KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rookie running back Darwin Thompson touched the ball just 10 times on offense in the Chiefs' first two preseason games, but that was enough to show head coach Andy Reid he deserves a bigger portfolio and more opportunities going forward.
“He understands the run game and kind of what's going on there, and he's picked up on the pass game pretty easily,” Reid said.
That means its on to more advanced work, specifically picking up blitzes. That, Reid says, is the most difficult part of the running back positions for rookies to learn quickly.
“The actual protection, he's got to get in there and you got to see them, you have to go through that,” Reid said. “We've given each (running back) a condensed amount of blitz package there that they have had to deal with. We did that with him. We gave him a shot in there to see what he can do this week."
Thompson appears to have moved into the No. 2 spots in the backfield behind starter Damien Williams and ahead of Darrel Williams and Carlos Hyde.
“We've kind of given all four of those guys an opportunity to jump in there over the last three weeks,” Reid said regarding his backs working with the No. 1 offense. “This gives him an opportunity to work in.”
The return of Jeff Allen this week and the swirling of the second-team depth chart raises many questions about the Chiefs' offensive line depth, but there's no question who they consider their top six linemen.
Cam Erving spent virtually all of training camp working as a swing tackle, primarily at left tackle with the No. 2 offense. He also filled in at right tackles and picked up first-team reps. But this week he swapped in at left guard with the No. 1 offense while Andrew Wylie moved to every position but center working with the first- and second-team lines.
“We had (Andrew) Wylie there, and we feel like both of the guys are starters,” Reid said. “You just don't have enough spots. We let Wylie work some at tackle this week, put Cam in at the guard this week, gave him some shots there. Listen, they're all going to play.”
This week's rotation doesn't seem to disrupt the plan for Wylie to hold down the left guard spot with Erving as the team's sixth linemen who can fill in at any.
“Those two we consider starters and we feel comfortable,” Reid said. “We want to make sure we got Cam some good, condensed work in there at guard. He'll get some work there Saturday night."
Allen should claim a seventh roster spot as a backup along the interior. That likely leaves Ryan Hunter, Nick Allegretti, Kahlil McKenzie and Jimmy Murray as candidates for one or two more backup positions on the 53-man roster.
Offense Avoiding Complacency
The Chiefs high-octane offense sputtered last week in Pittsburgh, tallying just 315 yards of offense and a mere seven points. The team scored more than 25 points in every regular-season and playoff game last year. Only twice did the Chiefs tally fewer yards: they picked up 294 yards in a 29-28 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers and 290 yards in the AFC Championship Game loss to New England.
With talk about the Kansas City offense appearing unstoppable, receiver Sammy Watkins says his teammates must guard against overconfidence.
“We've got to keep getting better," Watkins said. "We just got to continue to keep doing what coach wants us to do. Keep detailing everything and being on the same page."
Watkins says he also has no doubts that the same mentality will put quarterback Patricvk Mahomes to repeat his success from last season.
“I think with the coaches that we have, the players, the plays and with that foundation here with coach Reid and his staff, if we continue to do what we have been and come out here, (watch) film, taking care of our bodies, Pat staying as humble as he has and being a leader, he will do fine,” Watkins said.