ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — When players put the pads on for a training camp practice, one of the most anticipated sessions is when the offensive and defensive linemen gather in a circle for one-on-one battles of supremacy.
It’s also where Creed Humphrey reigns supreme. Just ask Chris Jones.
“I haven’t went against him, I try to stay as far away from the nose spot as possible,” Jones said with a laugh.
That’s not true, and among the best one-on-one matchups in camp has been Humphrey versus Jones.
“Chris is one of those guys that if he wants to get after you in one-on-ones, he’s going to,” Humphrey said. “He’s definitely a guy to go against in practice though, you know you’re going to get better every time you go against him, so it’s been awesome to go against him this camp.”
Humphrey has a simple philosophy for attacking the one-on-one duals. First, he wants to win — that’s simply his competitive fire emerging. Secondly, he focuses on his techniques and the areas of his game in which he wants to improve.
“The way I approach it is, obviously, you want to win the rep,” Humphrey explains, “but you want to be able to work on different moves going against different guys that have different moves who may rush different than another guy you went against. Really for me, it’s about settling down, making sure you’re working on those moves the right way, and then just competing after that.”
It’s clearly an approach that works well, earning Humphrey All-Rookie honors in 2021 and landing him the top grade for all NFL centers from Pro Football Focus. Jones believes he should have added more hardware to his trophy case last season.
“You look at him he’s great,” Jones said. “He should have been an All-Pro last year. They snubbed him from that, snubbed from his first Pro Bowl, but keep on chopping. Keep on chopping and success will come over time.”
The challenge Humphrey faces next may be the toughest of his career, according to head coach Andy Reid. He won’t sneak up on anyone this season, and every defense he faces this season will have film on how to attack his weaknesses — assuming they find any.
“How he handles that will be important,” Reid said. “He played well last year and was one of the best, but these coaches get creative and they’re going to challenge you. The work that he’s put in and he’s putting in now is so important.”
That’s why going up against players like Jones in the one-on-one drills is so important to Humphrey. Jones offers a variety of ways to beat a blocker, and is among the best interior defenders in the league. He also knows Humphrey as well as any defender in the league from the training camp battles.
“He’s really good with his hands, being able to forklift your hands off him, he’s got that really good,” Humphrey said. “His power moves are all good, he’s really good at swatting hands too. He’s just really well rounded, he doesn’t have a certain move that he’s good at, he’s good at so many different things.”
Notes & observations
A cold front moved into the region overnight, and cloudy skies with temperatures in the 70s gave Chiefs players a respite after two days with the heat index in the 90s for the morning practices.
Monday’s workout was a 10-10-10 practice, which means 10 plays for the No. 1 offense, 10 plays for the No. 1 defense and 10 minutes of special teams. It’s normally a quick practice, made even quicker on Monday with the offense starting in a no-huddle tempo.
Following the typical stretch, individual and installation periods, it was straight into the team period. The 10-10-10 practices can appear highlight-laden at times because the second team is serving the starting lineup with specific looks. The goal is to run scout-team type looks that cater to what the starting offensive or defense is working on that day. There are no pads or contact, and it’s not a competitive setting either. It’s built to allow the starters to work on timing and implement what they have been working on during recent installation periods with an opponent on the field.
The Chiefs also continued heavily rotating players in certain positions. That was particularly noticeable along the offensive line where Andrew Wylie saw work at both right tackle and right guard with the No. 1 offense and Geron Christian backed him up at right tackle. The Chiefs have done similar shuffling and rotations at positions such as running back, wide receiver and cornerback.
Reid says it’s about moving players in and out to see what combinations work.
“One of the tricks is to come out of this thing, especially with the three games, come out of this thing knowing who you’ve got,” Reid said. “So we’ve tried to mix them in. Some of that chemistry stuff is important. See how they do with the ones, some of the twos mix them in with the ones, see how they handle it. Depth in this league is a beautiful thing. You want to make sure you’ve got it, you don’t want to miss on that. Sometimes those guys get neglected a little bit.”
The first-team offense was on point during it’s first session, finishing in the red zone with three touchdowns to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman.
Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. started the defensive period in knocking down a pass at the line and later tipping a pass away from running back Derrick Gore. Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed also broke up a pass from Shane Buchele toward receiver Omar Bayless. The offense had one very nice rep when Buechele dropped a perfectly thrown pass into the hands of Cornell Powell, who was up against cornerback Joshua Williams in coverage.
The first special teams period focused on protection for the punting team. Taking turns in the receiver rotation were Skyy Moore, Corey Coleman, Omar Bayless and Trent McDuffie. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see all four receive opportunities during the preseason but Moore and McDuffie are the most promising candidates to win the return job entering the season. McDuffie has been the most consistent as a receiver. Moore has struggled at times with kicks over his head. Coleman had a rough outing last week but remains a sleeper for the job as a sixth receiver.
In the second period for the offense, Mahomes opened it up a bit more with shots downfield, narrowly missing deep throws to Justin Watson and Mecole Hardman. Mahomes did connect with Hardman deep down the right side on the final play for the No. 1 offense. Reid says it’s important to practice the deep throws.
“You call them in practice when you’re going against a defense,” Reid explained. “We might not always get to the deep one, it might be covered. So these practices here, these 10-10-10s where you have opportunities to take shots downfield, you take them and you get yourself on the same page with the receivers. We’ll continue to do that as we go.”
