The Chiefs finished the last of their 19 offseason practices on Thursday. Their next stop will be the start of training camp next month at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. Here are three signs to emerge from spring practice that the Chiefs can take as good news, followed by three that could turn into problems:Positives
• Everyone finally seems to be pulling in the same direction, which hasn’t been the case with the Chiefs for some time. Chairman Clark Hunt’s move to divide the power between general manager and head coach is working the way he intended. The communication between general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid is by all accounts excellent, which can only help the Chiefs. A candy wrapper in the stairwell is now just that and not the sign of some sinister plot to bring down the entire operation. The Chiefs are back to what really matters, which is winning football games.
• The Chiefs showed a more aggressive defensive personality under new coordinator Bob Sutton, and the early returns look good. The Chiefs may yield more big plays than they have, but they’ll also create more turnovers than they did last season, when they were last in the league in that statistic. The Chiefs haven’t had more than 41 sacks in a season since 2000, but this team intends to get to that point and beyond.
• The free-agent additions of Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson give the Chiefs some much-needed depth at cornerback, a most important position. They joined Brandon Flowers to provide a strong trio of cornerbacks capable of playing the man-to-man coverage that Sutton’s system requires while allowing the Chiefs to match up with opponents who are deep at wide receiver. One of those opponents, not coincidentally, is Denver, which has Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and now Wes Welker to catch Peyton Manning’s passes.Negatives
• The Chiefs signed Donnie Avery to be the fast wide receiver they’ve lacked the last few seasons, but Avery watched for most of the offseason because of a high ankle sprain. Avery should be ready to participate when camp starts, but he will be behind when he gets to St. Joe, and that’s not a good omen for a team hoping to find playmakers to go with Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe. Rookies Travis Kelce and Knile Davis showed they have ability and could help this season, but it’s not wise to count on much from a pair of third-round picks. It’s also unwise to count on help from two players, Jon Baldwin and Dexter McCluster, who have disappointed before.
• The shuffling in the middle of the offensive line during offseason practice could be a sign the Chiefs aren’t comfortable with Jeff Allen and Jon Asamoah at guard and Rodney Hudson at center. Donald Stephenson received plenty of work at guard with Allen occasionally shifting over to center. It’s definitely a sign of trouble if the Chiefs continue with their experimenting well into camp and the preseason.
• The offense could use some help in the form of favorable field position or touchdowns from the return game. But the Chiefs are going with one player who is unproven and another who has been unproductive as their return specialists. Davis didn’t return a kickoff in college at Arkansas, but he’s been the returner at practice. He has the ability to be successful but has a lot to learn. McCluster is the punt returner, but he’s produced little since bringing a kick back for a touchdown in his first NFL game. McCluster also weighs only 170 pounds, so he tends to wear down if he plays a lot on offense and also returns kicks.