5 things to watch as Chiefs begin OTAs

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Kansas City Chiefs begin Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on Tuesday. This will be the first of three groups of OTAs, totaling in 10 practices during the course of Phase 3 of the offseason program.

While the players won’t be putting on pads quite yet, they’ll be getting back to team drills, which is a big step forward in offseason workouts. Here are five things to keep an eye on with OTAs about to begin for the Chiefs:

Who is healthy and who isn't?

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The Chiefs have five players who either finished the season on injured reserve, the practice squad injured list or had offseason surgery. They also already have two players that we know didn't participate in rookie minicamp in DE Malik Herring and DB Rodney Clemons. Here are the five players who are coming off of injury:

  • QB Patrick Mahomes

  • DE Taco Charlton

  • LB Willie Gay Jr.

  • LB Emmanuel Smith

  • CB DeAndre Baker

We already know that Mahomes is ahead of schedule in his rehab from offseason surgery. He's expected to participate in OTAs, but how much has yet to be determined. Expect the team to have him take it easy at least in this first group of OTAs. Charlton had surgery to repair his ankle injury back in November. He should be ready to participate if the surgery and rehab went well. Gay suffered a meniscus injury during practice ahead of Super Bowl LV. It's unclear if he'll be healthy enough to participate in OTAs, though the team did expect him to be available to start the season at the time of his surgery. Smith finished the season on the practice squad injured list with a hamstring injury and was never activated from it. It's unclear how severe the injury was and if he'll be ready for OTAs. Finally, Baker suffered a non-contact break to his femur during Week 17 of the 2020 NFL season. It was described as a "clean break" which makes for an easier healing process. I wouldn't be surprised if he was able to participate in some capacity but not yet fully. Then, of course, there are the players who could have suffered injuries during the offseason that we don't yet know about. Be on the lookout for the status of all the above players and more.

Who doesn't show up?

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

OTAs are voluntary and it's possible that some players simply won’t show up. Most of the time, those are players have contract-oriented grievances or are in their contract years and don’t want to risk injury until they’ve signed a new deal. Last season, the Chiefs had a player with a clear contract grievance in Chris Jones. He stayed away from voluntary workouts in order to avoid the possibility of ruining his chances at a long-term extension. The decision was a smart one as Jones eventually got a long-term deal done with Kansas City in July. This season, the Chiefs don't really have many players with similar contract disputes. Tyrann Mathieu is someone who bears watching, but he already was in the building for Phase 2 work in the weight room. It'd stand to reason that he'd be back out there for practices.

How does the starting offensive line come together?

Steve Sanders/Kansas City Chiefs via AP

The Chiefs have invested a lot of resources into rebuilding their offensive line this offseason. They've acquired a ton of pieces via free agency, the draft and trade. Now the only question that remains is how all those pieces will fit together? Andy Reid has always been a proponent of playing the five best guys, but he's also shown favoritism toward veteran players in the past. My early depth chart projection has LT Orlando Brown Jr. / LG Joe Thuney / C Creed Humphrey / RG Kyle Long / RT Mike Remmers winning out the starting jobs. Really, the final combination could include any number of players with Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Austin Blythe, Trey Smith and Lucas Niang. Those guys are all possibilities to start at various spots.

Where do the rookies fit in?

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The Chiefs added six rookies in the 2021 NFL draft and have seven undrafted free agent rookies on their 90-man offseason roster. All these rookies will get an opportunity to get on the field with the veterans for the first time. We’ll get to see exactly where they fit in the grand scheme of the roster in Kansas City. Even though the team was without a first-round draft pick, there are already high expectations for several of the Chiefs' drafted rookies. Players like Nick Bolton and Creed Humphrey are being hailed as potential starters. All of the Day 3 picks are believed to be able to contribute as rookies too. Could someone else surprise and work their way up to a significant role early on? As for the undrafted free agents, will any of them prove to be more than depth players? Are there any Tershawn Wharton's in this crop? This is the point in the offseason program where the coaching staff begins to form those types of opinions on new players.

Second-year leap or sophomore slump?

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The 2020 NFL draft class has been hailed as one of Brett Veach's best, but how will those players fair during their second season? Lucas Niang is essentially a rookie after his 2020 opt-out, but everyone else should be looking to take a leap in their second season with the squad. Players like Clyde Edwards-Helaire and L'Jarius Sneed, who had standout rookie campaigns should look to build on those. Especially, Edwards-Helaire who stands to benefit from the investments that the Chiefs have made in the offensive line. Players who were role players like Mike Danna, Tershawn Wharton and Willie Gay Jr. should be looking to claim more playing time in 2021. BoPete Keyes, who didn't have much in the way of opportunity in 2020, should be clawing for a roster spot given the depth at the cornerback position. Will these guys take the second-year leap or will they fall into the sophomore slump? OTAs can give us an early idea of just how prepared these players are heading into their second season in the NFL. [listicle id=93276]

1

1