Chiefs training camp primer: Schedule, breakout players and more

  Print article

Training camps opened around the NFL in recent days, and the Chiefs will soon follow in the coming week.

Rookies, quarterbacks and select players report Tuesday at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Mo., followed by veterans on Friday.

The rookies will put in three straight days of practice, which are not open to the public, starting Wednesday and the Chiefs’ first full practice takes place Saturday.

The public schedule is as follows:

Saturday, Aug. 1 Practice – 3:30 p.m.
First Practice Open to the Public – $5 admission fee
Team autograph session
Sunday, Aug. 2 Practice – 8:15 a.m.
Team Autograph Session
Monday, Aug. 3 Practice – 8:15 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 4 Practice – 8:15 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 5 Practice – 9:15 a.m.
Thursday, Aug. 6 No Practice
Friday, Aug. 7 Practice – 8:15 a.m.
Saturday, Aug. 8 Practice – 8:15 a.m.
“American Family” Fun Day – $5 admission fee
Team autograph session
Sunday, Aug. 9 Practice – 8:15 a.m.
Monday, Aug. 10 Practice – 9:15 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 11 Practice – 8:15 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 12 Practice – 8:15 a.m.
Season Ticket Member Appreciation
Team autograph session
Thursday, Aug. 13 No Practice
Friday, Aug. 14 No Practice
Saturday, Aug. 15 Preseason Game: Chiefs @ Cardinals
Sunday, Aug. 16 No Practice
Monday, Aug. 17 Practice – 8:15 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 18 Practice – 8:15 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 19 Practice – 9:15 a.m.
Military Appreciation Day – Final Camp Practice
Thursday, Aug. 20 Camp Breaks – No Practice
Friday, Aug. 21 Preseason Game: Seahawks @ Chiefs

Meanwhile, the Chiefs enter a third straight training camp with the same coaching staff for the first time in 12 years.

Aug. 4, 2014; St. Joseph, MO; De'Anthony Thomas (1) walks off the field after a training camp practice. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Aug. 4, 2014; St. Joseph, MO; De’Anthony Thomas (1) walks off the field after a training camp practice. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

And the stability under coach Andy Reid goes a long way in offering optimism for a strong 2015 campaign.

There are other reasons for high hope, including the addition of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, the upgrading of the offensive line, the return of inside linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive end Mike DeVito from ruptured Achilles tendon injuries, and the emergence of third-year tight end Travis Kelce, among others.

Numerous players looked good during organized teams activities and mandatory minicamp, but those practices are tough to properly assess without the benefit of full uniforms.

Assistant head coach/wide receivers coach David Culley offered the best point of view on why it it often wise to temper enthusiasm during OTAs.

“I’ve never seen one yet make the team in shorts,” Culley said on June 3. “When you put the pads on, once we go to training camp, now you find out what’s what.”

That moment arrives soon and here is a primer of some of the areas to monitor during training camp:

CONSTRUCTION MATTERS

First, an admin note to camp visitors.

Be aware of the current construction at Missouri Western State University around the practice fields, which affects parking and access points:

Plan accordingly and stay hydrated out there, of course.

PRE-TRAINING CAMP READS

Overview of position groups heading into training camp.

Roundtable discussion among ChiefsDigest.com staff members on five areas to watch in training camp, including position battles.

Part I of a pre-training camp mailbag responding to questions about training camp battles to monitor.

Part II of a pre-training camp mailbag with a focus on defense.

Lessons learned from minicamp to apply to training camp.

THOMAS SET TO SHINE

OTAs and mandatory minicamp aren’t open to the public, but fans are set to see what the Chiefs media corps reported from those events.

Second-year pro De’Anthony Thomas worked out almost exclusively with the wide receivers and he looked fantastic.

The 5-8, 176-pound Thomas is a nightmare matchup waiting to happen for opposing cornerbacks.

“You’ve got to respect his speed,” cornerback Sean Smith said of Thomas on June 2. “Ideally, you want tight coverage but you don’t want that kind of speed running by you.”

Thomas is categorized as a running back/wide receiver, but the Chiefs still list him with the running backs on the offseason roster. It wouldn’t surprise if there’s a permanent position change at some point during training camp.

PREDICTING THE BREAKOUT VETERAN ON OFFENSE

It would be easy to place De’Anthony Thomas or tight end Travis Kelce here. But there is an important position on the offensive line that commands attention given the transition from Rodney Hudson, who signed a free-agent deal with the Oakland Raiders in March.

