5 things to watch as Chiefs begin OTAs

The Kansas City Chiefs begin Phase 3 of the offseason workout program with organized team activities (OTAs) starting on Monday, May 22. This will be the first of three groups of OTA practice sessions. In total, there will be 10 individual OTA practices during the course of Phase 3.

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. It’s the most extensive football work for the full team since Super Bowl LVII.

Here are five things to keep an eye on with OTAs about to begin for the Chiefs:

Who is healthy and who isn't?

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It’s always important to take a look at the health of the roster when they all gather for the first time. There are a few players coming off of injury who might not participate fully in OTAs.

Notably, RB Isiah Pacheco had two offseason surgeries and it’s unclear how much he’ll participate as a result.

There are players coming off of season-ending injuries, such as DT Tershawn Wharton, who suffered a torn ACL last season. It’s unclear how much he’ll do, but Chiefs GM Brett Veach did recently say that he, “looks good.”

Then, of course, there is WR Justyn Ross. He spent the entire year on IR after having surgery on his foot. Fans are quite excited to see the progress that he has made.

Another player to look for is rookie DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah. He recently had surgery on his thumb, which kept him out of rookie minicamp. Will he be healthy enough to get some work in during this first group of OTAs?

Who doesn't show up?

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OTAs are voluntary and it’s possible that some players simply won’t show up. Most of the time, those are players who are dealing with contract-oriented grievances and don’t want to risk injury until they’ve signed a new deal.

Chris Jones skipped OTAs when he was on the franchise tag and negotiating a long-term deal. Could Jones stay away again as he’s in the final year of that contract and looking for an extension?

Another player to keep an eye on is CB L’Jarius Sneed, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal. He’s the top performer out of the team’s 2020 NFL draft class. He could hold out in hopes of a new contract, but it’s not guaranteed that an extension is actually coming.

Where do the rookies fit in?

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The Chiefs added seven rookies in the 2023 NFL draft and have 14 undrafted free agent rookies on their 90-man offseason roster. All these players will get an opportunity to really get on the field and play with the veterans for the first time during OTA practices. We’ll get to see exactly where they fit in the grand scheme of the roster in Kansas City.

Unlike last season, I’m not sure there are expectations that any of the players drafted will come in and be Day 1 starters for the team. They mostly figure in as rotational pieces, depth or developmental prospects at this time. Of course, that could change throughout the process should a player stand out or excel during the remainder of the offseason.

One player I’m curious to find out more about is OT Wanya Morris. Will he slot in as a swing tackle as a rookie or is he more of a developmental prospect at tackle? The same goes for DE BJ Thompson. Could he possibly push for snaps on defense this season? This particular portion of the offseason program might be most valuable to learn about WR Rashee Rice.

Second-year leap or sophomore slump?

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The 2022 NFL draft class has been regarded as one of Brett Veach’s best during the course of his career as general manager. He managed to build an entire cornerback room in one draft class with key contributors like Trent McDuffie, Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams. He grabbed Isiah Pacheco in the seventh round. Really the only player who wasn’t a contributor in Year 1 was Darian Kinnard.

Could any of the players that didn’t have the most productive or impactful rookie seasons rise to the occasion and contribute at a greater level in 2023? One player that fans will be paying close attention to is second-year WR Skyy Moore. Without JuJu Smith-Schuster on the roster, he should receive a lot more opportunities to contribute this upcoming year.

Kick and punt return duties

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With Skyy Moore and Isiah Pacheco expected to take larger roles on offense, Dave Toub will again be looking for some new blood at the return specialist positions.

Jerrion Ealy and Ihmir Smith-Marsette could have a leg up on the competition as some veterans on the roster. Richie James is a player that is expected to be a contributor in this regard.

Undrafted WR Nikko Remigio is someone who could push for a roster spot due to his ability in this area. Last season alone, he had 13 punt returns for 259 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 21 kick returns for 480 yards.

A sleeper to watch here is Justyn Ross, who returned 11 punts for 314 yards, including two punt return touchdowns as a senior at Central High School in Phenix City, Alabama.

Story originally appeared on Chiefs Wire