The secondary was productive in the second defensive round powered by interceptions from Juan Thornhill and Sneed, although Sneed’s interception came after the defensive line jumped offsides. Sneed, linebacker Nick Bolton and cornerback Jaylen Watson also broke up passes. Buechele and Powell also connected on another solid throw and catch.
The punt coverage team took the field for the final special teams workout. Punter Tommy Townsend worked on pinning kicks inside the 10-yard line while gunners tried their hand at downing the ball at the goal line. Justin Watson has made a solid case for the roster as not only a wide receiver but also the team’s top gunner. Other strong candidates include Chris Lammons, Nazeeh Johnson, Dicaprio Bootle, Joshua Williams, Jaylen Watson and Trent McDuffie.
The final offensive and defensive period focused heavily on the run game, play action and quick passes. Moore, Hardman and Noah Gray were all features via run, jet sweep and the shovel pass respectively. On the final play of practice, backup quarterback Dustin Crum got the best of the No. 1 defense, running a bootleg to the left side and scampering inside the pylon for the score.
One day after wide receiver Daurice Fountain was a full participant despite a finger injury, a groin strain kept him on the sideline Monday morning. He was joined by tight end Jody Fortson (quad), defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth (knee contusion) and wide receiver Greg Jennings (concussion). Jennings was on the practice field since Aug. 3.
Cornerback Rashad Fenton (shoulder) and right tackle Lucas Niang (knee) remain on the physically unable to perform list.
The Chiefs signed defensive lineman Matt Dickerson, who entered the league in 2018 as an undrafted free agent from UCLA and has played 18 games in the NFL for the Tennessee Titans. He also spent time with Las Vegas and Arizona. The Cardinals released Dickerson on July 29.
The club made space for Dickerson on the 90-player roster by waiving defensive end Shilique Calhoun. He first signed with the Chiefs practice squad in October 2021. He was released on Jan. 18 and later signed a reserve/future contract with the team on Feb. 9.
Josh Gordon’s Roster Bid
It’s been four years since Josh Gordon has been in a full NFL training camp, and it’s an opportunity that he remains grateful for after years of battling sobriety and dealing with NFL suspensions.
“I think I’m just happy to be here,” Gordon said after practice Monday. “I’m just happy to be here. I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity.”
It’s been an adjustment of sorts for Gordon since he arrived in Kansas City in October. Joining a veteran-laden team midseason on its way to the AFC Championship while learning one of the league’s most complex offenses didn’t make for an easy transition.
“For a team like the Chiefs, coming to this team in a different scenario, figuring out which roles to play, it was almost an insurmountable task,” Gordon said. “I was just happy to be out there, be of any use I could be. But it was definitely a steep hill to climb that’s for sure.”
Gordon played in 12 games for the Chiefs last season, hauling in just five catches for 32 yards and a score. He was inactive for the AFC Wildcard game, after which the club waived Gordon and signed him to their practice squad. He signed a reserve/future contract with the Chiefs on Feb. 2.
Now age 31, Gordon is no longer the tantalizing talent a team is trying to keep on the field and in their organization. Now he’s on the outside looking in, battling for one of the final remaining roster spots at receiver. And yet there’s no place he says he’d rather be than in the Chiefs’ receiver room.
“It’s a great group of guys, a lot of talent, very deep, extremely fast, it’s highly competitive,” Gordon said. “I think it’s a perfect nature to groom young men for excellence, especially on the football field. And off as well just as far as being disciplined, knowing how we’ve got to edge out the competition not only each other for the sake of our livelihood but the other team most importantly.”
With Mecole Hardman, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore guaranteed locks for the roster if healthy, that leaves 10 other receivers battling for likely one or two spots. Justin Watson appears on his way to securing one of the spots, leaving Gordon and others battling for maybe one golden ticket to the league this year.
The coaching staff has rotated players through the first, second and third teams, including Gordon, testing their fitness and chemistry. That can make it difficult to build rhythm in the offense and a connection with a quarterback. That’s why Gordon relishes the preseason for a chance to prove himself.
“That’s what I came here to do when the lights are on,” Gordon said. “I want to do it at practice first for sure but you can’t always get it right in practice. You don’t always have the time, the reps, opportunity, you got to take the mental reps in what space and opportunity I have and go show improvement. Come the preseason game, that’s what I hope to do.”
As for his odds of making the 53-player roster in Week 1, Gordon says there’s no telling.
“I do not have an answer for that, to be honest, I don’t,” Gordon said. “I wasn’t a starter last year, so I’m fighting for a spot like everybody else.”
The Chiefs finish up a fourth-straight day of practice on Tuesday, Aug. 9 with a 9:15 a.m. workout. It’s an exclusive season-ticket members-only day, and the club reports all tickets have been reserved. That means a capacity crowd of around 5,000 is expected.
After an off day on Wednesday, the Chiefs will be back on the practice field at 9:15 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 11. Quarterbacks, running backs and specialists will be signing autographs after the session. It’s the final practice before the team’s preseason opener at Chicago kicking off at noon Saturday, Aug. 13.
The Chiefs will be back in St. Joseph for their final training camp practices starting Aug. 15 and wrapping up on Aug. 18 before returning to Kansas City.