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Five hot takes from Chiefs OTAs

Pete went to every open media availability of Chiefs’ OTAs; here is what he learned

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St Louis Rams v Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs would like Justin Houston to return to that sassy 2014 form.
Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

I went to all six open media sessions of the Kansas City Chiefs offseason program. With the workouts wrapping up Thursday, I thought it was a good time to share five hot takes from Chiefs’ OTAs.

1. The offensive line is probably a bigger concern than people realize at this stage of the game.

Mitch Morse wasn’t ready to participate in the Chiefs’ offseason program, which meant Cam Erving took all the snaps at center for the Chiefs. There is no other way to say it than this is not exactly ideal.

Erving was the Cleveland Browns’ center in 2016 when Alex Mack moved on to the Atlanta Falcons, and the position was never a comfortable fit. Pro Football Focus noted that on 438 passing plays in 2016, Erving was tied for second among centers for total pressures allowed.

Then, in June of last year, there was this:

“I’m always happy to be able to play football, but I’m definitely more comfortable and happy playing tackle,” Erving said at the time. “You don’t have to tell everybody else what to do. You communicate with everybody and make sure they’re on the same page, but guys aren’t relying on me to tell them what to do.”

Speaking Thursday about the offensive line, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid didn’t seem sure Morse would be ready for training camp, so this is the reality at center right now. This is not a big deal (yet), but Patrick Mahomes and Erving had two fumbled snaps on Wednesday.

Erving has only started at right guard and left tackle for the Chiefs.

In addition, the Chiefs remain unsure who will start at left guard in 2018.

As Adam Teicher of ESPN noted, the Chiefs have gotten undrafted free agent Ryan Hunter in the mix at starting left guard. Parker Ehinger, who missed nearly all of last season as he continued to recover from his knee injury, shared time with Hunter.

I suspect you’d want to have these two positions shored up by this point in the offseason. They are, for lack of better terms, not.

2. I see why general manager Brett Veach likes wide receiver Sammy Watkins so much.

You may have seen me written or heard me say this before, but there are certain Kansas City Chiefs I find with special traits, or abilities very few other players in the league possess.

I think after this offseason program, I feel very comfortable adding Sammy Watkins to that short list.

I think Watkins could be similar to New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the type of catches that he can make.

The other day in drills, I watched Watkins catch a ball with only his right hand as he was falling to his left. The best way I could describe it is he has sticky hands.

And yes, I realize the Chiefs were practicing in shorts, but I expect his hands to translate to the pads, and besides that, the numbers are already there. Watkins had just one drop all of last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

3. If you think Patrick Mahomes isn’t going to go through at least some growing pains, you’re probably wrong.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs-Minicamp
Groutfit game strong.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Before I get into this, know I’m a buyer.

From what I have seen in Mahomes, he has the raw talent to be a top-10 quarterback. Where I think fans may need to pump the brakes is the idea that this is just going to magically happen right away.

Throughout the six practices, there were moments that made you say, “This kid is special,” but there were also multiple overthrows, interceptions, miscommunications and questionable decisions.

The positive thing is that even through all the hype (we at AP are guilty of that—you got us), he remains humble (uh, most of the time).

Sometimes I might overthrow Tyreek (Hill), try to go for a big shot instead of taking the checkdown,” Mahomes said Thursday. “Sometimes I just need to work on the 10-yard completion and moving the chains, so you have to find that median of when you want to work on those deep ones but at the same time, training good habits and being able to find the 10-yard completion when you need it.”

Mahomes should be good in 2018, no doubt. For “great,” we may have to wait a year or two.

4. I love the idea of Justin Houston and the rest of the outside linebackers roaming.

This is a topic I wrote about in detail two weeks ago (find it here), but I love-love-love the idea of Justin Houston roaming, and he seems to as well.

“I want to be able to attack the weakest link,” Houston said when I asked him about playing on the other side. “Every team is different. Everybody’s left tackle isn’t All-Pro and everybody’s right tackle isn’t All-Pro. Wherever the weakest link, whether it is the guard, center or even tackles, I want to be on the weakest link.”

Houston had apparently grown accustomed to being on the left side, and new outside linebackers coach Mike Smith used this offseason program to shift that thought process.

“That’s the thing I’ve talked to Justin about the most because he likes to line up on one side,” Smith said. “We have to get our best player on their worst offensive lineman, wherever that may be, and that’s how you should be on defense, period. If it’s a coordinator, you break it down, but you just can’t get comfortable on one side. He has to be able to cross the line, and that’s what we do.”

Houston had 10 or more sacks from 2012-14, including his near-record-breaking 22.0-sack effort in 2014, but he hasn’t hit that 10-mark since.

I think as Houston roams, Tanoh Kpassagnon and Breeland Speaks improve and Dee Ford returns healthy, we could be looking at the return of Sack City in 2018.

5. Kendall Fuller, Steve Nelson and David Amerson are your cornerbacks, but don’t sleep on the depth.

Kansas City Chiefs v St. Louis Rams Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

It is hard to tell with the Chiefs practicing without pads or contact, but I think the defense could be passable with the cornerbacks on the roster. I am more worried about David Amerson than anyone else when it comes to starters, but I tried to remind myself this offseason program that everyone probably looks bad against Watkins.

I also like the depth the Chiefs have.

I love rookie Tremon Smith, who has gone on record as saying he loves the ball in his hands. He showed a bit of that during the offseason program.

Keith Reaser and Arrion Springs remain other names to watch.

Brett Veach on Reaser back in mid-April: “Keith Reaser was another guy we liked, and I think he was also coming off an injury out of Florida Atlantic a few years back. A lot of people won’t talk about those guys, but when you start stacking those types of players in regards to what is out there in the draft class, you feel good about them.”

This from the Kent Swanson Lottery Tickets article on Springs: “Springs has some impressive ability in man coverage, a knack for making plays on the ball and the football character to overcome the adversity of being an undrafted free agent. The Chiefs have the opportunity and situation that Springs could have success in.”

I’m also going to apologize in advance to you move-on enthusiasts, but I can’t close this portion of the article without saying the Chiefs secondary would have been STUPID (good) with Marcus Peters and Kendall Fuller.

That is all.

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