ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe’s time on the field shows an eye-popping 1,000-plus total snaps in two straight years.
Whatever concerns lingered over snaps is now magnified by Poe’s recent back surgery, which landed the two-time Pro Bowl selection on the physically unable to perform (PUP) to start training camp.
The Chiefs also need to evaluate whether Poe can handle a heavy load when he eventually returns.
“He’s got to get into playing shape as well,” defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said Tuesday. “So we are probably going to have to manage some of those things until he is back to 100 percent. As you people know, Dontari likes to play; he doesn’t like to come off the field. I would say that is an usual thing for the big guys like that, so I’m sure he is going to want to stay in there.”
Sutton said the process of identifying Poe’s temporary replacement has begun in training camp.
Fourth-year pro Jaye Howard has received first-team repetitions in Poe’s place, and the Chiefs have other options to consider, including defensive end Mike DeVito.
“I think Jaye had two really good days and good in OTAs as well,” Sutton said. “He was playing three-technique down, but I think between him and Mike DeVito, we have enough people in there – Big Nick (Nick Williams) some of three. I think we have some people, they have to develop yet, but we have some possibilities in there. So far, OK with what we have done in there.”
The Chiefs will proceed with care when it comes to Poe’s snaps and conditioning.
“He is going to have to go through a process here where he gets into shape to play, and reacts and all those things,” Sutton said. “We just kind of have to wait to see where he is at when he comes back. That will affect that, too.”
SNAPPING BATTLE WAGES
The long snapper battle carries intrigue with James Winchester going head-to-head against rookie Andrew East.
But don’t expect the competition to be settled during the early part of training camp.
“It’s going to take a while,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. “I think we’re looking at least two preseason games, I’m guessing, before we really know. We need to get some good live reps; you try to mimic that as best as you can here, but you really can’t.”
Winchester and East are rotating snaps during the special teams portion of practice, but Winchester often takes the first set of repetitions.
Despite the rotation, the battle is hotly contested.
“They’re really close,” Toub said. “I think both of them are NFL-caliber guys, there’s no question, which is a good thing for us because we’re going to pick the best one.
The Chiefs have a Missouri connection in training camp with quarterback Chase Daniel, rookie offensive lineman Mitch Morse, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and recently signed wide receiver L’Damian Washington.
For Washington, who has been with six teams since entering the NFL in 2014 as an undrafted free agent, having a connection on an NFL team is big.
“Every other team I was on, I didn’t have a guy I could go to and lean on whenever I was kind of down and not having that confidence about myself,” Washington said. “Just having J-Mac right there by my side, Chase Daniel is the quarterback and my guy Mitch, who I basically grew up with at Mizzou. It’s great.”
The feeling from a good friend was mutual.
“It was great to see L’Damian Washington,” Morse said. “I’ll tell you what, that’s one hell of a dude. He was the captain and part of that season where we were able to turn around in the SEC. He did a lot for us and he’s a really close friend of mine. It was really nice to see him.”
Washington, who recently spent time rehabilitating from leg surgery, said he received a call from the Chiefs on Sunday while leaving church to go to dinner.
He had other suitors, but that phone call apparently was all he needed.
“In the last week or so, I had seven teams call,” Washington said. “I had other teams scheduled to come in and visit, but when the Chiefs called, I was like ‘Hey, I’m right down the road, I can come in tonight.’”
• The Chiefs started practice with left tackle Eric Fisher, left guard Ben Grubbs, center Eric Kush, right guard Jeff Allen and right tackle Donald Stephenson taking repetitions with the first-team offense, marking the fourth straight day. However, the team rotated Zach Fulton at right guard and Derek Sherrod at right tackle late in practice.
• The Chiefs defense got their hands on plenty of passes during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. Rookie cornerback Marcus Peters continues to have a strong start to training camp, jumping a route on the first 11-on-11 drill to knock down a Chase Daniel pass. Outside linebacker Dezman Moses also had a strong practice with at least two tipped passes. Outside linebacker Frank Zombo recorded an interception during 7-on-7 drills.
• Quarterback Alex Smith and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin rebounded from Sunday’s shaky showing. The two were on the same page and connected frequently during team-related drills.
• Prior to Phillip Gaines leaving practice late with a knee injury, he lined up at left cornerback with the first-team unit in the Chiefs’ base defense. Gaines moved inside with Marcus Peters taking Gaines’ spot in the nickel package.
• The one-on-one drills with outside linebackers and defensive linemen going against offensive linemen continue to prove highly entertaining. Rookie outside linebacker Sage Harold put a sick inside spin move on left tackle Eric Fisher to get inside the pocket. Watch some of the drills here, courtesy of contributing writer Nick Jacobs.
Herbie Teope is the lead beat writer and reporter for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.