Five things to watch at the Chiefs’ rookie minicamp

05/23/2014 8:28 PM

06/03/2014 10:17 AM

1. How healthy is Aaron Murray? This is perhaps the biggest story of camp. The Chiefs didn’t let a torn ACL prevent them taking the prolific ex-Georgia quarterback in the fifth round, and the obvious hope is that he’s quality developmental prospect with a high ceiling. Murray declared himself healthy immediately following his selection, saying he’s currently doing everything — running, jumping, dropbacks, rollouts — to prepare for the upcoming season. Chiefs general manager John Dorsey was a little more cautious, however, saying Murray may not be “full go” until training camp.

That said, it will be interesting to see how many restrictions the Chiefs place on Murray, who will battle with Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray for the top backup jobs, at least for this season.

2. Where will De’Anthony Thomas line up? The Chiefs currently list their dynamic fourth-round pick as a running back, which is a tad curious considering he checks in as a lightweight at 5 feet 9 and 174 pounds and will be playing behind established contributors in Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis. Thomas played running back his senior year at Oregon, but he scored 46 touchdowns over his career in a variety of roles, including slot receiver, kick returner and punt returner. It’s practically a given the Chiefs will use Thomas in the latter roles, but given the sizable hole at slot receiver left by Dexter McCluster, who signed with the Tennessee Titans in the offseason, it would be a mild surprise if Thomas didn’t log the majority of his snaps there this season. It will also be interesting to see what jersey number Thomas ends up with, as he is the only member of the draft class to not be assigned his digits.

3. Dee Ford’s juice. The Chiefs felt strong enough about the Auburn pass-rusher’s potential to take him at No. 23 overall in the draft, despite the fact that they have two very good players at outside linebacker in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. This is a long-term play for the Chiefs, who know the best way to compete in today’s pass-happy NFL is by hitting the quarterback early and often.

For this year, at least, he will rotate in and provide insurance in case Houston and Hali get hurt, as they did late last season. But with Hali turning 31 this year and boasting a large cap number next year, a strong season by Ford could speed the veteran’s departure, considering the club stands to save about $9 million by cutting him in 2015. That said, it will be interesting to see how much of Ford’s speed around the corner on his college tape translates when watching him in person.

4. Phillip Gaines’ press-coverage technique. After watching his secondary get eviscerated the second half of last season, Dorsey took the lanky, long-armed corner with 4.38 speed in the third round to give his cornerback group a dose of athleticism. Gaines primarily played press-man coverage at Rice, which is the Chiefs’ coverage of choice. It will be interesting to see how natural he looks when trying to play physically at the line of scrimmage and defending the rub and pick routes that tortured the secondary late last year.

5. Can any non-drafted rookies stick? The Chiefs have brought in a handful of intriguing undrafted rookies, including Brigham Young safety Daniel Sorensen and Georgia State receiver/return man Albert Wilson, who were pegged by some to be drafted.

The Chiefs’ free safety play was poor toward the end of last season, and they didn’t bring in any new bodies in the offseason, instead preferring to give Husain Abdullah (who played well when given an opportunity) and Sanders Commings (a 2013 fifth-rounder whose rookie year was all but wiped out because of injuries) a shot at the job. If Sorensen, who was productive at BYU, has a productive camp, he could stick for a while.

The same can be said for Wilson, who had a profilic return career at Georgia State and could help a team that lost its starting punt and kick returners from last season.

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.

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