The Kansas City Chiefs took the field in front of another enormous crowd on Saturday morning as thousands of fans made their way to training camp for Family Fun Day and the chance to watch this year’s squad up close.
The practice was characterized by a strong showing from the defense during some red zone work, another big day from rookie safety Juan Thornhill and a nice touchdown catch by wide receiver Marcus Kemp amongst several other impressive plays from players up and down the roster.
For more on what stood out on Saturday and an exclusive interview with linebacker Anthony Hitchens, check out BJ Kissel’s Five Observations video below.
Following practice, Head Coach Andy Reid provided a quick update on the players that didn’t take the field on Saturday. Those players were linebacker Damien Wilson (sore knee), wide receiver Gehrig Dieter (back), safety Jordan Lucas (hamstring strain) and tailback Damien Williams (hamstring), with Wilson standing out as the new addition to the list.
In addition to Reid, tailback Carlos Hyde and Hitchens spoke with the media after practice wrapped up. Here’s a roundup of what was said.
1. Reid was asked early on in his presser to discuss the play of Thornhill, who has seemingly impressed from the very first moment he arrived.
“We got to see him play corner and safety in college - he did a little bit of each – and the one consistency was that he made plays at both spots. He's doing that out here,” Reid said. “Early on, he was getting his hands on the ball, but he wasn't getting the picks. Now, he's making the picks."
The Chiefs selected Thornhill in the second round (No. 63 overall) of the 2019 Draft after the University of Virginia product tallied 208 tackles, 39 passes defensed, 13 interceptions, 12.0 tackles-for-loss, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble from 2016-18.
He was the definition of a ballhawk in college, and at least so far, those skills are translating to the NFL.
Reid went on to explain what Thornhill now needs to do in order to earn more playing time moving forward.
"More reps. Right now, he's getting a ton of them,” Reid said. “Just continue to play. Experience will be the thing. He's a young guy."
That’s really the theme of camp as a whole, as young players – hungry for an opportunity – strive to show that they belong.
"You have to earn it by working hard. Then, when you have opportunities, take advantage of the opportunities,” Reid said. “Don't make the same mistake twice. All of those things become important if you want to get into the play rotation."
2. Thornhill is one of several new faces on the Chiefs’ re-shaped defense, which Reid was asked to evaluate as the unit continues to make progress under Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
"I like the energy. I like the way they're challenging right now,” Reid said. “[But] on both sides of the ball, we still have a way to go. We have to keep competing against each other and getting ourselves better. Every day, I see improvement on the defensive side. That becomes important. Because it's new, you're going to see some things there - some steps forward. I appreciated that."
The energy on defense that Reid mentioned has been one of the major storylines of camp, from guys like Thornhill to veterans such as safety Tyrann Mathieu and defensive end Frank Clark bringing it on every play.
The games haven’t started yet, but that intensity is encouraging, to say the least.
3. Speaking of the defense, Hitchens is a player that - while not a new addition – is just as vital to the Chiefs’ success.
And as the Chiefs transition to a 4-3 base defense under Spagnuolo in place of the 3-4 scheme that was utilized in the past, the change represents an opportunity for Hitchens to thrive.
“With my four years in college [in] a 4-3, in Dallas [in] a 4-3, and [then] last year [in] a 3-4, I am very comfortable with it,” Hitchens said. “There is a lot of similar terminology, similar line stunts, back rotations and man [coverages] are three-deep. I’m familiar with it and trying to get better at it and trying to have the best year yet.”
Additionally, as the defense looks to improve this summer, it can’t hurt practicing against the league MVP in quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“In my opinion, he is the best quarterback in the league. He is mobile, he can pass, and he can scramble. He can extend plays and throw the ball 80 yards down the field. He forces us to play defense two to three more seconds than normal,” Hitchens explained. “There is a run-pass read and quarterback options, so you get all your work at practice and when you get in the game, it’s a lot easier. We’re getting our work in. We are going back and forth in days we win - just periods we win - and we come back and we win. As long as we are not out here getting beat and demolished every day, going back and forth is a good sign, so we just got to keep building.”
4. On the other side of the ball, Hyde spoke about why he chose Kansas City when the veteran tailback hit the open market this past offseason.
“Just seeing how explosive the offense is and seeing how many points they put up on defenses, it was a no-brainer for me,” Hyde said. “[I'm] finding a position in this offense to someway, somehow contribute to this team and help them win.”
Hyde is only a season removed from amassing 1,288 yards from scrimmage with the San Francisco 49ers back in 2017. He split time between the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars last season – tallying 604 offensive yards with limited opportunities – and is now looking to recapture what made the former second-round pick so productive not too long ago.
5. Hyde will have a chance to do just that when the preseason kicks off this coming weekend, leading the media to ask the veteran tailback what he wants to accomplish during the exhibition season.
“I just want to be on point and execute my plays,” Hyde said. “Whenever Coach calls my number, you know, execute that play. Make plays for the offense. Show the coaches when it comes to game time, they can definitely count on me and show Pat that he can count on me, throwing me the ball when it comes and when it’s real.”
Hyde will have that opportunity in just a few more days as the Chiefs return to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday, Aug. 10 at 7 p.m.