When the Kansas City Chiefs drafted De’Anthony Thomas in the fourth round most of us thought he would be wide receiver replacement for Dexter McCluster. It only seemed natural since Thomas spent a lot of timing playing wide receiver at Oregon and the Chiefs had the need to improve their wide receiver group. But it would appear the Chiefs may have a different plan.
De’Anthony Thomas said he’s been working with RB coach Eric Bieniemy more than WR coach David Culley to learn the playbook. #Chiefs
— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) July 20, 2014
Let’s start by recognizing Andy Reid’s playbook is not one that is easy to digest. It is complicated, with a lot of new terms and concepts for players to learn. We saw this a bit last season when it took nearly half a season before the Chiefs could finally start getting into rhythm on offense. Expecting Thomas to immediately pickup McCluster’s full role in the offense would have been difficult, especially for a rookie.
What may be more interesting here is the Chiefs are going to get him started by keeping him in the backfield as opposed to splitting him out wide. Part of this may be a numbers game. The Chiefs have a lot of different receivers to sift through this summer and many of them have the same kind of inside roles Thomas would play. Weston Dressler, A.J. Jenkins, Junior Hemingway, and Frankie Hammond will all get long looks in the slot, and that doesn’t include the times we should expect Travis Kelce to split out wide.
It may be best for Thomas if he gets his career started at a position he already knows and with a position group that has pretty much already been decided. We all know two of the three spots are locked in with Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, which means there is only one spot left on the roster for a running back. If Thomas is going to be kept at running back then we already know who our third running back will be.
This could end up being a very good thing. Charles and Davis do not need a lot of attention, which means Thomas will get a lot of one-on-one time with running backs coach Eric Bieniemy. The more time Thomas can spend learning the playbook and getting the on-field coaching he needs from Bieniemy, the more effective he could potentially be in his rookie season.
Thomas starting his career at running back may not have been the initial path we all had in mind, but it may be the best one when all is said and done.