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Andy Reid and Breeland Speaks talk about Speaks’ camp progress

Both Reid and Speaks spoke to the media after Monday’s practice session.

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Immediately after moving up in the second round to select Ole Miss defensive tackle Breeland Speaks last April, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said that Speaks would play at outside linebacker, and then "slide inside" during passing situations.

That could be a tall order for a big man. Speaks, who is listed at 6 feet 3 and 285 pounds, is the second largest linebacker currently on the Chiefs roster — only Tanoh Kpassagnon has a bigger frame — and rarely dropped into coverage at Ole Miss.

So one of the questions we’ve had since the draft has been whether Speaks can transition to the linebacker role the Chiefs want him to play. Andy Reid addressed that during his appearance before reporters after Monday’s training camp session.

“He has the coverage part that he has to continue to work on,” Reid said. “He has never had to do that. But one thing is he is a smart kid. Real smart. And he has a nice feel for the game. Things come relatively easy to him picking it up. And then that demand, that grind, how are you going to handle that throughout this whole camp? That will be the challenge there.”

Speaking to the same gaggle of reporters, Speaks said Reid had advised him to do a lot of running before camp.

“That was probably the best advice because I know it’s going to get nasty out here soon so preparing myself for that and getting ready for this training camp,” Speaks said. “I used to run a hill — probably about 20-25 times.

“Doing gassers, I know we’ve got a big conditioning test coming up. If I didn’t do anything else, if I didn’t work on quick feet, work in the sand or do anything else that day, I ran. Just wanted to make sure I’m in shape.

Speaks was also quick to point out that he is not totally bereft of coverage experience, having played middle linebacker for Callaway High School in Jackson, Mississippi; it was simply something Ole Miss never asked him to do until his final year. He attributed Reid’s characterization of him as “smart” to his attention to the playbook.

“I am definitely trying to hone in and learn a new position so I want to make sure that I know that new position. So, I stay in my playbook.”

Speaks also said that in the offseason, to help him prepare for coverage assignments, he did drills for defensive backs and worked in sand to improve the quickness of his feet. He said that he’s working hard to stay focused on whatever is in front of him.

“Whatever we’re working on, I make sure I’m all the way locked in on it, and making sure that I’m giving it my best effort, so that I can build that muscle memory,” he said. “That way, every day it gets easier and easier, and before long, I’ll be throwin’ it without knowin’ it.

Reid addressed another standard concern for rookie pass rushers: can they develop multiple moves to counter experienced NFL offensive lineman?

“When you are young, you might have one move that is your favorite move,” he said. “And in the NFL, they take that away from you. How are you going to counter that? Are you going to work on those things that help counter that move? And add to the repertoire you can throw at the offensive lineman.

And the rookie - while acknowledging that his collection of moves is still limited — said that it’s something he’s working on with the veteran linebackers.

“There’s definitely some stuff I’m going to be working on — especially with Justin Houston, Dee Ford, TK [Tanoh Kpassagnon] and those guys. They already have put me under their wing and are showing me different things.”

Speaks was also asked what aspect of training camp was most exciting.

“Going out there and earning those guys’ respect,” he said. “Earning those guys’ comments and being able for those guys to say that they want him on the field. That makes my day.”

If Speaks can retain the pass rush skills he displayed at Ole Miss — and become an effective coverage linebacker — he’ll make our day, too.

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