KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs begin a final set of workouts Tuesday through Thursday before taking a month-long break in preparation for training camp.
The three-day mandatory minicamp concludes the offseason workout program and affords coach Andy Reid a final look at his players in shorts and helmets with no contact.
The past three weeks of organized team activities left Reid with a good feel of the team’s direction.
“You want to see a third year progression from the guys who have been here three years,” Reid said on the final day of OTAs. “And then what kind of shape they’re in, this gives you a pretty good idea. They’re out here, the heat kind of jumped on us quickly. We were able to practice in it, I thought very well, and we functioned very well. It looks like a pretty well-conditioned team and we’ll see. You have to get the pads on out here eventually.”
The pads, of course, come on when the team reports to St. Joseph, Mo., for training camp in late July.
Minicamp should provide a preview on what to expect in training camp, and there have been plenty of takeaways from 10 days of OTAs.
Most of the lessons learned carry over to minicamp, offering storylines to follow in the coming days:
The Chiefs welcome back rookie cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Steven Nelson, both of whom missed OTAs because of the NCAA quarter system.
While Peters and Nelson participated in May’s rookie minicamp, Tuesday marks the first time both will be on the practice field with veteran teammates.
The Chiefs used a first-round pick (18th overall) on Peters and a third-round pick on Nelson (98th overall) during the 2015 NFL Draft, and it will be interesting to see where they line up on defense.
Peters, who measures 6-0, 197 pounds, could challenge immediately for a starting job opposite starting right cornerback Sean Smith, and Peters will face a challenge from Phillip Gaines, Jamell Fleming and Marcus Cooper.
The 5-11, 194-pound Nelson is likely to challenge for the vacant nickel cornerback position.
Conditioning will be a large factor for Peters and Nelson as they get acclimated to the Midwest humidity.
KANSAS CITY SHUFFLE
The Chiefs went through a variety of player rotations on the offensive line during OTAs, which was by design in an effort to identify the “five best guys,” as Reid mentioned on the first day of OTAs.
While the rotations could very well continue in the next three days, it wouldn’t surprise if the offensive line settled as camp progresses.
Keep in mind the Chiefs went through a similar shuffle just a year ago during OTAs with Rishaw Johnson and then-rookie Zach Fulton at right guard.
Johnson entered the 2014 OTAs as a widely-regarded favorite to be the starter, but then Fulton commanded a majority of first-team snaps during the first two days of minicamp.
Fulton eventually seized the starting job early in training camp, which made Johnson expendable. The Chiefs eventually traded Johnson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for free safety Kelcie McCray.
The Chiefs opened OTAs three weeks ago with Eric Fisher at left tackle, Ben Grubbs at left guard, Eric Kush at center, Jeff Allen at right guard and Donald Stephenson at right tackle.
Fisher and Grubbs are virtual locks on the left side, making the center, right guard and right tackle positions the areas to closely monitor.
Quarterback Alex Smith and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin appeared on the same page during OTAs in the short, intermediate and deep passing game.
The offensive scheme allows Smith to spread passes around, of course, but it was good to see Smith and Maclin developing chemistry ahead of training camp.
Smith and Maclin should look to use the next three days to build on the rapport.
Second-year cornerback Phillip Gaines was hard to miss during OTAs.
A deflected pass intended for a wide receiver ? There’s No. 23 making a play. An interception? Why, that was No. 23 yet again.
Gaines must carry that momentum into the next three days because the competition just got very interesting with the highly-anticipated debuts of rookie cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Steven Nelson.
The Chiefs currently have $388,565 in available salary cap room, according to the NFLPA database.
That amount represents the least in the league, and the Chiefs don’t have much wiggle room ahead of training camp unless the team gets creative with other contracts.
Having space is important when considering the team needs the flexibility to sign players in the event of injuries in the coming months before the start of the regular season.
The Chiefs experienced one significant injury during OTAs when undrafted rookie cornerback De’Vante Bausby suffered a broken clavicle on June 9.
Other players to deal with assorted ailments during OTAs include linebacker Derrick Johnson (knee), wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (foot), defensive tackle Dontari Poe (back), wide receiver Albert Wilson (hamstring), running backs Charcandrick West (stinger) and rookie Keshawn Hill (hamstring), offensive lineman Jarrod Pughsley (hamstring) and defensive lineman Vaughn Martin (ankle).
Maclin missed just one day of practice, Pughsley missed a few days to start OTAs before practicing, Hill returned the final week of OTAs.
The Chiefs took it easy on Johnson after he experienced inflammation to his right knee on June 2, and the same can be said for Wilson, who experienced a strained hamstring on June 3.
Poe hasn’t practiced since experiencing back spasms during individual position drills on June 2.
Martin missed the last practice and West suffered a stinger during team-related drills on the final day of OTAs.
Tight end Demetrius Harris (foot), quarterback Tyler Bray (knee), strong safety Eric Berry (illness) and running back Cyrus Gray (knee) did not practice during OTAs.
Gray, however, was on the field without his helmet and participated in the warm-up portion before the team split off into individual position drills.