Camp Report: How, Why Chiefs Plan to Utilize Chris Jones Differently in 2021

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The worst kept secret of the offseason for the Chiefs is the notion that Chris Jones will see more time as an edge rusher along the defensive line, but he says that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s changing positions.

“I’m not a real D-end,” Jones said after practice on Thursday. “(Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) is going to move me around, most likely. I’m going to be playing both spots depending on game plan and who are we playing and what’s the best matchups.”

It wasn’t necessarily the plan all along to turn Jones into a hybrid player defensive lineman. Things changed in late March, however, when Seattle released interior defender Jarran Reed. Three days later the Chiefs agreed to a one-year with Reed, and the flexibility to move Jones around became a logical consideration

“By (Reed) being who he is and having such a big presence along the line of scrimmage, his position, 3-tech, which we play the same position, it kind of freed me up to go and move to the outside and let him dominate the line of scrimmage from the inside,” Jones said.

The 27-year-old Jones prepared this offseason for playing multiple roles. He weighed in at 292 pounds starting camp, and he wants to play around 295 pounds. He even added yoga to his offseason workouts to his usual Pilates regiment to prepare for playing at both both tackle and end.

“I usually do pilates during the offseason but I started a little early this year for my flexibility,” Jones said. “Bending the edge is a little different from taking the turn on a three-tech, so I wanted to be a little more flexible, a little more lenient bending the edge, and I was able to work on my flexibility a lot.”

Wherever he plays, Jones has lofty goals for himself and his teammates this season when it comes to sacks.

“We’re trying to break the record, baby,” Jones said. “Were trying to break the record, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The record. We’re trying to have the best D-line in the league, first and foremost. We’re trying to be dominant throughout this whole season, and we’re trying to challenge each other to get better day in and day out. If we do that, this D-line will be where we want to be.”

Camp Observations

In case you didn’t know, it’s been hot at the beginning of training camp, and Thursday marked hopefully the peak before slightly cooler temperatures roll into St. Joseph. It was 80 degrees with a heat index of 85 at the beginning of practice. When the final horn sounded at 11 a.m. The temperature had bumped to 87 with a heat index of 99.

The 1-hour, 55-minute practice started with a stretch period followed by positional drills and installation No. 2 of camp followed by seven-on-seven, 11-on-11 and special teams.

Notes and observations from Thursday:

  • With Anthony Hitchens out, Ben Niemann and Willie Gay spent the day as the starting linebackers with rookie Nick Bolton stepping in as the No. 3 backer. Niemann remains the backup Mike linebacker behind Hitchens but Spagnuolo is giving Bolton plenty of reps in the Mike role on the second and third teams.
  • Bolton continues to have up and down moments but his highlights are impressive. He tipped a Chad Henne pass at the line of scrimmage and later came up the middle on a blitz to hurry Shane Buechele into a quick throw for no gain.
  • Fifth-round receiver Cornell Powell continues to display excellent body control, good speed and solid route running but drops have been a problem going back to rookie minicamp in May. As soon as Powell starts securing the rock, he can move quickly up the depth chart.
  • Blue Springs product Darrius Shepherd picked up a couple of nice grabs, including one on deep post route from Buechele during the seven-on-seven period. A longshot roster candidate worthy of keeping an eye due to his speed and acceleration.
  • Shaky snaps posed a bit of a problem for the first-team offense on Thursday but it’s way too early to have concerns about Creed Humphrey. With a heat index pushing 100 degrees, perspiration lead to grip problems at times. Wait to see if the problem repeats itself to have any serious concerns.

Offensive play of the day: The breath-taking big play ball down the field hasn’t made a true training camp experience, but Chad Henne and tight end Jody Fortson did collaborate on a long touchdown during seven-on-seven work. Henne, who continues having a stellar camp, dropped a ball deep down the field in stride to Fortson.

Defensive play of the day: Chris Jones had training camp sack of Patrick Mahomes, getting around right Mike Remmers. No one blew a whistle, so the play continued on with Mahomes trying to connect with receiver Antonio Callaway. It appeared that Tyrann Mathieu tipped the ball at the line of scrimmage and cornerback Mike Hughes finished the play by knocking the ball away from Calloway.

Player of the day: Rookie tight end Noah Gray continues to impress, demonstrating why the Chiefs feel confident he can contribute when Travis Kelce isn’t on the field. He got that chance today with Kelce out of action, starting off seven-on-seven drill by beating safety Dan Sorensen for a touchdown. Gray has had a strong camp as a receiver, and it will be interesting to watch how he performs then the pads come on next week.

Injury Report

Kelce exited practice early with what the club terms tightness in his back and hips. It appears to be a precautionary move at this point, and the team didn’t elaborate on the issue or detail when Kelce might return.

Linebacker Anthony Hitchens did not practice Thursday after tweaking his hamstring yesterday. He did work with a trainer on the sideline during practice.

Safety Armani Watts (foot) and defensive end Malik Herring (knee) remain on the physically unable to perform list with tight end Nick Keizer (back spasms) on the non-football injury list. Long snapper James Winchester and running back Darwin Thompson are on the COVID-19 list.

Yeah, I’m like 15, 20 pounds lighter. I came up here on the first day. Quick story. I came up here on the first day, I grabbed Popeye’s chicken sandwich, three chicken strips, a biscuit, fry and a 12-count nugget and I still weigh like 292. And I was telling B, he was like, ‘You’re the perfect weight.’ I was like, ‘No I’m not, I just ate like three sandwiches from Popeye’s, some chicken strips, so I feel like my weight is – I’m good. I’m still trying to move up in the 295 range.

— Defensive lineman Chris Jones on his diet and weight entering the season

Training Camp Playlist

  • “Statement” — G Herbo
  • “Every Chance I Get” — DJ Khaled featuring Lil Durk & Lil Baby
  • “Spin the Block” — Lil Durk featuring Future
  • “Need It” — Migos featuring YoungBoy Never Broke Again
  • “Hard for the Next” — Moneybagg Yo and Future
  • “Like 34 & 8” — Gucci Mane featuring Pooh Shiesty

What’s Next?

The Chiefs practice at 9:15 a.m. on Friday for the fourth day of the five-day acclimation period, which means players can practice with helmets and shells (light pads) at full speed. but no contact is allowed.

Saturday practice kickoffs at 9:15 a.m. followed by an off day on Sunday. It’s another helmets and shells practice on Monday at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday’s practice marks the first day in full pads.

Tickets for most training camp practices are free but fans must reserve tickets online in advance.