AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs resume training camp at Missouri Western State University on Wednesday after taking a one-day break. While they’re off, we’re looking back at the first week of camp. Earlier, we examined some of the camp’s positive developments. Here are some of the top disappointments:

1. Lingering injuries. Left tackle Eric Fisher and tight end Travis Kelce are important players for the Chiefs. The Chiefs are counting on Fisher to protect quarterback Alex Smith's blind side and Kelce to energize their passing game. Neither has been a consistent participant in practice after having surgery that caused each to miss at least the team portion of offseason practice. Fisher’s surgically repaired shoulder appears to be bothering him even when he’s in the lineup. Kelce’s balky knee caused him to sit out a day of practice. These ominous developments will threaten the Chiefs’ season if they continue.

Smith
2. Upheaval in the secondary. The Chiefs’ best cornerback, Sean Smith, is working with the second team, behind starters Ron Parker and Marcus Cooper. Meanwhile, at safety, the Chiefs have precious little in the way of experience behind starters Eric Berry and Husain Abdullah. The leading candidate to be a backup safety, Sanders Commings, hasn’t practiced because of an injured foot. Fortunately, the Chiefs have time to work out some of their issues. But they need to get busy.

3. Depth at offensive line. The Chiefs don’t have much experience among their starting linemen. Center Rodney Hudson, at 25 and heading into his fourth NFL season, is the veteran. But four of the starters were drafted in the third round or higher. The fifth starter could be rookie Zach Fulton at right guard, and he looks advanced for a sixth-round draft pick. So the line should be fine if the Chiefs can stay healthy. But trouble looms if the Chiefs have injuries here. Just how desperate their search for a third tackle is came to light when starting right tackle Donald Stephenson injured his ankle. Things don’t look much better at the interior positions.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- For the first time since bringing training camp back to Missouri from Wisconsin in 2010, the Kansas City Chiefs have a decision to make about the future of their summer home. The five-year contract the Chiefs signed to hold camp at Missouri Western State University expires after they head home in three weeks.

The Chiefs hold a series of five one-year options to renew the contract but have yet to decide on a location for their camp in 2015.

“I wouldn’t say at this point that we’re leaning any way,’’ Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said. “We’ve enjoyed our time here in St. Joe. The university has done a great job for us. Coach [Andy] Reid really likes the setup we have here.

“It’s a decision we’ll make after training camp. We’ll sit down as an organization and visit with the university and make a decision before the end of the year.”

By all appearances the Chiefs are satisfied having their camp at Missouri Western, which is 64 miles from Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Reid has publicly praised the school’s facilities, which include an indoor 100-yard artificial turf practice field.

St. Joseph is close enough to Kansas City that many Chiefs fans can easily attend practice. Saturday morning’s session began at 8:15 a.m. but still attracted a crowd the Chiefs estimated at 6,200 fans. The Chiefs held an appreciation for their season-ticket holders on Sunday.

“I don’t think being an hour from Kansas City hurts the audience at all,’’ Hunt said.

But if a decision to keep camp in St. Joseph is such a no-brainer, why are Hunt and the Chiefs hesitating? The Chiefs won’t find better facilities closer to Kansas City. That includes their own practice facility.

That’s likely the best option for the Chiefs if they are to move camp. Their practice facility couldn’t handle a crowd the size of Saturday’s without some modification but the Chiefs could hold some practices in Arrowhead Stadium.

"It’s not something we’ve discussed at this point,’’ Hunt said about bringing camp to Kansas City. “I don’t think we’d need to make a lot of changes. That facility works very well for us in the spring [and] during the season. The one thing that we don’t have at Arrowhead and the training complex is a hotel or dorm rooms. That’s a big advantage of the university setup.’’

Even though the Chiefs haven’t committed to St. Joseph beyond this year, look for them to stay at least one more year. Reid’s wishes will weigh heavily.

