Chiefs TE Travis Kelce embraces leadership role

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The average age of the six players comprising the Chiefs tight end corps sits at 24.8, with an average years of NFL experience among them at 2.6 years.

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) avoids a tackle in the first half of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) avoids a tackle in the first half of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

The Chiefs have a pair of fifth-year pros and 27-year-olds in Richard Gordon and Ryan Taylor, a third-year pro in in 25-year-old Travis Kelce, a second-year pro in 23-year-old Demetrius Harris, a one-year pro in 24-year-old Adam Schiltz and a rookie in 23-year-old James O’Shaughnessy.

A young tight end group, indeed, but the Chiefs won’t have to look far for a leader to emerge after the release of 10th-year pro Anthony Fasano in late February.

“I come in and take the role, it’s as simple as that,” Kelce told reporters Wednesday. “It’s not like it’s a hidden secret or anything like that. I’m probably the most comfortable in the offense for being on the field for an entire year. We have Richard Gordon, who’s a vet, who knows a lot and understands the game very well and we’ll go from there. But it’s clearly my realm and I’m going to go ahead and take the bull by the horns and lead us to success.”

What Kelce lacks in age, he more than makes up for with his experience and production in the Chiefs’ offensive scheme.

The 6-5, 260-pound Kelce led the Chiefs in receptions (67) and yards receiving (862) in 2014 and his five touchdown catches tied for the team lead.

Kelce also spent the past two seasons learning from Fasano, arguably one of the league’s savviest veterans at the tight end position, on paying attention to the little things on and off the field.

“I was telling someone earlier that was probably the biggest thing that I learned from Fasano,” Kelce said. “Coming out here and detailing my work, just becoming better and better every single day on the small things.”

Kelce took a moment to compliment O’Shaughnessy’s ability to pick up things in a short span despite the volume being thrown at the rookie.

And Kelce sounded like a seasoned veteran leader when responding to a question on what advice he would offer O’Shaughnessy to learn the offensive system and playbook.

“Stay in it,” Kelce said. “There’s no secret, there’s no magic formula or method to the madness. It’s just all you do, you come out here, you focus in on what the calls are. When the install is being installed, you take notes and you go over those notes. From there, it’s just coming out here and performing.”

FORD MAKING STRIDES

Outside linebacker Dee Ford had a different offseason in 2015 compared to 2014 when he spent a lot of time preparing for the NFL Draft, which saw the Chiefs select him in the first round as the 23rd overall pick.

“I spent more time this year doing football things,” Ford told reporters Wednesday. “Last year, it was the (NFL Scouting) Combine, Pro Day, private workouts, visits; it wasn’t the same. Then I came into trying to learn a new position. I didn’t have that luxury that I have this year.”

The 6-2, 245-pound Ford hopes to improve from a 2014 season where he appeared in 16 games with no starts. He played on just 22 total snaps on defense, and his production seven tackles (three solo), 1 ½ sacks and five quarterback pressures reflected the minimal playing time.

Still, Ford should continue to gain valuable practice experience with All-Pro outside linebacker Justin Houston not present for voluntary organized team activities (OTAs).

And there is one major area Ford points to as an improvement entering his second season from when he entered the NFL as a college defensive end.

“My situational football, definitely,” Ford said. “Certain situations that I didn’t quite understand. I could spit it out to you, but once the bullets were flying, it was different. But now that I have seen them ample amount of times and I’ve studied, it’s coming to me.”

FULTON WORKING AT CENTER

Second-year offensive lineman Zach Fulton, a sixth-round pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, started all 16 games last season at right guard and became the first Chiefs sixth- or seventh-round pick to start the season opener in 30 years.

So it was a little surprising to see the 6-5, 316-pound Fulton taking repetitions at center Tuesday with the second-team offense when the Chiefs opened OTAs.

Fulton, who experienced snaps at center during the Chiefs training camp in 2014, took the responsibilities in stride.

“It was pretty fine,” Fulton told reporters Wednesday. “I worked a little bit in the offseason and I did a little bit in college, so it’s nothing too new.”

Chiefs coach Andy Reid explained Tuesday there would be a rotation among the offensive linemen at various positions as the team seeks to establish starters and identify key backups.

Meanwhile, Fulton said he has better understanding of the playbook and what is expected of him entering his second season, even calling the transition from his rookie season to his second year “smooth.”

But there are unique challenges when taking repetitions at the center position to what he is accustomed to at guard.

“It’s a lot more difficult than being at guard,” Fulton said. “You got somebody right up on you, so it’s a little bit different and I try to get used to that as well.”

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Herbie Teope is the lead beat writer and reporter for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter:

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