Camp notebook: Rookies making impact on special teams

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub relies on young players in field his squads and linebacker Ukeme Eligwe leads a trio of rookies making an impact on the kick and punt return teams so far.

Kansas City Chiefs rookie linebacker Ukeme Eligwe runs through position drills during a practice at the team’s training camp in St. Joseph, Mo., July 25, 2017. (Photo by Matt Derrick, ChiefsDigest.com)

“I’ve already got him starting on punt team,” Toub said about the fifth-round pick in this year’s draft. “That says a lot about him.”

Toub’s biggest fear with Eligwe is the young rookie  may see more time on defense instead.

“I really see the future’s bright with him,” Toub said. “He may not be with me a long time because he may end up being on defense he’s that good.”

Two potential return men also stand out among this year’s draft class. The team looks to phase Tyreek Hill out as the primary kick returner. That opens the door for running back Kareem Hunt.

Toub compared Hunt to former Chiefs running back and kick returner Knile Davis in terms of special teams experience.

“Knile didn’t do a lot of kick returning when he got here until we started training him and then came along,” Toub said. “Hunt’s got that ability as well.”

Fourth-round wide receiver Jehu Chesson also enters the miss, possibly to spell Hill on punt returns. Toub said Chesson looked strong in Sunday’s padded practice and turned in a nice return at the end of practice Monday.

“He did a good job on that last punt return,” Toub said. “He jumped over a couple of guys and fielded a ball that was a high kick with pressure coming down on him so I was excited to see that.”

MAHOMES, SMITH SCORE ON LONG DRIVES

The coaches put 7 minutes, 57 seconds on the clock and challenged their top three quarterbacks to drive the length of the field for a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

Sound familiar? The scenario paralleled the situation the Chiefs faced in January at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Alex Smith led a 12-play drive taking almost six minutes off the clock. He capped it off with a pass to tight end Travis Kelce, who dove for the pylon to hit pay dirt. The two-point conversion failed when cornerback Marcus Peters broke up a pass intended for wide receiver Seantavius Jones.

Tyler Bray’s drive started promising with a big gain to Jones up the left side line. But the six-play drive ended with a sack on fourth down.

Mahomes took a sack to start his drive but converted a long third down with a jump ball to wide receiver Jehu Chesson. The two rookies connected again two players later following a false start against the offense. This time Mahomes scramble to his right before throwing the ball across his body to Chesson over the middle.

Another jump ball — this time from Mahomes to rookie free agent Marcus Kemp — finished the drive with a touchdown. Mahomes found Kemp in the back right corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion.

NEWS & NOTES

  • The Chiefs continue cycling through players at inside linebacker, giving multiple players an opportunity to run with the first team. Derrick Johnson and Ramik Wilson frequently run with the first team. Justin March-Lillard, Josh Mauga and newly acquired linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis also rotate in. Eligwe received some first-team looks Monday with Johnson out.
  • Bryan Witzmann and Zach Fulton continue rotating at left guard with Parker Ehinger on the PUP list. The Chiefs envision Witzmann, as a utility lineman playing tackle and guard positions.
  • Mike Person continus receiving second-team reps at center when Fulton moves to guard. Veteran Jordan Devey and undrafted rookie free agent Damien Mama also received reps with the third team.
  • Each of the top three quarterbacks connected on long bombs Monday. Bray unfurled a throw of more than 60 yards to Tyreek Hill at the goal line for a touchdown during seven-on-seven drills. Mahomes then found De’Anthony Thomas for a long touchdown. During team drills, Smith pumped fake toward cornerback Marcus Peters and connected with Albert Wilson in stride for a long touchdown.

INJURY REPORT

Linebacker Derrick Johnson missed practice, but fans need not worry too much. Johnson need dental work treating a tooth abscess and likely returns to practice soon.

Kenneth Acker (groin) rehabbed on the sidelines with the trainers in the medical tent but did not practice. Running back Charcandrick West (ankle) and safety Jordan Sterns (illness) also did not practice.

Wide receiver Antwan Goodley left practice early with a hamstring injury.

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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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