“The football side is most important,’’ Hunt said. “Does the coaching staff feel like they’re able to have an effective camp, that they’re able to get done what they need to get done here? There are a lot of things that go into that, a lot of small details. Andy I think is well-known for his attention to small details and the university does a nice job with those small details.

“I think there are a lot of positives by staying here.''
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs are taking the day off from training camp practice at Missouri Western State University. They'll return on Wednesday to begin a six-day stretch of practice sessions leading up to their Aug. 7 preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs have finished five full-squad camp practices. Here, I'll look at three pleasant developments from the first week of camp. Later today, I'll list some of the top disappointments.

Charles
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Houston
1) Everybody is in camp. In running back Jamaal Charles and linebacker Justin Houston, the Chiefs had a pair of potential holdouts that had the potential to wreck their season. But both were on the field in time for their first camp practice. Charles is the Chiefs most valuable player. They've done a decent job of surrounding him with complementary talent, but they have no one else with his kind of big-play ability. Houston is arguably their best defensive player. He isn't just a pass-rusher but a solid all-around player. Both Charles and Houston have reasons to play well: Charles in proving he's worth the additional money the Chiefs gave him; Houston in showing he's deserving of being one of the NFL's highest paid linebackers. Each looks primed to have another big season.

2) Young wide receivers are playing well. The Chiefs may have their best crop of young wide receivers in years. Frankie Hammond Jr. is having a strong camp and could develop into a contributor sometime down the road if not this year. He's fast, is catching everything headed his way and has turned in a number of big plays. Albert Wilson, Jerrell Jackson, Darryl Surgent and Mark Harrison are other players who have shown enough ability that the Chiefs should at least keep them around as developmental players. Veteran Kyle Williams is also having a nice camp and looks capable of helping as a slot receiver. The Chiefs may get no more from starting wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery than they did last season but their backup wide receivers could have a bigger impact.

3) Strong on special teams again. The Chiefs won in the kicking game in many of their games last season and look poised to do so again. In rookie De'Anthony Thomas, the Chiefs have a skilled punt returner to replace the departed Dexter McCluster. Thomas needs work on catching the ball and making good judgments but that will come in time. He's fast and capable of making tacklers miss. Knile Davis should be better as a kickoff returner than he was last season. Dustin Colquitt is one of the league's top punters. Judging by results in camp, the Chiefs can't go wrong in choosing at kicker between veteran Ryan Succop and rookie Cairo Santos.

Chiefs Camp Report: Day 5

July, 28, 2014
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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Kansas City Chiefs training camp at Missouri Western State University:
  • Those eagerly anticipating the Chiefs to unveil a pass-rush package that includes Pro Bowl linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali and first-round draft pick Dee Ford will have to wait some more. The Chiefs worked extensively in the nickel defense in practice, but Ford wasn't with the first team. He played with the second unit as the left end in pass-rush situations. A promotion for Ford in the nickel may be coming soon. "Any time you have a skill, a unique skill, whether it is cover, rush, whatever, we are going to try and find a way to use that, and whether we have to create a little personnel group to do that or whatever, we are going to attempt to do that," Sutton said. "I'm sure down the road we are going to try and figure out a way to get all those guys on the field. They're all good players."
  • An intense kicking battle between the incumbent, Ryan Succop, and rookie free agent Cairo Santos is well under way. Both players made their field-goal attempts from 45, 48, 48 again, 50 and 52 yards. "I think he’s an NFL-caliber kicker," special teams coordinator Dave Toub said of Santos, who played collegiately at Tulane. "I think he’s going to be in the NFL, whether it’s on our team or on another team. The competition is real and we’re excited about Cairo and what he’s able to bring. Succop has the advantage of experience, but his contract is more expensive than Santos'. Succop would be due $2 million this year in salary and bonuses, Santos $422,000.
  • Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery look solid as the starting wide receivers, and Junior Hemingway and A.J. Jenkins will probably make the Chiefs as backups. An interesting battle has developed for the other one or two roster spots. Frankie Hammond Jr., Kyle Williams, Mark Harrison and rookie free agent Albert Wilson are all making strong claims for a spot. The Chiefs will probably have to let at least two of them go. Hammond, Williams and Wilson are fast and could play as slot receivers. Harrison, at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, is bigger and has caught everything thrown near him. Hemingway hasn't practiced recently because of a sore hamstring, but coach Andy Reid said he would return when the Chiefs next practice on Wednesday. Bowe returned to practice after missing the final portion of Sunday's session with cramps.
  • Tight end Travis Kelce returned to practice after being held out of Sunday's session because of a sore knee. One of the big stories of camp for the Chiefs is whether Kelce can consistently practice. He's an important component in the passing game.
  • Recently signed offensive tackle Ryan Harris is getting a lot of work. With the starting group, he has provided a rest for left tackle Eric Fisher and has been the replacement for the injured Donald Stephenson on the right side. Harris may or may not make the team, but the Chiefs did well to bring him to camp. They don't have much depth at tackle, and Harris may be the only one who comes off the bench capable of playing left tackle.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Four days into training camp, there’s been no change of status for the Kansas City Chiefs' most accomplished cornerback. Sean Smith is still running with the second team behind starters Marcus Cooper and Ron Parker.

