Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi is heading into the 2021 campaign on the final year of his rookie contract — and in unison with his temperament during his first three years with the club, the optimism he shows both on and off the field is palpable.
Nnadi has quietly logged more than 1,500 snaps in that time, registering 130 tackles and shoring up the middle of the defensive line as a run stopper. But in contrast to the last three seasons, Nnadi will have a new running mate this year: free-agent tackle signee Jarran Reed — with Chris Jones bouncing to the outside in many looks.
“Reed’s a good dude; I like him,” Nnadi said. “He’s a real down-to-earth dude. He’s very intuitive knowing he has to catch up with the speed. He’s always asking questions in the meeting room — make sure he knows all his Ps and Qs. He’s going to be great for us...
“I feel like we’ve been very consistent in just playing the run. I feel like right now, it’s a good fit for all of us. Having Chris on the edge, pretty much doing what he does best: dominating his opposing O-lineman. I feel like it’s a good matchup for him, being on the edge, going against the tackles. I feel like it’s really balanced.”
And Nnadi thinks the Chiefs defensive line gets better as it competes against the newcomers along the offensive line’s interior: right guard Trey Smith and center Creed Humphrey.
“Trey, he’s a very hard worker,” said Nnadi. “I can see that because I’ve been talking to him just briefly throughout OTAs. I think he’ll be a good player here. Creed, I feel like he’s going to be a great center, strong inside punch, making sure he has a sturdy base. I feel like those two will be really good this year.”
Like those watching camp, Nnadi has also noticed the improvements behind him in the Chiefs’ defense.
“I feel like Willie [Gay is] better inside the game,” said Nnadi of the second-year linebacker. “When I first met Willie. What was it? A while ago — when I was training down in EXOS. I didn’t know he was going to be on the team, but it was weird. It always happens. When I first met him, I already knew, one — he’s a great person.”
Nnadi later shared the story of how he met the second-year linebacker and became reacquainted with him after Kansas City selected him in the second round of last year’s draft.
“I was down there in EXOS just training, and there’s always going to be a lot of potential draft kids down there training. And I just chatted up with some of the guys because they’re asking me questions because I’m in the league — and Willie kind of just jumped out to me. It was either his energy, his attitude, or I don’t know. Willie kind of just takes the room in a way because he’s just a really good, positive guy. And when I found out he got drafted, I’m like, ‘Hold up. I seen that name before.’ Come up at OTAs, I’m like — you know that Spider-Man meme? ‘Yo, what’s up!’
“And his rookie year, in my eyes, I was like, ‘This kid is phenomenally fast, he’s going to smack somebody in the mouth, and he’s got a good attitude.’ I was like, ‘Let this kid have another year — another full year. He’s going to be ballin. Absolutely ballin.”
Gay did not practice Thursday as continues through the concussion protocol, so Nnadi and the defense trudged along without him. Nnadi has much to gain through his individual work in 2021 — but realizes that the key to such success stems from the success of the unit.
“We’ve got to do our job,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that we’re controlled, we’ve got great interior push to make sure the quarterback doesn’t have a step up lane and allow our edge rushers to get their layups. At the end of the day, it takes all four of us to make this D-line a dominant D-line.”
- The weather in St. Joseph Thursday morning was sunny, with the temperature in the low-to-mid-70s when practice began at 9:15 a.m. — and climbing to the high 70s by the end of the workout.
- Wide receiver Mecole Hardman beat undrafted safety Devon Key as he caught a deep ball from quarterback Patrick Mahomes for what would have been a touchdown in the day’s first 11-on-11 session. He also had another touchdown later in the day. Hardman continues to put together an above-average camp in the all-important third year.
Mecole turned on the jets for this one ✈️ pic.twitter.com/3nWvmmCqEG— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) August 5, 2021
- Despite Key giving up the big play, he has clearly gotten the defensive coaching staff to notice. The repetitions with the first team mean something — especially with defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo making the call. Continuing with depth updates, defensive back Chris Lammons caught an interception off a batted ball at the line later in the period in third-team work.
- Linebackers Darius Harris and rookie Nick Bolton continued to see looks with the first team as the team eases Anthony Hitchens back into the mix.
- Tight ends Noah Gray and Jody Fortson had nice mornings in one-on-one blitz pickup drills against linebackers. Defenders Emmanuel Smith and Will Parks showed good penetration.
- The route work with those same players tended to favor the skill players, who dominated for the most part — sans a pass breakup from linebacker Dorian O’Daniel on a pass intended for fullback Michael Burton. I noted that I was impressed with running back Darrel Williams pass-catching here. On the opposite field, cornerback BoPete Keyes had an interception in defensive back-receiver one-on-ones.
