4 takeaways from Chiefs rookie minicamp Day 3

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The Kansas City Chiefs completed their final day of rookie minicamp practices on Sunday. Things ramped up on the final day of practices and culminated in some red-zone drills. On Sunday, Andy Reid and three players — Lucas Niang, Shane Buechele and Dalton Schoen — spoke to the media. Reid gave a great overview of what he saw at minicamp, while the players provided insight into their experiences over the course of the weekend.

Foundation laid for rookies

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Last season, the Chiefs and the rest of the NFL didn't have a rookie minicamp due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything was virtual, which made things challenging for many of the rookie players. This year teams were able to have a rookie minicamp, but things were still different. "Listen, it was great to get back on the field with players," Chiefs HC Andy Reid began. "What a good group, guys. It wasn't as big a group as we normally have for the rookie minicamp, but boy did they work hard and really did everything we asked them to do. Brett (Veach) has brought some good talent in here to where we could really have a good camp. We did a lot of 7-on-7, we were able to hit the red zone today... didn't have enough linemen to go through an actual team period, but what we got done was tremendous." While there were some differences this year, the end goal was still the same. That is to provide a foundation with which the rookies can use to be successful during the next phases of the offseason program. "I think that you want to go into training camp with an understanding of the new things that you're able to study and experiment with as coaches and as players," Reid explained. "So that's what this did. This game (the players) an opportunity now to hit Phase 2 when the veterans are here with an understanding — a base understanding of what's going on. They're going to have to strap it on when the veterans get in because it has gone fast. We're already four installs into it and they're going to have to catch up. And the number of plays and all those things, they're going to have to catch up. But at least they have a foundation."

High praise for Lucas Niang after opt out

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

One of the more pressing stories of rookie minicamp has been the return of Lucas Niang, one of three Chiefs players to opt out of the 2020 NFL season. After three quick days working with the coaching staff, Reid had nothing but praise for the first-year tackle. "You know, he's done a nice job in this camp," Reid said. "He's a big man, like really a big man that has these beautiful feet. So I look forward to getting him back in the pads at training camp and moving around and doing what offensive linemen do. The real football part of it. Until then, this gives him a chance to get acclimated, mentally and physically as he goes forward." Niang spent just a few days at training camp in 2020 prior to his decision to opt out. Reid actually saw a noticeable difference in his preparation back then and now. "He actually came in in better shape than he probably was last year," Reid said. "So that's a plus. You know that he's been doing stuff and so he came in and looked like he got right back into it. For what we asked him to do, he was fine. He's a very intelligent kid, I think you guys know that. But he's very intelligent. Just getting back in the swing of things it looked like he did that well." Some people were concerned that there might be some rust for Niang to knock off after being away from the game, but he felt otherwise. "No sir, it felt great to be back on the field," Niang said. "I've been around working out and I couldn't wait to get back. I was working when I was back home too." Those few days that Niang spent with the team and the work he did while away from the team seem to have paid off for the offensive lineman. "All the thinking is way easier this year," Niang said. "I could focus more on my technique because I knew my assignments faster. Just having been through it one time." Ultimately, Niang is right where the team wants him to be as they head into Phase 2 of the offseason program. "For right now, he looked tremendous for what we were doing," Reid said. "He had good recall there.

Buechele learning quickly

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Chiefs undrafted rookie quarterback Shane Buechele is learning the ropes. He's split repetitions with former Washington State QB Anthony Gordon in practice, but he's been picking things up quickly thanks to the help of the coaching staff. "Mike Kafka is a great guy and he's a great coach," Buechele told reporters. "Just in these three days of camp, I've learned a ton in meetings. It's been super, super great for me to be able to do that. He's a really good teacher and it has been helpful for me to be able to learn from him as well as Coach (Eric Bieniemy) and Coach Reid as well." Buechele feels that he's a fit for the team. He knew so just after looking over the playbook which aligns with his own aggressive mentality as a quarterback. "Going through the playbook whenever I first got it, it was exciting," Buechele said. "The shots that they take, you know it's an aggressive mindset here, which I really appreciate and I like, being able to throw the ball downfield and make the guys make plays." The SMU quarterback had a live arm playing in college and is excited to be able to use it to help spread the ball around to the Chiefs' playmakers. "They have playmakers here, so it's just being able to get the ball in their hands and let them do what they do," Buechele said. This past weekend he was able to throw to two rookies (Noah Gray and Cornell Powell) who have bright futures as playmakers in Kansas City. "Yeah, the receiver that we have here they work really hard," Buechele said. "They've been working really hard. There's not a lot of guys here, so they're taking a lot of reps. They're running a ton. But they're taking in the playbook really well and I'm learning from them just as much as they're learning from me. So this is a great opportunity just to be able to put the ball in the air. Go routes on air, 7-on-7 and different things like that. Just to be able to kind of start gaining that chemistry with those guys."

Dalton Schoen no stranger to being an underdog

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A former walk-on at Kansas State, UDFA WR Dalton Schoen never expected that an NFL career was in the cards. "Starting out my college career, I would probably say no," Schoen said. "Going to K-State was a dream come true for me. My first goal going there, though, was just to get on the field. I was fighting for a job on special teams, stuff like that. Going into my sophomore year, I was just trying to earn a spot on those, but then all of the sudden I kind of got in the mix there at receiver. I kind of got started as a sophomore, so then your goals get a little bit higher. My whole career there, though, I was really focusing on being the best that I could be there. . . now to be here is just a true dream." After spending the 2020 offseason with the Chargers and not getting much of an opportunity to prove himself due to COVID-19, Schoen is now getting another chance with the Chiefs. This time, playing for his hometown team, he feels he has a bit of an advantage given his experience as a walk-on player. "It's the exact same mindset," Schoen explained. "Being a walk-on and being here as an undrafted free agent, you're instantly kind of thrown at the bottom of the totem pole. You've got just have that mindset that you're a street dog— that you're going to show up and fight every day. You're going to do other things that other guys don't want to do or won't do and you've just kind of got to keep fighting until you get the opportunity to prove yourself."

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