As a lead-in to the Chiefs’ training camp in St. Joseph, which begins when rookies and quarterbacks report July 20, The Star will rank the 10 most interesting position battles.
1. Backup quarterback
Quarterback is the most scrutinized position on the field, so there should be little surprise that the three-man race between Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray and Aaron Murray for the No. 2 job behind Alex Smith is the most interesting battle of camp.
All three players bring different strengths to the table, but before we dive into that, allow me to say this about Smith: he does not have the strongest arm in the world, and he isn’t a flashy guy. But he is, far and away, the best quarterback on the roster, and his performance during organized team activities proved it. In general, he made good decisions and was easily the most accurate quarterback of the four on the roster. The offense simply performed at a different level when he was on the field.
However, the others are interesting. Daniel proved he could play in the regular-season finale against San Diego, when he and the rest of the backups almost engineered a win over a playoff team. Though he doesn’t always make it look pretty, Daniel is a smart, heady player whose professionalism was valued by the Chiefs last season, and with this being his sixth season in the league, he is a veteran now.
Although the San Diego game was the only regular-season start he has during his entire career, if Smith goes down with an injury at some point, Reid might prefer it if a player Daniel’s age (27) took the reigns of a team hoping to earn playoff berth, as opposed to youngsters like Bray, 22, or Murray, 23.
Still, the problem for Reid is that the latter two probably have a higher upside than Daniel. Bray went undrafted in 2013 amid maturity concerns, but his physical tools are undeniable. At 6 feet 6, he is tall enough to see over his linemen, and he is blessed with a very strong arm, easily the strongest of all the quarterbacks on the roster. Because of this, he is a bit of a gunslinger — he never hesitated to chuck it deep during OTAs — but he can also make throws that the other quarterbacks cannot make. Reid also says Bray is more mature than he was last season and has a much better command of the offense. His potential is intriguing.
However, Bray still has a ways to go when it comes to pocket awareness, consistency and accuracy, and it was apparent during OTAs that he’s still got plenty to learn. But if he can prove during the preseason that he’s made significant strides since last season, the Chiefs could have a hard time cutting him, and might be forced to pick between keeping four quarterbacks — which is unusual — or making a tough choice between Daniel and Bray.
Murray, a fifth-round choice in this year’s draft, is likely a lock to make the team, even though he seems poised to spend this season learning Reid’s offense, just like Bray did a year ago. Like Daniel, he is 6 feet tall and isn’t the physical prototype of a quarterback like Bray is, but Murray possesses enough arm strength to throw it deep and has been praised for his intelligence and intangibles.
During OTAs, he took nearly all his reps behind Smith, Daniel and Bray, but he showed a willingness to scan the field in search of the open man, which is a sign of poise. He is certainly one to keep an eye on throughout the preseason, provided he continues to make progress in his recovery from the torn ACL he suffered last November. The Chiefs have to like the fact Murray, who wore a kneebrace during OTAs, did not seem terribly hampered by the injury once he reported for OTAs..