ST. JOSEPH, Mo.– The Chiefs close training camp on Tuesday, and that might not come a moment too soon at the rate injuries have piled up for the club, particularly in the secondary.
Three players left practice with injuries Sunday, including right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif with a head injury. Five defensive backs did not practice, including three of the team's top safeties in Eric Berry, Daniel Sorensen and Leon McQuay.
Offensive play of the day: Patrick Mahomes connecting with Tyreek Hill on a deep corner route looked breathtakingly easy, but backup receiver Marcus Kemp might have made the three best catches of they. He elevated to high-point the ball on intermediate throws down field, but the best grab come on rope from Chad Henne requiring Kemp to dive fully horizontal and corral the ball safely before going to the ground.
Defensive play of the day: Mahomes took a shot in the red zone to the corner of the end zone for Sammy Watkins, but Kendall Fuller was step-for-step with him and managed to knock the ball down through some vicious hand fighting back and forth. Another illustration of the solid camp Fuller continues posting as he transitions from a slot nickel to an every-down cornerback.
he injury bug bit the Chiefs before team activity even began. Players were still going through individual drills when running back Damien Williams left practice with a shoulder injury. That served as an omen of things to come.
Among the more entertaining camp drills are three-on-three matchups with three receivers facing three defensive backs on one side of the field and quarterbacks choosing the best target. Kemp turned in another spectacular catch in this drill, pulling in a high throw across the back of the end zone from Mahomes against Fuller. Shortly after that Robert Golden picked off a pass from Mahomes intended for Chris Conley, jumping the out route in the end zone and taking it off Conley's back shoulder.
When team activity began, the Chiefs pass defense stepped up early. Mahomes was forced to scramble on on two of his first six reps and completed 2-of-4 passes, both short throws to Kareem Hunt and Chris Conley.
The pass rush got Chad Henne quickly on his first rep, with Breeland Speaks and Tanoh Kpassagnon both beating their men. The Chiefs rotated their No. 2 offensive line a bit. The group started left to right with Andrew Wylie, Bryan Witzmann, Jordan Devey, Ryan Hunter and Parker Ehinger. Bentley Spain later came in at left tackle and Kahlil McKenzie stepped in at right guard. Both those players have taken most of their snaps with the No. 3 line. Ethan Cooper, who just arrived last week, also took some reps at left guard with the No. 2 line.
Henne and the No. 2 offense also took the field with Kemp, Gehrig Dieter and Byron Pringle at receiver, Alex Ellis at tight end and Darrel Williams at running back. While Kemp and Dieter are reliable second-team players who regularly get first team looks as well, this shows a bit of a promotion for the other three. Pringle has taken on more second-team reps, and Ellis appears ahead of Tim Wright on the tight end depth chart. Darrel Williams moved up in the line following the injury to Damien Williams, but he also took snaps ahead of Kerwynn Williams.
There's still no outright leader in the race for the No. 3 quarterback job. Chase Litton and Matt McGloin continue sharing reps and rotating who plays first. Both players have made strong cases to win the job. This battle looks to continue through the preseason, but conventional wisdom says if it's a tie, bet on Litton winning the job.
Mahomes and the first team offense looked sharp during seven-on-seven work. Tyreek Hill ran a short hitch with a wicked cut to get inside against David Amerson for a quick hit, and Mahomes threw three red-zone touchdowns in four plays connecting with three different receivers in Watkins, Travis Kelce and Demetrius Harris.
When Duvernay-Tardif left the field for the medical tent, it was quickly apparent he was going through a concussion protocol test. Attendees at camp could see the lineman going through the sideline examination including the test via a tablet that is then compared to a player's baseline results.
Just as Duvernay-Tardif complete his exam and staff started escorting him to the locker room on a cart, nose tackle Xavier Williams left the field with a stinger. Williams went straight to the locker room, riding along with Duvernay-Tardif.
Practiced finished with a special teams period on kickoff returns. Tremon Smith started the rotation followed by De'Anthony Thomas and Kerwynn Williams. Thomas did not play in the preseason game Thursday against the Texans, but Smith and both Kerwynn and Damien Williams returned kickoffs. Smith looks like the leader at this point but there are three games left in the preseason to determine the winner.
Hitchens, Ragland and chemistry
The swollen knee of Reggie Ragland and a nagging hamstring injury for Anthony Hitchens have kept Kansas City's starting inside linebacker apart from each other on the field for most of training camp. But inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone isn't too concerned yet.
"They get along so well,” DeLeone said of Hitchens and Ragland. “I feel like the chemistry – and we saw it in OTAs, there were together in OTAs – so I know the chemistry is there. We just got to them together on the field here and live and in pads.”
DeLeone feels chemistry at inside linebacker is key in the Chiefs' defensive scheme.
“I think at the inside linebacker where you're talking about two guys that really have to play off each other, I think it's very important,” DeLeon said. “I think when you have two guys that click and match it's huge.”
But DeLeone said the loss of snaps for Hitchens and Ragland means more work for others, notable Ukeme Eligwe, Terrance Smith and rookie Ben Niemann. Eligwe filled in at Ragland's Mike linebacker role while Smith played the Will spot.
“It's been kind of a blessing and a curse,” DeLeone said. “The blessing with that is these other guys have really been able to play and learn on the fly and get reps and it's exciting.”
Sunday started out poorly for the Chiefs on the injury front and quickly degenerated further as practice progressed.
Safety Eric Berry sat out practice with a sore heel. Shortly after practice began, running back Damien Williams left for an evaluation of a shoulder injury.
Later in the workout Duvernay-Tardif left with a head injury. Just as the medical staff prepared to take him for an evaluation, starting nose tackle Xavier Williams arrived at the medical tent with a stinger.
Linebacker Anthony Hitchens (hamstring) and running back Charcandrick West (concussion) continues to participate on a partial basis.
Six other Chiefs did not practice: safeties Daniel Sorensen (knee) and Leon McQuay (hamstring); cornerbacks Keith Reaser (quad) and Makinton Dorleant (hamstring); offensive lineman Jimmy Murray (knee) and Alex Officer (knee)
Quote of the day
Asistant head coach and special teams coordinator Dave Toub on what he learned about the new kickoff rule during the first week of preseason games:
"It was kind of fun to go and see what everyone was doing and how they were going to attack it. You can’t really change much about the kickoff, it’s pretty much all the same, but the kickoff returns, and the way guys are going to scheme it up and different things they’ll try to do, I thought it was really interesting. We are still a work in progress there too as far as getting the timing and spacing down because it is different. It’s going to take a number of games and reps to get that down. I think by the end of the preseason we will be ready to roll once the season rolls around.
Monday's penultimate camp practice starts at 8:15 a.m. and runs approximately two hours and 40 minutes. Admission is free but the university charges $5 per car for parking.
Both Monday and Tuesday practice sessions include a chance of rain. There's a better chance of showers on Tuesday, but the forecast calls for thunderstorms in the area Monday morning. The team will practice through light to moderate showers, but practice moves indoor with lightning in the area. Indoor practices are closed to the public.