With each passing day, we learn a bit more about the K.C. Chiefs as training camp unfolds at St. Joseph, Missouri. On Thursday specifically, we learned that a potential experiment in the preseason actually sounds like it’s going to be a major facet of the defense going forward.
Here’s a rundown of some key things we learned about the Chiefs on Thursday.
Chris Jones’ transition is real
Earlier this offseason, the idea of playing Chris Jones outside was floated on a few occasions by the Chiefs brass. The ensuing discussion from analysts and fans ranged from disappointment to curiosity to excitement, but overall it seemed as if the team was just going to kick the tires on the project, so to speak.
Fast forward to training camp and it looks like playing Jones outside is going to be a very regular thing. Not only is Jones playing defensive end in camp with the ones across from Frank Clark, as they occasionally switched sides, but Jones himself said he’s lost 15-20 lbs. this offseason in anticipation of the role as a hybrid lineman.
This is the sort of pre-camp preparation you ask of a player if you know for certain that he’s going to lean into a specific role from the outset. This isn’t some sort of half-hearted attempt to try out a new wrinkle in the defense. The Chiefs came into this offseason with a vision for what Jones could be, and the signing of Jarran Reed gave them further flexibility to do so.
We should have seen this coming with the lack of major moves at defensive end this offseason, via the draft or free agency. It will be interesting to see snap counts throughout the season and just how effective Jones looks with more experience.
Bodies will ache to adjust
On Wednesday, linebacker Anthony Hitchens tweaked his hamstring as training camp got underway. Early on Thursday, tight end Travis Kelce left with tightness in his back and hip. These are veteran players very used to the challenges thrown at them by an Andy Reid training camp, which only serves to prove that the return back to football is hard on most bodies coming out of the offseason.
Players can try to work out as much as they can, but being in game shape is another thing entirely. Orlando Brown said earlier this week in his press conference that August is a tough month for every player—there’s just no way around it no matter the coaching style.
What often happens in the process of adjusting to the workload and drills is that slight injuries will happen. The Chiefs training staff is well aware of the sort of demands they can and cannot make of the players on the roster and they’ll adjust accordingly. It doesn’t sound like any injury so far should be something to worry about, but we’re likely to see various players needing a day here and there to rest as bodies lament being back at work.
Rookies are gonna rookie
Here’s the truth: as much starting experience or overall talent a player might have, 99 percent of first-year players in the NFL are going to look like they’re rookies. It’s just the nature of the game. The speed of the game. The mental demands. The fact that everyone at this level is an elite athlete. The NFL will make its demands and spit out those who cannot handle it.
So far in Chiefs camp, there are some obvious rookie surprises (e.g. Trey Smith at right guard) but even someone as savvy as Creed Humphrey, who came in as pro-ready as almost any other offensive lineman from the draft) is having some early hiccups.
The key here is not to panic. Training camp is where players are supposed to make mistakes. This is the time to try new techniques, make any adjustments, figure out the best way to do things, to establish timing and chemistry. The communication will get better. Rookies will grow and settle in. For now, however, we’re likely going to hear more of this about Humphrey and/or the other rookies on the roster.