ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – Chiefs general manager John Dorsey’s search for talent to boost competition leaves no stone unturned.
That philosophy in two seasons with Dorsey at the helm resulted in a roster with contributors from Central Michigan, Newberry College and Princeton, among others.
Second-year free safety Malcolm Bronson will add McNeese State of the Southland Conference if he pans out in training camp.
“This is the first time – OTA’s and now – he has really played for us, obviously,” defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said of Bronson. “He was essentially a redshirt guy last year, because of medical reasons he didn’t play. So we are just getting him in. He is just getting his chance to play.”
Bronson enjoyed an accomplished college career, recording 246 total tackles and 10 interceptions with two returned for a touchdown. He left McNeese State ranked 19th on the school’s all-time career tackles list.
The native of Jasper, Texas, was an FCS All-American and a three-time All-Conference first-team selection before an ACL injury three games into the 2012 season ended his college career.
Bronson entered his final year of college with a chance to be a first-team All-Conference selection four straight years, a feat accomplished by just six players in Southland Conference history. The short list includes his uncle, Zach Bronson, who played seven NFL seasons at safety with the San Francisco 49ers.
While the knee injury likely affected his 2013 draft status, the Chiefs signed Bronson as an undrafted free agent in May 2013. He spent the regular season on the practice squad.
“I’m blessed to be in this position because most people that get injured like that in their senior year don’t even get a chance to get on an NFL team,” Bronson said.
Now healthy, Bronson hopes to make an impression after developing on the practice squad where he gained familiarity with the defensive scheme.
“I got a chance to sit in meetings,” he said, “pretty much do everything but play in the game. I got a chance to learn the defense, learn where I fit and learn pretty much what everybody is supposed to do. This year, it allowed me to play fast, not really think so much.”
And the Chiefs are willing to see what the 24-year-old Bronson can offer.
During the final week of June’s organized team activities (OTAs), Bronson played the nickel position with the first-team defense when cornerback Chris Owens missed three practices with a hamstring injury.
Bronson’s versatility as a defensive back doesn’t surprise his former college head football coach, Matt Viator.
“He has really good instincts and I think that was always evident here,” Viator said in a telephone interview. “We play a nickel defense and he had the ability to play any of the five (positions) because he had tremendous instincts in terms of what he was doing. He always had great retention in terms of what we were trying to do in learning and energy, so with him here he could play any one of the five.”
Meanwhile, the 5-11, 192-pound Bronson continues to receive training camp repetitions at free safety or nickel packages with a mix of the first- and second-team defense during 11-on-11 drills.
Viator said his former player’s biggest assets are speed and “fantastic ball skills, tremendous ball skills,” which Bronson displayed on Day Three of training camp by intercepting a tipped Tyler Bray pass.
Despite a knack for being around the ball, Bronson knows there’s room to grow defending against the pass.
“I can always improve on that,” he said, “keeping my eyes low on the receiver. But I’m pretty quick and pretty fast, so I can recover whenever I do make mistakes. I just try to play everybody honest, learn the offense and different route combinations, so I’ll be able to be ahead.”
It’s a good thing Bronson remains humble despite his college success because he’s still learning in the Chiefs’ eyes.
“He is going to be a work in progress,” Sutton said, “but he has done a good job learning the defense when he wasn’t playing and now it has got to be the ability to make all of those decisions and adjustments on the move when out there. It is just a lot of reps is what Malcolm is going to need.”
The competition to make the final 53-man roster is tight, as the Chiefs currently have 18 defensive backs, including 12 cornerbacks, in training camp.
But Bronson looks forward to the challenge and remains grateful the Chiefs had faith in him after he went undrafted.
“I’m blessed just to have the opportunity to be here and I just look at it as I have to make the most of my opportunity,” Bronson said. “I come out and try to make plays when I can, when I get a chance, and play fast and do what I have to do.”