Third-year center Eric Kush was hard to miss during OTAs and minicamp.

And it wasn’t because he was mainstay with the first-team offense, rather because his voice boomed across the practice field after every play. The 6-4, 313-pound Kush took charge after every play during team drills by yelling, “Huddle!” or offering encouragement with, “Let’s go, guys!”

The battle at center will likely come down to Kush and rookie Mitch Morse once the pads come on in training camp.

But opportunity knocks for Kush, whose experience, confidence, understanding of the scheme and leadership should give him an edge.

PREDICTING THE BREAKOUT VETERAN ON DEFENSE

Look no further than second-year cornerback Phillip Gaines, who consistently turned heads throughout OTAs.

Gaines’ performance also caught the approving eye of defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas.

“We think he’s gotten a little stronger, which will help,” Thomas said on June 3. “He’s competing a little bit better. He’s definitely in better condition than he was last year, getting his hands on a lot of footballs. We just hope they turn into interceptions and not PBUs (pass breakups).”

Gaines, who is challenging for a starting job, added six to eight pounds to his 6-1 frame during the offseason and has a better understanding of the defensive scheme.

PREDICTING THE BREAKOUT ROOKIE ON OFFENSE

Tight ends Demetrius Harris and Richard Gordon better look out because rookie James O’Shaughnessy, the second of two fifth-round pick, is gunning for their jobs.

With Harris sidelined during OTAs and minicamp while recovering from May foot surgery, O’Shaughnessy took full advantage and ran with the first-team offense alongside starter Travis Kelce in two-tight end sets.

‘The Chiefs had success with a three-tight end set last season and the 6-4, 245-pound O’Shaughnessy still has a lot to learn, of course.

But the repetitions with the first-team offense while facing the first-team defense helped him gain confidence.

“Going against the No. 1 defense really gives you a clear idea of what you’re going to face every Sunday,” O’Shaughnessy said on June 11.

O’Shaughnessy, who also projects to contribute on special teams, is definitely a player to keep an eye on when the pads come on.

PREDICTING THE BREAKOUT ROOKIE ON DEFENSE

This listing is mostly be default, but cornerback Marcus Peters should see plenty of repetitions when considering the Chiefs must prepare for cornerback Sean Smith’s three-game suspension to start the regular season.

Peters, the team’s first-round pick of the 2015 NFL Draft (18th overall), attended rookie minicamp before missing OTAs because of the NCAA quarter system. He reported for the three-day mandatory minicamp and the Chiefs didn’t waste time getting him involved.

The 6-0, 197-pound Peters mostly saw time with the first-team defense at left cornerback in the nickel package (Phillip Gaines moved to nickel, Smith at right cornerback).

Expect the Chiefs to adjust personnel groupings to find Smith’s replacement to start the season with Peters, who was widely regarded as the best cornerback of the draft, squarely in the mix.

CAP WATCH

The Chiefs currently have $8.63 million in available cap room, which offers flexibility to accomplish the signing of free agents or address potential contract extensions.

When it comes to the latter, the Chiefs have 29 players currently on the roster entering the final year of respective contracts.

INJURY FRONT

A trio of players are prime candidates to start training camp on the physically unable to perform list, also known as the PUP list: Quarterback Tyler Bray (knee), running back Cyrus Gray (knee) and tight end Demetrius Harris (foot).

Neither player participated in OTAs and mandatory minicamp.

Bray underwent ACL surgery in late January, Gray underwent ACL surgery last fall, while Harris underwent foot surgery in early May.

Of note, Harris’ surgery was on the same foot he broke in Week 10 of the 2014 season.

MEDIA TWITTER HANDLES

The rise of social media allows fans not attending training camp to receive breaking news, live updates from the field and quotes from media sessions with the coaches and players.

While there are plenty of options to consider among the Kansas City media, here is a list of recommended Chiefs beat writers/reporters, all of whom work the daily beat, to follow on Twitter.

Each brings personality and a consistent track record of live tweeting from events and delivering breaking news on the Chiefs beat:  

AFFILIATION HANDLE COMMENTS
Terez Paylor The Kansas City Star @TerezPaylor The Terminator of the beat writers when it comes to live tweeting. Fast and accurate.
Adam Teicher ESPN.com @adamteicher Squeezes thoughtful analysis in 140 characters.
Joel Thorman Arrowhead Pride @ArrowheadPride The Blogfather is a man of the people. Here is proof.
Nick Jacobs TWC SportsChannel @Jacobs71 Offers exceptional play-by-play from practices.
BJ Kissel Official team reporter @ChiefsReporter Solid live tweeter from all angles.
Dave Skretta The Associated Press @APdaveskretta Can go stretches without tweets, but will end silence for breaking news.
Yours truly ChiefsDigest.com @HerbieTeope OK, this is a shameless plug.
Bob Gretz ChiefsDigest.com @bobgretzcom Excited to welcome Gretz to the team.

