The Kansas City Chiefs will hold their first of 10 offseason training activity (OTAs) practices on Tuesday afternoon at the University of Kansas Hospital Training Complex as Phase Three of the offseason program begins.
The team will hold three of these OTA practices each week for the next two weeks, running Tuesday through Thursday (May 24-26, May 31-June 2), and then will finish up with their final four OTAs June 7-10.
After the conclusion of these 10 voluntary OTA practices on June 10, the team will then hold their mandatory minicamp June 14-16 before letting the players go before they have to report back for training camp at the end of July.
The team began Phase One offseason workouts on April 18. This part of the offseason consisted predominantly of strength and conditioning sessions with head strength coach Barry Rubin and his staff.
Chiefs players and Chiefs Strength Coaches working out on Thursday.
Phase Two began on May 2 and incorporated time on the field with the coaching staff, but the players weren't allowed to go up against the other side of the ball (offense vs. defense), and there wasn't any contact permitted.
As we get set to begin OTAs on Tuesday, here are five storylines we'll be following throughout the next few weeks.
Key players returning from injury
While it's not yet known how much each of the guys will participate during OTAs as they return from various injuries, there are several players worth keeping an eye on as we move forward.
It starts with the NFL's all-time leading rusher in yards per carry, Jamaal Charles, who is coming back from a torn ACL suffered in Week 5 of last season.
In the five healthy seasons he's had over the past seven years, Charles has ran for more than 1,000 yards in each of them, adding 61 total touchdowns over that entire span as well.
Coach Reid has said Charles will participate in a limited capacity during OTAs, but in any case, it will be good to see him back out on the field for the Chiefs.
Other players of note who are returning from injury are linebacker Justin Houston, receiver Jeremy Maclin and cornerback Phillip Gaines. Houston and Gaines both had knee surgeries, while Maclin has already worked his way back from an ankle injury suffered in the playoff win over the Houston Texans.
Offense under new direction at the coordinator position
With former offensive coordinator Doug Pederson leaving to become the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, the Chiefs promoted both quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy and spread game analyst Brad Childress to co-offensive coordinators.
The continuity of the coaching staff over the past three years has been a source of success for quarterback Alex Smith, who has put together three of the best years of his 11-year career thus far since stepping on the field with this group of coaches in Kansas City.
The good news for Smith and the Chiefs is that even with Pederson gone, the continuity remains as Nagy and Childress take over the offense under the direction of the offensive-minded head coach, Andy Reid.
While the workload and communication responsibilities change with the new offensive hierarchy, the time Nagy and Childress will spend during these OTA practices to work through some of these changes with their new responsibilities will be key over the next few weeks.
Battle for backup quarterback spot
With veteran quarterback Chase Daniel joining Pederson in Philadelphia after three years of backing up Smith here in Kansas City, the battle for the backup job will be a storyline to watch throughout the entire offseason.
With fourth-year player Tyler Bray and third-year player Aaron Murray, both of whom were picked up by this staff—Bray as an undrafted free agent and Murray as the team's fifth-round pick in 2014—there's plenty of experience in and around this offense from both of those players to feel good about the options.
Therefore, considering these guys know the offensive system well, now it's about who goes out there and executes this offense and makes plays in the process.
It's a huge opportunity for both of them and one that everyone will be watching.
Also, with the recent draft selection of the winningest quarterback in the history of Stanford football—Kevin Hogan—there are now three quarterbacks headed to OTAs and training camp to battle for the No. 2 spot.
Development of the young talent, particularly at cornerback
It's no secret that adding young talent to the secondary was a focus of general manager John Dorsey and his staff during the draft.
They added three defensive backs with their nine total picks in Notre Dame's KeiVarae Russell, Minnesota's Eric Murray and Georgia Tech's D.J. White.
Each of these cornerbacks is known for his physicality and athleticism, and each of them caught the eye of Reid during rookie minicamp a few weeks ago. Reid was impressed with what they brought to the table.
As these three cornerbacks now get set to participate in the start of OTAs on Tuesday, they won't be facing a group of primarily tryout players who won't ever step football on an NFL field again like they were at minicamp.
This is when they will be really tested for the first time, although they're still in shorts and there's still no contact permitted.
With the recent investment in young talent in the secondary, there will also be a lot of focus on the recently promoted Al Harris, who is now the cornerbacks coach and will be tasked with the development of these three rookies, along with second-year players Marcus Peters and Steve Nelson, and a third-year player and a guy being counted upon as he comes back from injury in Gaines.
On the other side of the ball, there will also be a lot of eyes on the receiver position, as second-year player Chris Conley and third-year player Albert Wilson look to take that next step in their development, while rookie Demarcus Robinson looks to continue making the kind of plays we saw from him during rookie minicamp.
Veterans Rod Streater and Mike Williams will also catch a lot of eyes as they look to show they can make plays in this offense.
Offensive line coming together
The Chiefs had nine starting combinations along the offensive line last season because of multiple injuries and other various factors, with several players showing their versatility by starting at multiple spots throughout the season.
As prized veteran free agent pickup Mitch Schwartz continues his indoctrination into this offense, the standout right tackle is hopefully going to help bring some stability to the offensive line, as he hasn't missed a snap thus far in his four-year NFL career.
Schwartz joins a group that includes left tackle Eric Fisher, center Mitch Morse, guards Larry Duvernay-Tardif and Jah Reid, along with Zach Fulton, who started at all three interior offensive line spots last season, as players fighting for a starting spot and who had experience on the field for the Chiefs last season.
Add in rookie fourth-round pick Parker Ehinger, who started at least 10 games in college at Cincinnati at right tackle, right guard and left tackle, and there's a lot that needs to be sorted through and evaluated along the offensive line through these OTA practices.