KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With the Kansas City Chiefs five games into their season and on their bye week, it’s a good time to check in on each of the eight rookies on their active roster.
LB Dee Ford, first round: Ford has played little this season and mostly on passing downs. His signature play from the season happened last week, when he retreated from Frank Gore like the ball-carrying San Francisco 49ers runner was on fire. We’re going to give Ford the benefit of the doubt on that one, that he didn’t know that Gore had the ball and was headed for what he believed to be other responsibilities. But even on running plays when he wasn’t fooled, Ford hasn’t played well. He also has looked lost in pass coverage. These things are to be expected from a player making the transition from a college defensive end. Ford does have pass-rush skills and could be of use to the Chiefs in getting after the quarterback as the season wears on. It will probably be at least until 2015 that the Chiefs can count on him to be an every-down player.
CB Phillip Gaines, third round: Gaines has played little on defense but has developed into a good special-teams player. Help in the kicking game is probably all the Chiefs will get from Gaines this season. He looked lost at cornerback during training camp and the preseason. Gaines suffered a concussion toward the end of the game in San Francisco.
RB/WR/PR De'Anthony Thomas, fourth round: Thomas missed the season’s first four games because of a strained hamstring, but the Chiefs got a glimpse in his first game in San Francisco of how someone with his world-class speed can help. Thomas started the Chiefs’ final touchdown drive with a 28-yard punt return and finished it by taking a screen pass 17 yards to the end zone on a play the 49ers actually defended well. Look for Thomas to play more as the season goes on.
QB Aaron Murray, fifth round: Murray has been inactive for each of the five games and he probably won’t get into a game this season unless there’s an injury to Alex Smith or Chase Daniel. Murray looked like a talented rookie in the preseason. He would follow a nice throw with an inexperienced mistake. Murray doesn’t have a strong arm, but has enough ability that the Chiefs should get a long look at him during the next offseason, training camp and preseason.
OG Zach Fulton, sixth round: Fulton won the starting job at right guard in training camp and has played more snaps than any other Chiefs rookie. His inexperience has showed during the regular season, but Fulton is advanced for a low-round draft pick in that he understands complicated blocking schemes. He’s also a relentless player who should continue to get better.
OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, sixth round: Like Murray, he has been inactive for all five games. Duvernay-Tardif played in college in Canada and the Chiefs knew he would be a developmental project. But he’s a good athlete who showed well in the preseason, so the chances that he eventually develops into a reliable backup or even a starter are good.
WR Albert Wilson, undrafted: Wilson was in uniform for the season-opening game against Tennessee but he has been inactive for every game since then. He looks destined to spend the rest of his rookie season as a developmental prospect. If he wasn’t available last week, when the Chiefs were down injured starter Donnie Avery, then when?
PK Cairo Santos, undrafted: Santos is starting to come around after his notoriously slow start. He made his last three field-goal attempts after starting the season 2-of-4. Santos has a strong enough leg to make it as an NFL kicker. He showed that repeatedly in training camp.