The Kansas City Chiefs took the field for the second-to-last time up at training camp on Wednesday morning in preparation for this Saturday night’s preseason contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Highlights from practice included a nice interception by linebacker Ben Niemann, an impressive pass by quarterback Patrick Mahomes across his body and a pick for a second day in a row by defensive tackle Breeland Speaks.
In terms of injuries, defensive end Frank Clark (sick), wide receiver Sammy Watkins (sick), cornerback Michael Hunter (groin), wide receiver Gehrig Dieter (back), wide receiver Devon Grayson (knee) and tight end John Lovett (shoulder) didn’t take the field on Wednesday.
Following practice, Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy, tight end Travis Kelce and Speaks met with the media.
Here are five things that stood out from their pressers.
1. Bieniemy started things off by evaluating where the offense is progress-wise with the St. Joseph portion of training camp nearly complete.
"I think we're right where we need to be,” Bieniemy said. “I think the guys came out and accomplished the goals that we needed to accomplish. The most important thing that we wanted to do is win last week, and I thought the guys did a great job of that. Now, the things that we're focusing on - because we put it on tape - are just the details and the fundamentals. [We’re] just making sure that we're focused on that moving forward."
The Chiefs racked up 400 total yards and 38 points in last Saturday’s victory over Cincinnati as nearly every member of the offense had an opportunity to contribute. In fact, 16 players caught a pass for Kansas City in the game.
2. The Chiefs’ young players were right in the middle of that production, as wide receiver Mecole Hardman and tailback Darwin Thompson both found the end zone. Bieniemy spoke about those performances and his impressions of Kansas City’s younger players as a whole.
"I think our young guys did a great job of showing what they're capable of. I know the young kid, [Darwin Thompson], stepped up. Mecole [Hardman] stepped up. But also, too, just across the board, I thought guys did some good things,” Bieniemy said. “There were some things that they didn't do, as well. When it's all said and done, we just want to make sure that they are focused on the details, because at the end of the day, it’s about executing with great attention to detail to give ourselves a chance when everything is on the line."
Hardman finished Saturday’s game with two catches for 31 yards while Thompson tallied 51 yards of total offense on six touches.
3. Kelce made the most of his one snap on Saturday with a 36-yard grab on Kansas City’s first offensive play. Now with training camp nearly in the books, the veteran tight end shared his thoughts on what the Chiefs can achieve this season offensively.
“The sky is the limit for this offense,” Kelce said. “The guys who have been here - that have been here the last couple years and especially last year - we’re taking it up a level [from] years past. You can just tell from the coaches’ excitement, to their attention to detail and to how guys are reacting to their coaching. This team is going to be awesome and we’re going to have a lot of fun on the offensive side of the ball.”
Those are some exciting remarks considering that the Chiefs’ posted the third-best statistical offense of all-time in 2018 by averaging 35.3 points per game, which trails only the 2013 Denver Broncos (37.9 ppg) and 2007 New England Patriots (36.8 ppg) in league history.
Mahomes was the man under center for all of that production, smashing a laundry-list of franchise and league records along the way. Kelce spoke about the third-year quarterback on Wednesday and explained how Mahomes is handling his role as a leader in the locker room headed into 2019 now that he has a full season as a starter under his belt.
“You can’t say enough about the guy. Pat has it down pat, no pun intended,” Kelce said. “We’ll just roll from there. He’s going to take the lead of this team and we’re going to go as he goes. That’s just how it rolls. One-five is ready for every moment you can think of.”
4. Kelce also talked about fellow tight end Blake Bell and what has impressed him about Bell’s game.
“He has some explosiveness to him. He’s a big body - kind of a weird athlete like myself where it’s not a traditional break here and there,” Kelce explained. “He has a very unique running style in terms of running routes and stuff like that. In the run game - him throwing his body around and not being shy on contact - that’s something we can really use on this team.”
Bell caught two passes for a team-leading 37 yards on Saturday.
5. Speaks, meanwhile, has been playing with his hand in the dirt more often this offseason after primarily serving as a linebacker through much of last year. The former second-round pick spoke about how it felt to line up at defensive tackle – and get a sack - in last weekend’s game.
“It was fun. Everything from college started coming back to me and from high school playing [in] that front, so I’m just understanding my role and being able to work in it,” Speaks said. “I mean, we saw what happened and that was fun - that sack was fun. It’s just been fun being back in that 4-3.”
The Chiefs are transitioning to a 4-3 base scheme on defense this season after featuring a 3-4 scheme through the last six years, providing Speaks with an opportunity to play along the defensive line rather than standing up as an outside linebacker.
That change has been a focus of his throughout camp, and with the Chiefs’ time in St. Joseph nearly complete, Speaks’ feels good about what he’s been able to accomplish.
“I feel like I’ve done what I came up here to do,” Speaks said. “I had a rough patch in the beginning, but finally being able to get in and make those plays as we’ve seen lately has been the most fun part of being up here.”
The Chiefs will hit the practice fields on Thursday for their final day of camp up in St. Joseph.