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5 things I think following Chiefs’ rookie minicamp

Arrowhead Pride’s Pete Sweeney was in attendance for every rookie minicamp practice and press conference.

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NFL Combine Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs conducted their three-day rookie minicamp from Saturday through Monday, concluding with a press conference from head coach Andy Reid and several undrafted free agents.

The first four Kansas City draft picks spoke to the media on Saturday; the next three spoke on Sunday. We have more from their press conferences at these links:

After attending all six-plus hours of training and every weekend press conference, here are five things I think following Chiefs’ rookie minicamp:

1. I think the Chiefs will sign a couple of tryout players from the workouts.

The camp saw 78 players in attendance — including 51 tryout players — and Reid alluded to keeping a few of them around during his post-camp press conference.

“It was good to get these guys in here, the rookies, and gave them a chance — a good tryout camp for a lot of these guys, and I think we’ll probably keep a couple of them,” said Reid.

Over the weekend, I posted some observations to my Twitter account, but here is a quick list of tryout players who caught my eye: tight end Connor Blumrick, linebacker Buddy Johnson, cornerback Ekow Boye-Dowe, offensive tackle Naasir Watkins — and, of course, Kansas State defensive end Wyatt Hubert, who made it to the Monday podium.

If the Chiefs were to sign a tryout player or two, they would have to cut somebody from their full 90-man roster.

I want to give an honorable mention to a non-tryout player — utility man Jerrion Ealy — a returner who worked with the running backs in this camp. In my view, he was the fastest player at this camp and worth being back on the radar (currently zoned in exclusively on Justyn Ross, who was ineligible for the camp).

“He can kind of do a lot of things for you from return game to wide receiver to running back,” said Reid. “He did wide receiver the latter part of last year, so (he’s) real smart (and) quick. He’s not the biggest guy, but he knows how to play the game.”

2. I think Rashee Rice looked good but does have some conditioning to do over the next few weeks.

This was the media’s first look at the second-round wide receiver. He had impressive moments as Reid lined him up in different ways throughout the weekend. The highlight for me was seeing Rice catch a ball in the back of the end zone to start Monday’s 7-on-7 session, with him jumping up and still getting both feet in for the score.

There were times when Rice seemed a little winded throughout the workouts. When asked about Rice at the podium, Reid addressed it all — the good and the bad.

“Strong, kind of the things we saw on tape,” said Reid. “He’s got to make sure he gets his running in. That position, we run like crazy. He’s got to get that part taken care of, but you could see the strength in his route running, his ability to work in space... Good hands.”

Remember when then-rookie-second-round wide receiver Mecole Hardman needed to “keep running?” He just went on to have 555 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns his rookie year.

Rice has some conditioning to do before May 27, the start of organized team activities (OTAs). But that blip is nothing to worry about, at least right now.

3. I think Felix Anudike-Uzomah to the Chiefs has the makings of one of the NFL’s greatest stories… but it’s only the makings until he produces on the field.

Lee’s Summit and Kansas State’s favorite son rabid Chiefs fan Felix Anudike-Uzomah being drafted by those same Chiefs has the beginning of one of the great stories in the league's history.

This weekend, the 21-year-old told the story about how he attended the club’s Super Bowl LIV championship parade while in high school; now, he will get the chance to be in the parade.

The whole thing is just cool.

And it will remain “cool” should Anudike-Uzomah produce — and should he become the proper partner-in-crime to last year’s first-round pass rusher, George Karlaftis. The hardcore Chiefs fans who double as hardcore Royals fans may have Bubba Starling come to mind. That wouldn’t be good.

Anudike-Uzomah was mostly limited through rookie minicamp, wearing a helmet only on Day 3. Reid told reporters they would “gradually” bring him along after he had thumb surgery ahead of his draft process.

It could be argued that Anudike-Uzoman’s seventh-round counterpart, cornerback Nic Jones, had the play of rookie camp with his interception.

As he mentioned during his press conference on Saturday, fourth-rounder Chamarri Conner worked primarily safety all weekend. Player personnel assistant Anthony McGee has also noted Conner’s upside at the nickel position.

In a crowded safety room of Justin Reid, Bryan Cook, Mike Edwards and Deon Bush, Conner’s passion for special teams is a very good thing.

“I’m big on special teams,” he said. “I’ve always been big on special teams. Coming from Virginia Tech, it’s something that we emphasize day in and day out; we know it’s a big part of the game. So, I’ve always been locked in on special teams.”

4. I think we need to reasonably prepare for the Chiefs to be cautious with starting running back Isiah Pacheco.

The news that starting running back Isiah Pacheco had multiple offseason surgeries gained steam ahead of rookie minicamp. Reid finally spoke about it on Monday.

“He did [have surgery],” said Reid. “He’s making progress. We’ll just see how he does with it. I can’t even give you a timeline on it — but he is doing well. He goes through all the steps out there with Phase 2 and that. He can’t get hit on that thing.”

The fact that there is no timeline here suggests that Pacheco won’t participate in OTAs — and we’ll have to be updated on his status on June 15, the final opportunity to talk to the team on record before training camp begins.

General manager Brett Veach recently said that arguably the most polarizing Chief — running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire — is in tremendous shape. He should also be incredibly motivated after Kansas City predictably declined his fifth-year option. lt’s reasonable to expect he could be taking the first running back reps all of OTAs — even with Jerick McKinnon back in the mix.

I also think undrafted runner Deneric Prine sees the possibility there, so he chose the Chiefs over the Miami Dolphins, who took Devon Achane in the third round. Prince ran 5.8 yards a carry his final year at Tulsa -- which is fitting, as he says he admired Jamaal Charles growing up.

5. I think fans should accept that, yes, Donovan Smith is the Chiefs’ starting left tackle.

Since the Chiefs agreed to a one-year deal with eight-year veteran Donovan Smith, there has been debate amongst fans about where Smith fits in along the offensive line. I’m here to tell you that it’s not all that complicated.

Career snaps

Jawaan Taylor NFL snaps at LT: 18 | Jawaan Taylor NFL snaps at RT: 4,282

Donovan Smith NFL snaps at LT: 8,473 | Donovan Smith NFL snaps at RT: 0

“He’s been a left tackle at a high level,” said Reid of Smith. “If you look at – last year (2022), he was hurt and then the year before that (2021), he was one of the top-rated left tackles in the league. And we’ve had a chance to play against him a couple times, so you know I know seeing him firsthand there (that) he’s a good football player.”

Kansas City’s decision-makers are throwing out 2022 -- when Smith battled an elbow injury and late-season foot sprain. Smith earned Pro Football Focus’ 12th-best pass-blocking grade in the league among tackles in 2021. And now, suddenly, some folks aren’t happy with Kansas City giving offensive lineman Jawaan Taylor such a lucrative contract to play right tackle.

There was similar sentiment when the Chiefs signed left guard Joe Thuney to his contract; in two seasons of Thuney, Kansas City lost in the AFC championship and then won the Super Bowl.

Pending injury, I think Kansas City’s offensive line is set for 2023.

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