Minicamp Notebook: RB Carlos Hyde Finding Role in Crowded Backfield

Defense performs well during a breezy practice; wide receiver Demarcus Robinson seeking bigger leadership role

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Running back Carlos Hyde wasn't sure what to expect when he signed a free agent deal with the Chiefs during the offseason, but so far he's finding everything he hoped for and more.

“For a running back like me who likes to catch the ball, I pretty much like to do it all, it’s like a dream come true,” Hyde said after minicamp practice on Wednesday.

In Kansas City, Hyde has found kindred spirits in offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and running backs coach Deland McCullough, who ask their backs to run, catch, block and everything in between.

“It’s not just a one-dimensional running back here,” Hyde said. “You do it all. You line up with the receivers and you actually run real routes, you’re not just a decoy. You go back in the backfield and run the ball, block, you do it all. You get to really showcase your ability.”

Last week offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy declared Damien Williams as the starter, but the Chiefs have a competitive backfield group behind him, including Hyde. The Chiefs selected Darwin Thompson in the sixth round, and also return Darrel Williams. The club also added rookie free agents. James Williams and Marcus Marshall to the mix.

Hyde has shared time with the first-team offense spelling Damien Williams, but he's only worried about grasping the offense and learning his role for now. He'll save the the competition for playing time until later.

"Let's begin training camp and then we can focus on after Damien, the role after that," Hyde said.

Defense Wins the Day

Cornerback Keith Reaser picked off two passes during seven-on-seven drills, but it was defensive end Alex Okafor who delivered the play of the day.

Okafor jumped a quick pass from Patrick Mahomes for an interception, which likely would have gone for a pick-six in a live situation. Okafor read the play immediately and swallowed up the throw from Mahomes in a blink of the eye.

The first-team defense won their 2-minute drill at the end of practice, but the second-team offense finished the day on a high note. Chad Henne found wide receiver Byron Pringle on a quick gain to the 5-yard line. Three plays later the due connected for a touchdown with Pringle hauling in a perfectly throw back shoulder ball from Henne for the score.

Breezy Times for Offense

The defense may have benefitted from the conditions on Wednesday, with a steady wind keeping the flags whirling steadily atop the goal posts throughout practice. The offense played with the wind at its back, adding even more distance to throws from gunslinger Patrick Mahomes.

“We need days like that, even rainy days,” wide receiver Demarcus Robinson said. “You've just got to go with the circumstance and what's going on the weather and just go with it. You always work on certain stuff like throwing against the wind, throwing with the wind, just working on it.”

Robinson said he didn't ask Mahomes to take anything off his throws in the breeze.

“No, we let him do his thing,” Robinson said. “He challenges us. Whatever we got going on, he challenges us. If he think it is too far, then he'll take a little bit off of it. But he challenges us with all the throws he has.”

Make or Break for D-Rob

Robinson knows he's entering a pivotal season, and he understands what's expected with the opportunity presented to him in 2019.

“It's a big deal, my fourth year, my last year of my contract,” Robinson said. “Just give them trust, letting the coaches know I know what's going on so it will be easier and a smooth transition on the field.”

With Chris Conley gone via free agency and Tyreek Hill's status remaining in limbo, Robinson ends the offseason program as the club's second-most experience receiver behind Sammy Watkins. He's hoping to build on the 22 catches he hauled in last season for 288 yards and four touchdowns.

He knows the team needs him to step as a leader with experience lacking among his position group.

“We're just trying to do what we can,” Robinson said. “Everybody wants to be a leader. I don't think nobody's trying not to be a leader, but yeah, you're just trying to be a leader and doing what you have have to do on the field.”

Charvarius Ward Building Stamina

Cornerback Charvarius Ward has no problem conceding his first NFL start against Seattle last season left him trying to find a second win in the second half.

“I told coach to take me out of the game to help that, I barely could breathe,” Ward said.

He doesn't plan on that happening during his sophomore campaign with the Chiefs penciling him as one of their top three corners.

“I trained, I trained all offseason,” Ward said. “I didn’t really take a break after the conference championship loss. I didn’t take a break, I was working all offseason, two or three times a day.”

Kahlil McKenzie: Center?

The Chiefs drafted Kahlil McKenzie in the 2018 sixth round as as developmental project, moving from the defensive side of the ball in college to the offensive line.

Teammate Austin Reiter said he's coming along nicely, particularly thanks to strong athleticism and a thick base.

“I don't know what his calf size is,” Reiter joked Wednesday. “I think we took bets on that one day.”

McKenzie worked primarily at guard last season, but he's adding center to the mix this offseason. With Jimmy Murray out with a leg injury, McKenzie filled in at center with the third team offense and during seven-on-seven drills.

He employs a nonconventional snapping style, holding the ball vertically resting on its tip. Reiter compared it to the style Chicago Bears center Cody Whitehair uses.

If it works, Reiter said, then keep using it.

“I'm not going to fault anybody for that,” Reiter said. “But I don't snap it that way so I couldn't give him any tips.”

What's Next?

It's one more day of minicamp on Thursday with quick final workout before players and coaches head their separate ways for the summer. The Chiefs get the band back together in St. Joseph for training camp the last week of July.

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