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.