ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The Chiefs and fans could not have asked for better weather for the first morning practice of training camp. Temperatures started in the upper 60s with a few high clouds. This also served as the first extended practice of camp, so fans saw a lot of routes on air, individual work and installs. A lot of ones-versus-ones in organized team activities, so chances to see the best matchup on both sides of the ball.
Offensive play of the day: Yesterday it was Patrick Mahomes to Sammy Watkins, today it was Mahomes to Tyreek Hill. Hill ran a deep fly route down the left sideline, and cornerback Steven Nelson did a good job keeping up. But Hill made a great adjustment to the ball while avoiding Nelson and hauling in the long pass with both feet in bounds in front of the official.
Defensive play of the day: David Amerson picked up his first interception of training camp, killing a two-minute drill by the No. 1 offense. Mahomes stepped up in the pocket looking for Travis Kelce as his outlet short right. But he never saw Amerson underneath who jumped the route for the easy turnover. Great positioning by Amerson and staying in coverage as the play broke down.
Thursday’s practice served to knock the rust off and Friday morning the work on the 2018 season truly began in earnest. Lot of individual work to start off and installation periods.
A couple of the offensive groups were interesting to watch during both drills and team activities. The starters at running back and tight end are well established with Kareem Hunt and Kelce. But based on what we’ve seen the past two days it’s clear that Spencer Ware has stepped back in at No. 2 on the depth chart at running back followed by Charcandrick West.
Ware took the bulk of the snaps with the first-team offense. That was partly due to the Chiefs wanting to limit Hunt’s work. It also may signal that Ware will receive more time off during Saturday’s padded practice as they look to limit contact in his return from the knee injury.
It’s a bit more muddled after that with the Williamses – Damien, Kerwynn and Darrel following. Damien is getting earlier reps at running back than Kerwynn, but Kerwynn has the special teams lead. Darrel is there to learn, but looks promising as well. How this position shakes out will be interesting.
Tight end is another group where the back competition looks pretty intense. Demetrius Harris takes most of the No. 2 snaps but Jace Amaro is right behind him. Tim Wright and Alex Ellis are both in the mix as well, and Ellis continues to look interesting. He continues to show an ability to get open and make reliable catches.
Undrafted rookie Alex Mack returned to work with the wide receiver group with the start of camp after a few days at tight end during minicamp due to numbers. The Chiefs have their eye on Mack as hybrid-type player who can line up in multiple positions and has good hands. He faces a tough battle but could make it with a good camp and strong special teams play. Definitely a practice squad candidate.
Mahomes started out 0-for-2 during seven-on-seven work but picked up after that. He wrapped up his first set of reps 3-of-6 passing finishing up with a perfectly thrown long ball to Tyreek Hill, who ran past safety Eric Murray and hauled in the ball in stride on a deep post route.
Backup quarterback Chad Henne looked very sharp today with a couple of nice throws. He started out with a laser perfectly thrown over a linebacker in zone and hit Marcus Kemp in stride on the sideline. Henne followed that with a deep cross to De’Anthony Thomas. Henne finished 3-of-4, followed by Matt McGloin who was 2-of-3.
Mahomes completed his second round 3-of-4 passing with a pass interference call in the end zone. His one incompletion came on a pass to Kelce where Murray looked like he had pretty tight coverage. Kelce wanted a flag but didn’t get it. The pass interference came on a deep ball to Chris Conley, with Anthony Hitchens and a defensive back crashing into each other.
It’s worth noting that Conley and Thomas both look very strong coming off their injuries. The speed looks there for both as well as good hands. Conley appears entrenched as the No. 3 wide receiver, and that’s a great role for him. On one play the Chiefs came out with Hill, Conley and Kelce tripped out left with Watkins split right and Ware in the backfield. Ware ran an out pattern right and it was completely free space. That trio lined up together is scary and shows just how open that creates opportunties on the opposite side.
After Henne completed a 3-of-4 round including a fantastic fade to Demarcus Robinson up the right sideline, Chase Litton took his first turn. He was 2-for-2 on the round including a deep ball to Ellis, who made a leaping grab. The battle between McGloin and Litton is another camp battle to watch. McGloin is a known quantity, a quarterback with NFL experience that the coaches know can run a huddle and facilitate the offense. The test for Litton is less about the throws he can make and whether he can pick up the offense. NFL teams and especially Andy Reid like the No. 3 quarterback as a developmental candidate. If Litton shows he can spit the play out in the huddle, make sure everyone is lined up and shows understanding of the playbook, he stands a good chance. The preseason games are his report card though. For now McGloin and Litton are sharing third-team reps.
