No, this isn't a film review of Alex Smith. Yes, I know I promised you a film review of Alex Smith. Yes, I'm working on it. Yes, I am ashamed that I am not finished yet.
Now that we've got that out of the way ... football is kinda / sorta / barely back!!!!!
We go through this every offseason. We get SUPER hyped at the idea of training camp beginning, only to quickly realize that training camp isn't really all that interesting. Then we get super hyped at the idea of preseason games beginning, only to quickly realize that preseason games aren't all that interesting either. Then the season begins and everything is a blur until after the draft next season when we rub our eyes and groggily ask when training camp is starting.
I love it. Circle of life, baby (I'm pretty sure that's what that means, at least).
Now that training camp is about to begin, we'll finally see practices with the all-important "contact" part of football. You know, the part where guys are allowed to actually grab, push, pull, maul, and otherwise harm one another (but in a totally "we're teammates and we love each other" kind of way).
When there's contact, you can get a much better feel for how a receiver handles aggressive press coverage, or how a pass rusher is able to deal with giant men standing between him and the QB (and actually trying to stop him), and a whole bunch of other stuff. In training camp, you're also able to see slight (very slight) glimpses of how the offense and defense look overall, at least in comparison to one another.
With all that said, here are three things I'll be keeping a close eye on during camp with regards to the Chiefs' offense.
1) What's the deal with Parker Ehinger, Jah Reid, LDT and Fulton?
I have almost never been more surprised by a piece of news than I was by the fact that Parker Ehinger emerged from OTAs as the (apparent) leader at the left guard spot for the Chiefs.
When the Chiefs drafted Ehinger, I looked at the (rather limited) film available on him and walked away with some pretty mixed feelings. On one hand, Ehinger's technique and savvy seem really, really solid. That's a huge plus, particularly as a pass blocker. Too many offensive linemen come into the league relying on strength only to find that crap doesn't fly in the NFL. Ehinger doesn't fall into that category. I actually think he could be a good pass protector right out of the gate (provided he can keep up with stunt / blitz concepts).
The problem that I found with Ehinger is that he (at least to my eyes) lacked strength. And I mean seriously lacked strength, to such a degree that I didn't believe it was possible he could get on the field without a year in the weight room.
Ehinger apparently showed up and showed out at OTAs, and that's fantastic. Of course, considering that OTAs are virtually contact free, it makes perfect sense that a guy with good technique and poor strength would do well in that scenario. After all, Chris Jones can't just grab you and toss you aside when he's not allowed to grab you.
I have no idea what is going to happen with LDT, Fulton, and Jah Reid (I'm very on the record as preferring Reid at right guard based on what we've seen from the group), but if Ehinger is able to show enough strength to not be a liability at the line, his technique is sound enough that he could be a very unexpected quick contributor. We should know whether that's the case pretty quickly once live contact in pads begins.
2) Gadgets, gadgets everywhere
Tyreek Hill is fast. Real fast.
No one doubts that whatsoever. Everyone knows he is an absolute burner, arguably one of the fastest players in the league (if you go by 40 times).
Of course, no one is sure about his actual ability as a receiver. There's a lot of talk about him being a weapon and how devastating he is in space, but there's only speculation as to his ability to contribute to an offense as more than a gadget player.
All that sound familiar? It should. That's pretty much exactly what everyone was saying about De'Anthony Thomas this time last year.
I don't want to go into whether DAT wants to play football or whatever it was that happened to close out last season. That's in the past. Now we've got a pair of guys who are really fast but aren't exact "fits" as wide receivers. It doesn't seem, at least on the surface, like there's a roster spot for both Hill and DAT.
We saw last year that DAT was unable to see significant time or make a significant impact as a slot WR, where many were hoping he could flourish on a more regular basis (including me). Now, people will watch Hill for something similar. Is he more than a gadget guy? How are is routes? Does he track the ball well in the air? Can he handle contact at the line? These are all things that need to be seen.
Hill is slightly bigger than DAT, so perhaps he has more of a shot as a consistent WR. But until we see otherwise, it certainly appears we've got two gadget guys on our hands. How they are utilized at camp might tell us a little bit about whether there is room for both of them on the roster.
3) Chris Conley and Albert WIlson
You all know the score here. I'm not so much concerned with either of these guys making plays during camp (as we all know, camp stars do not necessarily equate preseason or regular season stars). What I'm concerned about is where they are used and what the pecking order is on the offense.
Last year the Chiefs lined up Wilson as an outside WR quite a bit, with limited results. There seems to be quite a bit of talk about moving him to the slot WR spot, where the Chiefs could use help and Wilson's undeniable YAC ability could be a bonus (that and his rather limited catch radius doesn't crop up as an issue).
Are the Chiefs rolling with Conley as "the guy" on the outside opposite of certified stud Jeremy Maclin, with Wilson going to the slot? I have no idea, but I'd like to find out.
There are a few other things I'll be watching (like the pecking order for the running backs and signs that the Chiefs are going to use some 2-back formations this season, for example), but those three issues will have my primary attention in the coming weeks.