Only rookies, quarterbacks and select veterans arrived at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri, Sunday afternoon, and even on day zero-point-zero-zero of 2018 training camp, there was an air of novelty about the campus.
A fresh quarterback, a shiny new wide receiver and a nearly-all-defensive draft has created a fresh outlook for the Kansas City Chiefs, a point head coach Andy Reid acknowledged forthright.
“You have new; there’s more new, I would say, on both sides of the ball,” Reid said. “Some of the old guys that have been here aren’t here. Whether it’s the quarterback position, the inside linebacker position, outside linebacker position, you’re missing a few of those guys and you have new guys coming in that you have an opportunity to see perform. Some of them we haven’t seen—corner spot. That’s exciting to me. I’m looking forward to that. I know the players are, too. But there’s a new—there’s a new maybe more so than we’ve had since the first year when I was new (2013), so I’m excited about that.”
The 2013-17 Chiefs, as we knew them, are no more. While turnover happens in the NFL for every team every offseason—that being the nature of the business—this offseason was particularly, er, abrupt when it came to turnover on the Chiefs.
General manager Brett Veach waved goodbye to marquee names like Alex Smith, Marcus Peters, Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, and said hello to Patrick Mahomes, Kendall Fuller, Sammy Watkins and Anthony Hitchens.
As with any era change in football, the Kansas City’s begins at the quarterback position. Last year, Mahomes, then a rookie, started training camp No. 3 on the depth chart. This year, he’s the guy.
Patrick Mahomes’ first press conference livePosted by Arrowhead Pride: For Kansas City Chiefs Fans on Sunday, July 22, 2018
“It’s exciting,” Mahomes said, “just to know you’re going to get the majority of the reps. You’re going to get to go out there and really work on your game. It’s something you dream as a little kid.”
As Mahomes braces for his first professional season as a starter, he won’t be doing so alone. Reid is widely regarded as one of—if not the best—quarterbacks coach in the league.
Reid has a plan for Mahomes this training camp, one that starts on Monday morning.
“He had a learning period that took place during the OTAs,” Reid said of Mahomes. “Let’s not back up. Let’s keep moving forward with that. And now, in these live periods, it’ll be a little bit faster than what you had in the OTAs because of that with the pads on, which we weren’t able to do.
“Let’s see what we can do. Let’s work through it. Let’s not be hesitant. If there’s an interception here or there, let’s learn from it. Let’s challenge the offense—not only the player, but challenge yourself within the offense and see what you can get away with. If there’s an interception, then we’ll fix that. You don’t hesitate. You see it, let’s shoot it and go.”
Another benefit that Mahomes has in his corner, in addition to Reid’s guidance, is the knowledge he garnered by watching Smith as the team’s backup last season.
How Smith handled the mentorship of Mahomes is by now well-documented. Smith could have taken pages out of the books of Brett Favre and more recently Ben Roethlisberger, but he instead chose to help Mahomes.
That guidance has given Mahomes a leg up on tackling this season.
“Patrick’s got a running start,” Reid said. “He’s been through it, he knows the verbiage. He knows the secondaries. He knows all the stuff. He’s gone through that, so it’s different than with Alex just starting fresh (like in 2013).”
Mahomes, who has a handle on Reid’s offense, says this training camp, he’s locking in on improving efficiency.
“I want to make sure I can get in and out of the huddle fast, we can make the right checks and really just have a lot of positive plays. Not necessarily the huge plays, but just have positive plays and move the chains. That’s how you have success in the NFL. You keep taking those yards, taking those yards. When you have guys that can stretch the field, you make those big plays and those come within the flow of the game.”
Mahomes will use Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to get back in the swing of things. Those guys who stretch the field—Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins—will arrive on Wednesday afternoon.
When they get to St. Joseph, the new era in Kansas City Chiefs football will have already begun.