Things are about to get very interesting for the Kansas City Chiefs’ defensive backfield.
Rashad Fenton, who started training camp on the physically unable to perform list, made his return Tuesday to the practice field in full pads.
Fenton’s presence immediately bolsters what was an already a tough competition at cornerback.
“First of all, to have him out there is good for us all,” Chiefs defensive backs coach Dave Merritt said after practice. “To see him go through the rehab and be able to have a chance to come back and be with his brothers on the field is great.”
The Chiefs are suddenly loaded at the cornerback position with Fenton, L’Jarius Sneed, Lonnie Johnson, Decaprio Bootle, Brandin Dandridge and a trio of 2022 draft picks in Trent McDuffie, Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson.
Before undergoing a shoulder procedure during the offseason, Fenton projected to start alongside Sneed and McDuffie in the Chiefs’ nickel package. Fenton’s absence has allowed the Chiefs to take a hard look at Williams, Watson, Bootle and even Dandridge in the slot role.
Now that Fenton is back, the Chiefs gain a proven veteran who played in 14 regular-season games with eight starts in 2021. Fenton, a 2019 sixth-round pick with the Chiefs, also possesses versatility to play inside and outside in Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme.
In his career, the 5-foot-11, 193-pound Fenton has appeared in 42 games with 11 starts, totaling 99 tackles, two interceptions, 18 passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
Still, the Chiefs won’t rush Fenton to full activity, evidenced by Tuesday’s workload.
The fourth-year cornerback participated in stretching and conditioning, individual position drills and a handful of drills against the wide receivers. And the limited work is by design as the Chiefs re-acclimate Fenton to football activities because he didn’t participate in any of the offseason workout program.
“The thing we’re going to do is take him through individual, and then he’ll get a couple of one-on-ones,” Merritt explained. “After that, we’ll continue to just matriculate him into all the other periods. It’s great having him back and he’s been great in the process.”
With three preseason games and five days remaining of training camp, the Chiefs will ease in Fenton. But he’s already considered in the mix for a one of the starting jobs.
“He’s going to get right in there and be competing with that same group,” Spagnuolo said of Fenton last week. “He’s played some good football for us, especially on the outside. We just want to get him healthy and get him back there. I’m anxious to get him back out there and rolling. I’m looking forward to it. He’ll be right in there.”
Wide receiver Gary Jennings (concussion), wide receiver Daurice Fountain (groin), defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth (knee) and tight end Jody Fortson (quad) did not practice. The quartet of players continued to work off to the side with an athletic trainer at the rehabilitation tent.
Fortson has now missed eight practices since suffering the quad injury on July 30.
Tackle Lucas Niang (knee) remains on the PUP list.
Safety Zayne Anderson left practice early with a shoulder injury.
Safety Justin Reid was observed on the sideline mirroring kicker Harrison Butker during the field goal portion of the special teams period, and then the Chiefs called out Reid to attempt a kick. Reid showed off his leg strength this week but couldn’t duplicate the effort as his kick sailed wide left and fell short. “I saw him standing there, like he was hanging out,” Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub said with a chuckle. “He’s always hanging out at the field goal drill, so I just wanted to surprise him, throw him in there and see how he would handle it. I don’t think we found our backup kicker yet.”
Defensive end Carlos Dunlap made a practice faux pas by hitting quarterback Chad Henne during 11-on-11 drills. Henne had scrambled out of the pocket with Dunlap in pursuit, but Dunlap leveled Henne instead of pulling up before contract. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid appeared to have words with Dunlap after the play. Whatever was said on the field, defensive line coach Joe Cullen emphasized no hitting the quarterback after practice. “I loved the rush, but stay away from our quarterbacks,” Cullen said. “Do not go near them.”
Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed had a nifty one-handed interception during one-on-one drills against wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who approved of the play with a congratulatory pat on Sneed.
After a few days of tinkering on the offensive line, the front five returned to the personnel who opened training camp as the starters: left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., left guard Joe Thuney, center Creed Humphrey, right guard Trey Smith and right tackle Andrew Wylie.
Rookie running back Isiah Pacheco’s strong training camp continues and he showed his burst during 9-on-7 drills. At the snap of the ball, Wylie and Smith blew open a hole in the B-gap, which Pacheco quickly found and showed some wiggle to elude a linebacker who tried to meet Pacheco in the hole.