Organized team activities (OTAs) are what they are—padless practices that serve as an appetizer for the entree that is Chiefs training camp in St. Joseph, Missouri.
There are observations and notes that can be made, but as head coach Andy Reid himself reminded the media on Thursday, “This isn’t training camp.”
So what can you take away, exactly?
Among other things, I find it is a good time to evaluate where the coaches may like individual players — whether or not they appear to be in football shape — but above all, team temperament.
The Chiefs’ temperament resonated with me during my visit to the facility Thursday—as the status of one of the game’s top wide receivers hangs in the balance, you’d never know it from watching and listening.
And the two players that especially stood out in that regard were quarterback Patrick Mahomes and defensive lineman Frank Clark.
“Other than being extremely athletic and a heck of a pass rusher, he’s extremely smart, and it’s good to see that,” Mahomes said of Clark. “We’re on the field — he’s taken away some of my hot throws. He’s taken away some of my adjustments because he’s just playing football. Those guys are the ones that are really special. [Thursday], I was about to throw a hot to (Anthony) Sherman and he just peeled off on it and made me throw the ball away and whenever you have guys that are that talented that are also smart like that, those are guys that are really special players.”
“We have to go at it in practice,” Clark said of Mahomes. “I have to go at his O-linemen so he can get on them and he has to go at our defense so I can get on them. I feel like once we get that type of mentality in our locker room, the competition-based feel, I feel like that’s when we’re going to grow and become the best that we can be.”
And we already know the Chiefs executives believe Clark is special. That is why they shipped first and second-round draft picks away for him, then signed him to a five-year deal worth $104 million.
Whether Clark will eventually walk the walk remains to be seen. But his impact on the team has already been detectable, and to his credit, he can talk the talk.
“It’s going to be make me great,” Clark added about competing with Mahomes and the Chiefs offense. “You got an MVP. Then you got this explosive offense. You got some great O-linemen, you got (Mitch) Schwartz over there...all these guys are going to do nothing but make us better as a defense. As a defense, when you’re what, 30th? 31st in the league? One of the worst defense in the league—that’s a slap on the chin. As a player who thinks of defense, I take full pride in having an aggressive defense.”
The Chiefs defense finished 31st in yards per game, while Clark’s Seahawks finished 15 ranks ahead at 16th. He led Seattle’s unit with 13.0 sacks, as well as 13 quarterback hits and 38 quarterback hurries.
“I take full pride in being one of the best defenders and I take full pride in having he best defense in the league,” Clark added. “At the end of the day, I feel like those are the things we have to live up to. Those are the standards we have to continue to climb and continue to reach for. I feel like when you set your goals high, you obtain them.”
Now a member of the Chiefs, Clark will never come close to hitting Mahomes—that is why they make the yellow jerseys. But he can pressure him.
And that will only help the reigning league MVP.
“They are getting after it for sure,” Mahomes said of the defense. “They are doing a lot of different things and it is hard to get a read on them. It is definitely challenging as an offense and especially at the QB position to see what coverages they are in. They are doing a lot of great things and they are adding in as much as we are adding, so it’s that back-and-forth battle every single practice. It feels like we’ll get some good plays here and they get some good plays there. When you have that competition, that’s when you know you have a good team.”
Another newcomer in linebacker Darron Lee said that Mahomes is “everything that has been advertised.”
“They already have something great brewing here,” Lee said. “It’s one thing to see it on TV, but it’s something different to see it in practice.”
It is difficult to argue that the Chiefs defensive players will see a better quarterback this season. There is also little doubt the defense has improved.
Both sides know it—and what’s better—they have embraced it.