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Chiefs Rookies Face First Test of Training Camp

Posted Jul 19, 2014

The Chiefs rookies, along with quarterbacks and injured players, report to training camp on Sunday

Between rookie minicamp, voluntary OTAs and a mandatory minicamp, Kansas City Chiefs rookies have had everything and the refrigerator thrown their way heading into training camp next week in St. Joseph, Missouri.

They’ve now had the time to digest that information and will have the opportunity to show their coaches and teammates how much of that information they can not only absorb, but how quickly it can transfer to the field.

The results may not necessarily be graded in terms of making highlight-reel plays all over the field, even though that’s not a bad thing, but show the things taught to them during OTAs are transferring to the field.

This will be their first test, one of many coming their way over the next month of training camp.

Things like knowing the playbook, the techniques they’ve learned from their positional coaches and their responsibilities on any given play. The quicker they pick these things up, the better off they’ll be.

One of the Chiefs rookies that will undoubtedly have a lot of eyes on him during camp is first-round pick and former Auburn defensive end, Dee Ford.

Making the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker already presents a unique challenge for Ford as he learns a new playbook, but Chiefs coach Andy Reid was happy with Ford’s progress after his minicamp performance back in May.

“It looks like he’s really spent a lot of time learning,” Reid said of Ford. “It’s a new position for him and so I think he’s done a great job of jumping in the book and learning the drops, the things that you need to do with the pass coverage. And that’s not an easy thing with all the combination things that we do. I’m happy with what he’s done there.”

After a standout performance last season at Auburn and a starring role in the Senior Bowl, Ford is confident in his ability to learn the system and his role as he transitions to the NFL and in this Chiefs defense.

“I’m going to rush the passer,” Ford said. “I am dropping in coverage, and they’re doing a great job in teaching me and I’m learning the system and it’s becoming second nature. They’re going to beat it in my brain until I get. But I fit perfectly in the system playing behind Justin (Houston) and Tamba (Hali).”

On the other side of the ball and in perhaps the most demanding position on the field, Chiefs rookie quarterback Aaron Murray understood how crucial his reps were during the Chiefs rookie minicamp.

“It really gave us a chance as rookies to [have it] just it be all about us,” Murray said. “To get out there and get a lot of reps. The way you get better in any kind of offense, especially at the quarterback position, is just getting reps.”

While he’ll be sharing reps during training camp, Murray understands how important it is for him to digest the playbook so he feels comfortable during the reps he will get.

“That’s the hard part for all rookies is we can be sometimes hesitant because we don’t know exactly what we’re doing,” Murray said. “So the best thing we can do and the thing I’ve been doing day in and day out, is just studying my playbook. Making sure I know the thing in and out so that when I come out here, it’s just playing, reacting, and making the throws.”

Another player with a lot on his plate is the Chiefs sixth-round pick, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the former McGill University (Canada) offensive lineman who started 29 games in college and was named a two-time All-Canadian tackle.

Coming from a smaller school, Reid knew of the challenges in front of Duvernay-Tardif.

We understood that this was going to be a big jump for him,” Reid said. “Physically we liked the things we saw in him. That’s a position that you can develop and so it’s going to take some time. But he’s very intelligent, he’s a hard worker, he looks like he’s a real tough kid.”

Heading into training camp, Duvernay-Tardif will be someone to watch as the raw, physical tools are there as he develops with the help of his positional coaches.

“I think I’m starting to have a good grasp on all the material but I mean sure, it’s quite different from what I’m used to,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “But I’m smart enough, I think I’m going to be able to learn them.”

While Duvernay-Tardif worked at different spots along the offensive line, another player who will find himself moving around on offense is former Oregon playmaker De’Anthony Thomas.

Whether it’s as a slot receiver, in the backfield or the return game, Thomas has a skillset that warrants a concerted effort to try and get the ball in his hands in any way possible.

“You saw we had him all over the place,” Reid said of Thomas. “So that’s what we’re going to do with him. Brad (Childress) and Eric (Bieniemy) are working with him. Brad’s doing a little bit with the spread stuff and Eric does stuff with him from the back field and a couple of split out things.”

After missing OTAs because of the academic quarter system at Oregon, Thomas didn’t feel like it was going to be an issue in regards to him knowing his responsibilities.

“It’s not at all,” Thomas said. “I feel like I still got to be a student to the game so I got to study and just keep working hard, keep training and eating, just wait until my turn to get back to this field.”

Meanwhile, one rookie who finds himself playing in a system that resembles a lot of what they did in college is former Rice Owl and the Chiefs third-round pick last May, defensive back Phillip Gaines.

“It’s very similar,” Gaines said of the system. “A lot of the time we press-man, and it kind of takes away thinking for corners. When you don’t have to think, you can play as fast as you want.  So, like you said, at Rice and here there’s a lot of press-pass so it’s all good.”

The common thought for all of the rookies has to deal with understanding their responsibilities so well that they don’t have to think—they can just react. They’ll have the opportunity next week to show coaches, teammates and fans how much they know and how quick they can play.

Gaines and the rest of the rookies are set to report to St. Joe for training camp on Sunday, along with quarterbacks and injured players.

As the rest of the veterans report on Wednesday, the rookies have a few days to acclimate to their new home for the next few weeks.

"We have a long way to go, but we’re getting better, we’re getting there,” Reid said at end of OTAs. “At least we’re getting ourselves ramped up to a position where when we get to training camp, we’ve got a lot installed and can just pick up from where we leave here."

Making sure that happens will be the rookies first test.

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