My first visit to Kansas City Chiefs training camp last week was productive, but Saturday’s practice was set up to learn much more about the team.
Full pads and fresh off a rest day, the team had a long practice that featured multiple team, seven-on-seven and inside-run periods; one team period simulated the two-minute drill.
Here is what I saw:
- Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. looked great. From individual drills, I was impressed with his movement and quickness off the snap. In run periods, he was the same overpowering blocker that pries open holes by using his overwhelming frame. In team periods, his first step was very quick, neutralizing the vast majority of defensive end Frank Clark’s pass-rush attempts. He wasn’t perfect, but his descent into his pass set looked easier and smoother.
- Tight end Travis Kelce was very active on quick and intermediate passes all practice, primarily over the middle between defenders. He and Patrick Mahomes’ chemistry appears as finely tuned as ever, but he wasn’t the only tight end with a lot of activity. As Jody Fortson continues to sit out due to injury, Noah Gray was very busy — running a variety of routes for the first-team offense and never dropping a pass that I saw; Kelce did have a clean drop in seven-on-seven, which wasn’t the only one for the offense on the day.
- Drops were, unfortunately, a theme for practice. Early in the day, I noticed a frustrating drop on an easy pass to wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling when the offense was running on air. Later, Mahomes found a streaking Jerick McKinnon running up the seam in a live period, but the accurate throw in stride was dropped. There was also a play that ended with the ball in the defense’s hands after wide receiver Cornell Powell appeared to catch it; it wasn’t clear if he fumbled or if he bobbled and allowed the defender to intercept it.
- Rookie Skyy Moore has been impressive all camp, but Saturday felt like a reminder that he is still a rookie. The full-team periods did not feature as much of Moore as other practices, electing to keep the rotation tighter for the starters this time. In seven-on-seven periods, there were two occasions of good anticipation throws by the quarterback, but Moore appeared surprised on both with how fast the ball was on him.
- Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire continued leading the way as the starting running back, taking a bigger chunk of the snaps than I noticed last time I saw practice. He had a highlight-reel catch in the two-minute drill, where a scrambling Mahomes found Edwards-Helaire running down the sideline; the running back secured it over the shoulder and got out of bounds.
- Running back Ronald Jones was running hard, hitting holes powerfully in the live periods focused on inside runs. He broke off a few chunk gains, with some fluid speed cuts in the open field.
- Wide receiver Josh Gordon took advantage of the opportunity presented when Daurice Fountain left practice. In a seven-on-seven period, Mahomes found Gordon deep down the left sideline for a touchdown.
- I noticed rookie right tackle Darian Kinnard show off raw power in the live run periods, usually on the third-team offense. He showed off the strong hands that made him an intriguing prospect; however, his technique and footwork when pass blocking in one-on-one drills gave way to a few ugly repetitions. He might be closer to a developmental project than a first-year starter.
- The second-team offensive tackles were Geron Christian on the left side with Roderick Johnson on the right side.
- Defensive tackle Chris Jones was consistently disrupting plays — which almost goes without saying at this point. Most of those wins included beating left guard Joe Thuney or right guard Trey Smith, but I did notice spurts of Jones aligned as a defensive end.
- Rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie got his hands on two passes, causing incompletions in team period. The first was in trailing coverage on a deep, sideline pattern to wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster; McDuffie’s technique put him in a perfect spot to disallow any pass from getting through. On a later play, McDuffie used active hands to rip away a potential catch by wide receiver Mecole Hardman on a jump ball deep downfield.
- Defensive end George Karlaftis is still not a starting defensive end technically, but he got plenty of run in first-team live periods as a pass rusher. In one stretch, he wore down right tackle Andrew Wylie with power and collapsed the pocket by attacking Wylie’s outside shoulder. If not for restrictions on hitting the quarterback, I believe he gets a hand on at least one pass as it is released.
- Rookie Joshua Williams occupied the outside cornerback position in the first-team Nickel defense for the entirety of practice.
- The unit appeared to be working on the Dime defense for a lot of the practice, using it to work on different blitz looks. To their credit, they were finding clean ways into the backfield a lot — dropping defensive linemen into short-zone coverages and bringing defensive backs toward the pocket.
- As far as the personnel for those dime defenses, the three-safety look appears to feature Justin Reid as the box safety that lines up next to the dime linebacker at times, meaning rookie Bryan Cook is the traditional strong safety in his place for those plays. Translation: Reid is actually filling the Dan Sorensen role, not Cook, who is in Reid’s place as a deeper safety instead.
- The linebacker group did not have a very good day defending passes. One live period focused on the middle parts of the offense and defense, meaning passes to running backs and tight ends with linebackers in coverage. The tight ends had very little trouble finding seams and catching tight-window throws.
- Nick Bolton’s lack of feel in coverage was exploited by Kelce and Mahomes’ chemistry multiple times in seven-on-seven periods. It was also a noticeably quiet day for Willie Gay Jr.
- Veteran defensive end Carlos Dunlap is getting acclimated; he rotated in seldomly with the first-team defense during team periods. In one run period, Dunlap penetrated the front side of a run and stuffed the ball carrier before he made it to the line of scrimmage. One observation: he’s huge; he and Jones’ ability to swat passes at the line of scrimmage will be on the minds of opposing quarterbacks.
- Second-year defensive end Malik Herring stood out in both team periods and one-on-one drills for his pass-rushing juice. It makes it interesting for second-year edge rusher Joshua Kaindoh, who has not been a noticeably impressive player to my eye. The last spot at their position may come down to the two of them.
- Offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho returned to padded practices as the third-team left tackle; I saw fluid movement from him in both the run and pass games.
- Veteran defensive back Lonnie Johnson Jr. has appeared to have earned his way onto the second-team defense, playing outside cornerback along with rookie Jaylen Watson. I had noticed rookie Nazeeh Johnson in that spot the last time I was at camp.
- Wide receiver Omar Bayless had two very impressive grabs down the field, both with the second or third-team offenses. He outstretched and reached out for both at full speed, securing them cleanly.
- Wide receiver Justin Watson and cornerback Chris Lammons ran with the first-team punt team as the gunners for what appeared to be the entire period they worked on it. Lammons was likely in place of the injured Fountain.