CURRENT ROSTER 

The Chiefs have 89 players on the offseason roster, one shy of the maximum of 90 allowed. Look for the team to fill the spot before practices begin in full.

The roster breaks down as 45 players on offense, 40 on defense and four specialists (rookies are italicized).  

OFFENSE 

Quarterback (4) Alex Smith, Chase Daniel, Aaron Murray, Tyler Bray

 Smtih is the clear No. 1, while Daniel has the lead as Smith’s primary backup.

Running back (6) Jamaal Charles, Knile Davis, De’Anthony Thomas*, Cyrus Gray, Charcandrick West, Keshawn Hill

 * Thomas is categorized as a running back/wide receiver as mentioned earlier, but the Chiefs list him with the running backs on the offseason roster. 

Fullback (2)  Anthony Sherman, Spencer Ware

 Sherman is the clear starter.

Wide receiver (12) * Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Albert Wilson, Junior Hemingway, Frankie Hammond Jr., Armon Binns, Fred Williams, Chris Conley, Da’Ron Brown, Donatella “Tello” Luckett, Kenny Cook, Jeret Smith

 * Number can increase to 13 if/when Chiefs officially remove the running back designation from De’Anthony Thomas and list him solely as a wide receiver. 

Tight end (6) Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris, Richard Gordon, Adam Schiltz, Ryan Taylor, James O’Shaughnessy

 Should be an interesting battle for the final roster spots at the position behind Kelce.

Offensive Tackle (4) Eric Fisher, Donald Stephenson, Derek Sherrod, Tavon Rooks

 Fisher is a virtual lock at left tackle, while Stephenson should be considered the frontrunner at right tackle. The Chiefs need to identify a swing tackle.

Guard (7) Ben Grubbs, Jeff Allen, Paul Fanaika, Zach Fulton, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Jarrod Pughsley, Marcus Reed

 Grubbs is a virtual lock at left guard, while Allen should be viewed as the favorite at right guard.

Center (4) Eric Kush, Mitch Morse, Garrett Frye, Daniel Munyer

Kush needs to hold off the challenge from Morse.

DEFENSE 

Defensive end (5) Allen Bailey, Mike DeVito, Mike Catapano, Vaughn Martin, David Irving

Bailey and DeVito are the clear starters.

Defensive tackle (6) Dontari Poe, Jaye Howard, Nick Williams, Jerel Worthy, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Charles Tuaau

Chiefs would do well to identify relief for Poe, who has logged more than 1,000 total snaps in two straight seasons.

Outside linebacker (7) Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Dee Ford, Josh Martin, Frank Zombo, Dezman Moses, Sage Harold

Houston and Hali are the clear starters among a deep group, but expect the Chiefs to find ways to incorporate Ford inthe pass rush.

Inside linebacker (6) Derrick Johnson, Josh Mauga, James-Michael Johnson, Ramik Wilson, D.J. Alexander, Justin March

 Derrick Johnson and Mauga project as the starters.

Cornerback (9) Sean Smith, Phillip Gaines, Jamell Fleming, Marcus Cooper, Aaron Hester, Deji Olatoye, Marcus Peters, Steven Nelson, Kevin Short

 This position will produce spirited competition.

Strong safety (3) Eric Berry, Ron Parker, Tyvon Branch

 Parker is set to start with no official word on Berry’s status as the All-Pro battles lymphoma.

Free safety (4) Husain Abdullah, Kelcie McCray, Daniel Sorensen, Sanders Commings

Abdullah is the starting free safety.

SPECIALISTS 

Punter (1) Dustin Colquitt

 Chiefs have one of the best punters in the league.

Kicker (1) Cairo Santos

 Santos shook off a sluggish start to the 2014 season to become a reliable kicker.

Long snapper (2) James Winchester, Andrew East

The Chiefs will have a new long snapper for the first time in seven seasons.

KEY DATES

• Chiefs must cut roster to 75 players no later than 3 p.m. CT on Sept. 1.

• Chiefs must cut roster to 53 players no later than 3 p.m. CT on Sept. 5.

• 10-man practice squad can be set after 12 p.m. CT on Sept. 6.

———-

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

———-