A simple moment during Wednesday’s Kansas City Chiefs practice may have summed up the state and identity of the offense as it gets ready to close training camp in St. Joseph on Thursday.
In the middle of seven-on-seven work, Patrick Mahomes attempted to connect on a deep ball with rookie wide receiver Mecole Hardman. The ball looked to be placed accurately, but Hardman slowed down and it sailed a few yards past him.
Mahomes yelled at Hardman: “You got to run!”
It’s a message Mahomes first presented to Hardman back in May, and one he has been preaching to the Chiefs’ veterans since he took over as starting quarterback a little more than a year ago. Last September, Travis Kelce said, “with Pat, you have to keep running because it could be coming at any second.”
And that is probably truer now than it has ever been.
Hardman ran a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine; Sammy Watkins ran a 4.43. Tyreek Hill reportedly ran a 4.26 at his pro day.
And with speed, comes power.
“We got guys who can absolutely fly all over the field, and speed kills in this game,” Kelce explained after practice. “If you got it, you’re in the advantage... We’ve never had this much speed here, so I couldn’t tell you what exactly is to come.
“Hopefully, we take advantage of those speeders outside in terms of throwing them the ball because getting the ball downfield is just going to open up everything underneath in the middle. And I’m licking my chops waiting for any scraps I can get.”
And the Chiefs feel as though they have the perfect position coach in place to direct all that speed. Greg Lewis played for Andy Reid as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles from 2003-08 and is entering his third year as wide receivers coach with the Chiefs.
”Greg does one heck of a job,” Reid said. “He played there, so he can give these guys firsthand experience and knowledge of it. Greg is extremely smart. He knows all of the in’s and out’s. He was one of those guys that played every position and did it well, plus special teams. He gets it. And he was fast, he was a speed player. So he can relate to those guys and still work with the bigger receivers, which is good.”
Lewis faces a tough task each and every day at training camp, as he is responsible for not only improving his receivers as a group, but also finding ways to ensure Hill gets better. Hill finished fourth in the NFL in receiving yards in 2018 and looks as though he took a step forward this offseason despite not being able to partake in team activities.
“He’s taken a leadership role in this room as far as helping guys and leading by example, which has been a big positive here at camp,” Lewis said. “I’m enjoying that part of him. He’s detailing his work up as well, the small details of running routes, getting in and out of breaks, so he can run fast and get behind people. The nuances of running routes, he’s really expanded his game on that part of it.”
Somehow, someway, Hill appears a tick faster.
“He just looks a step quicker—I don’t know how,” Kelce said. “I don’t know if it’s just going from the end of season to the beginning of this one, and maybe not seeing him cut it loose. His confidence just keeps going up, and you’re talking about a guy that went from running back in college to just about playing fully wide receiver in the NFL. He’s still learning, too. It’s a game where you can learn every single year and try and do something better.
“Tyreek has definitely taken his came to another level. Everybody will find that out.”
Two weeks ago, Watkins told reporters the Chiefs would be the home-run team in 2019, going as far to say they could be “unstoppable.” Asked about those words Wednesday, and Kelce almost scoffed at the idea.
“I felt like we were unstoppable last year,” he said, “and it’s all predicated on our mindset and how we attack the day. If we stay in attack mode, right now I can’t see anybody stopping us. That’s just the confidence that I have in everybody—the teammates and coaches that we have here.”
The mindset Kelce talks about starts with Reid and continues along to Eric Bieniemy, the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator and Reid’s latest head coach-in-training. Kansas City has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talent and speed, yet Bieniemy finds ways to keep his players humble.
“We’re still going to be who we are,” he said. “We’re not going to change our identity. Does it help that we have more speed? Yes. Does it help that we feel like we have more talent? Yes. But we want to make sure these guys make the most of the opportunity. It’s about putting consistent behavior on tape. It’s about being fundamentally sound. It’s about detailing the little things. It’s also about timing up those routes with the quarterbacks, but also, too, understanding their importance in the run game of making blocks downfield, which can spring open big plays with the runners.”
With the Chiefs being as young as they are, those reminders remain necessary. Ability is one thing, but if the Chiefs can find ways to drive the little things home, who knows what they may be able to accomplish?
“The sky is the limit for this offense,” Kelce said. “The guys who have been here, that have been here the last couple years, especially last year; we’re taking it up a level that we have in years past. You can just tell from the coaches’ excitement, to their attention to detail, to how guys are reacting to their coaching.
“This team is going to be awesome and we’re going to have a lot of fun on the offensive side of the ball.”
...according to Mahomes, as long as they run.
- With Sammy Watkins sidelined, Marcus Kemp was the first player off the bench next to Tyreek Hill and Demarcus Robinson in a three-wide receiver set to start practice. Kemp had a nice day at camp, diving for a catch and beating Charvarius Ward on a deep streak down the right sideline. Factoring in special teams, I believe the Chiefs currently see Kemp as their fifth wide receiver.
