Chiefs mailbag: Sorting through the tight ends

Addressing the amount of tight ends the Chiefs potentially keep for the regular season headlines a short version of the Fourth of July weekend mailbag.

An intriguing dilemma, as the Chiefs have options among Anthony Fasano, Travis Kelce, Sean McGrath, Demetrius Harris and Richard Gordon.

The Chiefs started the 2013 regular season with Fasano as the starter, followed by Kelce and McGrath on the 53-man roster and Harris on the practice squad. The team finished with Fasano, McGrath and Gordon with no tight ends on the practice squad.

The 2013 season had a revolving door based on injuries to Kelce (knee, injured reserve) and Fasano, who missed four games with an ankle injury and two games with a concussion.

With Kelce on injured reserve, the Chiefs relied on Fasano, McGrath, Gordon, Kevin Brock and Dominique Jones, all of whom combined for 541 yards and five touchdowns on 53 catches.

The overall production must improve in 2014, as coach Andy Reid needs consistency from an indispensable part of his version of the West Coast offense and health plays a role.

Kelce, the first of two 2013 third-round picks, didn’t participate in recent organized team activities (OTAs) as he recovered from microfracture knee surgery. But the second-year pro returned to the field during mandatory minicamp.

While limited to individual position drills, Kelce looked fine running and catching from the three days observed covering minicamp. The Chiefs should have Kelce ready for training camp and he’s on track with the timetable associated with microfracture knee surgery.

Harris, a former college basketball power forward, is the true wildcard. The second-year pro was considered a developmental player in 2013 and spent 14 weeks on the practice squad before landing on season-ending injured reserve with an ankle injury on Dec. 18.

The 6-7, 256-pound Harris was the star of OTAs and minicamp by making athletic catches virtually on a daily basis, albeit in shorts and helmet. It could prove difficult for the Chiefs to stash Harris on the practice squad for a second straight year if he performs in training camp when the pads come on.

For what it’s worth given the shorts and helmet factor, Harris sometimes ran with the first-team offense alongside Fasano when the Chiefs showed a two-tight end set during 11-on-11 drills in minicamp. McGrath, who started nine games in 2013, and Gordon often ran with the backups.

How repetitions among the five tight ends work out in training camp depends largely on Kelce’s health and participation. But the good news for the group surrounds the confidence entering training camp.

Meanwhile, there are options if Kelce’s knee isn’t ready for the regular season. The team can place him on injured reserve with a designation to return or season-ending injured reserve if necessary.

Doing either scenario allows the team to carry Fasano, Harris and in all likelihood McGrath, who has additional value as the backup long snapper.

If Kelce proves 100 percent healthy at the end of preseason action, my best guess is the Chiefs keep Fasano, Kelce and Harris.

In that scenario, it wouldn’t surprise if the Chiefs have McGrath and Gordon on speed dial when considering their experience in Reid’s system.

Three reasons why rookie strong safety Daniel Sorensen absolutely has a chance to compete for a backup spot on the roster: Sabby Piscitelli, Reshard Langford and Jon McGraw.

Does that nightmare ring a bell?

Of course, that’s in reference to the 2011 season under a former regime where quality depth sorely lacked behind All-Pro strong safety Eric Berry, who suffered a torn ACL on the first game of the regular season against the Buffalo Bills.

Don’t expect this regime under general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid to make the same mistake.

Quintin Demps, who signed a free-agent deal with the New York Giants in March, served as Berry’s primary backup in 2013 and his departure signals competition is wide open.

The Chiefs currently have three strong safeties on the roster heading into training camp (Berry, Sorensen and Jerron McMillian), and a versatile free safety in Husain Abdullah, who played strong safety while with the Minnesota Vikings.

Sorensen, who joined the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent out of Brigham Young University, made a splash on the first day of rookie minicamp, coming away with two interceptions.

”Ball skills is something I feel like is a strength for me,” Sorensen told me for a rookie minicamp recap story written for The Associated Press (scroll to the notes section).

Meanwhile, the former BYU star will compete against McMillian, whom Dorsey is familiar with from their time with the Green Bay Packers.

McMillian originally entered the league out of Maine in 2012 as a fourth-round pick of the Packers when Dorsey served as the director of football operations. The Chiefs signed McMillian, whom the Packers released on Dec. 3, 2013, to a reserve/future deal a month later on Jan. 10.

For a tale of the tape, Sorensen is listed at 6-2, 208 pounds, while McMillian measures 5-11, 203 pounds.

When it comes to speed, McMillian clocked a 4.47 40-yard dash at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine and 4.35 during his Pro Day at Maine.

Sorensen clocked a 4.66 at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine and 4.54 during his Pro Day at BYU.

While Sorensen is bigger, McMillian has the edge in speed and NFL experience, having appeared in 28 regular season games with two starts in Green Bay where he totaled 38 tackles (28 solo) and an interception.

Both players saw time with a mix of the second- and third-team units throughout OTAs and minicamp during team-related 11-on-11 and 9-7 drills. That’s expected with Berry commanding first-team repetitions.

But Sorensen, who can also contribute on special teams, is in the mix for the backup strong safety position.

Not a tweet question from BJ Kissel, but I wanted to close the weekend mailbag with a reply to his public acknowledgement here.

For anyone missing a feel-good announcement, the Chiefs hired BJ as a reporter for its website and other media platforms.

Our mutual friend, Joel Thorman, the current NFL editor and publisher, categorized BJ’s hiring as the Chiefs’ “best move of the offseason.”

I emphatically agree.

To BJ, it was a pleasure to previously work with you and an even bigger joy to watch you grow as a writer the past year alone. Your work ethic combined with a willingness to listen and learn how to improve your craft brought you to this point.

So from one Kansas State alumnus to another, super congratulations as you move forward with your career.

It’s fantastic to see good things still happen to good people in today’s world.


Have a Chiefs-related question? Tweet them to @HerbieTeope. But note only my Twitter followers will get questions featured here.