ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The solar eclipse descends on St. Joseph next week but one body already moved in front of another with Patrick Mahomes outshining Tyler Bray and assuming the role as the team’s No. 2 quarterback behind starter Alex Smith.
“It gives Patrick an opportunity to step up and work with that second group and see what he can do there,” head coach Andy Reid said after practice Sunday morning at the team’s training camp.
Mahomes took snaps with both the first- and second-team offenses, following Smith in the quarterback rotation. Bray took snaps with the second and third teams followed by Joel Stave.
Reid’s decision comes following Friday’s preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers in which Mahomes out-dueled Bray.
Mahomes finished the game 7-of-9 passing for 49 yards and a touchdown with a quarterback rating of 126.4. The rookie connected with wide receiver Demarcus Robinson on a 41-yard bomb on his first play from scrimmage, only to see the play wiped away due to a penalty by left tackle Isaiah Battle.
Bray meanwhile completed 5 of 8 passes for 63 yards and interception for a quarterback rating of 47.4. He also saw a big play pulled from the stat sheet – an 83-yard touchdown strike to Chris Conley erased by a debatable offensive pass interference call.
The Chiefs sit in an unusual spot without an experienced backup quarterback. This season marks Bray’s fifth in the league but he has yet to throw a pass in a regular-season game.
Reid dismissed the notion that the elevation of Mahomes had anything to do with the performance of Bray.
“It’s not because of Tyler’s performance in the game,” Reid said. “I thought he actually played very well.”
The decision to promote Mahomes shows the organization believes their quarterback of the future ready for a larger workload. Reid said the rookie’s training camp and preseason play shows he can function within the offense while learning on the job.
“He’s worked very hard but it’s being able to get in and function in the huddle while still seeing the defenses and the reads, knowing the calls that he needs to make to get in and out of trouble in both the run and the pass game,” Reid said.
Tight end Travis Kelce agreed with his coaching, indicating he sees the potential within the young quarterback.
“We’re throwing a lot at the guy and it’s fun to see him grow,” he said. “He’s doing just fine and I’m sure he’s going to be just as good as everyone expects him to be.”
The migration from a no-huddle Air Raid offense in college to Reid’s intricate West Coast offense means learning a whole new language for Mahomes. The rookie said during offseason workouts that spitting out plays in the huddle remained a skill that needs improvement.
But Reid believes Mahomes stands up to the challenge.
“We’ve got a few words that we’ve got on these routes,” Reid said. “He handles that pretty well. We saw that even when we brought him in for the pre-draft test.”
A starting quarterback controversy in Kansas City, however, remains far beyond the horizon. The starting job belongs to Alex Smith beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Smith and the first-team offense capped of a swift and efficient opening drive Friday night with a successful trip through the red zone. Smith led his team on an eight-play, 75-yard drive covering just 3 minutes and 22 seconds before exiting stage right.
Kelce said Smith remains the offense’s leader hands down.
“It’s a fun thing to have Alex and his confidence and him being just about the oldest guy in the room,” Kelce said. “But leading us and knowing his veteran presence has got some accountability to it.”
Mahomes stands No. 2 right now but Reid declined to say if the club planned for Mahomes’ ascension up the depth chart at this point in training camp — or even if the switch stands permanent for the remainder of the preseason.
“If you’re going to try and put it in a box, I’m not sure we can do that,” Reid said. “It’s just what I want to do today.”
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.