KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs return to the practice field Tuesday for the next four days to meet the maximum of 10 voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) as allowed by Article 21 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
June 4, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Quarterback Alex Smith (11) leads the offense during Day Five of OTAs at the team’s training facility. Photo used with permission from Chiefs PR. Credit: KCChiefs.com.
Outside linebacker Justin Houston and cornerback Brandon Flowers have missed the previous six OTA workouts, but they won’t need to be present until next week’s mandatory minicamp on June 17-19.
Meanwhile, the upcoming two weeks marks the home stretch before the Chiefs takes a break in preparation for training camp.
And one of the biggest takeaways so far surrounds the amount of competition at each position, all of which will play out when the pads come on in St. Joseph, Mo.
Until then, here are noteworthy areas carrying over from last week worth monitoring:
Returner pecking order. The Chiefs have rotated running backs Knile Davis and Joe McKnight, and wide receivers Weston Dressler, Frankie Hammond, Fred Williams and Albert Wilson during returner drills throughout OTAs.
And if there’s a time to stand out among the pack before training camp, it’s the next four days before rookie running back/specialist De’Anthony Thomas returns to the field for next week’s minicamp.
Thomas, who has missed OTAs due to Oregon’s academic quarter system, will immediately compete for a punt and kickoff returner position.
Davis is virtually assured a roster spot given his value as Jamaal Charles’ primary backup, so everybody else needs to raise the bar once Thomas arrives.
Under the radar. Cornerback Ron Parker’s signature play in 2013 came on a hat trick when he sacked, stripped the ball and recovered a fumble from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo in Week 2.
While Parker’s impact last year mostly came on special teams (10 tackles and a fumble recovery), he appeared in six games on defense where he recorded seven solo tackles, two interceptions, the sack of Romo and two fumble recoveries.
With last week’s signing of Justin Rogers, the Chiefs currently have 11 cornerbacks on the roster. The Chiefs also have third-round pick Phillip Gaines to eventually incorporate into the scheme.
But Parker, a fourth-year pro, appears to be making a push for an expanded role.
At 6-0, 206 pounds, Parker notched a pass breakup and an interception during Day Five’s workout. And he filled in at the right cornerback position on Day Six with the first-team defense in place of starter Sean Smith, who wasn’t present for personal reasons.
Under the radar, Take II. Undrafted rookie free agent wide receiver Albert Wilson and CFL import Weston Dressler have consistently looked strong, but another wide receiver came on during last week’s OTAs.
Frankie Hammond, who spent the 2013 season on the practice squad, impressed with his ability to catch a variety of passes running short, intermediate or deep routes. The former Florida Gator was on the receiving end of a deep pass from quarterback Tyler Bray on Day Six after getting behind third-round pick Phillip Gaines.
Entering this week’s workouts, the Chiefs have a total of 12 wide receivers to consider: Deon Anthony, Donnie Avery, Dwayne Bowe, Dressler, Hammond, Junior Hemingway, Jerrell Jackson, A.J. Jenkins, Darryl Surgent, Fred Williams, Kyle Williams and Wilson.
Hammond, who can also contribute as a returner, has an opportunity to make the competition interesting.
Right side will sort itself out. As long as starting left tackle Eric Fisher (shoulder) remains limited, Donald Stephenson will fill in from his normal right tackle position.
This has allowed the Chiefs to look at numerous combinations with the first-team offensive line through six OTAs, and don’t expect that to change heading into training camp.
Rishaw Johnson for the most part appears to have an early edge at right guard, but he’ll get pushed by Jeff Linkenbach and potentially rookie Zach Fulton, who saw time with the first unit last week during 11-on-11.
It’s also important to remember the Chiefs need to develop a swing tackle among Linkenbach, J’Marcus Webb and potentially Otis Hudson. The former two have worked mostly at right tackle during team-related drills, while Hudson has seen time at left tackle.
Bombs away. An underrated training camp battle comes at the position often overlooked, but that doesn’t minimize its importance.
Rookie Cairo Santos drew high praise from special teams coordinator Dave Toub last week, and it looks like Santos will get a legitimate shot.
An immediate observation of Santos at OTAs is how the ball explodes off his right foot with a noticeable sound. The undrafted free agent out of Tulane is a threat to incumbent place kicker Ryan Succop.
All the right moves. Cause for high or guarded optimism? Probably somewhere in the middle, but there’s no doubt wide receiver Dwayne Bowe has quietly put together six days of strong workouts.
Bowe, who enters his eighth season, said in January he wanted to be at 208 pounds as a playing weight, down from the 212 pounds he carried in 2013. He also revealed on April 21 when the Chiefs reported for Phase One of the offseason workout program that he’s been working with a nutritionist and personal trainer.
From an observation point of view from covering the OTAs every day, Bowe looks comfortable in his second season in coach Andy Reid’s offense. And as Reid pointed out last week, Bowe reported for workouts in “phenomenal shape.”
Looks like the team’s No. 1 wide receiver is sticking to his word.
Hamstrung. This is the time of year when minor scrapes and bruises are common around the NFL as players get used to the workouts and heat.
Still, there’s one injury that can linger and hamstring tweaks have afflicted four players: Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, linebacker Ben Johnson and cornerbacks DeMarcus and David Van Dyke.
Jenkins suffered his injury on the Day Three of OTAs and hasn’t been on the practice field since. David Van Dyke wasn’t on the practice field all three days last week, while his first cousin DeMarcus missed most of Day Six’s practice. Johnson’s tweak also happened last week.
Of course, there’s time to recover before training camp. But it’s never good to lose time at positions with plenty of competition.
On the mend. Left tackle Eric Fisher (shoulder) will likely continue to be limited, while tight end Travis Kelce (knee) and wide receiver Kyle Williams (knee) shouldn’t be doing much except observing as they recover for their respective surgeries.
The other players of note dealing with injuries are the previously mentioned wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, linebacker Ben Johnson, and cornerbacks DeMarcus and David Van Dyke.
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