Breaking Down Kansas City's 5 Biggest Training-Camp Projects
The Kansas City Chiefs will begin loading trucks Tuesday morning. It’s the starting process of getting ready to head north to St. Joseph, Mo. for training camp.
Training camp officially kicks off for the Chiefs on July 24th. Following an 11-win season in Andy Reid’s first year with Kansas City, the team wants to follow through with another superb performance.
After the Chiefs had a quiet offseason, Reid and general manager John Dorsey know what their priorities are and what must be accomplished during their time in St. Joseph.
Conclude Contract Talks For Alex Smith and Justin Houston
Cornerback Brandon Flowers was let go earlier in the offseason due to cap issues. With quarterback Alex Smith and outside linebacker Justin Houston seeking new deals, the Chiefs have yet to extend two of their Pro Bowlers.
Following Flowers’ departure, it was expected that the Chiefs would have been able to extend either or both of the two, but the negotiators involved have not come to an agreement yet.
Houston is in the final year of his four-year rookie contract, as he is set to make $1.4 million after back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances. He was absent from Kansas City’s mandatory minicamp last month as the chances of Houston holding out during training camp inches closer to reality.
For Smith, the media asked him during OTAs how much progress was made in reaching a new deal, but he was quiet on the topic, bouncing the question off him and saying his agent is taking care of it. Like Houston, Smith is in the final year of his contract and will earn $7.5 million under this deal.
Smith participated in all of Kansas City’s offseason practices and is expected to show up to training camp, but he still wants a new contract.
Weston Dressler's and De'Anthony Thomas’ Roles with the Team
Perhaps Kansas City’s two most intriguing offseason additions are wide receiver Weston Dressler and rookie scatback De’Anthony Thomas. Prior to making their way to the Chiefs, both players were well known for their speed.
Dressler spent six seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League, where he played a big hand in helping the team win the 2013 Grey Cup. Being named a CFL All-Star twice and a CFL West All-Star four times, Dressler could be an upgrade at wide receiver for the Chiefs as he tries to transition from the CFL to the NFL. But is he worthy of being the No. 2 receiver behind Dwayne Bowe?
Despite a hot performance from Bowe in the playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts, he came away with only 57 catches, 673 yards and five touchdowns during the regular season as the team’s top wide receiver. Running back Jamaal Charles recorded even higher statistics in all three of those categories.
Thomas has yet to put on an official uniform and play in front of fans at Arrowhead Stadium, but fans are raving about his potential because of his speed. Under Reid’s offense, he can be a reliable complement for Charles and a viable weapon.
Dexter McCluster and Quintin Demps both shone as special-teams return specialists last year but are no longer with the Chiefs. Dressler and Thomas appear to be the favorable candidates, along with Knile Davis, to handle the team’s return duties.
Keeping a Strong and Sturdy Offensive Line
Just 66 minutes into free agency, the Chiefs lost three starters from their offensive line in Branden Albert, Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah.
Eric Fisher has already switched from right to left tackle, playing a position he is very familiar with on the line as he works to cover the quarterback’s blind side for the first time in the NFL. But does Kansas City have a lot of viable options at offensive line?
Projected Offensive Line
- Left tackle: Eric Fisher, 8.5 sacks allowed
- Left guard: Jeff Allen, 4.5 sacks allowed
- Center: Rodney Hudson, 3.5 sacks allowed
- Right guard: Jeff Linkenbach, 2 sacks allowed (with Indianapolis)
- Right tackle: Donald Stephenson 1.5 sacks allowed
Jeff Allen, Jeff Linkenbach and Donald Stephenson earned starting duties as the season progressed. Although the statistics look frightening, Fisher’s position switch and starting unit spending time together throughout training camp and in preseason games could create good chemistry and better prepare this group going into the regular season together.
With Reid dedicating much of his offense to the passing game, the offensive line has to improve after allowing Smith to be sacked 39 times, tying 11th with two other quarterbacks.
Find out If Kyle Williams Can Contribute
One day after the San Francisco 49ers released wide receiver Kyle Williams, the Chiefs pulled the trigger and claimed him off waivers. However, Williams tore his ACL nine days later and was forced to miss the remainder of the season.
Reid appeared to have a plan with Williams while the team made the acquisition midway through the season, but it never came to fruition due to injury.
He has some familiarity with Smith back in San Francisco. With Kansas City desperately needing help at wide receiver, an average performance in August might be enough to earn him a spot on the 53-man roster.
From there, the Chiefs want to take advantage of Williams the right way. If he makes the team, it is likely Reid will try to reapply the plan in 2014 that he had for when he joined last year.
Finding Cornerbacks Who Can Step in for Flowers
Sean Smith had a couple of flashes last year, but the Chiefs need him to turn that into consistency. Chris Owens comes from Miami, the Chiefs drafted Phillip Gaines in this year’s draft and Sanders Commings was drafted last year by the franchise.
Marcus Cooper shone as a rookie free agent during the team’s 9-0 start, but he became nearly nonexistent while the schedule got more challenging throughout Kansas City’s 2-5 finish to the season.
Even without Flowers, fans can expect the cornerbacks to come away with some interceptions. The Chiefs have a powerful core of pass-rushers in nose tackle Dontari Poe and outside linebackers Tamba Hali, Houston and rookie Dee Ford. That group will force opposing quarterbacks to throw ill-advised passes, creating plenty of chances for some of the unknown corners to make big plays.
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton guided the team to success when the team finished third in interceptions with 21 and first in return yards with 488. What we do know is that Sutton will have cornerbacks who are contributing to new major roles or will be new to this defense.