Andy Reid didn’t waste much time before establishing, firmly, the current status of the Chiefs’ No. 2 quarterback competition between Tyler Bray, Aaron Murray and Kevin Hogan.
“It’s open,” Reid said on Tuesday, the beginning of training camp. “It’s wide open.”
No doubt. The offseason departure of veteran Chase Daniel, who served as Alex Smith’s backup the previous three years, has created a significant void, one that must be filled with a competent option if the Chiefs truly hope to be Super Bowl contenders this year.
Any long-term injury to Smith likely would sink their title hopes, no matter who is in reserve, but if Smith missed a few games due to injury, a legitimate backup would be someone who gives them a chance to win until opposing coordinators figure out how to properly attack him.
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That’s why camp — and the four preseason games — will be so important to Reid’s evaluation process.
“That gives you the best indicator of what you’re going to have,” Reid said. “Here, things will be a little faster than they were. We’ll be in pads. We’ll be in live drills. They won’t be live, but we’ll have live drills, so things will be faster and there will be a rush on them that will be close, but they’re not live.”
Bray, who signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2013, will get the first crack at the job. He opened organized team activities as the No. 2, and briefly ceded the job to Murray for a week before retaking it toward the end of OTAs.
Brayhas the most arm talent of any quarterback on the roster and consistently flashed an ability to throw deep routes. However, he says he’s still working on improving his footwork, processing his reads and mastering the playbook.
“In college, you played football,” Bray said. “But in the NFL, you learn it.”
To that end, Bray said he learned how to prepare the last three years by observing starter Alex Smith and his veteran backup Chase Daniel, who left for Philadelphia in March to compete for a starting job.
“I mean, Chase took notes on every little detail there was,” Bray said. “I don’t want to say I wasn’t taking a lot of notes, it’s just (I learned) how you take notes. Certain things you need to write down and certain things you can kind of remember and don’t need to. He kind of taught us that.”
Murray, a fifth-round pick of the Chiefs in 2014 who entered the NFL with a reputation for being a smart player, agreed.
“We want to be that sounding board for Alex,” Murray said. “(So) he’s able to say in a meeting with us just watching film, ‘Hey what do you see here? What do you think about this player?’ You know, kind of help him find little tells in the defense that he might have missed.
“He’s been like a big brother to all of us, you know, our first few years in the league.”
Murray also said he will try to prove he can get through his progressions, make the proper adjustments at the line and, most importantly, improve his accuracy during training camp. He occasionally struggled in the latter area during in OTAs, but he is hopeful some mechanical adjustments he made in Atlanta over the last month will pay off.
“A couple of hip things, a couple of back things, able to work on rotation a little bit more, you know, just being more fluid with the throw and less stiff,” Murray said.
The last candidate in the battle is Hogan, a rookie fifth-round pick from Stanford. Considering his lack of experience, expecting him to stick with Bray or Murray for the No. 2 job — both players got far more reps than Hogan did in OTAs — is probably a bit of a stretch.
However, he did impress his coaches in his limited snaps with his anticipation and intelligence, and appears to be a prime developmental candidate worthy of a roster spot.
“Yeah, we’re excited about him,” Reid said. “The more reps he gets the better he is. He’s a smart kid. We know he’s a good athlete with good body strength. He picks things up well.”
From here, Reid said, it’s just a matter of getting Hogan more reps and building his confidence, which is already helped by playing in a similar system in college.
“Some of the terminology was similar — it wasn’t like he hadn’t heard any of it before,” Reid said. “Murray was the same way, he had done some pro-style offense in college where we saw the same thing. Tyler, when he came in, it was a huge window to close and looks like he’s done a pretty good job of it.”
That’s why, as camp begins, Bray is currently slotted as the No. 2 quarterback. To hold on to the job, he will need to make positive strides and instill confidence in his teammates and coaches. If he fails to do that, it will open the door for Murray and, to a lesser extent, Hogan.
Of course, this will all have a chance to play out, assuming the Chiefs don’t make a veteran free-agent addition like Nick Foles, who was drafted by Reid in Philadelphia in 2012 and was just released by the Rams.
Signing a veteran wouldn’t necessarily be ideal, considering their tight cap situation. The Chiefs only have $226,000 in space, according to the NFL Players Association, and most backup quarterbacks make around $4 million a year.
However, more money can always be carved out if a team deems it necessary, and if the Chiefs decide to stick with their current options — Bray, Murray or Hogan — it would be a positive reinforcement of Reid’s response Tuesday, when asked whether he thinks one of them could get the job done if pressed into regular-season duty.
“I think they are capable guys,” Reid said.