ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — When Alex Smith lines up with the offense Wednesday once rookies and select players hit the practice field, three quarterbacks will stand keenly observing the situation.
All three will be imagining they are calling the play, scanning the defense and dropping back in the pocket. It may be Smith’s turn to take practice repetitions, but the snaps may be even more important for the backups.
The Chiefs bring three young and inexperienced signal callers to camp, each battling to emerge as Smith’s primary backup, a position left vacant by the departure of Chase Daniel, and potential heir apparent.
Tyler Bray and Aaron Murray are the relative veterans, but have never taken a snap in an NFL regular season game. Kevin Hogan is the rookie from Stanford ready to prove his experience in the West Coast offense makes him stand out.
“It’s a big open competition for us,” Murray said Tuesday. “We’re all excited, all those QBs behind Alex to go out there and show the coaches that they can trust us with that No. 2 spot. So we’re going to be battling day in and day out to try and earn their trust, our teammates’ trust and earn that position.”
The three competitors have experience in quarterback battles.
At Georgia, Murray outdueled Zach Mettenberger as a redshirt freshman. Mettenberger later transferred to LSU and is now with the San Diego Chargers. Bray replaced incumbent Matt Simms at Tennessee midway through his freshman year. Hogan also took the reins at Stanford midway through his freshman season, replacing Josh Nunes.
“You have to take advantage of every opportunity,” Murray said. “Whether it’s a one-on-one rep, seven-on-seven rep, team rep or even just an individual drill with (co-offensive coordinator) coach (Matt) Nagy. You have to go out there and really concentrate and try to be perfect each and every pass.”
The three may be competing for the same job, but they show zero ill will toward their teammates.
“It’s what you kind of have to live for,” Bray said. “In the NFL there’s always going to be a guy coming in who’s just as good as you are, and you just got to compete. We have a great quarterback room, everyone gets along, but we know once we step on the field that you got to compete.”
The toughest part of preparing for the new season may be filling the role of Daniel, who had a reputation as a coach on the sideline, helping his fellow quarterbacks prepare and learn.
“Chase was great with that, and we learned a lot from Chase and just his preparation and his ability to break down film,” Murray said. “We want to be that sounding board for Alex, not just he has to always go to the coaches but he’s able to in a meeting with us just watching film, ‘Hey, what do you see here? What do you think about this player?’ Help him find little tells in the defense that he might miss.”
“Chase took notes on every little detail there was,” Bray said. “Just kind of looking at him and the way he prepared kind of helped me out for years to come.”
With Daniel gone, the mentor role for the three young guns falls exclusively to Smith.
“All OTAs he listened to us, he communicated with us, and he’s always done that,” Murray said. “He’s been like a big brother to all of us our first few years in the league of helping us, listening to us if we have something we want to tell him or ask him. He’s a great sounding board for us, and like I said we want to be a great sounding board for him.”
As the rookie, Hogan knows he has the most to prove to earn his spot on the roster. While he’s in an uphill battle for quality practice reps, Hogan will do his best observing the others while taking mental reps on the sideline.
“Even though you’re not getting the physical reps, you’re trying to get mentally,” Hogan said. “And that carries over with film and just making sure you know where you are, staying engaged. However it goes, I know that each play whoever is in, I’m going to be getting those mental reps.”
Coach Andy Reid is also ready to see what talents and abilities his three young quarterbacks may be able to contribute to the team.
“I look forward to seeing them in the games,” Reid said. “I look forward to seeing them in these practices. Every rep they get is going to help them.”
All three quarterbacks know an ugly truth. Even if they play their best, it might not be enough.
“You’ve got to worry about what you can control,” Bray said. “At the end of the day, you’re going to be as good as you are and let the coaches decide.”