There was another afternoon of practice at One Arrowhead Drive on Thursday as the Kansas City Chiefs continued their preparation for this Sunday’s season-opening clash with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Prior to practice, Assistant Head/Coach Special Teams Coordinator Dave Toub, Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy, safety Tyrann Mathieu and tailback Damien Williams met with the media.
Here are five things that stood out.
1. Toub kicked things off by discussing his comfort-level with the special teams unit heading into the season.
"I feel good going in. I feel good every year going in, but then there are always some things - some question marks. You don't know how guys are going to react when it's real. There are a few guys there that are going to be in their first real game,” Toub said. “I always tell the guys that the speed is different. You could play all of the preseason games in the world, but when the game is real, the speed is different - especially on special teams."
Toub has been the best in the business at preparing his players for that game-speed over his six years with the Chiefs, as Kansas City has scored the most total kick-return touchdowns in the NFL (4) during that time while allowing none themselves.
2. Spagnuolo, meanwhile, was asked to identify the factors that will make Kansas City’s defense successful this season.
Spagnuolo, who is entering his first year with the Chiefs, will trot out Kansas City’s new-look defense for the very first time on Sunday.
"One thing I think that’s natural when you're in something new is that if things go the right way early, confidence builds. Now, the flip side of the coin happens, too, and I think we need to protect against that,” Spagnuolo said. “If it doesn't go great out of the gate here - and I'm not just talking about one game - then the challenge will be to trust what we're doing and to trust each other. I think it's good to talk about that. I call it, 'managing the downside,' because this league is ups and downs. There is no such thing as perfect, and it won't be perfect. We just have to work out the kinks. In the first game, the challenge is always what you do over on the sideline in between series - and everybody is going through the same thing. It’s multiplied a little bit by the fact that the team we're getting ready to play has a new coordinator and has a new quarterback – a lot of unknowns. So, we do the best we can in prepping them and then we'll see what happens."
There was a palpable energy surrounding the Chiefs’ defense throughout training camp, and now the objective will be to carry that over into the regular season.
3. One of the defense’s biggest additions this offseason was Mathieu, who voiced his excitement for Sunday’s debut.
“It’ll be the first time really playing with my group and playing with my guys in a live game - in a game that counts,” Mathieu said. “It’s going to be a lot of different emotions, up and down. I think it’s my job to manage the group and make sure everybody’s focused on the next play. Just going out there with a lot of swagger and a lot of intensity. A lot of people here haven’t necessarily seen me play in a Chiefs’ uniform, so it’ll be important for me to go out there and get off to a fast start.”
4. On the other side of the ball, Bieniemy explained how he’s managing the Chiefs’ backfield with veteran tailback LeSean McCoy now in the mix.
McCoy – who owns the most rushing yards in the NFL since 2009 - joins a talented stable of running backs that includes Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams.
“I think we’ve had a great deal of experience managing unique talent in the backfield and you do it the same way. First of all, you want to see what’s going to stick and what information he’s going to retain,” Bieniemy said. “We just want to make sure that when we’re utilizing LeSean, we’re giving him the best opportunity to be himself, but also, too, we have some talented kids here who have done a heck of a job. I mean you have young Darwin, Damien and we still have D-Will [Darrel Williams], who kind of gets lost in the shuffle. We’re blessed and fortunate to have him as a part of our family and when it’s all said and done, we’re just going to continue to chop wood like we always do.”
5. Damien Williams was asked about McCoy, as well, and shared his initial impressions of the Chiefs’ newest offensive weapon.
“He’s obviously a vet in this league, and he’s [made] a name for himself. I’ve only had a day and a half to really to pick his head a little bit, but it’s interesting though just to hear stories and [learn] how he sees things because he used to be in this offense with Andy [Reid],” Williams said. “It’s good just being able to pick his head.”
The one-two punch of Williams and McCoy has a chance to be amongst the best in the league when considering McCoy’s proven track record and Williams’ emergence last season. In fact, Williams was one of only two players in the NFL last season to score 10+ touchdowns during a six-game span once he took over as Kansas City’s starting running back.
Both guys can play – not to mention Thompson and Williams – creating an exciting development in the Chiefs’ backfield.
“I feel like we’re all competitive guys and just with McCoy being here already, we’re able to talk smack a little bit, [because] he’s a competitive person as well,” Williams said. “I feel like we’re all competing to go out there, be the best back and put pressure on each other. [If we do that], who knows what we can do.”
The Chiefs return to practice on Friday before traveling to Jacksonville for the season-opener.