Smith
This isn’t what the Chiefs envisioned last year when they signed Smith as a free agent from the Miami Dolphins. It can’t be what they envisioned last month when they released Brandon Flowers, a cornerback even more accomplished than Smith.

There’s plenty of time for Smith to return to the starting lineup. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton held out some hope that it could happen soon.

“He’s not far away," Sutton said. “He’s obviously played a lot of football and played very well for us. We just thought coming out of the spring ... the other guys were a little in front so we went that way as we started camp.

“He’s in the hunt. He’s just got to keep working."

Credit to the Chiefs for benching Smith, despite his considerable salary cap number of $5.75 million, if they didn’t think he was deserving of a starting spot. But in a sense, the Chiefs, at least for the time being, have lost both of their starters from last year at a position where they weren’t deep to begin with.

Flowers was a holdout, which complicated his situation. In a way, he forced the Chiefs to release him by staying away from offseason workouts.

But the Chiefs can’t make these moves in a vacuum. It makes no sense for them to release Flowers if they’re also going to bench Smith.

The Chiefs can afford only so many setbacks at cornerback. They’ve already exceeded their limit. Cooper looked promising for a time last season as a rookie but also played so poorly as the third cornerback for a stretch that the Chiefs had to bench him. Parker is a journeyman.

Smith isn’t a perfect cornerback, but that type of player is few and far between anyway. The Chiefs’ best defensive lineup is with Smith in it, and the sooner they get back to it, the better they will be.

Chiefs Camp Report: Day 4

July, 27, 2014
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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Kansas City Chiefs training camp at Missouri Western State University:

• Coach Andy Reid has said the Chiefs would take some practice snaps away from players who recently had surgery, and tight end Travis Kelce is among them. But taking some snaps away from Kelce is one thing and sitting him for an entire practice is another. Kelce spent his time working with other injured players away from the practice field. This looks to be an ominous sign for a player the Chiefs are counting on to provide a boost in their passing game. Kelce missed all of his rookie season last year with an ailing knee. The Chiefs took a hit at tight end when Sean McGrath, their leading pass receiver at the position last year, abruptly retired. The Chiefs could have survived his loss if Kelce, starter Anthony Fasano and young Demetrius Harris stayed healthy. But if Kelce doesn't get back on the practice field soon, the Chiefs' plans for getting more catches from their tight ends this season may have to be scrapped.

• Another position where depth will be tested is offensive tackle. Donald Stephenson, the starter on the right side, left practice with an ankle injury. Eric Fisher, the starting left tackle, is another one of those players coming off surgery who sits out some drills. When Fisher sat out, the Chiefs patched together an offensive line that featured Ryan Harris, signed on the eve of camp, at left tackle and journeyman J'Marcus Webb at right tackle. The Chiefs also have Jeff Linkenbach, who has played some tackle for the Indianapolis Colts, but he has worked mostly at guard.

