ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – The Chiefs on Wednesday complied with the second of three mandatory assistant coaches’ media sessions in accordance with the NFL media relations policy.
The league’s policy reads in part:
“Regular and reasonable access to assistant coaches – defined as coordinators/assistant head coaches and all primary position coaches – will include a mandatory media availability during the club’s offseason program, during training camp, and during the club’s regular-season bye week for media that regularly cover the team. A team is required to make assistant coaches and all position coaches available to the media during the offseason workout program, training camp and during the bye week.”
With two sessions down and one to go, here are highlights from Wednesday’s training camp session:
Jan 4, 2014; Indianapolis; Chiefs wide receiver Junior Hemingway (88) makes a catch while being defended by Indianapolis Colts strong safety Antoine Bethea (41) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
HEMINGWAY DRAWS GOOD REVIEWS
Third-year wide receiver Junior Hemingway missed eight straight practices and the preseason opener with a hamstring injury.
But he returned Saturday and the Chiefs immediately got him involved with the first-team offense at the slot position.
“Junior fits us inside with what we want to do with that third guy,” assistant head coach/wide receivers coach David Culley said. “He’s strong, he’s tough, he has a good feel for what we want in there. Even last year, when he came in and played for us not a lot on the inside, but when he did, he was very productive.”
Hemingway, who appeared in 16 games with two starts in 2013, had 13 catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. He also contributed on special teams with eight tackles.
The Chiefs need a replacement for Dexter McCluster, who signed a free-agent deal with the Tennessee Titans. And the 6-1, 225-pound Hemingway could be the answer.
“He’s getting more comfortable with it,” Culley said. “We can do some more things in there because of his size and his strength than we did last year.”
Culley left open the possibility of other wide receivers also seeing time at slot.
“We have to find that Junior may be a little better at this than Kyle (Williams),” he said. “Kyle may be a little better at this than Junior and vice versa – Frankie Hammond, those kind of guys. They all have their own little deal. Basically in this offense, you kind of fit them and put them in the situation where you use their skills the best.”
Williams and Hammond have had their share of moments during training camp, but the former has been consistent.
Williams has chemistry with quarterback Alex Smith and is getting comfortable in the system.
The other player to watch is rookie Albert Wilson.
Tight end coach Tom Melvin is happy to have Travis Kelce, who missed the 2013 season on injured reserve following microfracture knee surger.
“That is why they call them moneymakers,” Melvin said. “They’re guys that can kind of play through a broken finger or bad shoulder, but when your legs start to go on you, if you can’t go full speed. That’s kind of the difference and you saw now, he is roaring.”
Kelce definitely roared en route to a 69-yard touchdown catch in the preseason opener, a play where he outran defensive backs down the middle of the field.
There aren’t concerns over his knee following play.
And as a reminder, it’s not so much quarterback Alex Smith had success throwing to the tight end in San Francisco. That aspect is only part of the equation.
The large part is healthy tight ends are the key in Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s version of the West Coast offense.
NAGY AGREES WITH REID
Reid recently pointed out second-year quarterback Tyler Bray is arguably the most improved player in training camp.
He’ll get no argument from quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy.
“I would agree with coach,” Nagy said. “Tyler’s made big time strides mentally. He came in a little different than Aaron (Murray) when he (Tyler Bray) was at Tennessee.
“He was all signals, he wasn’t calling plays in the huddle, so to be able to grow from last year to this point now, he’s made leaps and bounds. And I’m proud of him for that, he’s done a really good job at that.”
The complexity of Reid’s offense likely contributed to growing pains not just with Bray but a lot of the players.
But a year in the system has apparently helped, as Bray has looked sharp for the most part throughout the offseason.
“Last year it was super-fast to him on the field,” Nagy said. “This year it’s slowing down and he’s able to make the throws.”
The Chiefs recently offered a preview of a “NASCAR package” – or “dog front” as the players call it – with outside linebackers Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, first-round pick Dee Ford and Josh Martin on the field at the same time.
While Hali and Houston are the veterans, rookie Ford and second-year pro Martin could cause concern over depth behind the starters.
That notion was cast aside by linebackers coach Gary Gibbs.
“You can’t have enough good players,” he said. “They’ll play. They’ll get their snaps.”
Click here for a look at the speed-rush package, which includes Martin’s growth entering the season.
Second-year guard Rishaw Johnson entered the offseason as the favorite to start at right guard.
And then the Chiefs drafted Zach Fulton out of the Tennessee with the first of two sixth-round picks.
Fulton emerged during the mandatory minicamp and carried the momentum into training camp where he now takes virtually all the snaps with the first-team offense.
The Chiefs currently list Fulton atop the depth chart, and his emergence hasn’t surprised offensive line coach Andy Heck.
“The guy came from a quality program and he’s played against first rounders week in and week out there in the SEC,” Heck said. “And he’s had some great coaching along the way. So, he’s a guy who’s got football knowledge, football IQ, and on top of that, the thing that we like about him is that he’s a hard worker.”
A COACHING FAMILY AFFAIR
A majority of the Chiefs coaching staff go back years together from time served on Andy Reid’s staff or even as former players in Philadelphia.
Running backs coach Eric Bieniemy is no different, who said his path first crossed with Reid in Southern California.
Bieniemy, offensive coordinator Doug Pederson and defensive assistant/secondary coach Al Harris all played for Reid with the Eagles.
And as a player with the Eagles, Bieniemy points out spread game analyst/special projects Brad Childress was the quarterbacks coach, assistant head coach/wide receiver coach David Culley coached the receivers and defensive line coach Tommy Brasher held the same position.
“This is a familiar area,” Bieniemy said, “This is a family atmosphere. When the opportunity came about, coach Reid reached out to me. He knew my predicament, and he gave me an opportunity. Who wouldn’t cherish that opportunity to work for the Big Red?”