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Five Storylines to Follow During Chiefs' OTAs

The Chiefs begin Phase Three of the offseason program on Tuesday

Over the next three weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs will hold 10 OTA (offseason team activity) practices.

While there's no contact allowed during these workouts, the offense can go up against the defense in 11-on-11, 9-on-7, and 7-on-7 drills. That's different than what they've been doing in Phase Two, which consists of the offense and defense working separately.

It's an important time for the team to get on the same page and go over the schemes and responsibilities with their positional coaches, and also hone in on the finer details of the technique that largely determines their success at this level.

It's also just another step that tells all of us football is getting closer.

There are currently 90 players on the roster who will participate in OTAs.

Here are five storylines to follow over the next three weeks during OTA practices:

1. How do the rookies acclimate to the speed of these practices?

A couple of weeks ago, during rookie minicamp, the pace of the practice was a little slower, as most of the players participating weren't familiar with the offense or defense and its verbiage.

That's not the case during OTAs, and things won't be slowed down for them in the same way they were at rookie minicamp. The majority of the guys on the field now know what they're doing and what's expected of them.

Perhaps more than any other time of the year, this is when veteran leadership begins to show itself, as guys who have been in this system help rookies, who are still pretty green, understand what's happening.

So, for the 12 undrafted free agents and six members of the 2017 draft class, there's pressure to make sure they catch on and work at the pace that's now expected of them.

2. With Travis Kelce rehabbing, who steps up?

It's already known that All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce underwent shoulder surgery earlier this offseason, so that means there's valuable reps available for everyone else.

The Chiefs have four tight ends on the roster who will work for those reps—Demetrius Harris, Ross Travis, Gavin Escobar and Emmanuel Byrd.

Escobar, who signed as a free agent after four years with the Dallas Cowboys, has the most NFL production of the other tight ends on the roster.

After being selected in the second round (No. 47 overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft out of San Diego State, Escobar played in 62 games for the Cowboys and caught 30 passes for 333 yards with eight touchdowns.

The tight end group surprised students from Immanuel Luther School with a Chiefs Play 60 clinic during a field trip to the Chiefs Sports Lab at Arrowhead Stadium.

Harris, who has been with the Chiefs for four seasons, caught 17 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown last season. He has been a key special teams player the last couple of years as well.

Travis was signed to the Chiefs' practice squad in 2015 after playing college basketball at Penn State. He played in six games last season and caught three passes for 15 yards.

Byrd, who played collegiately at Marshall, was signed to the roster as an undrafted free agent following the Chiefs' rookie minicamp a couple of weeks ago.

3. How does a deep and talented cornerback position shake out?

One of the more popular positions mocked in the first round to the Chiefs leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft was cornerback.

Ultimately, the Chiefs selected versatile USC defensive back Leon McQuay in the sixth round, and he joins a deep and talented group of young players vying for snaps in one of the best secondaries in the entire league.

Led by All-Pros Eric Berry and Marcus Peters, the Chiefs' defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL last year with 33 takeaways.

Looking towards OTAs, it will be interesting how the reps are split up and who gets in the mix with Peters.

Some of the key returners outside of Peters are Steven Nelson, Terrance Mitchell, Phillip Gaines and Kenneth Acker, who all have experience in this defense at that spot. But there are also a handful of talented young players with big opportunities over the next few weeks.

Guys like former New Orleans Saints second-round pick Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who signed with the Chiefs after rookie minicamp, or the local product and recently signed De'Vante Basuby, who had been with the Chiefs a couple of years ago and got a little action for the Chicago Bears last year.

Last year's sixth-round pick, D.J. White, could also figure in the mix.

4. What's it look like at inside linebacker?

Veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson, the Chiefs' all-time leading tackler and one of the best defensive players in franchise history, is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury and is working his way back to teh field.

But as he's said all offseason, Johnson recently stated once more that he plans to be ready by training camp.

The question becomes what the inside linebacker position looks like during OTAs without Johnson manning the middle of that defense.

The answer is that there are a handful of young guys with some experience who should get plenty of those reps.

Last year, Ramik Wilson, D.J. Alexander, Justin March-Lillard and Terrance Smith all found playing time at inside linebacker, and each of those guys return in 2017.

Alexander is the oldest of that group at just 25 years old.

The Chiefs also used a fifth-round pick this year on Georgia Southern linebacker Ukeme Eligwe, who has experience at both the strong and weak inside linebacker positions.

5. Where is Tyreek Hill going to line up?

The answer is probably, "everywhere," but the NFL's newest dynamic weapon will be a fun player to watch during OTAs strictly from a creative standpoint.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid has had an entire offseason to find ways to get Hill, who averaged a ridiculous 44.1 yards per play on his 12 touchdowns last year, the ball from a variety of spots on the field.

Last year, Hill carried the ball 24 times for 267 yards with four touchdowns—averaging more than 11 yards per carry.

While the entire playbook for Hill won't be opened up during a few practices in May, that doesn't mean it won't be fun to watch a little bit of what might be in store for him in 2017.

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