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As Reggie Ragland eases into his return, Ukeme Eligwe and Terrance Smith are proving they belong

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Ragland returned to practice Sunday in limited fashion, but the two young linebackers have been good.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs-Training Camp
Eligwe
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Reggie Ragland walked down the hill to the fields at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph Sunday morning, and with his steps, Chiefs fans could breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Prior to Sunday, Ragland had spent all of camp on the non-football injury (NFI) list due to his knee “puffing up” on a flight. Ragland had also done some offseason turf workouts that he probably shouldn’t have been participating in.

Regardless of how the injury happened, Ragland was back Sunday for a limited practice.

“Reggie did a nice job for what we asked him to do,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said after training camp practice Sunday. “He really was a partial-practice guy. It was good work getting back into the swing of things. He’s got a pretty good feel on what we’re doing, so it didn’t look like he had lost too much there. He was pretty much up on that, but all the calls and all those things that he’s responsible for, it’s good to have him out there.”

With Ragland out and now Anthony Hitchens missing the last two practices in a row, second-year linebacker Ukeme Eligwe and third-year linebacker Terrance Smith have had the opportunity to work with the first team quite a bit this camp.

The Chiefs (unofficially) listed Eligwe, 24, as their backup right inside linebacker and Smith, 25, as their backup left inside linebacker in the first iteration of their depth chart on Saturday night.

“They’re both doing a good job,” Reid said. “They’re young guys that are doing a good job—Smith knows everything. He’s a real sharp kid and he’s put on a little weight, which is good. [Smith] was more like a safety last year and now he’s put on a few pounds of good weight and worked like crazy on it this offseason, so he’s actually looked very good out here.”

While it would be ideal for the Chiefs if Ragland and Hitchens were getting all the first-team training camp reps in preparation for the regular season, learning that Eligwe and Smith are capable is a very good sign for the depth of the defense.

I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do this Thursday night against the Houston Texans.