The first day of padded practice normally brings out more fire and attitude, and Saturday's third training camp practice proved no exception. The players took the opportunity to attack with more ferocity, and individual matchups took on more impact. It's still not tackle to the ground but it's enough for players to whet their appetite.
Offensive play of the day: Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill again teamed up for a couple of long touchdowns, but give the nod to wide receiver Marcus Kemp for hauling in a fantastic catch from Chad Henne. Late in practice during full team work, Henne threw a high sideline fade to Kemp, who high pointed the ball and stretched to drag both feet in bounds. Very athletic move from Kemp, who continues to show strong development in his second season.
Defensive play of the day: Safety Jordan Sterns used a lot of concentrations in making a juggling interception against Henne. The high throw first tipped off the hands of a receiver, and Sterns attempted to corral the loose ball. He juggled and batted the ball several times before firmly grasping it on his way to the end zone. Honorable mention: cornerback David Amerson picked off Patrick Mahomes for the second-straight day.
Padded practices always have a lot going on due to the the rarity of physical workouts in today's camps. Padded workouts rare, so coaches use them to get as much work done as they can. Early in practice one the team used one field for wide receivers to run one-on-one routes against corners, while on the other field running backs and tight ends faced off against linebackers and safeties. Later while receivers and the secondary worked on one field, offensive and defensive lineman faced off one-on-one on the other side.
Cornerback Tremon Smith continues to get a lot of work on the second team, moving through all three corner positions. During one-on-one matchups against receivers, he had such tight coverage on De'Anthony Thomas that the pass hit in the helmet. It was great coverage, no pass interference, and obviously Smith needs to get his head turned around and that's a pick. But it shows his cover skills, and as Smith becomes more instinctive and thinks less about what he's doing, the ball skills he demonstrated at Central Arkansas should show through. When the play is in front of him, Smith shows tremendous ability to attack the ball.
Undrafted free agent Arrion Springs is Smith's partner on the second team at corner. Springs continues to impress after a strong offseason program. Right now Smith and Springs fall just behind Keith Reaser in the corner back depth chart behind the three starters.
Saturday's practice saw the first depth chart change with either of the first teams. Center Mitch Morse took over as the full-time center, and with that Cameron Erving moved to left guard. That displaced Parker Ehinger to the second team. It remains to be seen if this is a permanent move, but the Chiefs feel comfortable with Erving at all three positions.
Patrick Mahomes opened up the full 11-on-11 scrimmage in great fashion, dealing out a perfect 7-of-7 passing run before borrowing a page from the Alex Smith playbook. On his last rep of the first rotation, Mahomes ran the option to the right side, eventually pitching the ball to running back Damien Williams. Mahomes has the speed to make teams pay attention to his running ability. Even if he doesn't quite have Smith's knack for the option game, it's a powerful tool to keep in the playbook for him.
The second time through for Mahomes wasn't as strong. He had a couple of misfires, a drop by Charcandrick West and threw his second interception in as many days to cornerback David Amerson. It was a pure poor decision by Mahomes, who tried to force the ball in to triple coverage.
Head coach Andy Reid moved Mahomes out of the pocket more on Saturday than in earlier camp practices. It almost seemed the Chiefs were forcing Mahomes to work in the pocket more avoid leaving the tackle box. That makes sense; Mahomes is a naturally outside the pocket, and his biggest improvements can come inside the pocket. But there were more rollouts and moving pockets on Saturday, which Mahomes should be able to use to great effect.
Mahomes' best play came during seven-on-nine work, which consists of no linemen other than a center. Mahomes hooked up with Hill on a long touchdown pass, with Hill beating Kendall Fuller deep.
The Chiefs are showing some interesting looks in their pass rush. In addition to the willingness to swaps sides with Justin Houston and Dee Ford, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and his staff have a few other quirks they are working on. On one play Tanoh Kpassagnon and Breeland Speaks lined up with the ones side-by-side on the left side with Allen Bailey playing a four-tech on the other side. Chris Jones as also lined up at a five-tech as a standup rusher outside the left tackle.
Second-year receiver Jehu Chesson made a few nice catches on Saturday. The Chiefs like what Chesson brings on special teams, but he needs to show more on offense. He's been behind Kemp and Gehrig Dieters in the pecking order at receiver and needs more good days like Saturday.
The biggest crowd roar of the day actually came near the very end of practice. Select offensive players squared off against defenders in an Oklahoma drill style workout where the ball carrier works to outman the defender in front of him. Tight end Demetrius Harris used his truck stick to plow right through linebacker Raymond Davison. Players and fans alike reacted strongly to that one.
Berry influencing young secondary
The return of Eric Berry at safety means much to the Chiefs defense, and one his biggest roles comes in as a coach on the field.
“I think that just comes with experience too because I've always been pretty involved back there,” Berry said. “But now I just know a little bit more because I've been in the system for a while now, I think its been six years now. Just being able to help the guys out there who are new to the system has been big.”
The Chiefs' secondary carries an identity as a ballhawking group, and the team hopes to continue that tradition even without cornerback Marcus Peters. Berry said young corners and safeties pick up on that philosophy in the film room.
“The film speaks for itself, they see the kind of DNA we have,” he explained. “They know about getting to the ball, playing selflessly and just playing for one another. They see it on film every day through the past seasons and they see it in practice. We just echo that out. It's not just me, it's everybody that echoes that.”
So far Berry loves the chemistry the secondary is developing.
“Everybody wants to win back there,” Berry said. “We want to win, we want to make plays and we want to be the best we can be. We're also competing back there too so I think that's going to drive us to be better and better.”
Running back Charcandrick West left practice after taking a hit to the helmet and did not return. He's undergoing further evaluation to determine if he needs to proceed to the next step in the league's concussion protocol.
Linebacker Reggie Ragland remains on the non-football injury list after experiencing puffiness in his left knee following his flight to Kansas City for camp. The team continues evaluating his stats on a day-to-day basis.
Rookie safety Armani Watts returned to practice after suffering an ankle strain during the three-day minicamp for rookies and quarterbacks. He missed the last two minicamp practices and the first two full camp workouts.
Running back Kareem worked with the team in individual drills before heading to the sidelines on Saturday to work with trainers. He reported tightness in hamstring, and Reid said the team will continue to limit his work. He injured the hamstring during an OTA practice in June.
Cornerback Ashton Lampkin (knee) also did not practice.
Quote of the day
Chris Conley on who the team's best Fortnite player is:
“I will say Tyreek's pretty good but that's partly because Tyreek doesn't sleep. He has a lot of time to play Fortnight. He's pretty good, he's pretty good. I hear Patrick's alright but I haven't played with Patrick directly.”
Sunday's practice begins at 8:15 a.m. and is schedule to run approximately two hours and 40 minutes, however weather poses a serious concern for camp goers. The forecast calls for widespread thunderstorms Sunday morning with a a 90 percent chance of storms at the time practice starts.
The Chiefs will practice in the rain, even moderate to heavy rain, but will move indoors if lightning is in the area. Indoor practices are closed to the public. It is not unheard of for a practice that starts indoors or moves inside to finish outdoors. It depends on the condition of the fields and how much time remains in practice.
Reid prefers to practice outdoors if at all possible, so a decision could be made as late as 7:50 a.m. on moving practice inside. Monitor the team's Twitter account for the latest updates or follow @mattderrick on Twitter.