The Chiefs’ final mandatory practice of the offseason Thursday was a quick one, lasting only 45 minutes or so.
After a brief goal line drill, coach Andy Reid put the players through the Chiefs’ annual conditioning test, and he was pleased with the results.
“They were in pretty good shape, even the big guys, which I’m always concered about,” Reid said.
It was, in many ways, the ideal ending to the team’s organized team activities prior to what amounts to a month-long vacation before training camp, which will start in late July. The players got to leave their final practice early, and the the coaches saw what they needed to see.
“It was a good camp — it was productive,” Reid said. “I was most impressed by the young guys and the improvement they made. I thought all the rookies took steps forward, and in today’s NFL, those guys are going to contribute for you. It’s also important that when they leave here, they don’t lose that.”
So to the rookies — especially Patrick Mahomes, because he’s a quarterback, and the the ones who might play early, like running back Kareem Hunt, defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon and receiver Jehu Chesson — Reid and his staff emphasized the importance of staying on top of the playbook while they’re away so they won’t have to start from scratch in training camp, which is almost always a death knell for any rookie’s chances of playing early.
“You get drowned, if not,” Reid said. “Training camp is so fast, and then you’re tired, and it’s hot with a little humidity in there. If you come in behind, it’s very hard to catch up.”
Mahomes, in particular, has caught Reid’s eye thus far with his improvement. The Chiefs’ first-round pick regularly showed off his arm strength during OTAs, but he also displayed a presence on the field, improved touch on his passes and a willingness to threaten the defense vertically.
“If you took how he was in the rookie camp and compare it to now, there’s no comparison there,” Reid said. “He’s done a good job against the blitz, which is important for a young guy. I thought yesterday was his best day against the blitz, and that’s a positive thing he can take into this off-offseason.”
Reid has also kept a close eye on the receivers, especially after the release of veteran Jeremy Maclin. But while the leftover corps of Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley, Albert Wilson, DeMarcus Robinson, De’Anthony Thomas and Chesson is overwhelmingly young — Wilson is the oldest at 24 — they have shown a combination of hunger and athleticism that have eased concerns about Maclin’s departure.
“Yeah, we’re going to be OK (there),” Reid said. “I’m happy with the improvement they’ve made over this camp and even last year. Do we have work to do? Absolutely. We’ve got to get this training camp in. We’ve got to put the pads on, do it there. But for that to take place, we’ve had to have confidence in the guys that are here.”
Reid said Hill, who is expected to get the first crack at the spotlight “Z” receiver position, has continued to make positive strides in his second year.
“He’s got good capacity and he can recall it quickly and make adjustments,” Reid said. “We tried to expand his role a little bit. Does he need to continue to learn? Yeah, because he’s a second-year player. He’s got to continue to work hard and do those things, but he’s a pretty sharp kid.”
Reid has also praised Robinson, who has had a nice offseason, and on Thursday, he even added 24-year-old wideout Seantavius Jones to the list of young receivers to watch. Jones, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder from Valdosta State, switched from No. 6 to No. 81 this offseason and in the process, has looked a little like Terrell Owens during workouts, regularly sprinting past defensive backs and making tough catches.
“Eighty-one has done a nice job,” Reid said. “I know him by ‘Stretch’ ... he’s done a nice job. He had a chance to work in there on the rotation and do some things. Big kid who can run, has pretty good hands. But again, he hasn’t played much. Gotta see how he does in camp.”
So yes, Reid feels pretty good about the competition at receiver and elsewhere heading into the break, largely because he says this is not a team that needs to be coddled.
“They’re hard on each other, if someone goofs up,” Reid said. “They’re willing to teach each other but they’re hard on each other, and the coaches, likewise, try to be demanding with them and they seem to respond to that, which is good. Sometimes you have teams that back away from that. This group doesn’t.”
Head strength coach Barry Rubin has given every player a training program to do at home during the break, and when they report to training camp in St. Joseph, Reid will immediately work on getting everyone into football shape and helping this team take the next step following a 12-4 season, an AFC West crown — and a disappointing divisional-round home loss to Pittsburgh.
“We’ve done OK — OK — the last couple years,” Reid said. “But you’re never satisfied with that, at all.”