9/14 I think the Chiefs are very happy they didn’t have a chance to let Darren Sproles break the bank in free agency. Because Dexter McCluster is a lot cheaper — and five years younger. McCluster’s 94-yard punt return for a touchdown was immediate Sproles-type impact. I think the recent drafts of the Chiefs — pre- and post-Pioli — paid off big last night. Four No. 1 draft choices (Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry, Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson) were the top four tacklers in the 21-14 upset of the Chargers — 12 tackles and six, six, six, respectively. As much as we’ve criticized the regime of Carl Peterson and Bill Kuharich, they should get some credit for the great play of Johnson and Dorsey last night.
9/5 Leinart’s a goner for these reasons: He wasn’t accurate enough; he didn’t make quick decisions on the field and execute them well; he never won the locker room over; coach Ken Whisenhunt thought he wouldn’t be a good backup to Derek Anderson because he’d be so bummed by not winning the job.
Denver coach Josh McDaniels and GM Brian Xanders, who last year dealt a 2010 first-round pick (14th overall) to Seattle for its second-round choice — to draft 5-foot-9 Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith. Smith couldn’t crack the starting lineup, so he was shipped Saturday to Detroit for backup tight end Dan Gronkowski. This is how bad an error it was: Denver took the 14th overall pick in 2010 and traded it for the 255th pick in the 2009 draft. That’s ridiculous. The Broncos also cut defensive end Jarvis Green, who got $3.2 million in guarantees from them last spring and never played a regular-season snap.
8/9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Six hundred pounds of defensive linemen — Gerald McCoy and Brian Price — could start opening day on the line. Fourth-round pick Mike Williams, barring injury, is favored to start at one receiver (last year’s surprising seventh-round pick, Sammie Stroughter, could start alongside him), with this year’s second-rounder, Arrelious Benn, possibly starting or playing 35 snaps a game as the third receiver. Rookie cornerback Myron Lewis eventually could start alongside third-year corner Aqib Talib, and next year might push Barber to safety if Barber still is able and willing to make play and make that move. The punting job is rookie Brent Bowden‘s to lose.
Atlanta. Not the impact GM Thomas Dimitroff was dreaming of, though he got two contributing players he really wanted for the front seven — linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and defensive tackle Corey Peters, which broke the hearts of Cleveland. Key to long-term success of this draft is whether interior linemen Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley can plug holes at guard and center in the next two to three years.
• Baltimore. Loved what Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta did. I thought they’d stay in the first round and steal Dan Williams at 24, but they dealt down and did better. No team got the impact between 43 and 114 that the Ravens did, though the Pats might argue.
Sergio Kindle was a steal at 43. The real key could be Terrence Cody at 57. Now, people will say, “Why are you taking this fat guy with the weight problem?” Two things here. Newsome went to Alabama. He’s a legend there. He loves picking Alabama players and he gets the inside dope on them. He knows Cody can be whipped into shape.
Plus, there’s no defensive player on the planet who can walk into the Baltimore locker room and NOT get into line behind Ray Lewis. I think Cody has gone to the right place and should be a force alongside Haloti Ngata long-term.
The Ravens topped things off by picking two tight ends, one of whom will be the starter in 2011, and a productive one.
New England. Love what the Belichicks did at tight end in the last five weeks, signing free-agent filler Alge Crumpler (maybe a one-year bit of glue), then drafting Rob Gronkowski at 42 and Aaron Hernandez at 113. Hernandez was thievery; watching Florida four or five times on TV in the fall and on tape last week, I thought he looked like a bona fide NFL tight end right now.
The Patriots again got great volume, and even set themselves as the power brokers of the 2011 draft; they already had the Raiders’ 2011 first-rounder, then pilfered the Panthers’ second-round pick next year by dealing them the 89th pick in this draft — way at the end of the third round. But I don’t know whether they got the playmaker on defense they needed, and there’s going to be tremendous pressure on a receiver with only average quickness, Taylor Price of Ohio, to come in and play right away because Wes Welker’s injuries could keep him out much of the year.