Starting cornerback competition heats up

July 26, 2014; St. Joseph, MO; Cornerback Marcus Cooper is among three players in competition for two starting positions on the Chiefs defense. Credit: Matt Derrick,
July 26, 2014; St. Joseph, MO; Cornerback Marcus Cooper is among three players in competition for two starting positions on the Chiefs defense. Credit: Matt Derrick,

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – The Chiefs continue to rotate among their three top cornerbacks, leaving an open competition for who will be lining up in the secondary against the Tennessee Titans on the season’s opening day.

Marcus Cooper, Ron Parker and Sean Smith continued  to rotate among the first team again Wednesday. Smith was the only corner to line up with first team on all three 11-on-11 drills. Parker lined up with Smith on the first round of drills, while Cooper joined Smith on the second and third round of drills.

Defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas echoed head coach Andy Reid’s assessment, calling it an open competition among the three corners for the starting spots. He indicated the decision may not be made until the first game of the regular season.

“We’ll let it all work itself out,” Thomas said. “We won’t be able to until we start playing preseason games, and we’ll grade them against competition.”

While Chris Owens continues to get the bulk of the action at nickel back, Thomas said the team is continuing to get looks for rookie Phillip Gaines.

“We’re using him inside at the nickel position,” Thomas said. “We’ve played him at both corner spots and we’re trying to find out what’s his niche. Right now he’s learning the system. He’s a guy that has a lot of speed, he’s very intelligent. It’s just a matter of him getting acclimated to the pro game.”

Thomas also praised the play of undrafted college free agent Daniel Sorensen. Sorensen has continued to play with the first team defense in place of injured strong safety Eric Berry.

Thomas said he is looking for Sorensen to be more aggressive.

“We lost Kendrick Lewis,” Thomas said, “and we’re looking for a guy who can go back there and help make calls and also make plays. He’s got great size, he’s smart enough, now he needs to get little bit more instincts back there.”

Succop back in action

Kicker Ryan Succop returned to the field after missing four days of practice while nursing a groin injury. The veteran is in a pitched battle with rookie Cairo Santos for the team’s kicking position.

Succop showed no rust and no ill effects from the injury, going virtually perfect on the day in 10 tries from various distances during special teams drills and situational 11-on-11 drills.

Berry remains out

All-Pro strong safety Eric Berry was on the sidelines for the second-straight day after experiencing a setback with his right heel injury on Tuesday.

Joining Berry on the sideline was cornerback Damond Smith (abductor strain), linebacker Josh Mauga (groin) and defensive linemen Mike DeVito (hand) and Kona Schwenke (shoulder).

Fullback Anthony Sherman was absent from practice awaiting the birth of his son. Tight end Richard Gordon was also excused from practice. Defensive lineman Mike Catapano continued to miss practice suffering from a virus.

Defense wins the day

Forgive the Chiefs if the penultimate practice for the Chiefs in St. Joseph was less than stellar. With one light practice on the horizon Thursday, the final full workout of training camp showed signs of a team ready to get home.

Most of the big plays came from the defensive side, with a flurry of interceptions, broken up passes and missed connections.

During a two-minute drill, only third-team quarterback Tyler Bray was able to steadily advance the team down field. Unfortunately for Bray, he significantly overthrew tight end Demetrius Harris in the end zone on the final play.

Day 16 practice observations

• Wide receiver Junior Hemingway continues to make his case for the team after returning to practice following a hamstring injury earlier in camp. While several younger receivers had an opportunity to impress during his absence, Hemingway proved Wednesday he is still a strong contender. Quarterback Alex Smith targeted Hemingway on back-to-back passes during the two-minute drill and he made a nice running catch along the back of the end zone near the end of practice.

• Safety Malcolm Bronson made several big plays in the passing game. During the two-minute drill, he broke up a pass intended for wide receiver Dwayne Bowe in the end zone. Later during a full team scrimmage, he picked off an Aaron Murray pass in the red zone that would likely have been returned for a touchdown in game action.

• While Zach Fulton has solidified his position at starting right guard, the battle for backup offensive line positions remains fierce. Notable is the continued work given to guard Ricky Henry, who has worked at both left and right guard. Jeff Linkenbach has shown his versatility, lining up at both guard and tackle positions. Ryan Harris continues to get most of the second team work at left tackle, while Ryan McKee has also being getting looks at right tackle.

• If there was any doubt Andy Reid’s version of the West Coast offense runs through the tight end position, it has been obliterated at this year’s training camp. The team frequently features multiple tight end looks with a combination of Anthony Fasano, Travis Kelce and Demetrius Harris. In situational drills where the offensive is focusing on moving the ball, the tight ends are the most frequent targets.

• Harris showed a flash of his old rebounding skills as a basketball player. A Chase Daniel pass to the end zone intended for Harris was deflected in the air, which Harris immediately leaped at and snagged for a touchdown.

• Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke made one of the best defensive plays of the day, closing quickly to pick off a Daniel pass in the end zone .