- Breeland Speaks intercepted Patrick Mahomes for the second day in a row. Speaks was asked in jest if he’s been “getting into Pat’s head” with the picks: “A little bit. That’s been fun,” Speaks said, receiving laughs from media members. “I’ve just been surprised he’s throwing it to me.”
- Chad Henne was trying to find Felton Davis, but with Andrew Soroh defending, it bounced off Davis’ hands, and Jordan Lucas was there for the interception. Speaking of safeties...
- Juan Thornhill continued to mix with the top team, and Thornhill and Daniel Sorensen both had single-high reps. In the quarter package (seven defensive backs), the Chiefs had Tyrann Mathieu, Thornhill, Sorensen and Armani Watts on the field at the same time.
- Harrison Butker’s range (see video below) seems to be somewhere between 55 and 60. Based on today’s feature story, the Chiefs’ hope is that they will not have to rely on Butker for many close wins this season, but if they do, he has been solid early.
- D’Montre Wade returned to the second team—he had missed the last two days due to a knee contusion he suffered in Saturday night’s game. With Morris Claiborne suspended until Week 5, he is likely still the Chiefs’ first cornerback off the bench unless the Chiefs make another move in late August-early September.
- Ben Niemann had an interception in seven-on-seven work against Henne on a pass intended for Deon Yelder. Henne popped it up and was able to tip it to himself to secure the pick.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins is fighting an illness, so he was nowhere to be found. Frank Clark worked off to the side. Check out our full injury report here.
Tweets of note
It sure looks like Patrick Mahomes is looking at Darwin Thompson, not Blake Bell. pic.twitter.com/MmqapRR3no— Brandon Zenner (@NPNowZenner) August 14, 2019
Patrick Mahomes no-look passes are a regular occurrence. But, watch Blake Bell get Dan Sorensen out of the way. Mahomes recognizes this, knows where he's going with the ball, so he fools Sorensen into thinking he's throwing to Darwin Thompson. Makes a no look easy. #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/wQMAYI7YGU— Harold R. Kuntz (@HaroldRKuntz3) August 14, 2019
.@PatrickMahomes influence goes well beyond the stats-these three practices in pads AFTER pre season game #1 are a challenge-#15 is a dawg walking the dawgs! #DefendingTheKingdom @Chiefs proud how these guys have responded pic.twitter.com/2ipDLxATrH— Mitch Holthus (@mitchholthus) August 14, 2019
Here’s the chair Harrison Butker just killed putting a kick into the VIP tent on top of the hill. Put two field goals in there, believed to be new camp record. pic.twitter.com/MOshodgROL— Matt Derrick (@mattderrick) August 14, 2019
DB drills using each other to practice proper tackling techniques. It’s not much, but nice to see some kind of emphasis on wrapping up. pic.twitter.com/uYtZy5JXVN— Max Ramsey (@The_Wild_Chief) August 14, 2019
I’ve said this a few times, but it’s been on display again today: Tyreek Hill looks like the best WR in football out here at camp. It’s incredible.— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) August 14, 2019
Team portion recap:— Brandon Zenner (@NPNowZenner) August 14, 2019
Breeland Speaks INT
Jordan Lucas INT
Anthony Sherman diving catch pic.twitter.com/xWDxCQMcx6
No. 1 D-line starts left to right with Kpassagnon, Jones, Nnadi and Speaks.— Matt Derrick (@mattderrick) August 14, 2019
Starting DBs in 11 on 11’s Ward, Fuller, Breeland, Mathieu, and Thornhill— Max Ramsey (@The_Wild_Chief) August 14, 2019
Alex Okafor is going through 11-on-11’s for the first time in a while. Okafor and Ogbah are the 2nd team DE’s right now. Kpassagnon & Speaks worked with the 1’s. #Chiefs— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) August 14, 2019
Quote of the day
Q: What’s been the biggest obstacle in the transiton from Bob Sutton to Steve Spagnuolo?— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) August 14, 2019
Breeland Speaks: “None." pic.twitter.com/RvXYClm6qb
Breeland Speaks on the biggest obstacle in going from Bob Sutton’s 3-4 to Steve Spagnuolo’s 4-3: “None. It’s pretty much going from a lot of defense to just enough defense. Spagnuolo’s style is ‘We will attack,’ and he let his players play. And Bob Sutton was more so scheme-oriented, and there’s been no obstacles. Just getting the calls down and a whole lot of the same concepts—just shown in different ways. It’s basic football to me.”
The Chiefs will hold their final St. Joseph practice on Thursday at 8:15 a.m. Arrowhead Time. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, quarterback Patrick Mahomes and safety Tyrann Mathieu are scheduled to address the media. It is Military Appreciation day at camp.