The Chiefs have thought enough about tight end Demetrius Harris in his first four years that they’ve forgiven his biggest shortcoming, holding on to the football.
Last season, Harris’ six dropped passes tied Travis Kelce for the most on the team, but Kelce was targeted 117 times and Harris 31. That meant Harris’ dropped-pass rate of 19.4 percent led the NFL among players who were targeted at least 15 times.
Entering this season Harris understood it was time to tighten up in that department.
“Five years in this system, it’s time to go now,” Harris said. “I just have to really focus and stay on it.”
In Saturday’s 30-12 preseason victory at Cincinnati, Harris caught two touchdown passes, one from Alex Smith another from Patrick Mahomes.
On the first, Harris lined up tight on the right side, and about halfway through the end zone he made a nice two-handed grab of Smith’s laser with Bengals safety Derron Smith in solid coverage. But the 6-7, 230-pound Harris, a former college basketball player, was able to essentially screen the defender for the 5-yard reception.
“Alex threw a great ball,” Harris said. “I just had to come up with a tough catch with a defender all over me. Alex trusted me enough to throw it.
“It’s the red zone. Tight ends, we want to get big, use our bodies. It looked like a tight window, but it was a perfect throw.”
The second touchdown occurred with Mahomes running the first-team offense. The rookie quarterback had appeared to score on a 16-yard scramble, but a replay confirmed he had stepped out short of the goal line.
Two plays later, from the 1, Harris lined up on the left side and floated open to the back of the end zone. Mahomes rolled right and found Harris.
“I just found a void in the back of the end zone, and 15 (Mahomes) did a nice job finding me back there,” Harris said.
One more reception gave Harris a three-catch night, with no drops. The game wasn’t an exception. Harris has been on point throughout training camp. If he dropped a pass during 11-on-11 drills it doesn’t easily come to mind. Harris, who signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and has 27 career receptions, is trending toward becoming a good-hands man.
“He has focused on that, spent a lot of time in that area with vision, looking the ball in and doing these things,” coach Andy Reid said. “He’s gone above and beyond that. He’s catching the ball well.”
Harris was part of an offense that hummed throughout the evening. The Chiefs scored on their first five possessions, a field goal and four touchdowns. Each quarterback — Smith, Mahomes and Tyler Bray — threw a touchdown pass, and Mahomes had two.
The Chiefs wanted to establish a running game and accomplished that with 228 rushing yards and a 6.9 yard-per-carry average. They wanted to win the turnover battle after losing it the previous week in the preseason opener loss to the 49ers. The Chiefs didn’t have a giveaway and Eric Murray collected an interception off a pass deflected by De’Vante Bausby.
And Harris snared every pass that came his way.