Training Camp Observations

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Five Observations from Thursday's Practice | Chiefs Training Camp 8/11

Here are some quick notes from Thursday’s practice

The Kansas City Chiefs took the field for the 13th official practice of training camp on Thursday in preparation for the upcoming season.

Here's a quick rundown of what took place during Thursday's practice, and for reference, every previous practice report can be accessed through the links below.

1. Tight end Jody Fortson returned to practice on Thursday.

Fortson, who had been sidelined with a quad injury, took the field on Thursday for the first time since July 30. The veteran tight end went on to participate in individual drills during the practice, and while he didn't take part in any "live" action, it still marked a step forward in his recovery.

"It was good to get Jody some work out there," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "We're ramping him back up, and he was able to do the front part of practice."

Two other players, wide receiver Daurice Fountain (groin) and defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth (knee contusion), also returned to practice after brief absences.

In terms of who didn't take the field, defensive end Frank Clark (sick), safety Zayne Anderson (shoulder) and wide receiver Gary Jennings (concussion) didn't practice. Additionally, wide receiver Omar Bayless left practice early due to back tightness.

Offensive tackle Lucas Niang remains on the "PUP" list and also did not participate.

2. This was the Chiefs' final practice before the preseason opener on Saturday.

The Chiefs took the field for a standard, two-hour and 25-minute padded practice on Thursday, completing a stretch of seven padded practices in 11 days. These last two weeks were the definition of a grind, marking the first time that the players donned pads since last season ended. That "ramp up" period is now complete, however, and the players will have an opportunity to compete against an actual opponent on Saturday.

The game represents a chance for every member of the roster to get better, but it's particularly important for those on the "roster bubble" trying to stick around. In fact, the Chiefs will have to trim their roster down to 85 total players following the game on Aug. 16.

"Just go. Don't be afraid to make a mistake," said safety Justin Reid when asked what advice he was sharing with the young players fighting to make the team. "The game plan will be simple. You're going to know what to do, so go out there and show what you've got. Go make a play."

In terms of playing time on Saturday, Andy Reid told reporters following practice on Thursday that the plan is for each quarterback to play one quarter, with each respective "group" following suit. The game doesn't matter in the standings, but it truly is the ultimate evaluation period.

"Everything speeds up in a game," said quarterback Patrick Mahomes. "Things have to happen faster, so for the guys to [handle that] mentally and to execute while showing off their talent is a good [opportunity]. It's good to be in a game and to see how these guys take that next step."

It's worth pointing out that this wasn't the final practice of camp, either. The Chiefs will return to Missouri Western on Monday, kicking off a stretch of four more practices between Aug. 15 and Aug. 18.

3. The Chiefs worked on driving the length of the field during practice.

The Chiefs work on various specific, real-world scenarios during every practice, and Thursday was no different. Kansas City emphasized a handful of areas during the session, including short-yardage and "run on" field goal attempts, but the final full team period was dedicated to driving the length of the field. In this drill, the offense began inside its own 5-yard line and was tasked with moving downfield over a series of plays.

Three separate groups of players had an opportunity to each take the field for a possession, but perhaps the best play of the day occurred when Patrick Mahomes tossed a beautiful, touch pass into the arms of wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who made an over-the-shoulder catch down the sideline.

4. Wide receiver Cornell Powell had another strong practice on Thursday.

Powell has put together a strong overall body of work during this year's camp as he aims to earn a roster spot this season. That solid effort continued during Thursday's practice, as Powell made several catches – two of which were physical grabs over the middle – during both team and 7-on-7 drills. It completed what turned out to be a big week for Powell, who hauled in multiple leaping, full-extension catches during Monday's practice.

He'll need to maintain that performance through the preseason, but this camp has certainly been a positive for the former fifth-round pick.

5. Rookie defensive backs Nazeeh Johnson and Joshua Williams each tallied interceptions during 7-on-7 drills.

Johnson, who has received an extended look over the last two weeks, made a quick read and hauled in an interception during 7-on-7 drills midway through practice. Williams, meanwhile, stuck with a loose ball after it bounced away from the intended target's hands, eventually completing the play with a defensive takeaway.

Johnson and Williams are both members of what Defensive Backs Coach Dave Merritt calls "The Fab Five" – a fitting moniker for the five defensive backs that Kansas City drafted in the spring. According to Merritt, all five players have a chance to make an impact moving forward.  

"We drafted five guys and I said, 'You guys need to understand that this group is very special.'" Merritt said. "It's like Christmas. You're working with the guys and trying to teach them new techniques. They're all sponges. It's been wonderful."

The group – which also includes Trent McDuffie, Bryan Cook and Jaylen Watson – has clearly shown collective growth throughout camp.

This marked the Chiefs' final practice before heading to Chicago to kick off the preseason against the Bears on Saturday at 12 p.m. CT. The Chiefs will return to practice in St. Joseph on Monday. For more information on training camp or for a schedule of practices, click here.

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