• The Chiefs have several candidates to be their slot receiver, so the absence of Junior Hemingway with a sore hamstring is easy to forget. But Hemingway gives the Chiefs something they otherwise lack at the position: a big body. Hemingway, at 6-1 and 225 pounds, is bigger than most nickel backs, and for that reason, he can be a tough cover out of the slot. His first NFL catch last season was a touchdown on a route he ran from the slot. The Chiefs need Hemingway back sooner rather than later.

• Another receiver, Dwayne Bowe, left practice early with what the Chiefs said were cramps. Kyle Williamsand Frankie Hammond Jr. took advantage of their absence. Williams caught several catches, while Hammond had the play of the day. He caught a pass over the middle and then weaved his way through several defenders for the touchdown.

• A two-play sequence captured the essence of developmental quarterback Tyler Bray. On the first play, Bray threw one of those what-was-he-thinking passes that went straight to linebacker Dezman Moses, who made the interception. On the next, Bray threw a beautiful deep fade that wide receiver Darryl Surgent caught in the end zone.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- For all the unsolicited advice the Kansas City Chiefs receive about how to best preserve running back Jamaal Charles for the long term, they don’t seem inclined to listen. Days after they fortified Charles’ contract, the Chiefs appear prepared to utilize their best offensive player as much if not more than in seasons past.

Charles
"I think he's got a lot in the tank," coach Andy Reid said. “We're going to keep using him. He's a good football player and he enjoys playing the game, so we'll keep getting him the football."

It's difficult to argue with that strategy. The Chiefs have surrounded Charles with a decent cast of complementary players but they have no one else with his proven record of productivity.

The main backup for Charles is Knile Davis, who when it comes to raw ability has as much as anyone the Chiefs have, Charles included. At 227 pounds, Davis is a bigger, stronger runner than Charles and is every bit as fast.

Davis has come a long way since he joined the Chiefs as a rookie last year but he's still unpolished. He's particularly rough in the passing game, where his skills as a receiver and blocker lag far behind those of Charles. As offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said, "This will be a big camp for him."

With a strong showing at camp, Davis could convince the Chiefs he deserves more playing time. The Chiefs have fiddled with some formations that include both Charles and Davis.

But as far as diminished playing time for Charles, nothing short of injury will make that happen.

"He may not get more touches," Pederson said of Davis. "He may get more plays. We just pick our spots. There are certain plays for Knile and certain plays for Jamaal. Sometimes it's a feel thing: 'Hey, let's get Jamaal [a rest for a play or two] and then get him back in the game.'"

Chiefs camp report: Day 2

July, 25, 2014
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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Some thoughts and observations on Friday's Kansas City Chiefs training camp practice at Missouri Western State University:


