Chiefs enter final phase of NFL offseason workout program

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs hold a mandatory three-day minicamp Tuesday through Thursday before the players take a break ahead of training camp in July.

Oct 27, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston (50) is introduced at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 27, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston (50) is introduced at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The last period in Phase Three of the league’s offseason workout program offers the coaching staff a chance to reinforce to players what has been learned in the past 10 days of voluntary organized team activities (OTAs).

Minicamp also allows an opportunity to spend more time with players.

“You can have them in the building a little longer and you can have a walk-through,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said last week during his final OTA media session. “That constitutes a second practice. What we’ll do is we’ll have a walk-through in the morning, and then we’ll have the practice in the afternoon.”

Reid added the structure of the afternoon practice will mirror what the players did during OTAs in shorts and helmet with no contact.

Much like the OTAs, there are numerous areas to monitor in the coming days, including:

Cornerback situation. The release of Brandon Flowers places the cornerback position under heavy scrutiny.

The Chiefs currently have 10 cornerbacks on the roster: Sean Smith, Marcus Cooper, Ron Parker, Chris Owens, Phillip Gaines, Vernon Kearney, Justin Rogers, Kevin Rutland, and David and DeMarcus Van Dyke.

Of course, the Chiefs could add another cornerback since the team has 89 players on the roster, one shy of the league offseason maximum of 90. But there’s no better time to set the pecking order than the next three days before reporting to training camp.

Smith found himself in the doghouse last week following an early Monday morning alleged DUI incident, leading to Smith running with the second-team defense.

Cooper, who previously manned left cornerback, slid over to Smith’s spot, while Parker took Cooper’s position with the first-team unit. Prior to his hamstring injury last week, Owens defended the slot, but free safety Malcolm Bronson closed out the week in Owens’ place.

It would be shocking if Smith continues to run with the second-team defense in the coming days. The ideal scenario is Smith returns to his normal position with the starters, Cooper moves back to the left side and Owens, health permitting, defends the slot.

Will Houston show? Two-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Justin Houston, who enters the final year of his contract, didn’t attend the voluntary OTAs.

That was clearly by choice, but he won’t have that luxury this week. Should Houston decide to not appear, he’s subject to fines given the mandatory nature of the minicamp and in accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

[Note: Fine total corrected from $60,00 to this edited version]: Article 42, Section I (a) (ix) Exhibit A of the CBA shows Houston is subject to an $11,575 fine for missing Day One of minicamp. A Day Two absence would cost $23,150, while a Day Three absence is $34,730. Should Houston miss all three days, fines could total $69,455.

Frank Zombo has taken a majority of first-team snaps during OTAs and was often on the field during the first set of 11-on-11. The Chiefs also gave first-round pick Dee Ford snaps with the first team during the second set of 11-on-11 drills.

It’s reasonable to expect the two will continue in that fashion in the event Houston is absent. A backup rotation between Zombo and Ford for second-team reps will likely be the result if Houston is present.

Thomas returns. The Chiefs will have fourth-round pick, running back/specialist De’Anthony Thomas, back on the field after he missed all the OTAs based on Oregon’s quarter system.

And the electrifying player whom Oregon football coach Mark Helfrich said has the “It” factor puts all players competing at returner and slot wide receiver on notice the battles are officially underway.

Thomas showed quickness during the rookie minicamp, so it will be interesting how he looks against the veterans.

During Thomas’ absence throughout OTAs, the Chiefs rotated running backs Knile Davis and Joe McKnight, and wide receivers Frankie Hammond, Weston Dressler, Fred Williams and Albert Wilson during returner drills.

Wide receiver Kyle Williams (knee), who didn’t participate in OTAs, stood in the back with the returners.

Dressler, who is projected to compete at slot receiver, went down on Day Nine of OTAs with a hamstring injury, which places him in danger of losing ground if the injury lingers.

Can Demetrius Harris keep it up? Hands down the star of OTAs, the second-year tight end has impressed with the growth and improvement from last season.

Of course, his performances come with caution because the team is practicing in shorts and helmet with no contact. But it became virtually impossible to observe a workout without Harris making an attention-grabbing reception during 11-on-11 or 9-7 drills.

While Harris at times ran with the first-team unit alongside Anthony Fasano whenever the Chiefs went with a two-tight end set during 11-on-11, that could change when Travis Kelce (knee) returns.

Jockeying for position. Consider the coming days a preview of the numerous training camp position battles, among them:

• QBs Chase Daniel vs. Tyler Bray vs. Aaron Murray: Daniel has the edge for the No. 2 spot given his experience, but will be pushed. The No. 3 quarterback job is up for grabs.

• RBs Cyrus Gray vs. De’Anthony Thomas vs. Joe McKnight vs. Charcandrick West: Thomas may not be in the discussion for the No. 3 running back if the Chiefs ultimately list him as a wide receiver.

• WRs Junior Hemingway vs. A.J. Jenkins vs. De’Anthony Thomas vs. Frankie Hammond vs. Weston Dressler vs. others: The Chiefs have 12 wide receivers on the roster, but the slot wide receiver is a focal point.

• OGs Rishaw Johnson vs. Zach Fulton vs. others: The right guard position could come down between Johnson and Fulton, both of whom have spent time with the first-team offensive line during OTAs.

• DEs Allen Bailey vs. Vance Walker: Bailey has worked extensively with the first-team unit in Tyson Jackson’s former spot at left defensive end. Walker has time to make a push in training camp.

• DBs Husain Abdullah vs. Sanders Commings: Based on OTAs, Abdullah is the leader at free safety heading into training camp.

• DBs Jerron McMillian vs. Daniel Sorensen: When it comes to the strong safety position, there’s Eric Berry followed by a question mark. Berry’s eventual backup will provide much-needed depth at the position.

• Ks Ryan Succop vs. Cairo Santos: The kicker battle will heat up in training camp.

Backup battles along the offensive line, tight end, defensive line among others will work itself out in training camp, but the above scenarios draw immediate attention.

On the mend. Left tackle Eric Fisher (shoulder) will continue to be limited, as the team gets him ready for training camp. David Van Dyke (hamstring) hasn’t seen the practice field since the first week of OTAs, and he’s at risk falling behind given the lost time.

Others who missed workouts last week are Junior Hemingway (strep throat), Chris Owens (hamstring) and wide receiver Weston Dressler (hamstring).

Tight end Travis Kelce (knee) and wide receiver Kyle Williams (knee) didn’t participate in OTAs as they recover from respective surgeries. However, both could return to the field this week.