— Thursday’s OTA practice for the Chiefs took on a bit more of a serious edge with officials in the defensive secondary making calls as the team concluded its second week of offseason practices.
Midway through the team’s 10 OTA practices and three minicamp workouts that close next month, head coach Andy Reid said he’s pleased with the performance from the club’s revamped defense thus far on the practice field.
“You get to see No. 1 how fast they’re picking things up,” Reid said of the offseason workouts on defense. “And then being able to come out here at a fast pace and being able to execute what they’ve been taught in the classroom. I’ve been impressed with that, and I’d probably say right across the board with the young guys and the veteran players we’ve brought in as free agents.”
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said the new faces on his defense appear to be meshing together well through the early offseason workouts.
“We got a lot dudes, a lot of new dudes,” Sutton said. “They’re all different, they’re from young rookies to guys that came here as free agents. It’s a really good group of guys.”
Most of the focus shines on the cornerback position where the Chiefs have turned out much of the position. Only Steven Nelson returns with any substantial playing time with the team a year ago. But the additions of Kendall Fuller and David Amerson have Sutton optimistic about his secondary.
“Both those guys have had really good OTA periods here,” Sutton said. “I think Steven Nelson’s had a really good period here. I think we’ve got some good football players there, and they’ve all done a really good job here and I just think we’ll build on it.
Picking up steam in the air
The passing game appeared more crisp than during last week’s open OTA practice. An unofficial count had Patrick Mahomes 9-of-12 passing during 11-on-11 drills and 8-of-12 during seven-on-seven work. That included incompletions on four deep balls, a drop by wide receiver Tyreek Hill and a pass broken up by safety Daniel Sorensen.
Backup quarterback Chad Henne unofficially completed 4-of-8 passing during 11-on-11 and a crisp 7-of-8 during seven-on-seven. Matt McGloin finished 4-of-6 passing overall while Chase Litton completed 3-of-5 attempts.
Five Chiefs did not practice on Thursday, with running back Kareem Hunt headlining the injury. Reid said Hunt was held out with a hamstring strain but did not indicate any long-term concerns.
“We held him out today, he’s fine,” Reid said.
Linebacker Dee Ford was a partial participant in practice but the coach did not identify a medical reason.
“He just came out and worked on individual stuff then we went from there,” Reid said.
Rookie wide receiver Byron Pringle sat out practice with a calf strain. Center Mitch Morse, running back Spencer Ware and wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas are continuing their rehab from surgeries off the practice field.
Punter Dustin Colquitt was the only member of the 90-man roster not attending practice Thursday afternoon.
Wanted: kick returner
The Chiefs ranked ninth in the league last year with a 22.4-yard average on kick returns but with last year’s top returners out with injuries, special teams coordinator Dave Toub said the kick return roll is up in the air.
“We have a lot of guys in there that are working hard,” Toub said.
Akeem Hunt led the team with a 24.4-yard average last year but currently resides on the physically unable to perform list after suffering a broken ankle at the end of last season. De’Anthony Thomas, who ranked second with a 23.5-yard average, remains on the sidelines as he rehabs from a broken leg sustained in the season finale.
The long list of potential returners include returning players such as Charcandrick West and Jehu Chesson along with free agents like Kerwynn Williams and rookies such as Tremon Smith.
“He runs a 4.32, he’s done a little bit in college but not a lot,” Toub said of the sixth-round pick Smith as a potential kick returner. “We’ve got him on the crash course of getting him ready to go.”
During offseason workouts without contact, Toub said he looks for a player’s ability to catch the ball in a crowd and show confidence in team drills. He said no one stands out yet in the race, which expects to heat up once training camp arrives.
“It’s too hard to tell right now until we start having contact,” Toub said.
Despite changes in kickoff rules that Toub says now make kickoffs more comparable to punt returns, there’s no inclination to install Tyreek Hill as kick returner.
“I knew that question was coming,” Toub said with a grin. “Tyreek’s a punt returner right now.”