Inside Training Camp  

 

Kansas City Chiefs training camp: Jeremy Maclin an instant fit

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The road to success in the NFL begins each year with the hard work and wide-open possibilities of training camp. As teams around the league gear up for the 2015 campaign, NFL Media reporters will be checking in from all 32 camps around the league. For our next stop, Jeffri Chadiha visits the Kansas City Chiefs.

Where is NFL Media?

The Chiefs are holding training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri. The cozy campus is about an hour's drive from Kansas City and gives visitors a serene environment in which to watch players work.

Observations

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1) The most inspirational story in the NFL continues to revolve around star safety Eric Berry. His return to the Chiefs eight months after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma was amazing in its own right, but now Berry is doing everything possible to be on the field when the team opens the regular season in Houston. His biggest highlight thus far came when he made a diving interception in practice on Wednesday. Berry also hasn't revealed any problems with conditioning after spending half of the year undergoing chemotherapy. But the team continues to not rush him back. Berry had only been involved in non-contact drills early in camp before starting participation in contact sessions on Monday. As great as his comeback has been, the Chiefs want to be sure there are no setbacks in the next chapter of this story.

2) Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin signed with the Chiefs this offseason partly because he was so comfortable with head coach Andy Reid, who drafted him in Philadelphia. Still, nobody knew Maclin would bond so quickly with quarterback Alex Smith once that deal was finalized. Maclin and Smith displayed an obvious feel for each other during Friday's morning practice, both on deep routes and intermediate pass plays (though it should be noted that Maclin was dealing with a strained neck Monday). The Maclin-Smith connection should thrill Chiefs fans who have been longing for more electricity from this passing attack. There have been plenty of jokes made about Smith's unwillingness to throw long and the fact that not one Chiefs receiver caught a touchdown pass in 2014. There should be no concerns about those issues this coming fall.

3) If the Chiefs want to improve a run defense that ranked 28th in the NFL last year, then watching linebacker Derrick Johnson fly around the field in camp has to make them feel better about that goal. The 11th-year pro showed no lingering effects of the torn Achilles he sustained in a season-opening loss to Tennessee in 2014. He displayed the agility that has made him a three-time Pro Bowler and even kept pace with star running back Jamaal Charles in a one-on-one pass-coverage drill. The Chiefs still have to figure out how to replace nose tackle Dontari Poe -- who is recovering from back surgery that will sideline him at least through training camp and potentially for longer -- but one of their other defensive leaders is definitely back.

New additions

Ben Grubbs, OG: Kansas City acquired this 6-foot-3, 310-pound guard in an offseason trade with New Orleans, and it already sounds like the move is paying huge dividends. For one, Grubbs is a ninth-year pro who has been named to two Pro Bowls. Just as importantly, he brings a requisite toughness to this offensive line. Reid specifically praised the "nastiness" that Grubbs has added to the position, and that word shouldn't be lost on anybody. The unit remains a question for this team, especially because the Chiefs lost center Rodney Hudson in free agency and still haven't seen left tackle Eric Fisher, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, develop into a consistent player. Grubbs should be the linchpin of this group.

Marcus Peters, CB: The Chiefs' first-round pick hasn't wasted any time impressing his new employer. He has routinely displayed the coverage ability that made him so attractive in this year's draft, and his ball skills have been excellent (as proven by one practice session that was highlighted by his three interceptions). Given that Kansas City is losing cornerback Sean Smith to a three-game suspension to start the season, Peters couldn't be growing up at a better time. He's already looking like a potential star -- and he could be the team's most reliable cornerback come Week 1.

Overheard

"Every day. It's nothing, it's just before I walk out I play a song, the song's like five minutes, and just go about my business."

-- Dee Ford, outside linebacker and second-year pro, talking about how often he plays his piano during the season.

Extra points

» Look for Ford to have a bigger role on defense this season. He looked more comfortable in pass coverage Friday, and the team wants to utilize his pass-rushing skills more consistently after hardly playing him in 2014.

» Second-year pro De'Anthony Thomas will be a wild card in the Chiefs' offense. The former Oregon star running back moved to receiver full time earlier this offseason, and his quickness could make him a dangerous presence in the slot.

Follow Jeffri Chadiha on Twitter @jeffrichadiha.

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