ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – From Jeff Allen, Donald Stephenson, Eric Kush, Mitch Morse, Zach Fulton, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif to Jarrod Pughsley, the Chiefs have offered numerous looks at center and down the right side of the first-team offensive line since training camp began.
Why should the final day of camp be different?
The Chiefs on Wednesday rolled out Stephenson at left tackle in place of an injured Eric Fisher (ankle), Ben Grubbs at left guard, Morse at center, Duvernay-Tardif at right guard and Paul Fanaika at right tackle in place of Allen (knee).
“Fanaika’s another one of those guys that can play anything,” coach Andy Reid told reporters after practice. “He’s real smart, strong and he’s got great hands, real strong hands, and that helps at the tackle spot.”
The Chiefs entered camp with a mission to find the right combination before injuries to Fisher and Allen caused a domino effect with the first- and second-team units.
The result in the past three days saw Pughsley taking first-team snaps at right tackle, Duvernay-Tardif at right guard and now Fanaika, who can also play guard, in place of Pughsley.
“We are at a point where we are trying to find out who’s got what and where we’re at and you’re testing guys,” quarterback Alex Smith told reporters, “so there’s going to be a little movement. You’ve got to be fluid. But like I said, for me, I’ve got enough on my plate to just try to run the offense and I’ve got a lot of faith in those guys.”
There are three preseason games remaining on the schedule to assist the evaluation process.
And Friday night’s game against the Seattle Seahawks could play a large role when considering Reid said starters are expected to play into the second quarter.
The coaching staff has a decision to make, but don’t expect Smith, who comes a career-high 45 times sacked in 2014, to offer much input.
“I mean, maybe the center,” Smith said. “Certainly the other positions, it would be a little silly for me to try to evaluate tackles and guards. I don’t block.”
BACK IN THE GAME
Sore after three weeks of training camp practices?
But the good news is inside linebacker Derrick Johnson is healthy after finishing the 2014 campaign on injured reserve with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
“My body is healthy, and I have no limitations on my Achilles or anything on my body,” Johnson told reporters. “So I went through this camp pretty healthy, so that’s a good thing.”
Johnson, a former first-team All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl selection, said he had to train his eyes in addition to getting back in shape.
The offseason workouts and training camp helped the process.
“Being a veteran in this league and make plays, you have to trust your eyes,” Johnson said. “Being away from the game for a whole year – I’ve never done that before. Since I was 9 years old I’ve always been in the football season.
“This past season I was off, you got to train your eyes back. I’m training my eyes to make plays out there as far as anticipating different things that I have to do. Football is a very hard sport. If you don’t train your eyes, be spot on with everything – you’re going to look slow out there.”
• The Chiefs put in a fast and light practice in shorts and helmet, but welcomed back second-year running back Charcandrick West, who missed Tuesday with an illness. Rookie offensive lineman Garrett Frye also returned after missing time with a knee injury.
• Wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas (calf), linebacker Josh Mauga (heel), quarterback Tyler Bray (knee), tight end Demetrius Harris (foot), tackles Jeff Allen (knee) and Eric Fisher (ankle), and safety Sanders Commings (knee) did not practice and worked to the side with trainers.