Running a simple dig route on the strong side of the offense on Thursday afternoon, Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins let a simple pass from Matt McGloin bounce out of his spread-eagle hands. Groans were heard around the field.
Just a couple of snaps later and on the weak side of Pat Mahomes, Watkins ran a speedy post route inside, picking up a clean catch and erasing any memory of the dropped pass.
Thursday afternoon’s workout demonstrated the work Watkins has put in this offseason to become a more versatile player under coach Andy Reid.
“We’re moving them all over the place, and he’s handled it — we’ve overloaded him with that,” Reid said. “That’s how we do it in this offense, and that’s something new for him. You can tell he’s a guy who takes it away from here and studies.”
Participating in his first full practice following his first couple of weeks training with the Chiefs, Watkins already has felt the mental strain that is experienced by those who play in Reid's complicated offense.
Watkins, who was signed this offseason as the team's biggest addition to the offense, has had to expand his game beyond being just a one-position kind of guy. In just the few weeks since he joined his new teammates, Watkins has adapted to moving around to different spots on the field.
Watkins has especially worked against the linebackers and getting open on the safeties.
“This offense is the brightest offense that I’ve ever been in,” Watkins said. “It’s definitely a mental challenge, but I think that’s kind of what gets me up every day and studying plays and coming out here."
Watkins is a fifth-year pro out of Clemson who spent his first three years in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills as a first-round draft pick. He played last season for the L.A. Rams, catching 39 passes for 593 yards with eight touchdowns.
His best season was in 2015, when he caught 60 balls for 1,097 yards with nine touchdowns for Buffalo.
The smartly caught inside pass Watkins received from Mahomes on Thursday revealed a glimpse of the connection the pair have forged in recent weeks. Mahomes is entering just his second season with the Chiefs, and first as their starting quarterback, but the leadership qualities he offers already have helped Watkins improve his own game.
“He’s been helping me on certain situations, certain downs,” Watkins explained. “And when I do mess up, make a mental error, he’ll come and say, ‘Hey man, we’re going to get it together.’
“Some plays I don’t know, and he’ll kind of shout it to me, and do a signal,” Watkins continued. “And that’s the good part about it.”
In return, Watkins has tried his hardest to perfect the crispness of his own routes, for the good of both his own game and Mahomes’. Whether it’s Watkins running the route or another receiver, the play must be run with precision in order to allow the offense to play with fluidity.
The high-intensity, full-speed workouts the Chiefs are going through now will prepare Watkins for being one of the main faces of this Chiefs team this fall.
The Chiefs’ organized team activities, or OTAs, continue through Saturday. That's when the team breaks for a few days before returning for a mandatory minicamp on June 12.
"Anybody can get the ball, and I've got to learn all the positions," Watkins said. "I can’t just learn one position.”