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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Ben Niemann was arguably the biggest standout in the preseason opener

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BY SAM MCDOWELL

August 13, 2018 11:25 AM
Updated August 13, 2018 11:57 AM

A Chiefs linebacker wearing No. 56 burst through the line of scrimmage and into the backfield, smothering a ball carrier for no gain. The familiar scene has transpired inside Arrowhead Stadium for more than a dozen years now.
Except this wasn’t veteran Derrick Johnson. It was undrafted rookie Ben Niemann.
After Johnson’s departure to the Raiders in the offseason, Niemann picked up Johnson’s No. 56 and then picked up where Johnson left off over the previous 13 seasons — he led the team in tackles. In the Chiefs preseason opener Thursday against the Texas, Niemann had five stops, four of them solo.
“I’m just trying to make plays, do my job, give great effort and play hard,” Niemann said. “Just show that I can compete on tape for this organization.”
It’s all in the effort to make an NFL roster, an uphill climb for a player who was not one of the 256 selections on draft weekend in April. Niemann had hoped — even expected — to hear his name called after starting all 40 games for Iowa over the past three seasons. He had 201 career tackles with the Hawkeyes.
But drafted or not, his approach to NFL training camp remains the same. He has only a few weeks — and only a few games — to stand out from the crowd. Thursday was a step in the right direction. Niemann wasn’t perfect, but he displayed an ability to work around blockers and rely on technique to make stops.
“He played good,” Chiefs inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone said. “There are some things, he would tell you, there’s quite a few things we need to clean up.
“What was good to see is you saw a guy ... the moment wasn’t too big for him and he made plays. He’s definitely a football guy.”
Niemann did not see a snap with the first unit, even though projected starters Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland sat out the preseason opener. But he saw considerable time in the second half, and he was a regular on special teams.
“It was awesome. Just a surreal feeling,” Niemann said. “Kinda the childhood dream come true. Definitely thankful and blessed to be able to go out there and play.”
He drew the praise of Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who wasn’t asked about Niemann specifically in his postgame press conference but said, “I thought Ben had some nice plays down the stretch.”
The biggest was the fourth-down stop for no gain. With the Texans three yards from a game-sealing touchdown, Niemann shuffled to his left, read the play and stopped Lavon Coleman shy of the first down. It offered the Chiefs an opportunity to drive down the field and win the game.
“It kinda opened up right there,” Niemann said. “The coaches always tell us to have depth in our alignments so we can come downhill and hit it hard and make a play so they don’t drive us past the line of scrimmage. So I just saw the opening and shot it and was able to make a play on the ball.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

99 WARRIORS: NO. 19, ALL-AMERICAN AND ALL-BIG TEN PUNTER AND STARTING QUARTERBACK TOM TUPA





By Andrew Lind
August 13, 2018

We're counting down the days to kickoff with “99 Warriors,” the greatest Ohio State Buckeyes by jersey number, as voted by the staff of Eleven Warriors.

NO. 19 TOM TUPA

A football, baseball and basketball star at Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Tom Tupa led the Bees to a state title in 1983. He immediately made an impact at Ohio State, where he set the NCAA record for highest average yards per punt as a freshman (47.1). The Buckeyes won the Big Ten and clinched a berth in the Rose Bowl that season.

Tupa was also a backup quarterback, sitting three seasons behind Mike Tomczak and Jim Karsatos. He took over the starting job during his senior year in 1987 — Earle Bruce’s last as Ohio State’s head coach — and threw for 2,252 yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions to lead the Buckeyes to a 6-4-1 record, including win over Michigan.

Tupa was named an All-American punter that same season, as well as All-Big Ten for the fourth-consecutive season, as he punted the ball 63 times for an average of 47 yards per attempt.

Tupa was selected in the third round (68th overall pick) of the 1988 NFL Draft by the Phoenix Cardinals. He punted for seven teams over the next 16 years, including the Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins; was named to the Pro Bowl in 1999; and won a Super Bowl ring in 2002.

Tupa — who averaged 43.4 yards per punt in his NFL career, which is tied for 44th all time — is currently the recreation director for the City of Brecksville. He is also the offensive coordinator at his alma mater, where he coached his sons, Tommy and Tyler.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Two Chiefs players that stood out on the tape from Thursday night




Demarcus Robinson and Ben Niemann were standouts from preseason Week 1 down in the film lab.

By Matt Lane
August 10, 2018

Ben Niemann

Niemann got on the field with most of the second-team defense to start the second half, and from that point on, he seemed to be literally everywhere.

