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Chiefs leave camp full of optimism

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Wednesday, August 14, 2013, at 5:12 p.m.

— Training camp began for the Chiefs last month with one of their elder statesmen, cornerback Dunta Robinson, predicting they would make the playoffs.

As camp concluded Wednesday, Robinson said he saw nothing during their time at Missouri Western that would change his mind.

“This can be a dominant football team. Why not believe that?” said Robinson, who spent six previous training camps with Houston and three with Atlanta. “We believe that we can be one of the best teams in this league and that’s what we’re shooting for when we line up on Sundays.”

Robinson isn’t alone in feeling this way. The Chiefs head back to Kansas City full of optimism after what appeared to be a productive camp.

Their work schedule wasn’t interrupted once by weather. They conducted physical practices in pads on most days but avoided long-term injuries to their key players. Coach Andy Reid even said running back Jamaal Charles and his strained foot could play in Friday night’s preseason game against San Francisco at Arrowhead Stadium.

“I appreciate the attitude of the players,” Reid said. “I thought they came to work and they did it every day. They were tested and they stepped up. They maintained their focus. We got a lot of plays in. That will be important down the road.”

Chiefs’ regulars were also strong in last week’s opening preseason game in New Orleans. The offense had the ball for just one possession, but made the most of it by driving 80 yards in 14 plays and scoring a touchdown.

New starting quarterback Alex Smith completed all but one of his eight passes and the incompletion was a pass he intentionally threw away to avoid the rush.

“It was a great thing to see,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “The way we orchestrated the whole thing and managed the whole thing, our execution was, I don’t want to say flawless, but it was good.

“There were some things that we did wrong, but we learned from those. Fourteen plays to open the drive, whether that’s in preseason or regular season, it’s great. We all felt really good.”

The starting defense allowed the Saints one first down before forcing a punt on its only appearance of the game. The special teams delivered a big play in its first try when Dexter McCluster returned a punt 55 yards.

Linebacker Derrick Johnson, who has been with the Chiefs longer than any player other than punter Dustin Colquitt, knows better than to completely trust early preseason results. The starters were impressive in last year’s exhibition opener against Arizona before falling apart in subsequent preseason games.

The Chiefs were then beaten handily in their first two regular season games.

“Last year, I remember we had a really good first (preseason) game,” Johnson said. “The second game, not too good. The third game, not good. It’s one of those things where we have to (build) toward the first (regular season) game.

“The games are my main point to see where we (are). We still have a long way to go. We feel good about where we (are). But we can’t wait to put our skills up against the 49ers.”

While the offense had to deal for short periods with injury or illness to key players like Charles, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and offensive linemen Eric Fisher and Jeff Allen, the defense stayed remarkably healthy.

Rookie safety Sanders Commings, who otherwise might have played on passing downs, was lost for camp because of a broken collarbone. Other than him, defenders stayed remarkably healthy.

Robinson and safety Eric Berry missed some plays early in camp because of hamstring soreness. Linebacker Akeem Jordan was absent from practice Wednesday for personal reasons.

Other regular defensive players were constant practice participants.

“We stayed healthy for the most part as a defensive unit,” Robinson said. “That’s extremely important. Guys didn’t miss a lot of reps. Especially coming into a new system, reps determine the outcome of how good you can be. All the guys were here and we were able to get all the reps. I think we have a chance to be a very good.”

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