The Kansas City Chiefs have completed training camp and half of their preseason games. Let’s take a look at how some of the key Chiefs rookies are trending so far.
1. Knile Davis (Last Week: 1st; Trending: Up)
Davis appears to be the back up running back the Chiefs have been missing for the last few seasons, and he more than held his own in an extended run with the first team offense last Friday against the 49ers.
He still has a long way to go in his development, but he is showing progress with catching the ball out of the backfield and holding onto the ball in the run game. When he runs with confidence, he is tough to bring down. The more comfortable he gets with where he is supposed to be on the field, the more dynamic he is going to be with the ball in his hands. His power and speed are unquestioned at this stage.
Pass blocking and identifying his assignment on blitzes has been an issue for Davis, but that is expected of a rookie running back. Fortunately, Kansas City isn’t going to ask him to be that guy on third down for a while.
2. Nico Johnson (Last Week: 2nd; Trending: Up)
Middle linebacker had gone from a noted weakness to an above average position group for the Chiefs. Coming into camp the concern was about who would play next to Derrick Johnson in base packages. Now, after the play of Akeem Jordan and Nico, the question is more about which player do you sit.
Jordan and Johnson have each played well enough to start so far this preseason by proving their physical natures in the run game. Neither is great in the passing game, but the need for them to be is not very high (though it’d be nice if they were). No matter who wins that battle, it is a win for the Chiefs.
3. Travis Kelce (Last Week: 3rd; Trending: Up)
Kelce is suffering from a knee injury which has limited is ability on the field. Still, in two games Kelce has dropped two passes, which is something the Chiefs cannot afford.
Once Kelce is healthy and improves his hands, the Chiefs are going to have a deadly threesome at tight end.
4. Tyler Bray (Last Week: 4th; Tending: Up)
Look, Bray is going to make the roster. The tools are so apparent when compared to Ricky Stanzi that it would be a stunningly bad decision to let Bray go in favor of Stanzi.
With that said, the early returns have not be great. Bray has completed less than half of his passes, and has turned the ball over once in his two quarters of action.
Something to consider here is how fast Andy Reid has Bray working. According to Pro Football Focus, only Aaron Rodgers is averaging a faster time when it comes to getting rid of the ball. Reid clearly has Bray working on getting the ball, making a quick decision, and getting the ball to the receiver.
As a result, you’ve seen some of the errant and rushed throws by Bray. Part of it is rushing his throw, but part of it is also trying to be quick with making his read. This time next year will be interesting to see how much Bray has improved in this regard.
Because, again, the physical tools are very much there.
5. Eric Fisher (Last Week: 5th; Trending: Up)
Let’s hope Fisher’s performance is due to his injuries and unease with his new position and not because he is overwhelmed.
Fisher has been inconsistent at best in his first two games, particularly on bull rushes. The offensive line unit has been bad as a whole, missing assignments and failing to communicate. But Fisher has been the only one who has had issues blocking defenders one-on-one.
Fear is now that the transition to the NFL for the number one overall pick is going to be harder than what was originally hoped.
Honorable Mention: A.J. Jenkins
Yes, I know, A.J. Jenkins is not a rookie. Although he might as well be considering he only appeared in three regular season games last season and has yet to make his first NFL reception.
Expecting anything earth shattering from Jenkins this year (or in the future) would be an unwise decision. However, Kansas City’s new scheme fits AJ Jenkins talents better than what he was being asked to do in San Francisco.
If you look at Jenkins college tape at Illinios, you’ll find that his best routes are on screens, quick slants, in and out patterns, and crosses. Get him the ball in space and he can make some plays. This is what Andy Reid‘s offense is built on. Having some edge speed in Donnie Avery and Jenkins should help get Dwayne Bowe more space to work with, which I’m sure he’d appreciate.
Again, this doesn’t mean Jenkins is going to be an All-Pro suddenly, but fit makes sense.