3 in the Kee: The Chiefs who gained the most in OTAs
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — First, a caveat. No Alex Smith here, even though he generally looked pretty salty — and saltier by the day. No Dwayne Bowe, either, even as that new diet had him flashing a little more voom — and flashing past defenders.
And no Jamaal Charles, because it goes without saying: More days than not, No. 25 was the best player on the field.
But given all that, which Kansas City Chiefs gained the most traction from the middle of May to the middle of June? Kicker Cairo Santos has a mule’s leg and could make Ryan Succop’s life interesting for a while. Safety Husain Abdullah ran with the first-team defense, and appeared to run well. Ditto tight end Anthony Fasano, and even wideout Donnie Avery. It was hard to whittle the list down to just three, but here were probably your biggest stars in shorts …
THE THREE CHIEFS WHO MADE THE BIGGEST GAINS IN SPRING OTAS
:03 … DEMETRIUS HARRIS, TE
If there was a Twitter winner of the last several weeks of work, it might be Harris, the former basketball player at Wisconsin-Milwaukee trying to make the switch from 6-foot-7 power forward to 6-7 pass-catcher.
While Travis Kelce was eased back into the fold, Reid used Harris liberally through the spring, generally in the slot. The ex-hoops standout, who spent last season on the practice squad as a aw-what-the-hell-let’s-try-to-transform-him-into-a-player project/experiment, made at least one noteworthy — or tweet-worthy — catch during 7-on-7s or 11-on-11s during practice sessions that were open to local media. And that included more than a few one-handed grabs near the sideline or the corner of the end zone.
Harris is currently listed at 230 pounds, and Reid noted that he was impressed with the Arkansas native’s devotion to offseason training and weight gain. Big Red likes the tight end — especially on vertical routes and in the red zone — and likes a lot of options there, something that injuries to Kelce and Fasano shot a hole in last fall. Largely a cute story but a regular-season afterthought in 2013, there’s scuttlebutt that the battle for No. 3 tight end between Harris and incumbent Sean McGrath, who wound up getting more snaps than any other player at the position a year ago, might wind up becoming one of the more feisty ones of training camp.
:02 … ZACH FULTON, G
While injuries sapped the Chiefs’ tight-end spot last summer and fall, free agency took a big chunk out of the interior of the offensive line in the winter and spring that followed.
With Geoff Schwartz (Giants) and Jon Asamoah (Falcons) taking bigger paydays elsewhere, Reid has thrown open the starting right guard slot. As OTAs began, Rishaw Johnson opened at the No. 1 option — but a handful of players, including veteran Jeff Linkenbach, cycled through there as coaches experimented with combinations. And by the end of minicamp, things got even more interesting: Fulton, a 6-5, 323-pound rookie out of Tennessee, began some 11-on-11 drills as the starter at right guard, his natural position in college.
The sixth-round draft pick is a potential mauler with a big, big, big set of tools — a reported arm length of 33 1/4 inches and a set of 10 1/4-inch hands — to work with. The major short-term question, really, is Fulton’s feet — with the Chiefs’ array of screen and misdirection offerings, Reid will want to see how well the ex-Volunteer can stick-and-stay with a moving target once full-contact drills start.
:01 … SANDERS COMMINGS, S/CB
If Kelce is the great, promising unknown for the Chiefs’ offense, Commings is his equivalent on the defensive side of the equation. Whereas the former University of Cincinnati tight end got some traction in the preseason before a knee injury curtailed his 2013, Commings didn’t make it through 10 days of training camp before a broken collarbone put the former fifth-round draft pick from Georgia on the sideline for all but two games of his first season.
Metaphorically, Commings is a rookie, at least in terms of practical playing time, and the Chiefs weren’t shy about cycling him into high-safety and low-safety positions throughout the past month and change. In helmets and shorts, the ex-Bulldog showed a nose for the ball and an ability to close on a receiver or ballcarrier quickly.
"He can cover a lot of ground," Reid said just after minicamp ended.
Chances are, he’ll have to.
Money and chemistry/fit were the big reasons cornerback Brandon Flowers was let go, but clearly, management likes some of the young bucks such as Commings who remain in the mix. Lopping a Pro Bowl piece off your secondary when you play in a division with Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers means either a) you’re a masochist, or b) you’ve got a healthy amount of faith in the pieces you still have to work with.
"He’s one of the ones I really am looking forward to seeing up at camp once we are able to hit," Reid said. "(With) Sanders, we sure liked what we saw in shorts — just have to see how it looks with pads on."
One month to go. One month to go.