Chiefs mailbag: Wrapping up first week of training camp practices

The Chiefs had an off day Thursday, but are back in action Friday through Wednesday before taking two days off leading to the first preseason game on the road against the Arizona Cardinals on Aug. 15.

Here is a look back on the first week of training camp, which included three days of rookie/quarterback workouts (July 29-31) and five days of full-team practices (Aug. 1-5).

A couple of things to keep in mind at this early stage of training camp when it comes to the offensive line:

Aug. 2, 2015; St. Joseph, MO; Chiefs offensive linemen go through drills during training camp practice at Missouri Western State University. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka-Capital Journal)

Aug. 2, 2015; St. Joseph, MO; Chiefs offensive linemen go through drills during training camp practice at Missouri Western State University. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka-Capital Journal)

1. The first-team personnel grouping has been consistent through five days of training camp, namely left tackle Eric Fisher, left guard Ben Grubbs, center Eric Kush, right guard Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson.

2. The Chiefs had just two practices in pads.

The Chiefs rotated Zach Fulton at right guard and Derek Sherrod at right tackle with the first team late in practice during the fourth day, and then rookie Mitch Morse at center and Fulton at right guard while shifting Allen to right tackle on the fifth day.

But for the most part, the first-team unit has been Fisher, Grubbs, Kush, Allen and Stephenson during 11-on-11 drills.

As to Fisher, the third-year pro had a full offseason to get ready for training camp and he appears stronger.

But give it a few more padded practices and some preseason action to hold off on fully judging him and the entire unit, which on paper is vastly improved from a season ago.

Second-year outside linebacker Dee Ford, who mostly worked with the second-team defense, has shown flashes of his quick first step during practices.

He really grabbed attention during one-on-one drills against right tackle Donald Stephenson on the first day of padded practice. Ford shot off the line of scrimmage, dipped low and got by Stephenson with ease.

The Chiefs have alternated him on both sides of the line, but he lined up mostly over the left tackle with Dezman Moses lining up over the right tackle during Wednesday’s practice.

Ford’s role in 2015 depends on how creative the Chiefs are in getting a speed-rush package on the field with Ford, Houston and Hali. It is reasonable to expect Ford to offer relief to Hali, who turns 32 in November, during the season.

The latter scenario actually makes sense if the Chiefs have a view to groom Ford at Hali’s spot.

Instead of reading it here, let Charcandrick West and the coaching staff tell it:

Story from organized team activities.

Story from training camp.

Bottom line is West looks fantastic and should have the edge for the No. 3 running back spot.

Contributing writer Nick Jacobs offered an initial look at the 53-man roster before training camp, where he projected wide receivers Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson, Jason Avant, De’Anthony Thomas, Chris Conley and Kenny Cook.

Hard to argue with the first five, but Cook hasn’t wowed through the early part of training camp compared to what he did during organized team activities and mandatory minicamp.

Six is a good number for the initial 53-man roster because the Chiefs need to have flexibility with depth at other positions, specifically cornerback where Sean Smith will serve a three-game suspension to start the season.

The Chiefs have 14 wide receivers in training camp, so the battle for the final spot will be hotly contested among the likes of Frankie Hammond Jr., Fred Williams and Da’Ron Brown.

On the optimistic side, one could say it is early enough in training camp and Chris Conley has the rest of camp and preseason to make up ground.

Conversely, Conlely hasn’t practiced since leaving midway through the first day of workouts with rookies, quarterbacks and select players on July 29 before full team practices began Aug. 1.

That is 7 1/2 practices Conley has missed with a knee injury for those keeping score at home.

While Conley had a good offseason during OTAs and mandatory minicamp, full-team practices during training camp is where he needs to be. The Chiefs, of course, aren’t in the business of rushing players back from injury, so expect the team to err on the side of caution.

But the missed practice time is a concern because he doesn’t have an opportunity to apply on the field what is taught in position meetings.

The 6-4, 204-pound L’Damian Washington has tremendous size and decent speed, but he is behind the power curve with the offense considering he didn’t sign until the third day of camp and didn’t practice until the fourth day.

The Chiefs’ version of the West Coast offense has been described as complex, and there are other receivers on the roster with experience in the scheme, which offer an advantage.

But Washington hasn’t accrued two years as an NFL player, making him eligible for the practice squad if the Chiefs like what they see the rest of training camp and preseason action.

Take solace in the cliché: “No news is good news.”

And that certainly applies to third-year pro Sanders Commings, who suffered injuries in two straight training camps before now.

The 6-0, 223-pound Commings has stayed healthy through five camp practice, taking most of his repetitions with the second-team unit, and has looked good during one-on-one drills with defensive backs going against wide receivers.

The 6-0, 222-pound Justin March signed as an undrafted free agent out of Akron, where he appeared in 45 games, totaling 250 tackles (125 solo), 3 ½ sacks, four interceptions, 15 passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

And he’s put his knack to be around the football to good use, including a diving interception off quarterback Chase Daniel on the second day of training camp, through five practices.

The Chiefs have rotated March between the second- and third-team defense, but he doesn’t have an easy path to the final roster.

The inside linebacker position is deep with March, Derrick Johnson, Josh Mauga, James-Michael Johnson, Ramik Wilson and D.J. Alexander, and March may have to initially carve a niche on special teams to have a legitimate chance.

Still, March will make decision time very interesting for the coaching staff during roster cuts if he sustains performance through the rest of training camp and preseason action.

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Have a Chiefs-related question? Tweet them to @HerbieTeope or hashtag #ChiefsDigest. But note only my Twitter followers will have questions featured here.

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