The Chiefs may have lost three veterans along the offensive line during free agency, but offensive coordinator Doug Pederson remains optimistic the youngsters who remain can — and will — grow up in a hurry.
“You do lose guys, but we also played a lot of guys on the offensive line last year due to injury,” Pederson said. “You hate to see guys go in free agency, but we just know it’s the nature of the business we’re in. But the next guy steps up. That’s always been the M.O.”
As it stands, the most experienced player on the starting offensive line will be center Rodney Hudson, who is entering his fourth season. Left guard Jeff Allen, right guard Rishaw Johnson and right tackle Donald Stephenson are entering their third seasons, while tackle Eric Fisher returns to his more familiar left side after struggling on the right side as a rookie last year.
At the start of organized training activities in April, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said the 6-foot-8 Fisher, who is listed at 305 pounds, added five pounds of “good weight” this offseason and is hoping to add five more before the season. The hope, obviously, is that the extra weight and strength will help him battle in the trenches.
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“I think that’s a natural progression for an o-lineman, especially a young, lean guy like him coming into this thing to just put on a few extra pounds,” said offensive line coach Andy Heck. “I think he feels good at his weight and he’s been working hard in that weight room, so I think it’s going to be a positive for him.”
Walker coming along
The Chiefs signed veteran defensive lineman Vance Walker to a three-year, $13 million contract this offseason, presumably to replace former No. 3 overall pick Tyson Jackson ― who signed with Atlanta as a free agent ― in the starting lineup.
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said the club is happy with his progress thus far, though holdovers like Mike DeVito, Allen Bailey and to a lesser extent, Mike Catapano, get the majority of the first-team work at defensive end.
“He's done a good job, he's been working in there,” Sutton said. “We’ve got him playing a couple different positions in there and he's learning our techniques. I think Vance is gonna be fine.”
Santos getting his kicks
Rookie free agent Cairo Santos stands just 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, but his booming — and accurate — field goal attempts have been impressive in the off-season program.
“He's more than just a camp guy,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said of Santos, whose 26 consecutive made field goals at Tulane during 2012-13 is the second-longest streak in NCAA history.
“We like him. I think he's got an NFL leg. There's no question he's going to be kicking in the NFL. … He’s good to have in camp.”
Receiver A.J. Jenkins (knee), tight end Travis Kelce (knee), receiver Kyle Williams (knee) and defensive tackle Risean Broussard (knee) did not practice.
Cornerback David Van Dyke also missed his second straight practice with a hamstring injury.
Outside linebacker Justin Houston and cornerback Brandon Flowers were not present for the fifth straight practice of organized team activities.