Up until this week all of the practicing the Chiefs have been conducting has come with voluntary attendance. That is not the case with the next three days of practice, where the team can penalize players for not showing up. And that takes us to the very first thing we will be watching this week: Chris Jones.
Should We Be Concerned About Chris Jones?
The short answer is probably not. Jones is a rising star and wants to be paid like one. Understandable. Him staying away from the Chiefs until he gets a new contract isn’t anything to get in a twist about. It happens all the time with players of his caliber.
But… the Chiefs are installing a new defense, that defense has a number of new faces, and it would be nice if the best returning player on the Chiefs defense was in Kansas City this week. He would benefit, as would the team. But as long as this hold-out doesn’t extend into significant portions of training camp, all should be fine.
These next three days will presumably give us a first look at the potential starting lineup for the Chiefs, as the defensive coaches see the players today. Most specifically, I want to see how the linebackers shake out.
Darron Lee and Damien Wilson are the biggest linebacker additions, joining Reggie Ragland, Anthony Hitchens, and Dorian O’Daniel who are returning. There is also Jeremiah Attaochu and undrafted free agent Gary Johnson, plus a handful of players returning from last year’s practice squad.
Steve Spagnuolo’s 4-3 is only a base defense. With the number of sub packages teams are in for most plays, trying to slot players into those traditional 4-3 positions is fun, but mostly meaningless. In Lee, Wilson, and DOD the Chiefs have some very good cover linebackers. In Ragland and Hitchens they have run stuffers (if we pretend both didn’t play in 2018.)
Who fills what roll, and who sees the field together will be interesting to watch both this week and during training camp. And with only six linebackers expected to make the final roster, don’t be surprised if one of the “names” gets cut.
Tyreek Hill remains suspended by the team, so he won’t be there. But as the elephant in the practice facility, he will be talked about. Will the Chiefs make any public statements?
Even though there has been updated news that the D.A. is no longer looking into the case, and some reports now claim that Hill’s fiancee is actually the focus of DCF investigation, and not Hill himself, I don’t expect Andy Reid or any other team official to make any formal statements. The NFL’s investigation is still open, and it is likely to result in some sort of suspension. Being mindful of that, look for Reid to keep everything close to the vest when answering reporter’s questions.
As for those reports regarding Hill’s fiancee, I have reason to doubt the people making those reports. That doesn’t mean they aren’t true, but it does mean that I will continue to wait and see. There are still too many unknowns to make judgements on what happened, or predictions on what will happen going forward.
Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz will continue to lock down the tackle positions, which is a good thing. Schwartz is one of the absolute best and most durable tackles in football, and Fisher is in the upper tier of left tackles. If Fisher, hadn’t been selected 1st overall, and was instead a 2nd round pick, I think fans would look upon him more favorably. The truth is, he’s good.
A healthy Laurent Duvernay-Tardif will be the starting right guard, which is also good. And even though there are some who’d like to see 7th round pick Nick Allegretti transition to center, but I have a hard time seeing him ascend to the starting lineup. I like him, but he went in the 7th round for a reason. Austin Reiter at center is no Mitch Morse, but clearly the Chiefs like him enough to let Morse walk.
Reiter has some hip and swivel limitations, but he is being coached by Andy Heck, the absolute best in the business. As an established starter now, I expect to see Reiter continue to grow.
That leaves left guard and two guys to battle it out, Cameron Erving and Andrew Wylie. Neither player is a natural guard, but work great as swing lineman that can jump in and fill holes at both guard and tackle. But both did see significant time at guard last season.
Both men will be important members of the line this season. It just remains to be seen who will be the starter at left guard come Week 1.