  • The Chiefs had both of their top running backs, Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, in the lineup on the first play of practice. While the Chiefs might not use a formation featuring both players often, they might go that way on occasion. The Chiefs need to find a way to get more from Davis, who at 227 pounds is much bigger than Charles but also might be as fast. One thing the Chiefs don't appear ready to do is provide more relief to Charles, their best offensive player. "When it's in the heat of the battle and it's kind of crunch time, you want your [best players] on the field,'' offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. "That's the bottom line. Jamaal is a part of that and he's going to be on the football field regardless of how many touches he's had early in the game or how many plays he has leading up to that point.''
  • Dropped passes haven't been a particular problem for the Chiefs at camp, but their receivers had a rough stretch when Anthony Fasano and A.J. Jenkins each had drops on back-to-back plays. Those mistakes usually hurt the Chiefs more than their opponents. Counting the playoff game, the Chiefs had 19 fewer pass plays of 20 or more yards, so they need to be more efficient than their opponents if that happens again this season.
  • Another thing that would help the passing game would be a return to form by their No. 1 wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe. Encouraged by the arrival of coach Andy Reid in Kansas City, Bowe last year famously predicted he would lead the NFL in receiving. He responded with what was the worst full statistical season of his career. Bowe isn't making any such bold proclamations this year. "I just shoot every day to be the best person I can be and just make it contagious,'' Bowe said. "I just hope everybody else can tag along and we can put some wins together.''
  • Last season's backup deep snapper was Sean McGrath, who is not in camp and contemplating retirement. The Chiefs are trying to develop tight end Travis Kelce into the backup snapper for Thomas Gafford, but the project isn't going so well. Kelce gave punter Dustin Colquitt a workout with his snaps, sending one well to each side of Colquitt and sailing a couple over his head. "He'll get there,'' Colquitt said. "He's athletic and that's what it takes.''
  • The Chiefs spent much of the practice working on special teams or with the offense working on one field and the defense on the other. Things should get more interesting in Saturday's practice. The Chiefs will work for the first time at camp in full pads.
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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- We've already established just how much the Kansas City Chiefs need running back Jamaal Charles and how important he is for their aspirations this season.

That part isn't the surprise. Anyone who watched the Chiefs play in 2013 realized his worth to his team.

You probably don't realize the other part of this -- just how much a holdout would have hurt Charles. It would have hurt Charles plenty, perhaps as much as his absence would have hurt the Chiefs.

[+] EnlargeJamaal Charles
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images"I didn't want to hold out," Jamaal Charles said. "That's not my place. I couldn't do it. I just wanted to get the deal done."
Though it may appear otherwise now -- after his arrival at training camp at Missouri Western State University was delayed by a couple of hours until he received the contract extension he wanted -- Charles isn't a greedy, me-first diva. He is by all accounts a good teammate. Despite his desire for a pay raise, Charles attended offseason workouts and practices. It wasn't just a show of good faith to the Chiefs. Charles wanted to be working and sweating with his teammates.

Charles cares about giving the Chiefs their money's worth. He cares about what his peers think. He cares what you think.

It's important to Charles to leave an imprint on the game that will last for years. He's well on his way toward doing that. Many backs have had a season or two as good as the ones Charles has put together in recent years.

Few have had as many as Charles. Playing in coach Andy Reid's offense for the Chiefs, Charles has a great opportunity to enhance his legacy, but that would be impossible for him to do if he's sitting out in a pay dispute.

So if you think the Chiefs were relieved to see Charles take the practice field as they opened training camp Thursday, know that the feeling was mutual.

"I didn't want to hold out," Charles said. "That's not my place. I couldn't do it. I just wanted to get the deal done. I could have held out and gotten [more money]. I'm just happy with what I have for right now. ... I didn't want to even be selfish like that. That's not my personality."

Charles joined the Chiefs at camp a couple of hours after the reporting deadline on Wednesday, after the sides had reached agreement on the contract extension. He felt ashamed enough about a holdout even that brief that he took to Twitter with the joke he had been late because his car broke down on the way from Kansas City to St. Joseph.

So while the Chiefs needed Charles, the opposite is just as true. And had the Chiefs held firm for just a few days and held back their offer of new money, Charles might have caved first.

"I couldn't [hold out]," he said. "I wanted to do it but it's just not me. I'm not a cocky player. I'm not one of the players [who does] that to his team. I've always been a team player my whole time here. I was ready to get the deal done and move forward."

