ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs spent big money on free agents Sammy Watkins and Anthony Hitchens as well as investing five draft picks in a porous defense yet the spotlight shines on the 22-year-old future face of the franchise, a fact not lost on quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
"You watch 'SportsCenter' or watch other networks and you see that stuff but for me, I'm just trying to come in and play football," said Mahomes, the team's first-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft. "As a kid you dream of moments of being able to go play in NFL games and so I'm just enjoying that and trying to win a lot of games doing it."
Mahomes along with the team's rookies and quarterbacks report to training camp in St. Joseph, Mo., on July 22 with veterans arriving July 25. The last quarterback selected by the Chiefs in the first round before Mahomes was Todd Blackledge in 1983.
Head coach Andy Reid saw enough from Mahomes during his rookie campaign, including a Week 17 start, to trade Alex Smith to Washington. Mahomes solidified that confidence during offseason workouts in which Reid pressed him with blitzes and exotic coverage looks.
"One of the things that we did was we wanted to come in and make sure we challenged him and I thought he handled that very well," Reid said, even better than I expected. I really thought he handled the whole thing very well. It was pretty smooth."
Reid and general manager Brett Veach hope to ease the transition for Mahomes by surrounding him with explosive offensive options. Watkins joins Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill on an offense that ranked sixth in the league in scoring and fifth in total yards a year ago.
"We can attack everywhere on the field with different guys," Mahomes said. "That's the kind of the thing we get whenever we have guys like Travis Kelce who's a tight end but basically a receiver. And then you have guys like Sammy Watkins who's a big receiver, then you have a small receiver with Tyreek Hill. We have guys everywhere that can really hurt defenses in every aspect of the game."
The Chiefs offense under Smith thrived in part by protecting the football. The Chiefs led the league last year with just 11 turnovers. Only New England had fewer turnovers than Kansas City during Smith's five seasons as quarterback.
Finding the balance between his aggressive instincts and self-preservation remains an unknown quantity with Mahomes.
"There's sometimes I might overthrow Tyreek trying to go for a big shot instead of taking the checkdown and there's sometimes where I just need to work on working the 10-yard completion and moving the chains," Mahomes said. "You kind of have to find that median of when you want to work on those deep ones but at the same time training good habits and being able to find the 10-yard completion when you need it."
Yet with all the focus on Mahomes, the success of the Chiefs in 2018 should rest just as much on a revamped defense. The Chiefs should have at least five new defensive starters from the team that surrendered a 21-3 halftime lead at home to Tennessee in the wild-card round of last year's playoffs.
The biggest addition is the return of safety Eric Berry, who was lost for the season in Week 1 with an Achilles rupture.
"He's been the heartbeat of our defense," Reid said.
The Chiefs retooled their defense around the core of Berry, linebacker Justin Houston and defensive lineman Chris Jones. Linebacker Reggie Ragland, acquired from Buffalo last season, teams with free agent Hitchens to form a revamped inside duo focused on adding speed and intensity into the defense.
"There's a lot of speed out there but it's a lot of guys that's also really tough out there too," Ragland said. "I feel like we just put everything together with the speed and quickness and then smartness. It's just my job to get everybody lined up and I know those guys will handle everything else."
Reid also liked what he saw from second-round pick Breeland Speaks, an edge rusher from Mississippi, and third-round selection Derrick Nnadi, a defensive tackle from Florida State. But just as with his entire defense, however, much hinges upon what happens when training camp opens and hitting becomes real.
"You get an idea a bit but you still have to put the pads on," Reid said. "The young guys, I felt very good with Breeland and Nnadi. These guys did a nice job on the front end of it and look forward to seeing them in pads."