- This was a fun moment in one-on-ones at the goal line, with wide receiver Byron Pringle besting safety Tyrann Mathieu. Watch how mad Mathieu gets after the rep.
At his size, a 3 yard in massively favours Pringle. Even so, Mathieu is still absolutely raging with himself afterwards. Got to love that fire. https://t.co/M5RiVuFow9— Tom Childs (@tomchilds56) August 5, 2021
- This is a good time to remind you that AP reader Eddie High has been solid in posting videos from St. Joseph throughout the month.
- Wide receiver Marcus Kemp looks to have improved his offensive game in every facet, and the key for me this week was that it continues to be the case now that the pads have come on. His routes are solid — and at 6 feet 4, he is a big target who can catch the football. When I wrote him into my initial 53-man roster projection, it was with some hesitation. No more.
- Wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who missed practice earlier in the week with knee tendinitis, looked exactly like himself: 100%. The only difference was a full compression sleeve that ran from the top of his left leg all the way to his cleats.
- In 2021, Andy Reid has many players he can use for misdirection from the backfield. From Hill, Hardman and Clyde Edwards-Helaire to two in the backfield at once, what Kansas City has in store will be trouble for opposing defenses.
- Demarcus Robinson might have put it perfectly after the workout: “I think you’re going to see some things you seen last year and some things we going to bring out that you guys haven’t seen before.”
- Speaking of Robinson, he might have had the play of the day in 11-on-11 work.
Patrick Mahomes, midseason form. During 11s, rolled out to left feeling the pressure. Absolutely nobody open until he looked up and Robinson had small window. Flip from an awkward angle, perfect spot. Touchdown just out of the reach of Hughes.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) August 5, 2021
- Before we get into Thursday’s offensive line-defensive line drills, I think this note from former Chiefs right tackle Mitch Schwartz is worth a re-post on these pages: “I wouldn’t evaluate anyone’s overall pass pro ability in 1 on 1s. You don’t know if he’s working on a certain technique, what the thought process is, etc. It’s also a time for (older) guys to try different techniques and see what they like or don’t like.”
Orlando Brown and Joshua Kaindoh pic.twitter.com/ntmc9SPvOD— Sam McDowell (@SamMcDowell11) August 5, 2021
- That noted the starting interior of the Chiefs (left guard Joe Thuney, center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith) has come as advertised. In this drill, in particular, left tackle Orlando Brown has not. With Mike Remmers still sidelined, right tackle Lucas Niang improved as the week carried on. Here are the winners and losers: Winners (in order): The starting offensive line interior, especially Humphrey, Darryl Williams, Lucas Niang, Frank Clark, Yasir Durant, Khalen Saunders; Losers (in order): Nick Allegretti, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Brown Jr., Jarran Reed, Tyler Clark
- Defensive lineman Chris Jones had a solid effort in one-on-ones and added a pass breakup during team work late in practice.
- Kicker Harrison Butker missed a field goal from about 40 yards but was successful on his other two attempts at the end of team periods.
- Reid’s younger brother, “Randy,” was in attendance for the workout, so I expect an update from our friends at Chiefs dot com soon.
Press conferences (Spotify)
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- Returned to practice: Linebacker Ben Niemann (hamstring), safety Juan Thornhill (groin), safety Armani Watts (foot), tight end Nick Keizer (back spasms)
- Did not practice/not in pads (due to injury): Cornerback Deandre Baker (resting femur), tight end Evan Baylis (ankle), linebacker Willie Gay (concussion protocol), defensive end Malik Herring (ACL), right guard Kyle Long (tibia), defensive end Alex Okafor (hamstring), right tackle Mike Remmers (back spasms), wide receiver Chad Williams (groin)
- Did not participate in team drills (injury): n/a
- Injured Thursday: wide receiver Antonio Callaway (knee)
Tweet of the day
Our John Dixon compiled all of Thursday’s tweets here. Here is the tweet of the day:
Is your hand part of your arm?
This poll is closed
Quote of the day
Head coach Andy Reid on the lack of fighting at Chiefs camp: “We try to go at a fast pace and try to get as many plays in and you get in a fight, and it kind of drains the system. You're not going to be doing very good the next play, and that’s what you’re putting on tape, so we try to keep the temp up. I’m not big on fighting; that’s not my deal. This isn’t ultimate fighting or something. This is football, and so we roll. Go fast. That doesn’t mean things don’t happen. We’re trying to go fast and try to be accurate and put out on the play. If you do that right, you’ll be too tired to fight.”
The Chiefs resume camp with their ninth full-team practice Friday at 9:15 a.m. Arrowhead Time. It is a 10-10-10 (lighter) practice, so the team won’t put pads back on until Sunday.