Chiefs camp report: Day 1

July, 24, 2014
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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Some thoughts and observations on the Kansas City Chiefs' first training camp practice at Missouri Western State University:
  • Sean McGrath was the Chiefs' leading pass receiver at tight end last season with 26 receptions, but after reporting to camp a day earlier, he was absent from practice. He is reportedly considering retirement. McGrath faces a difficult battle to make the regular-season roster. At tight end the Chiefs have veteran starter Anthony Fasano, Travis Kelce and Demetrius Harris. The Chiefs drafted Kelce in the third round last season and have big plans for him in the passing game after he missed all of last season with a knee ailment. Harris was a basketball player in college, but has showed an aptitude as a receiver. McGrath, at the least, is good insurance in the event of an injury to one of the others.
  • The kicking competition got going early. Veteran Ryan Succop and rookie Cairo Santos each made all of their six field goal attempts, with 43 yards being the longest try for each player. Santos has ability and provides a less expensive alternative to Succop. But the Chiefs are better off sticking with the incumbent. It would probably prove to be a mistake to go with an untested rookie in such a pressure-filled job.
  • The Chiefs are counting on reserve safety Sanders Commings to play in their nickel defense, but he might not be reliable. Commings didn't practice and the Chiefs put him on the non-football injury list with a strained foot. Coach Andy Reid said he believed Commings would return to practice soon, but Commings might be revealing himself as an injury-prone player. He missed most of his rookie season last season with injuries. The Chiefs also put backup guard Rokevious Watkins on the non-football injury list because of a problem with a disk in his back.
  • The Chiefs worked on kickoff returns and spread the work among five returners. They should give most of the work to the two most promising candidates, Knile Davis and rookie De'Anthony Thomas. Davis returned a kickoff for a touchdown as a rookie last season. Thomas, a fourth-round draft choice this season, is fast, but because of his size (5-9 and 174 pounds) might be better suited to returning punts. But the Chiefs need to make sure of that before taking Thomas out of the kickoff return mix.
  • Cornerback Sean Smith appeared to move into the No. 1 cornerback spot last month when the Chiefs released Brandon Flowers. But Smith was demoted to second-team soon afterward and practiced as a backup again Thursday. The decision is a curious one. Smith is the most experienced of the Chiefs' cornerbacks and at 6-3 has the size the Chiefs prefer in their corners. Marcus Cooper and Ron Parker are, at least for now, the starters. Cooper struggled at times as a rookie last season and Parker is a journeyman. The Chiefs need to get Smith back in their starting lineup soon.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- I recently wrote that the Kansas City Chiefs need to give a new contract to young outside linebacker Justin Houston, who has clearly outplayed the deal he signed as a third-round draft pick in 2011.

Likewise, running back Jamaal Charles has outperformed the contract he signed with the Chiefs in 2010. The Chiefs and Charles have discussed a new deal but in this case I’m going to urge the team to be a lot more cautious in handing out their money.

Charles
I’m not suggesting Houston is more valuable to the Chiefs in the short-term or that he’s a better player than Charles. Neither is the case.

But the differences between the two situations are huge, and those differences make it a good idea for the Chiefs to pay Houston but a dicey one to pay Charles.

Though both players have outperformed their contracts, Houston had no choice but to sign his. He was a third-round draft pick with no leverage and no choice but to take Kansas City’s offer or not play.

Charles went willingly into the contract he signed. It wasn’t the offer he was obligated to take in 2008 as a third-round draft choice. In 2010, he opted for Kansas City’s cash up front instead of the chance to eventually become a free agent.

These last two seasons were part of that deal.

A bigger and perhaps more important difference is that Houston's new contract wouldn't be payment for things he's already done. The Chiefs can pay him for his projected production over the life of a long-term contract, as Houston is just 25 and should have several productive seasons ahead of him.

Can you realistically say that about Charles, even though he’s only 27? He’s got a lot of mileage on him. There’s no indication his production is about to nosedive, but at the same time it’s reasonable to believe that his best football is behind him.

So by giving him a fat new contract, the Chiefs would be rewarding him for what he’s already accomplished and not what he's set to accomplish in the future. That’s a dangerous way of doing business, and one that almost always backfires.

A modest raise for Charles is in order. Anything more than that and the Chiefs deserve whatever they get.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs have no shortage of candidates to replace the departed Dexter McCluster as their slot receiver. The popular choices are holdover Junior Hemingway, CFL veteran Weston Dressler, rookie De'Anthony Thomas and developmental prospect Frankie Hammond Jr.

