KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs return to the practice field Tuesday for the next segment of three-day voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) with intriguing scenarios.
May 28, 2014; Kansas City, MO; General view of Chiefs defensive backs going through individual drills during OTAs at the team’s training facility. Credit: Teope
Whether outside linebacker Justin Houston and cornerback Brandon Flowers, both of whom weren’t present last week, make an appearance remains to be seen.
Various speculative reports notwithstanding, keep in mind the voluntary nature of the current workouts until the mandatory minicamp June 17-19.
Meanwhile, here are noteworthy areas based on last week’s OTAs:
Right side of offensive line. Starting right tackle Donald Stephenson moved to the left side with Eric Fisher (shoulder) limited during team-related drills, and this is where it got interesting.
The Chiefs tinkered with a variety of combinations during 11-on-11 at right guard and right tackle, alternating the former with Rishaw Johnson and Jeff Linkenbach.
Linkenbach also saw time at right tackle, along with J’Marcus Webb, Otis Hudson and Ryan McKee, whom the Chiefs signed as a tryout following the rookie minicamp.
Fellow rookies and sixth-round picks, guard Zach Fulton and tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, saw time with the backups.
The Chiefs need to evaluate depth and develop a swing tackle, so the situation warrants a close eye in the weeks leading to training camp. And this is especially true when considering Fisher isn’t expected to fully participate in team-related drills until training camp.
Can tight end Demetrius Harris maintain momentum? The 6-foot-7 Harris turned in a strong week, consistently making athletic catches during 11-on-11. The former basketball power forward also put on weight, from 230 pounds last season to 257 pounds, and the added bulk hasn’t affected him on the practice field.
With Travis Kelce still recovering from microfracture knee surgery, Harris’ development carries importance as the Chiefs seek to strengthen the tight end position, a key component of coach Andy Reid’s version of the West Coast offense.
Meanwhile, starting tight end Anthony Fasano beat inside linebacker Derrick Johnson to catch one of the best deep passes from quarterback Alex Smith on the first day of OTAs.
Three-front competition. How the Chiefs intend to eventually list rookie running back/specialist De’Anthony Thomas affects three areas: Special teams returner, slot wide receiver and the No. 3 running back position.
Thomas lined up in the backfield and slot during rookie minicamp before missing the OTAs due to Oregon’s academic quarter system, as detailed by ArrowheadPride.com. He’s scheduled to return for the Chiefs’ mandatory minicamp on June 17-19.
Of the three battles, the one currently flying under the radar is the No. 3 running back, a position held by third-year pro Cyrus Gray last season. But Gray will have competition leading to training camp from Thomas – if the Chiefs ultimately list the rookie at running back – Joe McKnight and undrafted rookie free agent Charcandrick West.
McKnight intrigues given his NFL experience and versatility to contribute on special teams as a returner. The fourth-year pro out of Southern California missed the 2013 season following his release from the New York Jets, leading to the Chiefs signing him to a reserve/future deal on Jan. 10.
McKnight told ChiefsSpin.com last week he is refocused with the second chance at an NFL career.
Where’s defensive lineman Vance Walker? The Chiefs signed Walker to a three-year, $13 million deal on March 14 after losing Tyson Jackson, who signed a free-agent deal with the Atlanta Falcons.
It was thought Walker would fill Jackson’s spot, but fourth-year pro Allen Bailey for the most part ran with the first-team unit during 11-on-11.
Perhaps acclimating to the Chiefs’ defensive scheme plays a role since Walker spent a lot of time with a blend of the second- and third-team units during 11-on-11.
But Walker’s lack of activity with the first team hasn’t gone unnoticed among Chiefs beat writers, as tweeted by Terez Paylor of The Kansas City Star:
Free safety update. There’s plenty of time before training camp, but for now it appears the starting free safety spot is Husain Abduallah’s to lose.
Abdullah, who signed a two-year deal on March 12, has run exclusively with the starting unit during 11-on-11 over second-year pro Sanders Commings.
Early risers. Albert Wilson, who signed an undrafted free agent deal on May 12, and Weston Dressler, who joined the team on Feb. 4 from the Canadian Football League, turned heads virtually on a daily basis last week.
Both have worked as returners during special teams drills, but also impressed with their quickness and ability to catch the ball in traffic during the 11-on-11 portion of workouts.
Dressler, in particular, appears polished in his route-running skills working out of the slot and has shown good hands.
Also of note is how good starting wide receiver Dwayne Bowe looked, quietly turning in a consistent performance catching the ball throughout the three-day OTAs.
Brewing quarterback competition. Rookie Aaron Murray wasn’t present for the final two days of last week’s OTAs due to attending the NFLPA’s rookie premiere with running back/specialist De’Anthony Thomas.
Murray (knee) was unlimited throughout the rookie minicamp and first day of OTAs. What the former Georgia Bulldog is able to do in the coming weeks will offer a preview for the inevitable training camp battle for the No. 3 quarterback spot, which second-year pro Tyler Bray held last season.
Crystal ball. With Justin Houston absent, rookie outside linebacker Dee Ford, the Chiefs’ first-round pick (23rd overall), saw time with the first-team unit during 11-on-11 on the final day of last week’s OTAs.
The Chiefs used Frank Zombo in Houston’s place the previous two days, but watching Ford as a bookend to outside linebacker Tamba Hali offered a glimpse into the future.
Much like he did during rookie minicamp, Ford alternated between standing up over the right tackle and splitting wide of the tackle in a three-point stance.
On the mend. Left tackle Eric Fisher (shoulder), tight end Travis Kelce (knee) and wide receiver Kyle Williams (knee) likely won’t do much in the coming days. The Chiefs could also take it easy on wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, who dealt with a hamstring issue late last week.
Defensive tackle Risean Broussard (knee) was present for the first day of rookie minicamp, and then missed the final two days or minicamp and OTAs. The Chiefs signed Broussard to a free-agent contract on Jan. 29, but the lost time could hurt his chances to make the roster.