Kansas City Chiefs: What to Watch for at OTAs
Head coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs prepare for Round 2 of organized team activities (OTAs) on May 21. Throughout the three-day rendezvous, Kansas Citians should keep their eyes peeled for hints regarding eight curiosities.
Reid recently generated headlines by announcing that the pioneer of the pistol offense, Chris Ault, will join his staff as a part-time consultant. While the intentions behind the recruitment remain vague, it's clear that the Chiefs head coach bears a progressive mentality.
Ault will undoubtedly tutor the defense as well—a defense that appears to be reinvigorated under the guidance of coordinator Bob Sutton.
As the second wave of OTAs grind to a halt on May 23, reports will shed a broader light on the following eight concerns.
Tyler Bray's Attempt to Gain Ground
Ultimately, the Chiefs' 53-man roster won't spare room for four passers, which results in an ongoing duel for the third quarterback slot.
The two contestants fighting for that coveted spot are third-year talent Ricky Stanzi and undrafted rookie Tyler Bray. And when juxtaposed on film, the odd couple couldn't paint starker contrasts.
Despite his edge in experience, Stanzi might be facing a steeper uphill climb. The two players cemented ahead of him on the depth chart—starter Alex Smith and backup Chase Daniel—fit the same athletic mold as Stanzi, and they fit it more snugly.
Bray, on the other hand, boasts the strongest arm of his 2013 draft class and presents greater upside. Although his athleticism pales in comparison to Stanzi's, the team's wealth of offensive tackles limit Bray's exposure.
Alex Smith Sighting in the Pistol Offense
That flavor of agility, along with Smith's (nearly) fool-proof decision-making, could prosper in read-option scenarios.
But the notion sprouts two questions: How often will Andy Reid utilize the pistol? And will he safeguard Smith from the brunt of defensive punishment?
Smith's history of concussions don't deem him an ideal candidate for last-second pitches outside of the tackle box.
Risking your starting quarterback's health isn't worth adding extra wrinkles into the game plan. If Smith is sidelined, the only new wrinkles for Reid will be stress-induced.
Securing Free Safety
In order to retain his starting job, long-time starter Kendrick Lewis will be tasked with fending off incoming veteran Husain Abdullah and transitioning rookie Sanders Commings.
Physically, Commings overshadows his aforementioned counterparts. But the rookie's ongoing conversion is two-fold: Not only is he adjusting to the demands of the NFL, but Commings is also reverting to free safety—a position he sparingly played in college.
However, as Commings adapts to Bob Sutton's defense, a three-way dogfight will ensue for first-team reps.
In comparison to rookies, veterans generally own an advantage in experience—Nico Johnson is the exception to that rule.
Although offseason addition Akeem Jordan is entering his seventh year in the league, he has never contributed to a 3-4 defense.
Collegiately, Nico Johnson's trio of championship rings stemmed from a 3-4 scheme similar to the Chiefs'.
Both will vie for reps at strong-side linebacker, but Jordan will likely oversee the bulk of first-team snaps in the near future. However, as Johnson acclimates to the speed of the big leagues, Jordan will gradually be relegated to a reserve role.
Eric Berry Walks Redemption Road
In a recent interview, Pro Bowler Eric Berry admitted that the confidence in his surgically repaired knee wavered throughout 2012.
The bone-jarring strong safety confessed, "I was a step behind, just as far as coming out of my breaks and stuff, just because I was not sure [about planting]" (via The Drive with Danny Parkins).
Judging by his stat line, No. 29 started to regain trust in his knee throughout the latter half of 2012. He still didn't fully resemble the 2010 playmaker that electrified Arrowhead, though.
Berry is seemingly determined to become a more proactive locker-room leader. But his words will only hold weight if he exorcises his 2011 demons.
Baldwin vs. Bust
Jon Baldwin's professional fate is in his hands. If that were literally the case, his future would look infinitely brighter than it currently does.
Baldwin's criticisms stem from halfhearted route-running and a lackadaisical mindset. Throughout his first two seasons, the wideout's failures were shielded by those of his quarterbacks.
However, Andy Reid wasted no time in berating Baldwin's antics and deflating his ego:
Reid got after Jon Baldwin at one point for being a little too lazy getting to the line of scrimmage before a snap
— Adam Teicher (@adamteicher) May 14, 2013
Reid has engineered prolific passing attacks with names like Chad Lewis and James Thrash headlining his receiving corps—if a receiver doesn't succeed on Reid's watch, said receiver can't charge the blame to coaching.
If Donnie Avery outranks Baldwin before the season opener, No. 89 will join Kansas City's lengthy list of draft busts.
Jamaal Charles' Alignments
While addressing local media, Jamaal Charles relayed that he has shifted more within Andy Reid's offense than any other throughout his six years in the NFL.
Charles will see no shortage of varying alignments in 2013.
By trading for fullback Anthony Sherman and drafting Braden Wilson, the Chiefs ensured that lead blockers will lend traditional support to the All-Pro tailback.
If Reid incorporates the pistol offense, Charles will be accompanied by another fleet-footed rusher in more contemporary two-back sets.
Defenses will also likely see the Pro Bowler split out from time to time.
Kansas City's Mach-motored threat doubles as an open-field illusionist; constraining his scope of opportunities is counterproductive.
Judging by early impressions, Reid—unlike former play-caller Brian Daboll—recognizes that.
Special Teams Returners
The Chiefs roster reveals three legitimate special teams returners: Devon Wylie, Dexter McCluster and Knile Davis.
Wylie became a revered punt returner throughout his collegiate career. Lethal doses of blinding speed and ankle-breaking agility propelled the wideout to lead Division I in punt-return yardage throughout 2011.
After shattering the franchise record with a 94-yard punt return, McCluster etched his name into Kansas City households before hearing his first (regular-season) halftime speech.
At the NFL combine, Davis tipped the scales at 227 pounds, pumped 31 225-pound reps and clocked a 4.37 40 time. He's a tank masquerading as a human who demotes hash marks to tread marks.
Javier Arenas will not be missed.
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