Williams
An already-crowded field gained one more body Monday at Missouri Western State University when the Chiefs began a three-day camp for rookies and selected veterans. Kyle Williams returned to full participation after tearing the ACL in his left knee last year for the second time.

It's wise not to overlook Williams as the Chiefs search for McCluster's replacement. He's fast and has more career NFL catches, 47 in four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, than all of the other main candidates combined.

There's a reason the Chiefs claimed Williams off waivers last November and a reason they re-signed him as a free agent in the spring. They wanted to get a look at Williams in Andy Reid's offensive system.

The Chiefs didn't get much of a chance to do that last year. He played in only one game for them before re-injuring the knee.

"It looked like I was going to have some serious game-plan activity last year when I got here," Williams said. "But crazy things happen. The thing about it is that they gave me their word they wanted me back and they followed through on that."

Williams completed a quick rehab after having surgery in December and appears ready to compete for a job when full-squad training camp begins on Thursday.

"The knee feels good," Williams said. "It feels stable. It feels like a solid knee. I feel like myself out there. I felt like last year when I came in I could help. I feel the same way this year."
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The most realistic hope for the Kansas City Chiefs to improve their passing game in 2014 is for them to get more than the 55 receptions they got last year from their tight ends. Their chances for that got better on Monday when Travis Kelce went through a full practice for the first time in almost a year.

It was just the beginning of a three-day rookie camp at Missouri Western State University. Selected veterans, Kelce being one, were also invited to participate. Full-squad training camp begins on Thursday.

Kelce
Still, his return was a victory for the Chiefs and Kelce. An ailing knee and the resulting surgery caused Kelce to miss all of his rookie season last year, and then he was a bystander for virtually all of offseason practice.

Kelce moved around well and did so without a brace or any other kind of protection on the knee.

“From here, it’s just a matter of getting back into football shape and getting ready to play a 16-game season," he said.

The Chiefs would happily settle for whatever they can get from Kelce if he’s available to them for 16 games this year. They had big plans at tight end heading into training camp last year, with Kelce joining veterans Tony Moeaki and Anthony Fasano.

But because of injuries, neither Kelce nor Moeaki played a down on offense and Fasano missed eight games. The Chiefs pieced together a group of tight ends that included waiver claim Sean McGrath and did well to get to 55 catches from the position.

They need more from their tight ends this season. A healthy Kelce, as well as development from former college basketball player Demetrius Harris, figures large in those plans.

The Chiefs weren’t more aggressive about pursuing an accomplished wide receiver through free agency or the draft in part because they have big expectations for Kelce.

At 260 pounds, Kelce is big for a tight end, but he’s not just a receiver capable of running the short or intermediate routes. He’s proved capable of beating coverage to make catches down the field.

The prediction here is that with Kelce in their lineup for a full season, the Chiefs’ tight ends will blow past 55 catches at a relatively early point in the 2014 schedule.
Examining the Kansas City Chiefs' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)

The Chiefs could go a lot of different directions here. The only certainty is a healthy Smith will start. Daniel, the veteran backup, could be traded if the Chiefs determine that either Bray or their other developmental prospect, Aaron Murray, is ready to be the No. 2. That’s unlikely, so the Chiefs need to determine what to do with Murray. They didn’t draft him to release him, so he could go on the injured reserve list. The Chiefs could also keep four quarterbacks.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

There’s room for another player here if the Chiefs believe they need to keep two running backs in addition to Charles and Sherman, the fullback. They needed three in last season’s playoff game in Indianapolis. Thomas is listed as a back and might get some work as one, but he’s too small to be an every-down player if that’s what the Chiefs require. So Cyrus Gray, a useful special-teams player, or Joe McKnight could also stick.

WIDE RECEIVER (5)

Other receivers will have ample opportunity to make the team, because the Chiefs have a need. But they won’t keep another receiver without that player earning the spot.

