For the standard observer, it’s safe to say there’s not much that can be gleaned from a non-padded rookie minicamp practice.
But that’s not the case for the Chiefs’ coaches and front office. For them, the three-day rookie minicamp — which concludes today — is a a chance for them to see, up close and personal, how the players they selected this year move around, respond to coaching andabsorb concepts.
And for the players, such as sixth-round pick Zach Fulton, it’s a chance to get adjusted to a few challenges, despite the fact they aren’t wearing pads.
“It is pretty physical, despite popular belief,” said Fulton, a guard from Tennessee. “It does get pretty physical down in the trenches. I’m still working on my hand placement and my footwork and things like that. It’s the fundamentals.”
But that’s now all Fulton, who is listed at 6 feet 5 and 316 pounds, is working on. Now that the Chiefs’ strength and conditioning coaches have gotten their hands on all the rookies, they attack their weight-room weaknesses in hopes of building up their bodies.
“We’ve lifted for about two weeks now since we’ve been here, I think it’s helping out a lot,” said Fulton, who has spent both days of the minicamp at right guard “They want me to be more flexible, that’s what they want … it will help me move a lot better, move a lot faster.”
That makes sense. Fulton didn’t finish among the top combine testers in the 20-yard shuttle or three-cone drill, which help measure a player’s agility. Athleticism is a necessary trait for a lineman in Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s offense, due to the heavy reliance on zone blocking, but the club drafted him anyway because they liked his physical style.
“He’s more of a road grader,” said area scout Pat Sperduto. “(Tennessee) had four different offenses while he was up there and a couple head coaches, so he had gone through a lot of change and he adjusted and adapted to all the different styles that they had … his style is roll off the ball and move people and that’s kind of his gig. He does a great job of setting a pocket presence for the quarterback. He is strong and can squat down and hold the rush out.”
Now the goal is to make him better, and Fulton isn’t the only rookie looking to do that. Third-round cornerback Phillip Gaines said he weighed in at 183 pounds when he arrived in Kansas City, which is 10 pounds fewer than he weighed at the combine in February.
“I honestly don’t know how big I can get, but I’m sure once I start eating right and lifting right, I could definitely get to the 190s consistently,” Gaines said.
Gaines is optimistic the extra weight, whenever it comes, will help him with his press-man technique, which the Chiefs’ corners use regularly.
“That way they can’t move you off your place,” Gaines said. “Once you get that and the technique and the strength, all of that bundles into one and you get a good corner.”
Sixth-round pick Laurent Duvernay-Tardif said he weighed in at 307 pounds when he arrived in Kansas City, though he is listed at 321 pounds. After the draft, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said he could easily see Duvernay-Tardif end up between 325 and 330 pounds, and Duvernay-Tardif’s lean frame — he doesn’t have much of gut — belies this.
“Over the last couple months with the combine and everything I was trying to get a bit leaner, but I think I can put a couple pounds on easily,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “If coach wants me at 315 I will go at 315, 320 without any problem, I think.”
In the meantime, Duvernay-Tardif said the Chiefs’ strength coaches are emphasizing the power clean, which will help him get out of his stance in pass protection.
“Especially on (the) two-step drop, when you want to be really aggressive on the line,” Duvernay-Tardif said.
The Chiefs haven’t been afraid to experiment with Duvernay-Tardif either, as he lined up at right tackle on Saturday and left guard on Sunday. His athleticism is apparent, though he remains raw, and the upside is noticeable, much like Fulton’s, whose size and strength — he simply looks bigger than Duvernay-Tardif — shined at times this weekend.
But during a camp that’s all about self improvement, don’t expect Fulton to go crowing about his current areas of focus. The hope is he’ll soon improve his flexibility, which will improve his ability to get to the second level and execute combination blocks. The sooner he does that, the sooner he’ll have a chance to compete for playing time.
“I think I’m OK in that aspect,” Fulton said. “But I think I can be a lot better.”