3 in the Kee: Three Chiefs to watch in training camp
The Chiefs need all hands on deck to keep up in the AFC West, starting with these three sets of hands: Eric Fisher, Husain Abdullah and Travis Kelce.
Eric Fisher (left), Husain Abdullah (center) and Travis Kelce are players to track in Chiefs training camp.
Denny Medley - Denny Medley - Derick E. Hingle / USA TODAY Sports
By Sean Keeler
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Is that right? That CAN'T be right. The book here says the last time the Kansas City Chiefs went to back-to-back postseasons was after the 1994 and '95 seasons.
Two stinking decades.
Forget Peyton Manning (and we know you'd like to). The Andy Gang opens training camp this week at Missouri Western State in St. Joe charged with fending off not only the Broncos and Chargers, but a little bit of history as well.
Two stinking decades.
Last fall, they hoisted themselves out of the ditch. This fall, they'll be dropped in the middle of the Autobahn and told to keep up with the rest of the pack. That means all hands on deck, all hands on the wheel, pulling the same direction. But these hands just might be the most important ones to follow over the next month ...
THREE CHIEFS TO WATCH DURING TRAINING CAMP 2014
:03 ... ERIC FISHER, LEFT TACKLE
As a rookie, the Chiefs' No. 1 draft pick -- and the No. 1 selection overall -- in 2013 played out of position and cowboyed up through a litany of aches and pains. But he's back at his favored position on the left side, as the front office watched the incumbent blind-side ace, Branden Albert, walk out the door (as expected) and sign a free-agent contract with Miami.
Now the onus is on Fisher to hold up his end of the deal.
Health is the biggest question; Fisher sat out much of the spring recovering from surgeries on his left shoulder and a sports hernia, taking part in only select drills. But he's expected to be full-go before the preseason opener against Cincinnati on Aug. 7.
If Fisher struggles, it puts the Chiefs in a tough spot, one they'll have to try to push through. If Fisher gets hurt or can't go to start the year, it puts the Chiefs in a potential mess, stretching a position thinned out by free-agent losses even more.
The club signed veteran J'Marcus Webb in the spring to work in an emergency "swing" tackle role, but it would be taking a big risk if it had to trot him out there every Sunday as a starter on the edge of the pocket. Last year's "swing" man, Donald Stephenson, could probably play on the left side in a pinch, but that's not the kind of audible the Chiefs want to be making if they're to keep 2013's positive mojo rolling into this fall.
:02 ... HUSAIN ABDULLAH, SAFETY
As a nickel back and contributor on special teams, the former Washington State standout was a sneaky-strong find last fall, especially coming off more than a year away from organized football. Abdullah graded out with a +3.3 overall rating in 2013 by the scouts at ProFootballFocus.com (PFF), including +3.2 on coverage and +0.9 on rushing the passer.
The Los Angeles native made two starts last year -- his first since Week 10 of the 2011 season, when he was with the Vikings. That year, Abdullah received a +3.1 defensive grade from PFF, including a +0.1 in coverage. The season before, he graded out at +7.2 and -0.7, respectively.
Compared to Kendrick Lewis' -2.4 grade last fall and -7.8 grade in 2012 protecting center field for the Chiefs' defense, Abdullah's recent numbers indicate addition by subtraction in the secondary. But how well will he handle what should be an increased workload?
:01 ... TRAVIS KELCE, TIGHT END
To this point, the former University of Cincinnati standout is a bundle of sick YouTube clips from his college days and a scouting report raving about his potential. Is this the fall that potential gets realized?
The former third-round pick missed a preseason game last summer and all but one contest during the 2013 regular season with knee problems, forcing the Chiefs to scour the waiver wire and bring Sean McGrath aboard. McGrath, a second-year player cut by the Seahawks at the end of training camp, wound up leading The Andy Gang in receptions by a tight end (26) -- catches that had been earmarked for Kelce or starter Anthony Fasano, who also weathered a slew of injuries.
Reid likes to feature the tight end in his schemes, and quarterback Alex Smith loves to find them, especially in the red zone, where he'd built up a good rapport in San Francisco with Vernon Davis. Like Fisher, Kelce was limited in the spring, so it'll be interesting to see how well he holds up to full-contact practices and game speed. General manager John Dorsey and Reid were pretty sure they got a steal with Kelce in the spring of 2013 -- but if those old knee issues crop up again, Chiefs fans are the ones who will start feeling as if they'd been robbed.