The Kansas City Chiefs' rookie minicamp kicked off Saturday morning with 68 players taking the field for the first of three practices over the next three days.
"It's a great opportunity for these guys," Chiefs coach Andy Reid explained of this group, which consists of all six of the Chiefs' draft picks, plus the 14 undrafted free agents who have already signed with the team, and then a number of tryout players. "They'll get a lot of good individual work and they have an opportunity—that's the best thing I can tell you.
"They have opportunity to play in the National Football League, which about less than 1 percent of people have an opportunity to do."
The players have meetings in the mornings and then a walkthrough before lunch each day, and then they'll practice each afternoon for a couple of hours. While the physical part of it is important, the amount of information being thrown at these guys in a short amount of time is perhaps the biggest area these guys can impress coaches.
"We're asking them to learn a new language in a day," Reid added. "So, you have to have a little bit of patience, more than you'd have with the normal crew. Then just watch these guys move around and see who can retain some of the points that we throw at them and then still execute."
Last year, the Chiefs ended up signing six of the players who were at the minicamp on a "tryout" basis.
"We don't favor any position," Reid explained. "Whether you're drafted or undrafted, we just have you come out and we're going to coach the dog out of you. They'll be watched every play. They'll be evaluated and graded on every play."
On Saturday the rookies took the field to get in some work with the coaches.
For Reid, who has often spoken of his affinity for being more of a teacher than a coach, the opportunity to take players from a blank slate and try and get them on the same page in a short amount of time is a fun deal.
"Any time I can get out here, I'm loving every minute of it," Reid smiled. "This is what it's all about. Opportunity in the classroom, opportunity to teach. Our coaches get excited about it. We have a couple of coaches here now that we've been coaching for a couple of years and I love seeing the enthusiasm in everybody. I think the players feel that. You may have some grey hairs but you're going to bring it every day."
Here are five other observations from the Chiefs' first day of rookie minicamp:
1. Breeland Speaks confident in his ability to grasp the playbook
The Chiefs traded up to the 45thpick in the second round of the draft last week to select Speaks—the Ole Miss pass-rushing chess piece who was used all over the Rebels' defensive front.
While there always needs to be the disclaimer that the guys are in shorts and there can't be any contact, it was hard not to notice Speaks coming off the edge in team drills on Saturday.
There were a few plays in which he blew up the play and had the quarterback running from the pocket and tossing the ball away—also deflecting a pass from back in the backfield late in practice. He was playing with some energy as well—consistently running around and letting the offense know who was winning each battle. It stood out.
It doesn't mean anything other than it's a good start. It's better to see him make plays than for him not to stand out, and he definitely stood out.
Earlier in the day during his media availability, Speaks spoke about getting the Chiefs' playbook for the first time.
"My first reaction—I could do this," he said. "I looked at a few defenses that we install for the day and pretty much went over those and know those by heart already. Feeling pretty good about the playbook so far."
2. Speaks and his new roommate—Dorian O'Daniel—are meshing well
During media availability, O'Daniel—the Chiefs' third-round pick (No. 100 overall) out of Clemson—spoke about being one of the five defensive players taken in this draft.
"I think it's a credit to Kansas City for drafting the right kind of guys," O'Daniel said. "Me and Breeland (Speaks), we're rooming together and sitting in that hotel room we're like, 'Alright, what's your deal? Who are you? What are you about? I think that's the way it should be with teammates, bringing in a group of rookies that are all defensive.
"We have to stick together and we have to form a relationship because if we form a relationship off the field, it will definitely show on the field and being able to communicate. Even today, me and Breeland being able to communicate because we're on the same side on some plays. Just having that chemistry off the field definitely will translate well."
O'Daniel quickly endeared himself to all Kansas Citians during his presser:
He can stay.
3. UDFA tight end Blake Mack had a phenomenal catch
Again, they are in shorts and all that, but if there's a player offensively that made more plays than anyone else, that might have been undrafted rookie free agent tight end Blake Mack out of Arkansas State.
After taking several short crossers across the middle and displaying the athleticism that made him a First-Team All-Sun Belt player last year with 48 catches for 618 yards and six touchdowns, not to mention a scouting report note from Lance Zierlein at NFL.com that read that Mack has "exciting athletic ability and can be extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands," he went up and high-pointed a pass from quarterback Chase Litton for a fantastic catch down the middle of the field.
4. Michigan's Channing Stribling makes nice interception along the sideline
On back-to-back plays, Michigan cornerback Channing Stribling (6'1", 188 pounds), who is at minicamp on a tryout basis, made plays.
On the first, Stribling read the out-route and made a fantastic toe-tapping interception along the left sideline.
And on the very next play, Stribling made another play and took it the other way for a defensive touchdown.
- Late in practice, Villanova defensive back Malik Reaves also made a fantastic diving interception on a deflected pass across the middle.
5. One of Eric Berry's younger brothers, Elliott, is participating this weekend
You can't have too many Berry's on the field if you're the Chiefs, and there was another one there this weekend as Elliott Berry—the 5'11", 204-pound defensive back who, like his brother, played at Tennessee—was out on the field playing safety in a No. 30 jersey.
Other random notes:
- The weather was perfect.
- Reid spoke about Derrick Johnson signing with the Raiders:
"I think it's great that Derrick has a chance. Derrick is one of my favorite players that I've ever coached since I've been coaching. Every day he came out like he was 20 and I've said that before. The Raiders are getting a great person, a phenomenal person and leader, and all those things. I mean just tremendous. I wish him the best. I texted him that I wish him the best except for about two games, other than that I'm good."