Rookie Parker Ehinger was sitting in his position meeting on Tuesday, minding his own business, when he got a bit of good, unexpected news from offensive line coach Andy Heck.
“Coach Heck is kind of switching up the o-line, putting some guys in new positions and everything,” said Ehinger, one of the Chiefs’ three fourth-round picks this year. “I’m still at left guard, (but I) kind of bumped up and got a chance with the ones and everything.”
Ehinger, who is listed at 6 feet 6 and 310 pounds, took the spot of Zach Fulton with the first team in Tuesday’s practice, the fourth of 10 voluntary practices this offseason.
Fulton, for the record, is also competing for the top backup job at center — where he handled himself quite well last season — with recent free-agent signee Drew Nowak, and he got some reps at that position Tuesday.
But even though Ehinger is just a rookie, he is well aware that he shouldn’t read too much into the switch.
“Coach Reid likes to move around his offensive line, so he’s putting people in new positions to see how they play, see how they respond,” Ehinger said. “The starting five isn’t decided in OTAs, we have a lot of football to be played.”
The Chiefs’ lost Ben Grubbs and Jeff Allen, their two primary starters at left guard a year ago, this offseason. Grubbs retired after a midseason neck injury ended his season, while Allen left to take a hefty deal with the Houston Texans.
Ehinger, along with Fulton, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and veteran Jah Reid, all figure to battle it out for both starting guard spots this offseason, with Duvernay-Tardif — who logged the most offensive snaps (843) of any guard on the Chiefs a year ago, according to Pro Football Focus — considered the heavy favorite on the right side.
But the left spot remains open, and Ehinger — who started at right tackle, right guard and left tackle throughout his college career at Cincinnati — is absolutely in the mix, even though left guard is a position that is new to him.
“It’s a little bit of a step, but it’s not too big of an adjustment,” Ehinger said. “I mean, it might be for some guys, but it hasn’t been too bad. Obviously, you (adjust) to that fast type of play … that’s something I’ve always been pretty good at, honestly. Learning a playbook very quickly has been a strong suit for me.”
Ehinger said the two players who flank him — left tackle Eric Fisher and center Mitch Morse — have been very helpful.
“Just going through this, it will kind of be a cool experience playing next to Fish, playing next to Mitch, learning from some older guys,” Ehinger said. “They’ve been good mentors to me.”
Fisher, a former No. 1 overall pick who is entering his fourth season, likes what he’s seen out of Ehinger.
“Yeah, Big Park, man, he’s a good guy, working hard out there,” Fisher said. “It was kind of cool to get next to him and help him out. It’s kind of a whirlwind when you get in there with the ones, so anything I can do to help him, (I will). We’re just shuffling the line around like Coach Reid always does, trying guys in different spots. Just another combination.”