The NFL offseason is in full swing as the annual NFL Scouting Combine kicked off this week in Indianapolis. The event brings together more than 300 of the top draft-eligible prospects in the nation for everything from interviews to the 40-yard dash with the eyes of NFL executives, coaches and scouts upon them.
Among those evaluating the next group of young players at the Combine is Kansas City Chiefs’ Head Coach Andy Reid, who met with the media on Wednesday afternoon. Here are six things that stood out from his press conference and additional interviews with local media off to the side.
1. Reid was asked to provide an update on the Chiefs’ players who were dealing with injuries when the season came to an end.
“Everybody is heading in the right direction,” Reid said. “You would have to ask me specifics, but I’ll tell you that there haven’t been any negatives. Everybody seems to be doing well.”
Reid was then asked about safety Armani Watts (core muscle injury) and offensive guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (leg), who each missed significant time last season. Watts last played in Week 5 and while Duvernay-Tardif returned from Injured Reserve prior to the AFC Championship Game, he didn’t play.
“Both of those two are in good shape. Everybody else is, [too],” Reid said. “That should be a real positive for us with both of them.”
Reid also spoke about the conversations that he’s had with safety Eric Berry, who missed all but three games last season due to a heel injury.
“I think it is all positive,” Reid said. “He didn’t have surgery - that’s not what he did [and he didn’t] have to have surgery there. So, that’s kind of where it’s at.”
2. Reid spoke about the changes to the Chiefs’ defensive coaching staff - notably the hire of new Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo – and what he expects from that group next season.
“It’s great. I’ve known Steve a long time – I hired him in the league – and we knew each other from when we were college coaches. Steve will be a great addition to our defense with the energy that he brings,” Reid said. “Listen, I love [former Defensive Coordinator] Bob Sutton. Bob and I talk – we’re still friends – just sometimes, that’s this business. Sometimes, change can be good for both sides – he’s in Atlanta and he’s going to do a great job there. I’m happy for him and I’m happy for Steve to get back into the game. He’s great for the National Football League. He’s had so much success doing what he does. He was able to bring in some guys to come in around him that he’s familiar with and can work well with. It’s a new look for our defense – guys will have to learn new things – which can be healthy, too.
Spagnuolo coached under Reid in Philadelphia from 1999-2006 before becoming the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator in 2007. For more on Spagnuolo, click here, and to check out each of the new names on the defensive coaching staff, click here.
Speaking of those new faces, Reid was asked if Spagnuolo’s familiarity with the fresh hires helps when implementing a new defense.
“All the [new] coaches he has been familiar with and worked with in most cases. That is a positive,” Reid said. “We feel fortunate that we were able to get the coaches that we did. Most of them had pretty decent jobs with good teams. That is all part of it. They can hit the ground running as opposed to having to go through all the terminology - all the rhetorical stuff that you have to go through. They are hitting it, fast and furious.”
3. With those changes on defense in mind, Reid was asked how the Chiefs balance adding players who fit that defensive scheme with additions on the offensive side of the ball in the upcoming NFL Draft.
“It’s real easy for me - I let [General Manager Brett] Veach do it,” Reid said jokingly. “You look at everybody. You don’t know who is going to be there. The variables of where we pick and who you can target – it’s tough to do. We keep it open. Brett looks at everybody, does his homework on everybody and gives me guys to look at on both sides of the ball. Special teams guys, we hit them all. But he directs all that. He has been around enough to know that he has to look at both sides all the time.”
For a look at where the Chiefs are currently scheduled to pick in the draft, click here.
4. In other news, the Chiefs signed four free agents last week in quarterback E.J. Manuel, defensive back Dontae Johnson and wide receivers Sammie Coates and Davon Grayson. Reid spoke about the signings on Wednesday.
“Brett brought them in for a workout and the guys did well,” Reid said. “I thought E.J. would fit well in the [quarterback] room – I’m sensitive to that. That’s a room where there are a lot of things exposed offensively, so you want to make sure that you have the right personalities in there, and I thought E.J. would fit into that. I think he’ll be a nice addition. He’s a pro and he has a good reputation throughout the league. He had a nice workout and so did the receivers. They did a nice job catching the ball. We signed a secondary player who also did a nice job in his workout. Depth players – it’s an opportunity for these guys to show what they can do and add strength to our football team.”
Manuel was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2013 Draft and has played 30 games (18 starts) during his career. He most recently took the field for the Oakland Raiders in 2017, playing in two games (1 start).
Coates played in 12 games for the Houston Texans last season, hauling in one catch. His best season was in 2016, when he caught 21 passes for 435 yards and two touchdowns while a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Grayson, a second-year player out of East Carolina, spent some time with the Chiefs last offseason. He’s yet to appear in an NFL game.
Johnson battled a groin injury last season and appeared in just one game with the Buffalo Bills, but is just a year removed from starting 16 games for the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. Johnson tallied seven passes defensed and an interception that year for the 49ers.
5. Reid went on to discuss how having NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes at quarterback affects the Chiefs’ offseason priorities, such as taking a quarterback in the draft.
“I’ll tell you that quarterback probably isn’t our No. priority. I know that’s probably a secret, but that’s not our No. 1 thing,” Reid said jokingly. “But you always keep your eyes open. We’ve always brought in a young guy just about every year that I’ve been doing this thing, so you look at everybody. Are you going to draft [a quarterback] in the first round? Probably not. But you keep your eyes open.”
6. Finally, Reid spoke about balancing veteran and young players when constructing the roster.
“It’s always a blend – veterans with young players. That’s the way the National Football League is right now with free agency and the way that it works,” Reid said. “You have to make sure that you’re bringing in the right guys and making that locker room the best you possibly can. We’ve been successful with that. Brett does a phenomenal job with it, so I leave it up to him to do. He does take input from the coaches, but he’s making the final decision. He and his guys do a ton of work on that and we trust whatever they do. We trust in it and we go with it.”
Veach is scheduled to speak with the media on Thursday at 10 a.m. CT.