It was the seventh overall day of practices for the Kansas City Chiefs up at training camp on Wednesday as the team continued their preparation for the upcoming season.
In terms of who didn't take the field, wide receiver Tyreek Hill (knee tendinitis), cornerback DeAndre Baker, tight end Evan Baylis, safety Juan Thornhill (groin strain), wide receiver Chad Williams (groin strain), offensive tackle Mike Remmers (back spasms), tight end Nick Keizer (back), defensive end Malik Herring (knee) and offensive lineman Kyle Long (leg) were among those who didn't practice.
Additionally, defensive end Alex Okafor (hamstring) and linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (concussion protocol) left practice early.
Here are five observations from Wednesday's session.
1. Wednesday marked the second day of padded practices.
The Chiefs kicked off their first padded practice since Super Bowl LV on Tuesday and followed it up with another padded session on Wednesday, continuing a stretch of four-straight days in pads.
That meant more than just team drills, too. It also provided the opportunity for numerous 1-on-1 activities, from linebacker vs. running back drills in pass protection to individual matchups between offensive and defensive linemen.
2. We saw some good things on both sides during 1-on-1 drills.
One of those 1-on-1 activities was between the wide receivers and defensive backs, essentially pitting the two positions against one another on contested passes. Camp drills are tricky in general because success always comes at the expense of somebody else on the team, but we saw good things from both sides during this particular drill on Wednesday.
First, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson made a tremendous catch despite the efforts of cornerback L'Jarius Sneed, who was in coverage on the drill. Only a few moments later, however, Sneed – now in coverage against wide receiver Marcus Kemp – hauled in a contested pass for an interception.
We often talk about how the competition within position groups makes the players at that particular spot better, but in this case, the competition between the offense and the defense can cultivate positive outcomes on both sides.
3. The Chiefs practiced goal line plays on Wednesday, including one that led to a big-man touchdown.
Practice often includes specific areas of emphasis, such as two-minute drills or an increased focus on the running game. The attention of Wednesday's session was paid to the goal line, which is an area that the Chiefs are looking to improve in from both an offensive and defensive perspective in 2021.
As good as the Chiefs' offense was last season, Kansas City ranked 22nd in terms of finding the end zone in goal-to-go situations on the year. The Chiefs have the potential to deploy an even better offensive unit this season if they can improve their efficiency in the red zone, and the group looked impressive on Wednesday.
In fact, tight end Travis Kelce, wide receiver Mecole Hardman, tailback Jerick McKinnon and tailback Darrel Williams each found the end zone during the period. Additionally – in one of the more exciting moments of the day - quarterback Chad Henne found offensive lineman Andrew Wylie, who was eligible on the play, for a big-man touchdown to the cheers of the crowd.
The period was also great work for the defense, which has been working on their red zone defense since OTAs and had their fair share of wins as well.
Kansas City Chiefs at Training Camp.
4. Patrick Mahomes and Noah Gray connected on a deep throw during a 7-on-7 segment.
Gray has drawn recognition throughout the offseason workout program for his ability to get open on extended plays, which is something fellow tight end Travis Kelce has done better than anyone over the course of his All-Pro career.
That ability was on display during a 7-on-7 period during Wednesday's practice, as Mahomes rolled to his right before finding Gray deep downfield over the middle for a big gain. It was just another entry into what's been an impressive camp for Gray, who earned some high praise from Kelce following practice.
"He's going to help us this year. I can't wait until the world sees what that guy can do. He's doing an unbelievable job," Kelce said. "I think what Noah has done a great job of is just getting into the playbook, being able to go out there on the snap of the ball, playing with confidence, playing fast, and from there, it's just [about] every rep. Every rep you get, you learn something, you can watch other guys, and you figure out how you want to attack certain defenses with those reps. I think he's doing a great job of just going to work here in training camp, and then trying to become the best football player he can be."
5. Mecole Hardman hauled in a touchdown on the first play of team drills.
Speaking of big plays from Mahomes, the 25-year-old signal caller unloaded a deep pass on the first snap of team drills in the direction of Hardman, who hauled it in for a touchdown. These are the kinds of plays that seem routine nowadays for the Chiefs' offense, but it was certainly encouraging to see yet another big play from Hardman – who's tallied several of them so far in camp – as he looks to take on a larger role in 2021.
The Chiefs return to the field for another day of padded practices on Thursday at 9:15 a.m. CT.