The Kansas City Chiefs took the field for their third day of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) Thursday afternoon, which ended up being a beautiful day to get out and watch something resembling football. They also practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday as Phase 3 of the offseason program has gotten underway.
During Phase 3, the practices utilize drills that have the offensive and defensive players competing against one another. That's seen in the form of 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills.
In Phase 1, the players were basically lifting weights and conditioning and there couldn't be any contact with the coaching staff. The players could, however, get together on their own and practice.
In Phase 2, the coaches were allowed on the field but the offensive and defensive players were only allowed to practice against air. The two sides of the ball also practiced at different times throughout the day.
And now in Phase 3, the players are allowed to compete a little bit but there's still no contact and they're running around in shorts. So, while it's great that football is back in some kind of form, there's only so much to take from these practices.
Players and coaches working during OTA's on Thursday.
It's still obviously an important time of the year for a lot of reasons, and it's still great when guys are making plays, but it's still not the real deal. That'll take place at training camp up in St. Joseph, Missouri, towards the end of July.
In any case, Thursday marked the first day that media members were allowed to watch and report on what took place at practice, so here are a few observations on what transpired:
1. Eric Berry, Dee Ford, and Chris Conley are back on the field
One of the biggest takeaways from these practices, at least from a health standpoint, is to see which players are practicing.
And in the case of the Chiefs' defense, there were two key players back out there and running around.
Safety Eric Berry, whose impact can't and won't be understated by anyone, was back on the field roaming around the Chiefs' secondary. Berry was lost for the season after suffering a torn Achilles early in the fourth quarter of the Chiefs' opening game of last season in New England.
"It's great to have him out here," Chiefs' coach Andy Reid said of Berry. "He's one of our leaders and it's great to have him healthy. He's flying around and doing a great job."
Ford missed considerable time last year with a back injury, while Conley suffered a torn Achilles early in the season against the Houston Texans and missed the rest of the season.
2. Three players are being held out right now
Center Mitch Morse, receiver De'Anthony Thomas, and running back Spencer Ware, all of whom are coming off injuries suffered last season, didn't participate in any of the three practices for the Chiefs this week.
Here's more on what coach Reid had to say about those three guys.
3. Patrick Mahomes' development showing in the small things
Last year, Patrick Mahomes, who was fresh off becoming the Chiefs' first quarterback selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in more than 30 years, spent his time at OTAs learning from Alex Smith and trying to understand the verbiage of the play calls.
It started with learning the protections and how to adjust, then reading the defense and how the routes changed with what the defense was showing, and many of the other "big picture" things that go along with playing quarterback in this offense.
And on Thursday afternoon, which featured both sides of Mahomes—the arm talent, and also the development that'll come, there were a handful of small things that showed his comfortability in the offense.
"He's way ahead of what he was last year at this time," Reid said. "He worked hard last year and was in a great room."
On multiple occasions, Mahomes changed up his cadence and forced the defense to jump offsides.
It's a very detailed observation and probably something missed by a lot of people, but it absolutely showed that he's in command, whereas last year at this time he was just trying to spit out the call.
And come this fall, those are the kinds of things people will point to when it leads to a free play after the guy jumps, and it's easy to think about what could happen with a free play and guys like Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Travis Kelce on the field.
4. Steven Nelson had a good day
One of the top plays of the day came from veteran cornerback Steven Nelson, who is the only cornerback who played considerable snaps last year at cornerback for the Chiefs that returns this season.
Early in a 7-on-7 period, Nelson jumped in front of a Mahomes pass out to the left for the interception and returned it for what would have been a touchdown.
A bit later, Nelson provided fantastic coverage in the red zone on a play that was specifically designed for Nelson, who was on an island, to bite, and he didn't.
It's going to be a big year for him and his defensive teammates had plenty to say about it after practice on Thursday. We'll have more on that next week.
5. A few other plays that stood out
Second-year edge rusher Tanoh Kpassagnon had an interception on a Mahomes' pass that was deflected at the line of scrimmage. The 6-foot-7, 285-pound specimen showed some awareness to find and secure the ball before it hit the ground.
Veteran safety Robert Golden had a fantastic pass breakup on a throw across the middle during the 7-on-7 period.
Third-year defensive lineman Chris Jones batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage.
Mahomes overthrew Tyreek Hill once, which is noteworthy considering he's the fastest player in the league.
And finally, the Chiefs' first pick in this year's draft, Breeland Speaks, found himself out in space one time with Hill catching a pass in front of him coming across the field, and after a few vintage Hill moves in the open field, Speaks saw a speed up close that he probably hadn't ever seen before. Nobody wins that battle against Hill, but it could be seen as a mini "Welcome to the NFL" moment for Speaks.