5 observations from Chiefs’ abbreviated minicamp

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs head coach Andy Reid saw enough from his team to call off the last day of the team’s minicamp, concluding what the coach termed a successful offseason program as the team integrates new faces and new approaches on both sides of the ball.

Chiefs rookies Breeland Speaks (57) and Derrick Nnadi (91) take part in drills during an OTA practice at the team’s training complex in Kansas City, Mo., on May 22, 2018. (Photo courtesy Chiefs.com)

“So we finished up the day, the guys had their conditioning test today and then some meetings to finish up the mandatory minicamp,” Reid said. “They get a few weeks off here and it’s important they continue to condition and ramp it up for training camp. I think we’ve got the right kind of guys to do that. Looking forward to getting back up to St. Joe and getting busy.”

Despite the short minicamp, it’s still possible to draw several conclusions about where the Chiefs stand before the head off to training camp at Missouri Western next month.

Mahomes ready for the next step

Reid saw enough last season from Mahomes to hand the keys to the kingdom to him, and the young quarterback stepped up to the to challenge throughout the offseason program.

“I really thought he handled the whole thing very well,” Reid said. “It was pretty smooth. Again, I tried to challenge him with a number of plays there. He handled it very well.”

Reid showed particular pleasure with Mahomes in how he handled the little details such as the snap count, managing the play call and getting his team lined up.

“He was well over 50 percent of changing the snap count up and moving it around and getting in and out of the huddle,” Reid said. “We clock everything and so I have an idea of how he’s doing with that, with the verbiage of the plays and handled that real well. And it just progressively got better in those areas as we went along.”

Training camp brings more obstacles for Mahomes to clear but so far he’s everything Reid and the Chiefs hoped for at this point.

The draft class can play

The five defensive members of the 2018 draft class all showed flashes of making contributions in their rookie season, which looms important given the team’s needs at each of their positions.

Safety Armani Watts and cornerback Tremon Smith appear poised to contribute in the secondary, and the team will give a hard look at Smith for kick return duties once training camp starts. Linebacker Breeland Speaks and Derrick Nnadi also showed signs of making an impact in year one.

“The young guys, I felt very good with Breeland and Nnadi,” Reid said. “These guys did a nice job on the front end of it and look forward to seeing them in pads.”

Dorian O’Daniel finished minicamp on the sidelines with an undisclosed injury Wednesday but he saw first-team reps as a dime linebacker on Tuesday. Kahlil McKenzie projects as a longer-term prospect but his development remains positive as well.

Reasons for optimism in the secondary

No position group on the Chiefs carries bigger concern than the secondary, where the team must replace starters Marcus Peters and Ron Parker while integrating Kendall Fuller and David Amerson into the lineup.

So far the acquisitions seem to be paying off. The Chiefs currently favor a lineup with Steven Nelson at right corner, Amerson on the left side and Fuller in the slot. Fuller appears to most versatile and likely to also see time on the outside. Depth remains a concern, but the Chiefs have several young corners who show promising signs of delivering solid contributions in nickel and dime roles.

But the biggest addition to the secondary remains the return of Eric Berry to the backfield. Reid calls Berry the heartbeat of the team’s defense.

“Having him back out there has been a positive thing,” Reid said. “I think he likes what he sees. Those defensive backs take a close look – doesn’t matter if you’re a corner or a safety, you take a close look at what’s in front of you. They can make your job easier. He likes some of the additions we have made.”

Looming training camp position battles

Most of the team’s starting spots appear more or less locked down with only the left guard spot on offense up for grabs. Bryan Witzmann started 13 games there last season but spent minicamp at tackle. Cam Erving remains a possibility but he continues filling in for Mitch Morse at center. Morse recently had a screw removed from his ankle following his season-ending foot surgery last year. The team hopes Morse can return to full duty during training camp.

“Cam took all the snaps this offseason,” Reid said. “I thought he actually did a good job in there.”

Parker Ehinger, the 2016 fourth-round selection, and undrafted free agent Ryan Hunter from Bowling Green shared time at left guard during minicamp. Once Morse returns, Erving might be a candidate as well.

“We’re kind of working though that right now,” Reid said. “We’ll see how that goes.”

The club also remains on the lookout for a kick returner. De’Anthony Thomas is the incumbent but he remains sidelined in his recovery from a broken leg suffered in the season finale last year. The rookie Smith received the most looks in minicamp.

General manager Brett Veach faces tough choices regarding backups at many positions where numbers present a challenge. Depth decisions at running back, wide receiver, tight end, outside linebacker and the secondary all appear heavily contested after minicamp.

“I think when it’s all said and done Brett’s going to have some tough decisions to make barring everybody stays healthy,” Reid said.

Veach still finding gems

In his first year on the job, Veach displayed the knack for finding overlooked players that marked his quick ascendancy up the scouting ranks. Several young players and undrafted free agents appear candidates to battle for jobs, including Hunter, cornerback Arrion Springs, tight end Alex Ellis and running back Darrel Williams.

The club also is pleased with the early performance of undrafted free agent quarter Chase Litton who appears ready to battle veteran Matt McGloin for the third quarterback role.

“I thought he stayed on top of it,” Reid said of Litton, the former Marshall quarterback. “I thought he did a good job. You could tell that he had worked and studied.”

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Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.

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