Day 9 Leaders Boot Camp Observations

My first visit to Kansas City Chiefs training camp last week was productive, but Saturday’s practice was set up to learn a lot more about the team.

Pads full and fresh from a day off, the team had a lengthy practice that included multiple shifts, seven-on-sevens, and inside running stints; a team period simulated two-minute drill.

Here is what I saw:

Offense

  • Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. looked great. During individual exercises, I was impressed by his movement and his speed of execution. During running times, he was the same super-powered blocker who opens holes using his crushing frame. In team time, his first step was very quick, neutralizing the vast majority of defensive end Frank Clark’s pass-rush attempts. He wasn’t perfect, but his run down his passing set seemed easier and smoother.
  • Tight end Travis Kelce has been very active on fast and intermediate passing during all practices, mainly in the middle between defenders. He and Patrick Mahomes’ chemistry still seem as finely tuned as ever, but he wasn’t the only tight end with plenty of activity. While Jody Fortson continues to be out through injury, Noah Gray has been very busy – traveling a variety of routes for the first-team offense and never dropping a pass I’ve seen; Kelce had a clean seven-for-seven drop, which wasn’t the only one for the offense that day.
  • Falls was unfortunately a training theme. Early in the day, I noticed a frustrating fall on an easy pass to wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling when the offense was running. Later, Mahomes found a streaky Jerick McKinnon running up the seam in a live period, but the accurate throw in stride was scrapped. There was also a play that ended with the ball in the hands of the defense after wide receiver Cornell Powell appeared to catch it; it was unclear whether he fumbled or stumbled and allowed the defender to intercept him.
  • Rookie Skyy Moore has been impressive all camp, but Saturday was like a reminder that he’s still a rookie. The full-team periods didn’t feature Moore as much as other practices, opting to keep the rotation tighter for the starters this time around. In the 7-on-7 periods, there were two opportunities for good anticipation shots by the quarterback, but Moore seemed surprised each time by how quickly the ball was on him.
  • Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire continued to lead the way as the starting running back, taking more of the snaps than I noticed the last time I saw practice. He had a highlight catch in the two-minute drill, where a scrambling Mahomes found Edwards-Helaire running down the sideline; the ball carrier strapped it on the shoulder and went out of bounds.
  • Running back Ronald Jones was running hard, punching holes powerfully in live periods focused on inside runs. He broke up some big wins, with some smooth gear reductions in the open.
  • Wide receiver Josh Gordon took advantage of the opportunity that presented itself when Daurice Fountain left practice. In a seven-on-seven, Mahomes found Gordon deep in the left sideline for a touchdown.
  • I noticed that rookie right tackle Darian Kinnard showed raw power in the live running periods, usually when attacking the third team. He showed off the strong hands that made him an intriguing prospect; however, his technique and footwork when blocking passes in individual drills gave way to a few ugly reps. He might be closer to a development project than a freshman starter.
  • Second team offensive tackles were Geron Christian on the left side with Roderick Johnson on the right side.

Defense

  • Defensive tackle Chris Jones was constantly disrupting plays – which almost goes without saying at this point. Most of those wins included beating left guard Joe Thuney or right guard Trey Smith, but I noticed pushes from Jones lined up as a defensive end.
  • Rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie got his hands on two assists, causing misses in team time. The first was in back coverage on a deep sideline pattern to wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster; McDuffie’s technique put him in the perfect spot to stop any pass getting through. On a later play, McDuffie used active hands to snatch a potential catch from wide receiver Mecole Hardman on a deep ball jump.
  • Defensive end George Karlaftis still isn’t technically a starting defensive end, but he’s had plenty of time in first-team live spells as a passing thrower. In one stretch, he wore down right tackle Andrew Wylie with power and collapsed the pocket attacking Wylie’s outside shoulder. If not for the quarterback’s hitting restrictions, I think he gets his hands on at least one pass as he comes out.
  • Rookie Joshua Williams served as the outside cornerback in Nickel’s first-team defense for the duration of practice.
  • The unit seemed to be working on the Dime defense for much of practice, using it to work on various blitz looks. To their credit, they found plenty of clean ways in the backfield – dropping defensive linemen into short-area coverage and driving defensive backs into the pocket.
  • As for the staffing of those dime defenses, the three-safety look seems to feature Justin Reid as the box safety who sometimes lines up next to the dime linebacker, meaning rookie Bryan Cook is traditional strong security in its place for these coins. . Translation: Reid actually fills the role of Dan Sorensen, not Cook, who is in Reid’s place as a deeper security instead.
  • The linebacking group didn’t have a great day defending passes. A live period focused on the middle portions of offense and defense, meaning passing to running backs and tight ends with linebackers in coverage. Tight ends had very little trouble finding seams and catching tight window throws.
  • Nick Bolton’s lack of feel in coverage was exploited by the chemistry of Kelce and Mahomes on several occasions during seven-on-seven periods. It was also a remarkably quiet day for Willie Gay Jr.
  • Veteran defensive end Carlos Dunlap acclimatizes; he rarely rotated with the first-team defense during team times. During a running period, Dunlap penetrated the front face of a run and stuffed the ball carrier before he reached the line of scrimmage. An observation: it is huge; he and Jones’ ability to crush passes at the line of scrimmage will be on the minds of opposing quarterbacks.
  • Sophomore defensive end Malik Herring stood out in both team periods and in individual drills for his pass juice. That makes him interesting for second-year rusher Joshua Kaindoh, who hasn’t been a remarkably impressive player in my eyes. Last place in their position may come down to them both.

Other ratings

  • Offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho returned to padded workouts as third-team left tackle; I saw smooth movement from him in running and passing games.
  • Veteran defensive back Lonnie Johnson Jr. appears to have earned his place in the second-team defense, playing outside cornerback with rookie Jaylen Watson. I had noticed rookie Nazeeh Johnson there the last time I was at camp.
  • Wide receiver Omar Bayless had two very impressive catches on the field, both with second and third team offenses. He reached out and grabbed the two at top speed, securing them neatly.
  • Wide receiver Justin Watson and cornerback Chris Lammons ran with the first-team punt team as gunners for what seemed like the entire time they worked there. Lammons was probably in place of the injured Fountain.
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