ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — The hole that Jeremy Maclin’s surprising offseason release left in the Kansas City Chiefs’ wide receiver corps was underscored last week when Andy Reid brought up the veteran’s name.
Reid was asked about how the rest of his pass catchers were coming along, and the Chiefs’ coach was quick to heap praise — entirely of his own doing — on the job Maclin did serving as an on-field assistant to their younger wide receivers during his time in Kansas City.
“Jeremy was a great teacher for them,” Reid said. “Understand how you practice, how you play and prepare for both practice and games. These guys were lucky to be around him and have that opportunity.”
Nobody outside the Chiefs’ practice complex saw Maclin’s release coming, especially considering he was present for every optional and required workout this offseason. The Chiefs were thought to have little depth behind him, and even now he would be the most accomplished wide receiver on their roster.
But the move was made out of necessity. The Chiefs needed to free up salary cap space to sign the rest of their draft class and make any additional roster moves. So while Reid no doubt would prefer Maclin in Kansas City’s huddle this season instead of Baltimore’s, he is left to sift through a sizeable group of options along with offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, with the first preseason game on the horizon Friday night against the San Francisco 49ers.
Tyreek Hill’s exceptional rookie season has made his spot secure. Chris Conley has been around long enough that he’s established himself as one of the Chiefs’ primary options.
Beyond that is anybody’s guess.
“They understand Jeremy was a great receiver and still is a great receiver. He did an excellent job teaching these guys this offense,” Nagy said. “Now, they are taking what they learned from him and trying to help each other out. We have a young group of guys. And what they have done is rely on each other.
“Like I said earlier, there are so many parts to this offense, especially at this positon, that can be tricky. But they have handled it with great success so far.”
Indeed, Hill and Conley are the top two wide receivers on the initial depth chart released this week, while undersized veterans Albert Wilson and D’Anthony Thomas hold down the No. 2 spots.
But it’s worth noting that Reid typically defers to his veterans in training camp, giving them the benefit of the doubt. The reality is there have been plenty of other wide receivers who have flashed more ability than Wilson or Thomas during the first couple weeks of practice.
Second-year pro Demarcus Robinson made headlines when Reid singled him out for his strong offseason workouts. He worked primarily on special teams last season, and while he lacks ideal size for a downfield threat, his speed and route-running ability have impressed the coaching staff.
“I’m a little bit more comfortable,” Robinson said, “because I’ve been in my playbook way more than I was last year. I’ve been learning the plays more on and off the field — I’ve been learning the plays on the field more than just reading it out of a book.”
The other No. 3 wide receiver is Seantavius Jones, better known to Reid as “Stretch.” He has ideal size at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, and his speed has allowed him to make plenty of plays in camp. But the trick now is to take that natural athletic ability to the field in a game setting.
“I like what I’ve seen,” Reid said. “He’s a big guy that can run and he attacks the ball, which I appreciate. For the most part there’s trust. I think that’s a positive there.”
One thing Reid has been most pleased about is just that: trust.
Even though the majority of passes thrown by Alex Smith will be headed to new targets this season, there already is a comfort level between the quarterback and his wide receivers.
“We got a bunch of young guys that are really, really talented,” Smith said. “They all have different levels of ability and experience and are more proven then others. But every year, it is new.”
NOTES: Cairo Santos has a groin injury, leaving the status of their only kicker in question for the preseason opener. ... CB Jacoby Glenn left practice early Monday with a concussion. ... S Eric Berry (heel) and TE Travis Kelce (knee) did not practice. Berry spent more than an hour signing autographs and taking pictures with hundreds of fans.