Kansas City Chiefs Who've Turned Heads in Offseason Workouts
Positive impressions have been made on defense for a team that was picked apart during the later stages of last season. The Kansas City Chiefs have been particularly encouraged by the pass-rushing exploits of their top rookie during OTAs.
But Dee Ford isn't the only member of coordinator Bob Sutton's unit who has been turning heads. Sutton has exciting plans for a hybrid-style defensive back.
Offensively, the positive showings of a pair of tight ends, one veteran, the other an untested youngster, are good news. The position provided little production in 2013, but that could be set to change.
Here are the five Chiefs who have done the most to turn heads during OTAs.
Anthony Fasano, TE
Snaring Anthony Fasano from the Miami Dolphins last offseason looked like a mild coup by new head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey. However, a string of injuries soon derailed their plans for this talented in-line tight end.
Thankfully, the 30-year-old appears back to his old self. Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star has noted that Fasano is healthy and making an impact as a receiver:
TE Anthony Fasano is quietly putting together a good camp. He looks healthy and is catching everything. Had a fingertip catch today— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) June 5, 2014
That's the kind of impact the Chiefs are going to need in the new season. The offense was stunted without solid production from tight end in 2013, where Sean McGrath was a willing but limited worker.
But Reid has always been a coach who features tight ends prominently in his passing schemes. At 6'4" and 255 pounds, Fasano is an obvious size mismatch against most inside coverage.
He's also blessed with deceptive quickness and underrated move skills that enable him to easily outrun linebackers. If he can stay healthy, Fasano will be a regular feature in this season's offense.
Husain Abdullah, S
Things are getting interesting where Husain Abdullah is concerned. An early front-runner to solve this team's obvious woes at free safety, Abdullah could be given a far more expansive role.
He has spent time at multiple positions during OTAs. Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star highlighted how defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has been moving Abdullah around:
Saw a lot of Husain Abdullah playing nickel linebacker or nickel corner today. Berry often played two deep or single high.— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) June 3, 2014
Making use of Abdullah at nickel linebacker is particularly interesting. Sutton loves to get creative with his multiple-defensive back sub-packages.
Deploying Abdullah at the linebacker level would let Sutton disguise coverage by having the safety show blitz or fake a rotation into a deep zone.
More importantly, if Abdullah shows an aptitude for basic linebacker responsibilities, Sutton will be able to use a nickel scheme more often. He could work in some 4-3 nickel, simply by having Abdullah and inside linebackers Derrick Johnson and Joe Mays align behind a four-man front.
That would give the Chiefs more speed and coverage flexibility on base downs. That has to be an advantage in an AFC West division featuring the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers, two prolific passing teams.
Abdullah's potential hybrid role is also impacting the duties of Kansas City's most dynamic defensive back.
Eric Berry, S
Using Abdullah as a roving playmaker in the defensive backfield will further refine Eric Berry's role. So far during OTAs, that has meant playing as a deeper safety.
Berry has been used in the free safety position, hovering in Cover 2 shells, according to Bob Gretz of Chiefs Command. Gretz has noted that both Berry and Abdullah appear comfortable with their newly defined roles in the revamped secondary:
But the Chiefs made no real attempt to re-sign Lewis in this offseason and he landed in Houston. Berry remains in Kansas City, getting used to a new partner at safety in Husain Abdullah and also adjusting to his expanded role in making sure the rest of the defensive players are lined up in the right place.
That used to be Lewis’ job and he did that quite well. Now Berry inherits most of those duties. It also means that defensive coordinator Bob Sutton plans to play him more often at free safety than in his usual role of playing in the box and essentially being a linebacker in the Chiefs nickel and dime defensive packages.
Trusting Berry as something of a last line of defense may seem like a risky proposition. The team's top pick in 2010 has mostly forged his reputation as a big hitter and a dynamic player in the box.
But Berry certainly boasts the range to patrol the deep zones. What he does do is give Sutton a far superior athlete for his risky, single-high coverage structure.
The early signs are good that this might be a gamble that pays off handsomely for the Chiefs in 2014.
Demetrius Harris, TE
Any time an athlete in Kansas City converts from basketball to tight end, they're going to get noticed. After all, that's the same path trodden by inevitable Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. Now Demetrius Harris is attempting to do the same.
While nobody ought to be rushing out to anoint Harris the next Gonzalez, he has already earned significant praise from coaches. Reid was the first to laud the ex-basketball ace's talent and versatility, per KCChiefs.com.
Since then, offensive coordinator Doug Pederson has added his name to those endorsing Harris' athleticism and potential, according to Dave Skretta writing for KCChiefs.com.
Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star has also routinely highlighted how Harris has been making plays in the passing game:
I mention the guy everyday it seems but Demetrius Harris had the catch of the day when he hauled in a Bray throw one-handed for a big gain.— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) June 5, 2014
Harris probably faces a tough slog making the final roster. But if he shows the range and skill to act as a dangerous "move" receiver, don't be surprised to see him figure once the season begins.
Dee Ford, OLB
As a first-round draft pick joining a team loaded with talent at his position, Dee Ford has been under immediate pressure to show why he belongs.
By all accounts, the former Auburn star has not wasted time showing just why he'll be a major asset in Kansas City. Ford has endeared himself to both teammates and coaches with his ability to quickly collapse the edges of pass protection.
Veteran Tamba Hali is one player Ford will be pushing to be at his best. Hali is apparently aware of the challenge, even claiming he can see similarities with franchise great, the late Derrick Thomas, per ESPN.com reporter Adam Teicher.
Ford got his Chiefs career off to a good start with some impressive displays at the team's rookie minicamp, according to Fox News. The early rave reviews are a positive sign that Reid and Sutton will craft ways of getting Ford on the field often as a rookie.
Initial expectations should see him as a situational and sub-package weapon, one who could make a major impact against the AFC West's finest quarterbacks.