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Chiefs training camp things to know: Steve Nelson is key, CJ Spiller could be a thing

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A week of Kansas City Chiefs training camp has come and gone. Here are five things I think:

1. What’s the deal with all the injuries?

I have good news and I have bad news. What do you want first?

Yeah, get the bad out of the way.

The bad news is there seems to be an injury bug floating around Chiefs training camp in St. Joseph, Missouri. The good news is that, unlike in the case of the Chargers and, well, the Chargers again, all of the injuries that have occurred at camp are minor.

Still, take a look at this list (it’s extensive):

Physically Unable to Perform List to Start Camp

Parker Ehinger (knee)
Chris Jones (knee)
Tamba Hali (old)

Injury at Camp
Travis Kelce (knee swelling)
Steve Nelson (groin)
Bennie Logan (knee)
Terrance Mitchell (hamstring)
Charcandrick West (ankle, has since returned)
Josh Mauga (hip flexor)
Leon McQuay (neck)
David King (ankle)

A lot of this could be purely the kinks of getting back into football shape, but man the list feels long.

2. Prediction: Tyler Bray won’t be the No. 2 quarterback when the regular season begins

Quarterback Tyler Bray has had plays at training camp in which he has looked the part. He’s even had plays at training camp in which he has really looked the part—namely when he is throwing 45-to-50-yard bombs (see below):

He has a knack for leading the receiver with the deep ball—there’s no doubt about it.

But during sessions at camp when Andy Reid and the coaching staff pit Bray and the second team against the first team, Bray has struggled.

When there are elite rushers like Justin Houston and Dee Ford in his face, the accuracy on intermediate passes seems to go way down. There’s a little bit of a tendency to sail the ball over the receivers’ heads in these situations or make a dangerous pass.

A perfect example of the Jekyll-and-Hyde tendency in Bray came on Saturday morning. During an 11-on-11 session, Bray hurled a beautiful ball to Demarcus Robinson down the left sideline to get into the red zone. A play or two later, Marcus Peters picked him off in the end zone, ending his drive.

A skill that Alex Smith and rookie Patrick Mahomes have on their side that Bray doesn’t is an ability to roll out quickly when protection breaks down. Bray has a cannon, yes, but extension of the play for him will only happen within the pocket.

A couple of things to note with this prediction—the Chiefs will rely heavily on preseason play to make this decision, so Bray will have the opportunity to prove me wrong. Also, the wording of my prediction is intentional. Just because I don't think Bray will be the No. 2 doesn’t mean I necessarily think Mahomes will be either.

Both have much to prove, and it begins next Friday at Arrowhead Stadium.

3. This team needs Steve Nelson to be healthy.

I can’t stress how much I’m beginning to think the key to this Chiefs team having one of the best defenses in the league is Steve Nelson.

Think about it. Here’s your (healthy) base 3-4 defense:

DL: Allen Bailey, Bennie Logan, Chris Jones
ROLB: Dee Ford
LILB: Derrick Johnson
RILB: Ramik Wilson
LOLB: Justin Houston
LCB: Marcus Peters
SS: Eric Berry
FS: Ron Parker
RCB: Steve Nelson

As has been well documented, Nelson’s best coverage comes in the slot, but after watching a week of camp, I believe he’s the Chiefs’ most formidable option at right cornerback.

Nelson missed Friday and Saturday practices with a groin injury, and with his backup, Terrance Mitchell, also sidelined with a hamstring, the pecking order was: Phillip Gaines, De’Vante Bausby and then D.J. White.

Given that I now have a finger on the pulse of the Chiefs’ social universe as I run the amazing Arrowhead Pride Instagram account (plug alert), I noticed something I took as a good sign:

Look at this picture Nelson posted Friday:

I served and I hustled on any condition your permission I get to them digits #dubs

A post shared by SECONDNATURE (@stevennelson20) on

To me that sleek denim jacket is whispering, “His groin’s OK, guys.”

4. Prediction: Tyreek Hill will finish in the top five in the NFL in yards from scrimmage this season

TYREEK HILL NO YOU DIDN'T

Posted by Arrowhead Pride: For Kansas City Chiefs Fans on Saturday, August 5, 2017

If you haven’t seen the above video yet, trust me, take the 36 seconds.

Critics: I want you to know I understand whom he is up against during this drill (undrafted free agent cornerback Ashton Lampkin). I want you to know I understand that in a real game, there will be safety help, that it will be rare for Hill to be in a one-on-one situation.

But I need you to understand that in a week of watching Hill, he’s simply at another gear right now, beating not just Lampkin, but EVERYBODY (including MP22).

More evidence:

“He can run right by you,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said Saturday. “He can run right around you. There is not too much he can’t do. He is a dynamic football player and certainly has the ability to run by you—it is a real challenge because of his great speed.”

More Sutton:

“You better not get out there where you are doing much tackling by yourself. You need a lot of people there. As we always say, numbers favor us. Definitely, when you are going up against him, you need as many people out there. It is a great opportunity for us because you are dealing with speed and that is something that is hard to get all of the time. As difficult and challenging as it is, I think it will help us defensively.”

As long as Hill stays healthy, it will be an incredible season to watch.

5. I think C.J. Spiller could really be a thing

The Chiefs ran an 11-on-11 live drill in which each quarterback was backed up to his goal line on Saturday.

Shortly after Alex Smith connected with Hill for a 99-yard touchdown, Mahomes came on for his turn, along with running back C.J. Spiller.

Smith’s touchdown was a bomb, and though Mahomes would match the one-play score, his came with the help of Spiller.

Mahomes lofted a perfect pass to Spiller 20 yards from the line of scrimmage near the right numbers. With defensive backs swarming, Spiller darted across the middle, then danced past the remaining defenders for a 98-yard score.

“I like what I see so far,” Reid said of Spiller, who hasn’t been a primary back since 2013, last week. “We have not had any live periods or games so I’m curious to see how that goes. They’re working their tails off, both of them. EB (Eric Bieniemy) is very demanding of them. He comes right after them. He’s been there, he’s done it. They’re like sponges right now, absorbing everything.”

Spiller has been aided by additional time on the field due to the ankle injury to Charcandrick West, which kept him off the field for about four practices.

I’m not necessarily saying Spiller will make the club, but I will certainly have my eyes on him Friday night.

For a deeper look into the Chiefs’ running back situation, check out our latest Arrowhead Pride podcast on the matter, and subscribe!