On Monday, the Chiefs finished up their final practice without full contact. Patrick Mahomes had
impeccable accuracy, three rookies ran with the first team offense, and Travis Kelce returned to
action after missing the previous practice with a tight back. However, with my first chance to see
the team in person, here are some brief takeaways from St. Joe.
1. Willie Gay stands out in coverage
During seven-on-seven, Mahomes dropped back and tried to hit Mecole Hardman on a crossing
pattern. There was some miscommunication and the ball wobbled a bit, but Gay closed in
quickly and picked it off. However, the interception wasn’t the most impressive part. His read in
coverage and the break on the ball was so fast, you had to double-take to make sure it wasn’t a
cornerback. The knee injury that ended his rookie season doesn’t seem to be bothering him at
2. Lucas Niang vs. Chris Jones
For the most part, Niang had an up and down morning. However, on one particular play, Niang
got the chance to go one-on-one with Jones. Despite being isolated on the outside against
Kansas City’s top pass rusher, Niang managed to force him behind the pocket — giving
Mahomes time to read his options. When the play was over, Jones gave Niang a little shove in
frustration. Though it was a small sample size, Niang’s footwork was solid and he rarely got
bowled over. On the other hand, there were a few occasions where he was beaten off the ball —
which can’t happen on the outside.
3. Jerrick McKinnon has a role in this offense
McKinnon has a smaller build at 5-foot-9, 216 pounds, but he is one shifty dude. On a handful of
plays, McKinnon lined up in the backfield and slipped out in the flat where Mahomes would
dump it to him. Once he hauled it in, his side-to-side movement was enough to catch the eye.
That kind of agility is something the Chiefs saw when they picked him up May. In 2020 with San
Francisco, McKinnon totaled 33 receptions for 253 yards.
4. It’s early, but Trey Smith is a starter
It would be foolish to make assumptions before Kansas City plays in its first preseason game.
However, it’s hard not to be confident in Smith’s chances of being a Week 1 starter. When the
horn blared and the offense faced the defense for the first time, the Chiefs trotted out three
rookies on the offensive line — including Smith at right guard. His competition, Laurent
Duvernay-Tardiff, ran with Chad Henne and the second team offense. The most impressive
thing about Smith is not that he’s a sixth-round rookie starting on a Super Bowl favorite, it’s that
he doesn’t look like a rookie at all. Smith wasn’t overpowered or fooled by any of the moves the
interior defenders were throwing at him. For what it’s worth, his remarks about being a ‘goon’ on
the football field appear to be backed up. The 22-year-old is one of the most physical members
on the starting five.
5. Juan Thornhill left practice early
One of the negatives of the day came from the defensive side of the ball. Thornhill, who is
entering his third season in the NFL, left practice early with an apparent groin injury. After his
rookie season was cut short with an ACL tear, Thornhill returned in 2020 and started in just
eight games. Fortunately for the Chiefs, Thornhill left practice under his own power. If Thornhill
is to miss any time, Kansas City can turn to Will Parks, who signed in the offseason, for depth