The Kansas City Chiefs hit the field in pads for the second time at training camp on Tuesday morning as the team continues to prepare for the 2019 campaign.
Second-year cornerback Charvarius Ward had a nice pass break-up, quarterback Patrick Mahomes made yet another ridiculous throw and rookie safety Juan Thornhill impressed once again with a couple interceptions.
For more on Tuesday’s practice, check out BJ Kissel’s Five Observations video below. It also includes an injury update on those who either didn’t hit the field or left early.
Following practice, Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, linebacker Reggie Ragland and offensive guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif met with the media.
Here are five things that stood out from their pressers.
1. Spagnuolo kicked things off by talking about what it’s like to have the guys practicing in pads for the second time all offseason.
"It's getting closer to real football,” Spagnuolo said. “It's not all of the way there because we can't tackle, right? That's the one thing, the one trait that you really need to be able to do in this game playing defense. However, I do think our guys are getting themselves in position to tackle, which we talk about all of the time since we can’t [do it]. Hopefully, when we get to that first preseason game, we'll be good at it."
That date is rapidly approaching, as the Chiefs take the field at Arrowhead Stadium to play the Cincinnati Bengals on Aug. 10. It’ll mark the first opportunity Kansas City’s re-shaped defense has to show off its new look against an actual opponent, but in the meantime, Spagnuolo is emphasizing the importance of improving every single practice.
“All I do is focus on them getting better each day. Now that's a cliché, but it's real,” Spagnuolo said. “If we don't do that or buy into that and embrace it, then all we'll do is go backwards. We're really hell-bent on just fundamentals, techniques and the little things. They're probably tired of me saying, 'the little things,' all of the time, but that's OK. They need that in their ears when they fall asleep at night so it helps them get better."
It’s no surprise that seemingly every member of the defense has raved about Spagnuolo and the energy he’s brought to that side of the ball.
2. In fact, it was just a day ago that defensive end Frank Clark was praising Spagnuolo following practice. It was fitting then that Spagnuolo had a chance to do the same on Tuesday when asked about how the veteran pass-rusher was fitting into the defensive scheme.
"'Fun' is a good word. He likes to have fun,” Spagnuolo said. “The guys that are securely confident in their abilities and in what they're doing, they go out and have fun. I just embraced them a little bit ago because they battled, the O-Line and D-Line today, and it gets a little contentious. But at the end of Coach Reid's huddle, Frank went over and was tapping all of the offensive linemen. That's a team player right there. That'll make us better as a football team."
Clark hasn’t played a game for Kansas City yet, but it appears that he’s already endearing himself to the locker room.
3. Speaking of the defense, Ragland was asked if last season’s narrow loss in the AFC Championship Game is fueling the returning members of the defense headed into 2019.
“Last year was last year but we have a new coaching staff, so it’s just about getting better and learning the scheme and enjoying the moment,” Ragland said. “Last year was a good moment for us and this program. We’re striving to get to the AFC Championship this year and go to the Super Bowl, so we have to keep working, keep getting better, keep being physical and keep being tough mentally on this side of the ball. So far, we’re doing a good job of it. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re getting there.”
That improvement on defense includes a slew of new faces such as Clark and safety Tyrann Mathieu, who have each been recognized for the mentality they’ve been bringing to that side of the ball.
“Over the years, you’ve heard of them: [Defensive end] Alex Okafor, Frank and Tyrann. You hear what type of people they are, [and now I can] really get in and understand who they are,” Ragland said. “I like the guys a lot. They’re good people. I like talking to them. They’re funny. Everybody loves playing football and you can see that once they get on the field. Everybody is talking. Even out there yesterday, Frank was talking about his stuff and I appreciate Frank for that. That makes everybody go and we need that, so I’m excited for the future of this team.”
4. And the offense has noticed. When asked if he’s seen a different attitude from the defense this year, Duvernay-Tardif pointed out a certain intensity that he’s noticed in practice.
“Just looking at the scheme, the scheme is totally different, but what struck me the most is the way the guys go after it,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “It’s really good competition. We need it on the offensive line, and it’s good to go out and have guys there who want to finish every play the same way we do.”
5. That’s exciting to hear for both sides of the ball, and after missing much of last season due to injury, Duvernay-Tardif thinks the Chiefs can be even better offensively this upcoming season than they were a year ago.
Duvernay-Tardif missed the final 13 games (including the postseason) of 2018 due to a leg injury, and while he returned from Injured Reserve prior to the AFC Championship Game, he wasn’t active for the contest. He’s healthy and ready to go now, however, and he’s eager to help Kansas City improve on its record-breaking campaign last season.
“I think when you look at the film, there are always things that we can clean up,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “We are not perfect. You know it’s what you’ve got to do as a team. When everybody is looking at you and looking at what you are going to do, you have to correct those little details. Always detail the details so you can come on the field Sunday ready to roll.”
After all, focusing on those details in St. Joseph could pay off when it counts soon enough.