jamie Dixon, has turned the TCU BB team into a real sleeper. They dealt fits at home to my beloved Jayhawks, who prevailed, but, it was not easy. In fact, Dixon could teach Smart of Texas a thing or two about coaching.

  • berttheclock

    Below, Laddie talked about the Arkansas TE. He is the same person who was busted for shop lifting at the Belk Bowl and was suspended from playing in the game.

    • tm1946

      When it comes time to draft, aren’t there enough non criminal kids to consider first. I know Hill has worked out and others but dig into the thug barrel and you are going to have to many to handle

    • ladner morse

      Hmm… sounds like Dorsey’s perfect catch?

  • Chiefs-Kings-A’s

    Chris Jones’s fine for the forearm to Semien is such BS.
    Alex Smith has his head purposely slammed into the ground ( after being on concussion protocol) and not only was there no fine, there wasn’t even a penalty called yet, Jones gets called fined for that love tap?

    • berttheclock

      That was much more of a shove. The NFL is really turning into the No Fun League for hitting Harris for over $12 K for his imitation of a golf swing.

      • Chiefly Bacon

        Little wonder that some of the part time refs are lawyers, as the NFL rule book resembles US legal code in it’s complexity more every year.

  • tm1946

    Clemson looks to have a good Qb, Watson and a better WR, Williams, 6’3″.