Chiefs open up minicamp with young talent on defense
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Turns out there were enough bodies on offense for the Kansas City Chiefs to practice after all.
The Chiefs opened a three-day rookie minicamp on Saturday after selecting six defensive players in last week’s draft, though one of them — defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie — is expected to transition to offensive guard. But with 14 rookie free agents and another 43 players in for tryouts, there were plenty of bodies to make up an offensive, defensive and special teams unit.
Don’t sleep on the unknown guys, either.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid pointed out that just a few years ago, an unheralded wide receiver named Albert Wilson impressed him during the same weekend. Wilson hung around for the next phase of the offseason program, survived training camp and ultimately made the Kansas City roster.
This past offseason, Wilson signed a $24 million, three-year deal with the Miami Dolphins.
“Albert just made about $8 million,” Reid said with a smile, “so there’s been a few. You invite them to the next phase and the next and eventually they make the roster.”
Still, it’s the draft picks that will draw the most attention this weekend.
The Chiefs didn’t have a first-round pick, so they used their initial selection on Ole Miss pass rusher Breeland Speaks in the second round. Speaks is expected to push last year’s second-round pick, Tanoh Kpassgnon, for playing time right out of the gate opposite standout linebacker Justin Houston.
“I did get the playbook,” Speaks said. “My first reaction was, `I can do this.’ I looked at a few defenses we installed today and went over those and know those by heart already.”
With two third-round picks, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach continued to shore up his defense. He grabbed 315-pound run-stuffer Derrick Nnadi out of Florida State and then Clemson hybrid linebacker Dorian O’Daniel, both of whom could also factor into the starting rotation this fall.
The Chiefs were thin along the defensive front, even after signing Xavier Williams in free agency and retaining Rakeem Hunez-Roches as a restricted free agent. And with the expected departure of erstwhile pass rusher Tamba Hali, and injury woes to Dee Ford, finding another linebacker was paramount.
McKenzie, the son of Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, was also in attendance, as were fellow sixth-round pick Tremon Smith and Texas A&M safety Armani Watts, who could be the steal of the draft.
Watts dropped to the fourth round after concerns about his workouts at the combine, but the four-year starter said he had bulked up in the hopes that it would help him out. Instead, it only slowed him down and already Watts has reverted to his lean, fast playing weight.
The Chiefs are hopeful that he factors into the defense right away.
Star safety Eric Berry is returning from a season-ending Achilles tendon injury, and reliable safety Ron Parker was released in a cost-saving move. That leaves plenty of questions at the back of the defense.
“It’s a little bit different for those safeties,” Veach said, “because they are like the quarterbacks of the defense where they have to line up people and make the calls and adjustments. That is no different than any safety, even if you draft them in the first round.
“Breeland is someone who we feel can come in and help us right away. Derrick, Dorian and Armani can certainly do some different things while he grows and understands the system a little bit better.”
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS
The Chiefs signed 14 rookie free agents on Saturday, including former Kansas State wide receiver Byron Pringle. The local product left school a year early and has intriguing size at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, but he needs to showcase better hands than he did playing just down the road.
The Chiefs also signed RBs Darrell Williams and J.D. Moore from LSU; OL Ryan Hunter (Bowling Green), Jimmy Murray (Holy Cross) and Devondre Seymour (Southern Illinois); TE Blake Mack (Arkansas State); WR Elijah Marks (Northern Arizona); QB Chase Litton (Marshall); DB Arrion Springs (Oregon) and D’Montre Wade (Murray State); LBs Ben Niemann (Iowa) and Raymond Davison (California); and DT Dee Liner (Arkansas State).
The Chiefs also had 43 players on tryouts during the three-day rookie minicamp, including DB Elliott Berry. The undrafted rookie from Tennessee is the younger brother of the Chiefs’ star safety, Eric Berry.