ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – Chiefs offensive lineman Jarrod Pughsley flew under the radar entering training camp, and it could be attributed to his low-key nature.
“He’s a nice guy,” coach Andy Reid said. “He’s very soft-spoken.”
Place the 6-4, 310-pound Pughsley on the football field, however, and a transformation occurs.
“On the field, though, he’ll take care of business,” Reid said. “He’s very competitive. Very smart and very competitive.”
Those qualities contribute to Pughsley’s emergence in recent weeks from the second-team offense – where he lined up at left tackle – to now taking repetitions at right tackle with the starters in two straight days.
Right tackle Jeff Allen’s knee injury and left tackle Eric Fisher’s high-ankle sprain affect the offensive line rotation, of course.
But Pughsley has impressed the coaching staff with his skill set throughout training camp and in the preseason opener, where he recorded 34 snaps.
“He’s not short on opportunities out here,” Reid said. “So, he got a lot of reps in the game, then we asked him to come out here and take a lot of reps. I’m sure he’s a little bit tired and sore, but he did a nice job of pushing through it.”
The 24-year-old Pughsley entered the league in 2014 as an undrafted free agent out Akron with the Dallas Cowboys, who waived him in July 2014.
The Chiefs then signed Pughsley to the practice squad on Nov. 10, 2014, and he was waived four times and re-signed three times before eventually signing a reserve/future deal on Dec. 29.
Despite the constant movement, Pughsley had plenty of takeaways from working as a practice squad member and he applied them to offseason workouts.
“I realized when I first got here last year that the speed of the game, especially (outside linebackers) Dee (Ford), Tamba (Hali) and Justin (Houston), is way faster,” Pughsley said. “Just trying to get back on my kick-step a little faster in pass protection, but I wanted to make sure I was strong all around in my game passing and run-wise. I feel like it’s showing up a little more every day just trying to go to work.”
Pughsley, a native of Lima, Ohio, returned to Akron to train with Matt Gildersleeve, the school’s strength and conditioning coach, during the offseason.
Gildersleeve immediately saw a difference in Pughsley’s development.
“The biggest thing is he trimmed up a ton of body fat, he really changed his body composition,” Gildersleeve said in a telephone interview. “The biggest thing we wanted to work on was his explosive power and we did a lot of speed training with what we call velocity-based training. Those were probably the two biggest things I saw with that were just how much more powerful he got and how he changed his body.”
Hearing the word “power” when applied to an offensive lineman conjures images of a player like Pughsly bowling over a hapless defender.
But Pughsley prefers to consider himself a technician and a finesse player.
“In college, we had to be because we were in the spread a lot,” he said. “With passing all the time, you kind of have to keep a level head. I like to keep a level head. When you get into the mauler mentality, you can make some mistakes and whiff out of there. I try to stay under myself.”
That’s not to say he can’t mix it up.
“If it comes time to it, I can maul,” Pughsley said with a grin. “But I would say finesse. Run or pass, it doesn’t make a difference to me. I try to use my technique more than just going down head first.”
A stronger Pughsley harnessed the offseason training since arriving for organized team activities, and he offers versatility to the offensive line at important swing position.
The Chiefs designate Pughsley as a guard on the roster, but list him as left tackle Eric Fisher’s primary backup on the depth chart.
“Jarrod’s a versatile guy and a talented guy,” offensive line coach Andy Heck said. “We had him last year on our developmental squad and so this is really our first opportunity to see him working in different situations, whether it’s with the ones or the twos, or at tackle, and that’s not to say we couldn’t play him at guard.”
“It’s a great opportunity to evaluate him. It’s a great opportunity for him to continue developing and becoming a better football player and really see what he can be and what we’ve got on our hands.”
While his rise in training camp may surprise many outside the team, Pughsley knew he had it in him to succeed and he utilized objectives to maintain focus.
“The offensive line set goals and we had team goals, group goals, and then individual goals,” he said. “One of my goals was to be ready when the opportunity presents itself. Lord willing, I can stay healthy and if the opportunity presents itself, I can step up to the challenge.”
So far, so good for Pughsley.
The Chiefs offensive lineman, however, won’t be complacent with recent success knowing there are three preseason games remaining before roster cuts to get to the initial 53-man roster.
And Pughsley understands he has room to improve for a shot at making the team.
“I won’t say that I’ve been perfect out here because I made some mistakes, mentally and technique-wise,” Pughsley said. “But I think that I keep getting better every day. And if I keep just taking my coaching because it’s great coaching and instill it on the field, I think the rest will take care of itself.”