Throughout training camp, Chiefs Reporter B.J. Kissel will share his top observations from each practice.
Here are five things that stood out Wednesday morning:
1. There were two “LIVE” periods during practice
The guys may have been in pads for a couple of practices over the weekend, and that in and of itself brings a certain level of physicality with it, but Wednesday’s practice featured two “LIVE” sessions in which the ball carriers were taken to the ground.
It just takes things up another level.
There’s generally a LIVE period during most of the fully-padded practices once they get into the meat of camp and then closer to the preseason games, but it’s not as common to have two of those periods in one practice.
One of those periods Wednesday morning came in the red zone.
“It’s a game situation,” center Mitch Morse explained. “When you’re gassed and you got to get the yardage, coach [Reid] puts you on the line and he trusts you. He needs to find the guys that can put that together. We’ve got to do some soul-searching and get better.”
It’s necessary for the guys to be ready to play and it’s something they know is important, particularly defensively, to help establish the mindset they’re looking to set this season.
“It’s very important,” Chiefs’ defensive lineman Chris Jones explained. “When we get a live period, we’ve got to take advantage of it, especially the defensive line. We’ve got to set the line of scrimmage and clear up space for our linebackers.
“It’s good for the entire team because we don’t get many (live chances), so the ones we do get, we have to take advantage of.”
With another off day set for Friday, there’s a good chance we’ll see plenty more physicality from the Chiefs’ practice on Thursday morning as well.
2. The top plays from Wednesday
Whether it was from the 1-on-1, 7-on-7, or any of the 11-on-11 periods of practice, here are some of the top plays that stood out from Wednesday:
- Third-year safety Eric Murray had a nice interception along the sideline on a deflected pass from backup quarterback Chad Henne. Receiver Marcus Kemp had attempted to catch the jump ball up and over the top of the cornerback, but the ball deflected and flew up into the air and was snagged by Murray, who was coming over to help from his safety position.
- Undrafted rookie receiver Byron Pringle out of Kansas State continued his solid camp with a couple of nice catches in traffic.
- During a 1-on-1 rep on the far field, cornerback Steve Nelson had a fantastic pass breakup on a pass intended deep on a go-route for Sammy Watkins. Nelson was stride-for-stride down the field with Watkins and was able to get his inside hand up to deflect the pass. Nelson continues his strong camp as well.
Players and Coaches working during Wednesday's Training Camp Practice
3. Undrafted rookie linebacker Ben Niemann got a look with the first-team defense
With injuries to fellow inside linebackers Reggie Ragland (knee) and Ukeme Eligwe (Foot) keeping them sidelined at practice, there was an opportunity on Wednesday for undrafted free agent linebacker Ben Niemann to get some run with the first-team defense.
It made for a long day for the former Iowa Hawkeye.
“I’m a little tired. It’s good work though,” Niemann, who also had to take his usual reps with the backups as well, explained after practice as he tried catching his breath.
While Wednesday was Niemann’s first action with the starters, it’s not the first time his name has come up at camp.
A few days ago, Chiefs’ Assistant Head Coach and Special Teams Coordinator Dave Toub mentioned Niemann’s name as a young guy he’s excited to watch when the preseason games roll around beginning next week.
“Obviously, you want the team to be healthy, but I got a chance to get my number called and I’m just trying to go out there and work hard and make the most of every rep and try to prove to these guys that I can play,” Niemann explained.
During his time at Iowa, Niemann showed he could play by totaling 199 career tackles, four sacks and 11 passes defensed. He played in 45 career games over his four-year career.
“Coming in kind of with a chip on your shoulder—as an undrafted guy—just learning through OTAs and taking as much information as possible,” Niemann added. “I just try to learn from the vets when they’re out there. Guys like Reggie [Ragland] and Hitch [Anthony Hitchens], guys who have been around and done it, and just take whatever you can from their game and translate it to yours.”
One thing Niemann does credit for his ability to pick up things pretty quick is that he’s from a football family. His father, Jay, is the defensive coordinator at Rutgers, while his brother, Nick, is still playing at Iowa.
“I think it helps,” he explained. “Ever since I was a little kid, I was running around out at my dad’s training camps. My whole life—football has been a part of it. I feel like I just kind of have a ‘football mind’ where I’m just geared that way because it’s how I grew up.”
As the first preseason game draws closer with the Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans next Thursday, Niemann may be a guy to keep an eye on, particularly if we don’t see the return of Eligwe or Ragland soon.
4. Patrick Mahomes’ day
It was another day full of the entire Patrick Mahomes’ experience.
During a 1-on-1 drill early in practice, Mahomes hit Tyreek Hill deep down the right side of the field for a touchdown in a 50-50 jump-ball situation. On the play, Hill did a great job to track the ball and make the catch with the defender wrapped all over him. It’s been a common occurrence at camp.
Later during one of the team periods, Mahomes found Hill once again on another deep pass for a touchdown.
We saw some other fantastic throws deep down the field and even some darts to guys on the outside as they sat in the openings of zone coverages, but we also saw some of the mistakes that have become learning experiences for the young quarterback.
“He had a few hiccups today, but that’s a part of the process,” Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy explained of Mahomes. “Would we like him to be perfect? Yes, but he just needs to stay poised under pressure.”
During one of the red zone periods, which was live, Mahomes was intercepted by safety Leon McQuay in the back corner of the end zone.
After practice, Mahomes indicated that’s a situation during a game in which he might just run it in considering he was close to the goal line but didn’t want to score a cheap touchdown in a live situation because the defense isn’t allowed to hit him.
Mahomes was told not to train bad habits and treat it like he would in a game.
“We have to be mindful and take care of the football,” Bieniemy added.
5. Wednesday’s injury update
Rookie defensive lineman Derrick Nnadi (elbow) and receiver Marcus Kemp (ankle) left practice early due to injuries.
Here are the guys who didn’t practice at all on Wednesday:
LB Ukeme Eligwe (foot), OL Dillon Gordon (unspecified), LB Reggie Ragland (knee), CB Keith Reaser (quad), and RB Charcandrick West (concussion).