KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Talent and opportunity often contribute to playing time at the professional level and both qualities apply to Chiefs rookie offensive lineman Parker Ehinger.
The 6-6, 310-pound Ehinger, the first of three Chiefs’ fourth-round picks (105th overall), received an understanding of life in the NFL during the recently-concluded rookie minicamp.
More importantly, Ehinger entered the minicamp fully aware of what is at stake with the Chiefs having an opening at left guard.
“I didn’t know before I got drafted about the Chiefs’ availability was possibly at guard,” said Ehinger, who can also play tackle. “But after I got drafted, I kind of looked into it.”
The rookie offensive lineman likely discovered the position is available based on the departures of Ben Grubbs, who was released in March, and Jeff Allen, who signed a free-agent contract with the Houston Texans. The Chiefs also released veteran Paul Fanaika after he declined to take a pay cut.
Kansas City has veteran offensive lineman to consider on the roster, including Jah Reid, Zach Fulton and Jarrod Pughsley. The Chiefs also recently claimed guard Jordan Devey off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers and could elect to move Laurent Duvernay-Tardif from right guard to the left side of the offensive line.
Veterans, however, won’t hit the practice field for voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) until May 24.
And the minicamp provided an opportunity for the Chiefs to get a close look at Ehinger, who took first-team snaps at left guard.
“It’s a little bit different,” Ehinger said. “It’s a little bit of an adjustment at first. I played left guard at the East-West Shrine Game, so it’s not too uncommon for me, it’s just bumping down inside. I’m a little more comfortable coming out of a right hand stance at guard, but it’s nothing I can’t handle at left guard.”
Ehinger received a crash-course lesson over the weekend on the Chiefs’ playbook, a process that required him to absorb as much as possible.
“They’re throwing all this stuff on you in three days,” he said. “But it’s quick, you got to be able to learn fast and once you get out there you got to be able to perform. So, putting it all together is a big part of it.”
Ehinger apparently did more than implementing what he learned.
He flashed his potential going against defensive lineman Chris Jones, the Chiefs’ second-round pick (37th overall), and coach Andy Reid came away impressed.
“He’s obviously got good size,” Reid said of Ehinger. “He’s smart, he picks things up well. He and Chris were kind of going against each other there. Both of them, I thought, had some good snaps against each other.”
Still, Reid appeared to offer guarded optimism when considering the nature of offseason workouts before training camp.
Players are in shorts and helmets without contact during rookie minicamp and OTAs, which hinders a complete evaluation.
“You can’t do much right now,” Reid said. “There’s no contact, so it’s hard to tell until we get into pads with those guys. He looked pretty good; I know he can run a screen, so he did pretty good with that.”
In the meantime, the Chiefs are likely to tinker with personnel groupings on the offensive line during OTAs and training camp with the goal of identifying the best fit.
And offensive linemen competing for starting jobs will jockey for position on what should prove a fluid depth chart leading to the regular season.
While he is aware a position is open, Ehinger understands he’ll have to earn playing time regardless where he lines up by taking advantage of every repetition in practice.
“Obviously, Coach Reid is going to put the best five guys out there,” Ehinger said. “So, we’re all just competing to get a spot out there. The best five will play on Sundays.”