It was a beautiful day to take in my first training camp practice of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2022 campaign. I was up in St. Joseph, standing on the back of bleachers while I jotted down observations with pen and paper.
Here’s what I noted from Saturday’s practice:
- The first-team offense flipped the starting offensive tackles for the first time this camp: Andrew Wylie started at left tackle for the entire day after playing right tackle the first three days, while Roderick Johnson moved to right tackle.
- The second-stringers also flipped tackles: Rookie Darian Kinnard was in at left tackle for the first time while offseason signing Gerron Christian played on the right side.
- The wide receivers were once again the standout group of practice. Rookie Skyy Moore was busy, taking reps with both the first-team and second-team offenses. Mahomes looked his way plenty — including a deep corner route that was slightly underthrown; Moore came back and secured it while in contact with the defender.
- Moore was also the target of a scrambling Mahomes throw in red-zone seven-on-seven; he broke away from his defender and into open space, but Mahomes led him a little too far.
- Wide receiver Mecole Hardman had been quiet compared to the rest of the group this camp, but he made a few different kinds of plays on Saturday: in team period, a quick slant from the slot was caught in open space and would have been a huge gain even with full contact. They also worked in a direct snap to Hardman, similar to the play we saw them run in Week 18 last year against the Denver Broncos.
- He was also targeted on a deep crosser, coming from the most-inside spot in a Trips formation. He had separation from his defender and plenty of open space in front of him — but his stretched-out arms couldn’t haul it in. It was tough to distinguish if it really was catchable, but it would have been a touchdown if completed nonetheless.
- Wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster wasn’t as targeted as in prior practices, but he made two really tough catches: the first was in a tight window between defenders on a curl route over the middle, while the other was a low throw on the sideline that he went down and corralled.
- Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling had a couple of impressive grabs that emphasized hand usage. Both came over the middle in traffic, with one coming on a semi-no-look pass; Mahomes climbed the pocket and threw it across his body, which could point to the confidence he’s already gained with Valdes-Scantling.
- Besides the main four, the next two wide receivers to get run with the first team were Daurice Fountain at the X position and Justin Watson — who appeared to be used on pre-snap motions consistently.
- The rotation of running backs featured Clyde Edwards-Helaire as the lead back, while rookie Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon were the primary players to rotate in with him for most of the first-team work. Ronald Jones and Derrick Gore seldom saw first-team time — mainly toward the end of practice.
- The tight end rotation featured all of the top four players on the depth chart getting run with the first team — but Jody Fortson appears to be the clear second tight end. Not only does he look great physically, but he has also built noticeable chemistry with the quarterbacks. Crisp, on-time routes and reliable hands. Unfortunately, he left practice early due to a quad injury.
- The starters on offense were working a lot of pre-snap motions, specifically the orbit motion (where the receiver motions in front of Mahomes then reverses course behind him) and the reload motion (where a running back starts in a wide receiver alignment before motioning back next to the quarterback).
- However, there was one play that started with Clyde Edwards-Helaire lined up as an isolated wide receiver. He didn’t move back in; instead, he broke the cornerback off on a very impressive slant route and looked to be open. Mahomes may have glanced in that direction, but he opted to throw elsewhere. Nonetheless, it was a noteworthy rep for Edwards-Helaire.
- The offense also messed around with personnel. On the above play, the huddle showed Edwards-Healire and fullback Michael Burton. Yet, the formation had only Burton aligned in the backfield. The ability for Edwards-Helaire to line up and make plays as a receiver could confuse the defensive personnel of opponents.
- The starting defense continued to feature rookie Joshua Williams as an outside cornerback, while Mike Danna took the primary reps at defensive end opposite Frank Clark.
- In limited action, the Chiefs deployed their starting Dime defense. On those snaps, it was Nick Bolton as the sole linebacker — replacing the role of Ben Niemann in prior seasons — and rookie Bryan Cook as the third safety, a spot previously occupied by Dan Sorensen.
- The defensive line continues to get sorted out, from the starters to the depth pieces. I noticed some pass-rush packages that brought in Karlaftis to rush from the edge, which pushed Danna to an interior alignment. I also saw Karlaftis rush against left guard Joe Thuney in team period on at least one occasion.
- Defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton also rotated in as an interior rusher; he and Karlaftis were the only non-starting linemen that stuck around to observe the first-team running against air, rather than getting snaps with the second and third teams at a different part of the field.
- Currently, veteran Elijah Lee is starting as the third linebacker in the base defense — playing the SAM position. Rookie Leo Chenal was rotated in during team periods on a limited basis but was primarily getting his snaps with the second and third teams. He and veteran Darius Harris were the two linebackers for the second-team Nickel packages.
- Rookie Trent McDuffie broke up a pass intended for Valdes-Scantling on a curl route over the middle. Later, he allowed wide receiver Justin Watson to get behind him and create separation vertically, but Mahomes’ pass was too far out of bounds.
- The starting defense made life tough on the offense during a seven-on-seven period in the red zone. I counted three times Mahomes had to scramble because receivers were covered initially; I don’t believe any of the attempts on scrambles resulted in a touchdown.
- The second-team secondary featured rookies Jaylen Watson and Nazeeh Johnson as the outside cornerbacks, with second-year corner Dicaprio Bootle as the slot defender. Bryan Cook and veteran Deon Bush had the safety spots.
- Veteran cornerbacks Deandre Baker and Lonnie Johnson Jr. rarely worked above the rookies on the second team.
- Second-year defensive end Joshua Kaindoh appeared to be the first defensive end on the second team aside from Karlaftis. Khalen Saunders and Wharton were the first defensive tackles on these snaps.
- Tight end Jordan Franks made a nice hands catch on an out-breaking route, turning up the sideline well after good separation from a defender.
- Undrafted free agent Jerrion Ealy worked mainly with the second and third teams; in a third-team 11-on-11 snap, he caught a quick slant in space from the slot and quickly turned upfield for a significant gain.
- Justin Watson made a very tough catch over the middle, going to the ground with the completion after a collision with linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr.
- Skyy Moore was catching punts for the entirety of the punt period towards the end of practice. He, Mecole Hardman and wide receiver Corey Coleman rotated.
- There was only one errant snap during team periods that I saw. The snap came before Mahomes expected it.