As a jumping-off point, Niemann showed fantastic instincts
(mental processing, reads the field well, whatever you wanna call it) like many other Iowa linebackers currently in the league. He isn’t hesitant to act on what he sees and is always working downhill.

He wasn’t put in a lot of positions to test his overall athleticism, which is probably what needs to be seen the most, but playing ahead in the snap thanks to his mental ability can help overcome any deficiencies there.

Outside of the quick reads, Niemann showcased fantastic textbook tackling that is even perfect for the new rules. He didn’t get an opportunity to lay any big hits, but he was engaging with a low center of gravity and had his chest up while wrapping up the ball carrier every time he could.

Niemann open field tackle

This was a good read on a tight end working downfield on a play designed to fool second-level players on the defense.

Niemann opens up to play his coverage responsibilities but reads the tight end like a book and is working back to the LoS quickly. His engagement of the tight end is quite impressive as well, quickly works laterally around the tight end’s block attempt to force the running back to cut back inside. Not being content with just changing the running back’s path, Niemann is able to work outside-in and get back around the tight end to make a textbook tackle.

Niemann 4th and 1 stuff

Again with the good reads, Niemann plays the three reads perfectly here.

The nearest offensive guard chops forward to indicate run, and the nearest running back works to the far outside triggering Niemann to flow with him. As soon as Niemann sees the ball, in the running back’s hands as he tries to cut up through an open lane, it’s up to only him to make the stop.

Niemann does a great job covering all the space but doing so with power and aggression. It’s hard to not overcommit but Niemann is able to get the angle he wants. He comes downhill hard, gets low and stays square resulting not only in a tackle but also a tackle that allows no forward momentum to carry for the first down.

Flex on ‘em all you want after that one young man; you deserved it.

Niemann TFL

Niemann, an undrafted rookie, was not perfect in this game (everyone panic).

But seriously, plays like this happen to veterans all the time, so seeing a young guy overcommit to a run play because he was playing overly aggressive and trusting what he saw is not something to overreact to.

Come film time, someone will sit down with him and make sure he goes over reading the interior offensive lineman first, then the nearest running back, then the ball, that way you get sucked up on plays like this.

Niemann appears to be tracking just the running back on this play and comes up to play it aggressively but doesn’t recognize the pass play until it’s too late and the ball is tossed just over his fingertips. He’ll live and learn, but this is a good experience for him on things to trigger that aggressive attacking style that inside linebackers need to have in the NFL.

This is why you have to trust your reads as a linebacker, even if they are wrong occasionally.

The previous clip shows Niemann reading the play wrong and getting pulled out of position, but on this play, that same quick trigger based on what he saw results in a tackle for loss.

The moment that offensive lineman fired out of his stance low and forward, Niemann is coming downhill and he shoots right off the center’s back hip into the backfield.

This was the best display of athleticism from Niemann and it’s promising, good burst into the backfield and even a little flexibility to make that turn at that speed to chase the running back down. I’m in no way comparing him to Derrick Johnson, but this is a classic example of why DJ was good when he was at his best.

He was aggressive to act on his reads and when they were right, he cleaned up. It’s a big change from some other LBs we’ve seen in KC over the past few years (Kevin Pierre-Louis, Ramik Wilson, Terrance Smith, DJ Alexander, etc..) and seems to be a theme with all of the Chiefs current linebackers.

It’s great to see a young guy outclass lesser competition, that’s what they have to do, but there may not be a ton more to learn about him if he continues to outmatch lesser tiered players with fantastic mental processing and controlled aggression.

After his first game, Ben Niemann should have earned himself some snaps with the next team up because, quite simply, he was better than the offensive players he was playing against.

It’s great to see a young guy outclass lesser competition. That’s what they have to do, but there may not be a ton more to learn about him if he continues to outmatch lesser-tiered players with fantastic mental processing and controlled aggression.

It’s going to be hard with Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland returning sometime this preseason, but hopefully, we’ll get to see him steal some first or true second-team snaps with Ukeme Eligwe here pretty soon. Two areas to monitor for Niemann going forward (not weaknesses, just things that need to be judged more thoroughly) are his overall athleticism compared to NFL starters and his ability in coverage whether in hook/curl zones or in man-to-man.

Niemann is already playing nearly every special teams snap and looking like a competent player there. If he can prove that he’s not deficient in either of those two areas, he would be making it very hard for a front office to not put him on the final roster.

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