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Predicting What Will Be Learned From Chiefs Training Camp

What uncertainties will crystalize more over the course of training camp this summer?
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The Kansas City Chiefs began training camp on July 22nd when rookies and quarterbacks reported to St. Joseph, MO. Now that the veterans have joined them, camp is in full swing. 

Every year, the players, coaches and fans learn certain things about the team. Additionally, storylines and conclusions revealed at the end of camp usually give everyone an indication of things to come during the season. Let's go through the lessons and headlines that will come out of camp.

Four-man wide receiver core led by JuJu Smith-Schuster

Jul 27, 2022; St. Joseph, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Juju Smith-Shuster (9) speaks to media after training camp at Missouri Western State University. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive conversation of the offseason has been centered around the wide receiver position. Between the additions of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore — as well as the departure of Tyreek Hill — wideouts seem to be the only thing people want to talk about when it comes to the Chiefs. Training camp will be the time when one of these new additions separates itself, and that will be Smith-Schuster. He has been flying under the radar in the national and local eyes. His 2021 season was cut short due to a shoulder injury that made many people forget about him but before last year, he was productive and even had a Pro Bowl campaign.

During his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Smith-Schuster had to deal with unfavorable circumstances. In his first two seasons, he racked up 169 catches for 2,343 yards and 14 touchdowns, including 1,426 yards in his second season. The years after that were rough, though. In 2019, he missed four games due to an injury and was forced to play with backup quarterbacks for most of the season. In 2020, he was fully healthy but Ben Roethlisberger was no longer a good quarterback. Then in 2021, Roethlisberger continued to decline and Smith-Schuster suffered the aforementioned shoulder injury.

By coming to Kansas City, Smith-Schuster gets an immediate upgrade at quarterback and becomes the No. 2 option behind Travis Kelce while getting favorable matchups to exploit. Smith-Schuster might not top his 1,400-yard season in 2018 but after he stars in training camp, everyone will say he's "WR1" and will lead the Chiefs' wide receivers in all the major statistical categories.

The impact of Orlando Brown's absence

Oct 3, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown (57) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando Brown Jr. is currently a no-show at training camp. However, since he has yet to sign the non-exclusive franchise tag, he is not punished for missing offseason programs. Furthermore, according to Mike Garafolo, Brown will not report to training camp "for quite some time."

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With Brown missing training camp, the Chiefs are forced to fill his spot during scrimmages and team drills. That involves the likes of Darian Kinnard, Geron Christian, Roderick Johnson, and others. Andy Reid even indicated in his press conference to open camp that Kansas City was willing to put Joe Thuney at left tackle. With that said, moving an All-Pro left guard to left tackle weakens two offensive line spots instead of the one just left by Brown. No matter which option the Chiefs decide to implement, weaknesses will be shown. There will be mental errors, including pre-snap penalties, missed assignments and poor communication. The offensive line might be sloppy without Brown there.

Brown may not be the best offensive lineman or a top-five left tackle in the league, but his importance cannot be understated. His presence allows the best player to occupy every spot on the line. Instead of the dominant cohesive unit continuing to develop together, there will be inconsistency and errors all over the practice field without him. The line will be back to square one with all the moving parts due to Brown's absence.

Who is going to be this year's Melvin Ingram?

August 14, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Joshua Kaindoh (59) after the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of whether the Chiefs forgot what pass-rushers are or if they genuinely chose to neglect to address that area this offseason, the product is now available for everyone to see in action at training camp. Drafting a defensive end in the first round alone may not be enough to improve on last year's group drastically.

Last season, the Chiefs were 29th in sacks with a total of 31. No player had double-digit sacks and, outside of Chris Jones, no one had five sacks. That's a problem. While adding George Karlaftis should help, he's only a rookie and first-year pass rushers rarely make an immense impact. 

Joshua Kaindoh is a pseudo-addition to the defensive end room. He missed most of his rookie season due to an ankle injury and although he was a former five-star coming out of high school, there is a reason he fell into the fourth round of the draft: he has never been able to put it together. Yet, due to his athletic traits, there is hope he can take a step forward. Relying on him is risky, however. Frank Clark and Mike Danna also return, but everyone knows who they are.

That group doesn't inspire great confidence in the pass rush heading into the season. The Chiefs might want to see the product on the field but after a few practices, Brett Veach and company will know they need to add someone to strengthen the unit. Maybe that addition doesn't come at the trade deadline as Ingram did, but it could come sooner. The Chiefs can target plenty of available names, specifically Carlos Dunlap. On Wednesday evening, it was reported that the Chiefs were bringing in Dunlap for a visit. Hopefully they can get a deal done, as Dunlap racked up 8.5 sacks last year while only playing 38% of snaps.