Chiefs’ passing attack sharpening as offseason work nears close

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes drops back to deliver a pass during a minicamp practice at the team’s training complex in Kansas City, Mo., on June 12, 2018. (Photo courtesy Chiefs.com)

KANSAS CITY, Mo.

— The Chiefs’ passing game continues to show strides in offseason workouts, with quarterback Patrick Mahomes drawing more accolades from his teammates on both sides of the ball.

“I think he’s as good as advertised,” said cornerback David Amerson, who joined the club during the offseason as a free agent from Oakland. “I think he definitely makes some plays like, ‘Oh, wow.’ I’ve seen him make some no-look throws and all kind of stuff, stuff I’ve never seen.”

Mahomes unofficially checked in at 20-of-22 passing as part of full-team drills during Tuesday’s minicamp practice. He completed 9-of-11 passing during seven-on-seven work. Mahomes also threw an interception. There appeared to be a miscommunication on that play involving a deep throw to tight end Travis Kelce. Safety Armani Watts made an easy pick on the underthrown ball.

But Mahomes also delivered a number of the “Oh, wow” throws Amerson referenced, including tosses on the run, off his back foot and even sidearm. Tyreek Hill said the team’s receivers perk up when Mahomes escapes the pocket.

“As a receiver we love that, because cornerbacks tend to get lazy once the quarterback rolls out of the pocket, so there will be even more deep shots down the field,” Hill said.

One such opportunity came on perhaps the best play of Mahomes on the day. Mahomes scrambled left out of a disintegrating pocket and look deep down field to his right, finding a wide open Travis Kelce coasting into the end zone without a defender in sight.

The Chiefs passing game looked sluggish during the opening week of OTAs last month, but each practice open to the media continues to demonstrate greater proficiency and improved execution.

Hill feel the chemistry between himself and Mahomes developing through the offseason practices geared towards training camp kicking off next month

“I feel like our timing is great, even down the field,” Hill said. “Patrick has a strong arm. That’s what OTAs is for to get that timing down, get that connection down, so I feel like thus far our timing is great.”

Amerson sees a high-upside from Mahomes as he continues maturing and evolving as a quarterback.

“You can definitely see the ability,” Amerson said “I think the more and more he just grows as a player, the more of the greatness we’ll see.”

Injury report

A hamstring injury continues to keep running back Kareem Hunt on the sidelines, as the cautious Chiefs appear ready to keep the league’s leading rusher from a year ago off the field until training camp.

Six other players did not practice with the team on Tuesday. That group includes center Mitch Morse (foot) and wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas (leg), both of whom expect to remain sideline until training camp. Linebacker Terrance Smith (undisclosed) and wide receiver Byron Pringle (calf) also did not practice. Defensive lineman Dee Liner and fullback J.D. Moore did not appear on the practice field.

Linebacker Dee Ford (back) and running back Spencer Ware (knee) both took part in individual drills but did not work during the team portion of practice.

Chiefs on NFL’s Top 100

The NFL Network’s annual ranking of the league’s top 100 players continues its countdown featuring three Chiefs thus far with the top 20 players still to be unveiled over the next few weeks.

Kelce checked in No. 24, his highest ranking in three seasons on the list and up two spots from last season. Hill ranked No. 40, falling from No. 36 last season. Kareem Hunt made his debut on the list at No. 33.

Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill wears a t-shirt given to him by a tattoo artist, following practice at the team’s facility in Kansas City, Mo., on June 12, 2018. (Photo by Matt Derrick, ChiefsDigest.com)

While Hill feels thankful to be on the list, there’s also a fire inside him to move up the list in the future.

“I’m just blessed just to be even on the list because as a kid you grow up and you see all these great players making the list,” Hill said. “It’s not a big deal to me but honestly I want to be No. 1 so I have to keep getting better and just keep grinding each and every year.”

Hill appeared at Tuesdays’ post-practice media session wearing a colorful custom-made t-shirt featuring an artist’s rendering of himself.

“This was a gift from a tattoo guy,” Hill said. “He had drew up some art for me and he was like, ‘Do you want a shirt?’ So I was like, ‘Yes.’ It’s pretty cool, huh? So this is not online nowhere, it’s crazy.”

Tuesday night bowling

Cornerback Kendall Fuller found himself at a restaurant with a friend after a night of bowling on a Tuesday night in January when word broke that Washington had reached a deal to acquire quarterback Alex Smith from the Chiefs.

“I was in different group chats,” Fuller said. “I was actually kind of playing around like, ‘Dang, what if it was me?’ Everybody was like, ‘Shut up, you’re not getting traded.’

“Yeah, you know how the rest went.”

Twitter uses got to follow Fuller’s range of emotions as he learned in real time that yes, indeed, he was heading to Kansas City. But the deal left Fuller in a state of limbo. He remained in Arizona conducting his own personal offseason workouts, no longer part of the Washington family but not yet officially a Chief for more than six weeks.

“The only thing I wish could have happened was it happened later in the offseason so I could hurry up and get here,” Fuller said. “But it kind of happened early where I just had to sit around and wait. I didn’t get a chance to really meet anybody until I got here.”

There’s also one other thing about that night still bothering Fuller.

“I didn’t bowl very well either,” he said.

Projected camp battle: Left guard

The offseason program put injected clarity into some of the club’s roster battles but the roster fight truly begins when the Chiefs head to St. Joseph next month for the start of training camp.

The biggest looming starting position battles appears to be left guard. Bryan Witzmann started 13 games there last season but it increasingly appears the Chiefs will consider alternatives during training camp. Potential candidates include Cameron Erving, who started four games at right guard last year and is filling in for Mitch Morse at center during offseason practices, and Parker Ehinger, who started at left guard in 2016 before an ACL injury kept him out of all but one game last season. Undrafted rookie free agent Ryan Hunter from Bowling Green also appears on the team’s radar.

Observations from Tuesday’s practice

The Chiefs rookie draft class made big impressions on Tuesday. Fourth-round safety Armani Watts turned in the only interception against Mahomes while fellow fourth-rounder Dorian O’Daniel picked up reps with the first-team defense. … Meanwhile second-round pick Breeland Speaks knocked down a Chad Henne pass at the line of scrimmage while sixth-round selection Tremon Smith continues getting looks in the return game. … The only other interception of Tuesday’s practice came from second-year safety Jordan Sterns. The former Oklahoma State defensive back picked off a pass from Matt McGloin late in practice. … Second-year receiver Gehrig Dieter continues making big plays on offense, hauling in several catches including an acrobatic juggling catch that the officials on the practice field ruled a catch. … Tight end Alex Ellis, who the Chiefs claimed off waivers from New Orleans last month, continues making an impression with his catching ability.

Quote of the day

“Well, who knows? Whatever the team wants me to do. If they want me back there, I’ll go back there and give it my all. I just want to win.”
– Tyreek Hill on whether new rules changes might lead to his re-emergence as the team’s kickoff returner

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Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.

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