The Chiefs have 10 rookies on their 53-player active roster as they prepare for Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Jaguars in Jacksonville. Five rookies on offense, five on defense. In this post, I will look at the offensive players. In a post later today, I will provide an update on the defensive rookies.
Eric Fisher, first round, offensive tackle. Immediate expectations for Fisher were impossibly high because he was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. He played in college at Central Michigan, so there was no way he was going to meet those initially and he hasn’t. Fisher is starting at right tackle but has much improvement to do before he proves worthy of the top pick. He has been bothered by shoulder and finger injuries, each of which at times knocked him out of practice or a preseason game. Fisher actually played well in two of his three preseason games (he and the rest of the starters didn’t play last week against Green Bay). He was terrible in a game against the 49ers, a performance so bad it should have been of concern to the Chiefs until he bounced back to play well the following week against the Steelers.“He’s everything I thought he would be,’’ general manager John Dorsey said. “He’s going to continue to [improve]. He was slowed with the finger and the shoulder but he’s right on course. “He came back [against Pittsburgh]. He showed a great degree of toughness when he lined up and played in the third preseason game and did a pretty good job against a pretty good player in LaMarr Woodley.’’There’s certainly no reason yet to believe Fisher won’t develop into one of the NFL’s top tackles but he’s not there yet.
Travis Kelce, third round, tight end. Kelce had a promising offseason, when he showed the ability to get down the field and catch passes. The Chiefs lined him up in a variety of spots, including split out wide, so the possibilities are there to get the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Kelce matched up against much smaller defenders.That didn’t happen as much in training camp and the preseason. Kelce was the third tight end behind Anthony Fasano and Tony Moeaki so his snaps decreased. He also dropped some passes and came up with a sore knee that prevented him from playing in one of the games.The possibility still exists for the Chiefs to get some big plays from Kelce. With Moeaki on the injured-reserve list with a fractured shoulder, the Chiefs need that kind of help from Kelce. It’s not as certain as it seemed three months ago they will get it.
Knile Davis, third round, running back. Davis looks promising once the ball is in his hands. At 227 pounds, he’s powerful but also fast for a back of his size, so he appears to be a nice complement to Jamaal Charles. He delivered two long kickoff returns in the preseason, one for a touchdown, so he has some possibilities there as well.Getting the ball into Davis’ hands has often been an adventure. He fumbled in a preseason game, something he has a history of from college at Arkansas. He’s dropped numerous passes and kickoff return attempts at training camp.So the Chiefs may not be able to trust Davis yet. It’s more than a little telling that the Chiefs’ other running back, Cyrus Gray, was getting plenty of work in practice this week as the third-down back. Gray is a better pass protector and more reliable as a receiver than Davis.Given all that, it’s difficult to see Davis as more than a change of pace back for Charles, at least early in the season.
Eric Kush, sixth round, center. Kush is a reserve who played small college football at California (Pa.), so it’s reasonable that he would need some time to develop. Kush has had trouble at times getting the snap to the quarterback, both in a conventional formation and in the shotgun. He’s also been occasionally pushed around in preseason games by more physical opponents.While Kush could still develop into a productive player, he clearly isn’t there yet. If the Chiefs need to replace starting center Rodney Hudson for injury reasons, left guard Jeff Allen would most likely slide over to center.
Tyler Bray, quarterback, undrafted. Bray has uncommon ability for a quarterback who wasn’t drafted. He appears to have better ability to make all the necessary throws than the other Chiefs quarterbacks, Alex Smith and Chase Daniel.So Bray is far ahead of a lot of other developmental quarterbacks around the league. But that’s only part of the equation toward developing into an eventual starter. By all accounts, Bray with the Chiefs has been a hard worker, will watch extra video and throw on the side with receivers, things that were in question when he was in college at Tennessee.He will also have to learn to decipher complex coverage schemes, something he didn’t see much in preseason.
For now, at least, Bray is the No. 3 quarterback. Even though he outplayed Daniel in the preseason, don’t look for that to change any time soon.