TIGHT END (3)

Kelce’s troublesome knee could impact the roster decisions here. If his knee remains balky, the Chiefs could keep Sean McGrath.

OFFENSIVE LINE (10)

The Chiefs will, pardon the pun, go heavy here. Andy Reid likes to stash some developmental linemen.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)

There’s no need to keep more, not with Poe playing so many snaps and the Chiefs occasionally using only two linemen, and sometimes one.

LINEBACKER (10)

This assumes that Houston returns to the Chiefs in time for the start of the regular season. If not, the Chiefs will need another body.

CORNERBACK (5)

A position of importance is an area of concern. Only Smith, a starter, and Owens, a nickelback, are proven.

SAFETY (4)

Abdullah has more experience at free safety, but the Chiefs might be better served by going with the bigger Commings as their starter.

SPECIALISTS (3)
Cairo Santos has an impressive leg, but it’s difficult seeing the Chiefs going with a rookie kicker instead of the veteran Succop.

Camp preview: Kansas City Chiefs

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
10:00
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NFL Nation reporter Adam Teicher examines the three biggest issues facing the Kansas City Chiefs heading into training camp.

Where is Houston? Having outperformed the contract he signed with the Chiefs as a third-round draft pick in 2011, outside linebacker Justin Houston was absent for all the offseason practices, including the mandatory minicamp. Since Houston’s only leverage for getting a contract extension this year is to stay away from camp until he gets it, it's unlikely he will show without a new deal. That would be a tough blow for the Chiefs. Houston is their top proven pass-rusher and arguably their best all-around defensive player. The pass rush, which was on a record pace for sacks over the first half of last season, sagged measurably after a dislocated elbow caused him to miss the final five regular-season games. The Chiefs would not be left without quality edge pass-rushers. Veteran Tamba Hali, another Pro Bowler, is on the other side, and the Chiefs drafted Auburn’s Dee Ford in the first round. Ford looked promising as a pass-rusher during offseason practice, but it’s a bit much to expect him to immediately be as versatile as Houston. Ford was a defensive end in college and has much to learn before he is on Houston’s level.

Who is at corner? The Chiefs released Brandon Flowers last month, leaving them perilously thin at cornerback. With the exception of 5-foot-9 nickelback Chris Owens, all their remaining cornerbacks are big and capable of getting physical with opposing receivers, as the Chiefs prefer. But the quality is a concern. Veteran Sean Smith steps in as the top cornerback, and he held his own as a starter last season. Marcus Cooper will at least begin camp as the other starter. As a rookie, he played well for the first half of last season as the third cornerback, but his play tailed off badly in the second half, to the point that the Chiefs benched him. Cooper has the physical tools to be a decent starter, but he showed over the final few games of last season that he has a lot to learn. The Chiefs drafted Phillip Gaines of Rice in the third round this year, but during offseason practice it didn’t look like he was ready to contribute. Journeyman Ron Parker played well in his one start last season. But he got a lot of playing time during the offseason and was often exposed.

A rebound for Bowe? In September, Dwayne Bowe turns 30, an ominous age for a wide receiver because that is when many begin to lose their skills. That process might already have started for Bowe, who had the worst full statistical season of his career in 2013. Still, Bowe represents the Chiefs’ most realistic hope for improvement at what was largely an unproductive position last season. The Chiefs added former Canadian League star Weston Dressler and drafted speedy De'Anthony Thomas in the fourth round, but they are slot receivers and are merely trying to replace the production lost with the free-agent departure of Dexter McCluster. Otherwise, the Chiefs will go with the same uninspiring cast of receivers as last season, meaning Bowe needs to get back to what he was earlier in his career. That is not an unreasonable expectation. Bowe was never particularly fast, so he doesn’t have a lot of speed to lose. The Chiefs need to do a better job of playing to his strengths, the main one being his ability to find yards after the catch. The Chiefs should get back to the bubble screens that were so productive for Bowe earlier in his career.

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