ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The largest crowd of Chiefs’ training camp thus far this season turned out on Saturday, with approximately 6,000 fans on hand for a padded practice that even fired up club chairman and CEO Clark Hunt.
“I thought the practice today was a good one with a lot of intensity,” Hunt said, “y and we just appreciate everything that the university does in hosting us here in St. Joe.”
The crowd particularly seamed to fire up the defense, which turned in a strong performance in several practice scenarios.
The Chiefs opened up their first team period with a quick 10-play set, and defensive end Chris Jones immediately set the tone for a good day for the defense. Mahomes tried to dump off a pass to fullback Anthony Sherman, but Jones got a hand on the pass to tip it away and nearly picked it off. Mahomes settled down to finish 3-of-5 passing on the quick set, completing short passes to Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce and Damien Williams.
Williams remains a strong candidate to watch, especially as a third-down back. His pass protection ability is strong, and he continues displaying high-end speed and reliable hands.
The first-team offense had two new faces with left tackle Eric Fisher and left guard Cameron Erving on the sidelines. Second-year lineman Andrew Wylie took over at left tackle with Bryan Witzmann filling in at left guard, a position where he started 13 games last season.
The injuries on the first team filtered to the second team as well. The No. 2 line rolled out with left tackle Bentley Spain, left guard Jordan Devey, center Tejean Koroma, right guard Jimmy Murray and right tackle Parker Ehinger. That’s three rookies on the No. 2 line, each of whom have shown ability. Ehinger taking over at tackles poses a bit of a puzzle. He was a former college tackle, but seemed to make the transition to guard successfully as a rookie and appeared ready to compete for the left guard starting job. Now the Chiefs appear to be preparing Ehinger for a more versatile utility role than as a starter.
Mahomes and Henne took turns in individual drills firing passes to receivers in one-on-one matchups against secondary defenders, and the competition definitely turned heated. Mahomes and Byron Pringle hooked up for one of the highlights of the day, with the quarterback firing a laser to the corner of the end zone and Pringle high-pointing the ball over David Amerson for the touchdown.
The secondary got the best of the offense more often than not. Mahomes and De’Anthony Thomas hooked up for one touchdown, with Mahomes firing a low fastball that Thomas hauled in sliding in the end zone.
After a nine-on-seven run period, the offense took the ball deep in their own territory with the mission to get the ball out of trouble while the defense went for the safety. The defense did just that on the first play with Williams taking a hand off from Chad Henne and was unable to get the ball out of the end zone. Jones also picked up a safety later with a sack against Henne.
Mahomes and Tyreek Hill nearly teamed up for a highlight reel play. Hill had a step deep against safety Armani Watts and Mahomes threw a perfect pass. But Hill uncharacteristically dropped the ball on a play that would have flipped the field and possibly gone for a touchdown.
After special teams work the offense got the ball with a short field to drive for a score. Henne steadily lead the No. 2 offense into the red zone against the No. 1 defense. But three straight incompletions leads to a field goal from Harrison Butker.
Mahomes and the No. 1 offense also marched into the red zone, thanks to a big third down pickup with Mahomes scrambling to his right and finding Travis Kelce for a big gain. But Mahomes and Kelce failed to convert on their next third down, leading to another Butker field goal.
The No. 3 offense under Chase Litton picked up two first downs from catches by tight end Jace Amaro and wide receiver Blake Mack. The third team didn’t drive as far as the first two groups but still managed to work into field goal range for Butker. The defense kept the offense out of the end zone on all three tries.
The quarterbacks finished up practice with one of their accuracy competitions, but it was non-passer who stoled the show. The actually quarterbacks all struggled to find their targets in a fierce wind. Then Hill raced in to take a shot and the left-handed thrower nailed his first two targets to draw a roar from the crowd.
No word yet on whether than means head coach Andy Reid intends to allow Hill to try throwing a pass in a game again after his interception against Denver last season.
Special team work
The Chiefs finished practice with a vicious wind blowing through the campus of Missouri Western State University, providing a little drama to the final special teams period.
Kicker Harrison Butker attempted a field goal of almost 60-yards in to the wind. Butker gave it a ride, but the ball felt short of the goalposts and into the hands of deep man Tyreek Hill. Hill proceeded to weave through traffic and return the missed field goal for a touchdown.
“We were kicking into a hard wind so I tried to take (Butker) out of range and the goal was to practice bench alert,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. “It was almost good enough. If it was over to the left it might have been good. He has a good strong leg.”
Toub said special teams players continue adjusting to the new kickoff rule, which prohibits a running start by players on the kick team.
“It is instinctive that they want to go,” Toub said. “When it is live they will really want to go. You need to instill into their head that they can’t.”
The new rule also requires the receiving team to have eight players in the 15-yard “setup zone” prior to kickoff. Toub said that changes the types of players best suited for the receiving team.
“You are going to have a different athlete kind of on the field,” Toub said. “Not as big an athlete because you need to block guys in space. All those factors are something that we considered all through the offseason and now into training camp.
Injuries continue to ding the Chiefs on both sides of the ball with four starters missing practice on Saturday.
Linebacker Anthony Hitchens (hamstring) joined fellow inside linebacker Reggie Ragland (knee) on the sidelines. Left tackle Eric Fisher (shoulder) and left guard Cameron Erving (knee) also missed practice.
Safety Leon McQuay left practice early with a hamstring injury. Linebacker Tanoh Kpassagnon (heel) and cornerback Keith Reaser (quad) were partial participants Saturday.
Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi (elbow), wide receiver Marcus Kemp (ankle) and running back Charcandrick West (concussion) also did not practice.
Quote of the day
Club chairman and CEO Clark Hunt on whether he expects a suspension for running back Kareem Hunt following two offseason incidents involving the authorities:
“I really don’t but we tend not to be privy to those decisions that are made by the NFL.”
Sunday’s practice starts at 8:15 a.m. and will run for approximately two hours and 40 minutes. It’s also season ticket member day, which means certain events and benefits exclusively for season ticket holders. The practice is open to the general public with free admission. Parking is $5 per car.
It should be another warm day with clear skies in the forecast. Temperature should range from the upper 70s at the start of the workout into the upper 80s by the end of practice.
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.