The final round of seven-on-seven started with the big Mahomes-to-Hill fly. Mahomes finished this round 4-of-5. Henne was a perfect 4-of-4 on his turn, which included a great sideline grab in traffic by Kansas State rookie free agent Byron Pringle. Pringle has turned in a highlight catch each of the first two days.
The offensive line depth chart has been interesting to watch. Parker Ehinger has taken all the first-team reps at left guard, and looks like he may finally have returned to that position. Mitch Morse and Cameron Erving continue to share reps at first-team center, but expect Morse to eventually take that spot. What’s curious is what happens when Morse returns. Does Erving move to second-team center. Or does he work across the line with an occasional first-teams reps?
During the first-round of 11-on-11 work, Mahomes finished 4-of-5 with a scramble. Watkins and Robinson both made nice catches on the drive. Henne opened up with Thomas, Robinson and Marcus Kemp as his receivers and Ellis at tight end. That’s a pretty good indication of where those positions stand right now. Those three receivers certainly look like No. 4-6, and Ellis is impressing at tight end.
Henne finished 2-of-4 with McGloin 1-of-3 and Litton 0-2.
The team scrimmage finished with a two-minute drill. Mahomes’ first drive finished in just four plays, but not in a good way. This is where Amerson turned in the defensive highlight, picking off a pass intended for Kelce.
After a quick three-and-out from Henne, McGloin had a bit more success but turned over over the ball on downs. Cornerback Keith Reaser nearly picked off a pass intended for Pringle and Amaro made a nice catch against coverage from rookie Dorian O’Daniel.
Mahomes moved he ball a bit on his second turn. Kendall Fuller nearly intercepted a pass thrown toward Chris Conley but two completions to Hill and Kelce kept the ball moving. Tight end Demetrius Harris couldn’t come up with a catch on fourth-and-long, however.
Henne fished with a sustained drive, moving into scoring positions. Sixth-round pick Tremon Smith made a nice play on a throw toward Kemp. After a drop by Ellis and a sack, Henne missed connections in the end zone with Kemp.
Mahomes threw his first interception of full-team training camp Friday, and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy knows that more will come. What he and Reid care about is how the young quarterback handles his miscues.
“Will he have some growing pains? Yes,” Bieniemy said. “But it’s OK, because sometimes without no bad luck we wouldn’t have any good luck at all. He can live and learn and study from learning from the things he didn’t execute the proper way.”
Following the interception by Amerson, Mahomes completed his next pass to Watkins, then dodged a bullet on a near pick by Fuller. Bieniemy says he wants to see Mahomes bounce back from those plays as well as learn what he did wrong.
“Like I always tell him, ‘Play the next play,’” Bieniemy said. “We’re not worried about what happened, we want to see how you handle the next play, how well you handle the adversity moving forward. That’s all that matters.
Running back Kareem Hunt took part in individual work early but did not take any snaps during live team drills. Hunt later worked with a trainer on the sidelines with a medicine ball then left practice early to head back to the locker room.
A team spokesperson said the club wants to be smart handling Hunt’s workload as he returns from a hamstring injury suffered during an offseason practice.
Linebacker Reggie Ragland worked out on the sideline wearing a compression sleeve on his left knee. The team placed Ragland on the non-football injury list starting camp. He developed swelling in his knee during his flight to Kansas City for camp. The team is keeping Ragland out as a precaution and doesn’t consider the issue a long-term concern.
Safety Armani Watts (ankle) and cornerback Ashton Lampkin (knee) also both worked on the sidelines Friday.
Wide receiver Josh Crockett (illness) returned to practice after missing Thursday’s workout.
Quote of the day
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill on his 98 speed rating in Madden football, fastest in this year’s edition:
I am happy about being the fastest but I feel like I’m supposed to have 100 speed. Devin Hester had 100 and I’m faster than Devin Hester. Nothing against Devin Hester but I feel like I’m faster than Devin Hester so I should have 100 speed.
Saturday’s practice starts at 8:15 a.m. and runs about two hours and 40 minutes. It’s also the first practice with pads, so expect a lively workout with ore than a little trash talking.
Admission on Saturday is $5 with children under 3 free. Remember parking is also $5 per car. Events on Saturday include a full team autograph session and the Gatorade Jr. Training Camp where athletes age 12 to 14 can sign up to get football lessons from Missouri Western State coaches and players. Registration runs form 8 to 8:30 a.m. and instruction runs until 10 a.m.
There’s a chance of a stray shower Saturday morning, but it looks like the Chiefs should get practice in without any issues. Might be a wet start, so be prepared especially if you plan to camp out on the hill. The Chiefs practice in rain but move indoors if lightning is in the area. Indoor practices are closed to the public.