Important takeaways from Kansas City Chiefs training camp

Here's a comprehensive look from a weekend hanging out in St. Joseph—including tips when visiting camp yourself.
Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp
Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp / Jamie Squire/GettyImages
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Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp: Offensive Takeaways


Patrick Mahomes looked a little out of rhythm on Friday (at least by his high standards). Credit to the defense, but it seemed like the combination of receivers and tight ends coming in and out is a work in progress. That's understandable as KC looks to find who will be the top contributors outside of Travis Kelce and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. He still made some insane throws and I'm not worried at all.

Blaine Gabbert was the clear number two on both days and seemed fine. I don't know how much we'll learn about Gabbert in camp. I don't know if he's more or less talented than Chad Henne. What will matter is whether he can be as clutch as Henne was when having to fill in when the games matter.

Shane Buechele continues to be the Chiefs' number three quarterback. He was fine while I was at camp, but I didn't see anything that made me say, "This guy should really be second instead of Gabbert." My question is if a guy can't earn the #2 job in his third year with the team, is he really worth keeping a roster spot for over an extra wide receiver, running back, or tight end?

As I said in my roster projection piece last week, I have a feeling that if Mahomes and Gabbert were both to go down, the Chiefs would call up Henne to come out of retirement before going to Buechele. If that's true, then I'd keep the extra skill guy and risk losing Buechele on the practice squad.

Running Backs:

Deneric Prince was one of the players on my shortlist to watch after all the buzz he has been getting. He definitely looks really solid. He's also one of the players I'm most excited to see in preseason games. What struck me at camp was how comfortable he looks catching the ball and fielding kicks/punts. Usually backs with his size don't come with that profile.

Barring a setback, I think Prince may be more of a lock for the roster than Clyde Edwards-Helaire. CEH looked fine on Friday and was out sick on Saturday. Clyde will be a fine depth piece if he makes the team, but the question is if the Chiefs need that depth piece if Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, and Prince are all healthy.

Wide Receivers:

Like many, the Chiefs wide receivers were my number one group to keep an eye on. While I was hoping to come away thinking, "This guy is going to break out", I actually came away feeling like the Chiefs have a deep committee that can all contribute. Here are some specific thoughts on the five guys that stood out to me.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling: I've been on record as saying "MVS is what he is at this point" because his production has been really consistent with both Aaron Rodgers and last year with Mahomes. However, after watching him in camp for a couple of days, I'm tempted to change my stance to "We could see a little improvement over last year and it wouldn't shock me if he had a career year".

I still don't think MVS is a #1 wideout, but hitting career highs in receptions (42) and yards (690) this season definitely seems possible. Both days I was in St. Joseph, Mahomes hit him in stride on deep passes and along the sideline where the ball was too high for the defensive back to reach.

Skyy Moore: I came in thinking Moore might be the guy that would stick out the most amongst the wideouts. Moore did look better than last season, but I wouldn't say he stood out as the best receiver. His change of direction is still one of the best in the group and he's especially good early in routes at creating separation. For this reason, I think we could see a lot of quick passes to Moore this season.

Richie James: James is another wideout that stands out because of his change of direction skills. Maybe it was just while I was there, but it seemed like James was shaking guys later in routes, compared to Moore that was shaking them early in routes. Where I see Moore as getting a lot of quick passes, I think we could see some plays where James benefits from Mahomes extending plays and finding him after he's shaken his man. James was also the first man up in punt return drills both days and one of the first up in kick return as well. That combination of special teams value and making plays as a wideout could make his roster spot secure.

Rashee Rice: Rice doesn't have the sudden change of direction ability of Moore or Rice, but I did think he moved better than expected. You don't see him juke his defender completely, but he did create enough space for himself to earn the target and his combination of size/strength allows him to secure the ball consistently. I came away encouraged that he's getting some first-string reps and seems to be earning the trust of Mahomes. If that continues into preseason games we could be looking at a bigger rookie contributor than we usually see in a Reid offense and he physically looks like he could do some of the things JuJu Smith-Schuster did last season.

Justyn Ross: I'll be honest, it's getting harder and harder not to be all aboard the hype train with Ross. I had some similar takeaways with Ross as I did with Rice. He's not an elite change-of-direction player like Moore or James, but his cuts are even stronger than Rice's and are especially good for someone his size. He looks like a great weapon on slant routes where he can screen out the defender and reach the ball with his long arms. He was also consistently getting sideline balls, much the same way as MVS did with his size and long arms. If Ross can do what he's currently doing in practice in the preseason games I don't see how the Chiefs don't keep him.

While I didn't watch Justin Watson much at all, that's because I think his roll is pretty much locked in. He's a big special teams guy and can provide depth at all the different wideout spots. He'll never be a big contributor, but he's making the team.

Tight Ends:

I'll be honest: tight end wasn't a position I prioritized, but I have a few short thoughts that I can sum up quickly. Travis Kelce is still amazing. It wouldn't shock me if Noah Gray has a slight uptick in production this season. He's playing some of the fullback role and also looks good running routes. It's a bummer that Jody Fortson got injured again. Blake Bell might be in a battle with Matt Bushman for a roster spot. Bushman has been the better pass catcher and if Gray is getting the blocking assignments over Bell that could be a problem for the Belldozer.

Offensive Line:

I didn't spend any time watching the interior offensive line, but I did go out of my way to see how KC's three new tackles (Jawaan Taylor, Donovan Smith, and Wanya Morris) looked.

Jawaan Taylor: He looked rock solid both days I was there. It's only two practices, but he looked like he was worth the investment and could be KC's most reliable tackle since Mitch Schwartz.

Donovan Smith: While I was expecting Taylor to look good, I wasn't as sure about Smith. I'm happy to report that I came away pleasantly surprised by how he looked in the two days I was there. Of all the reps I watched him on I think I only saw him clearly beat once (by Charles Omenihu). We'll see how he looks against top speed rushers (which KC can't really emulate), but he certainly looks capable of being a league-average left tackle and that's all the Chiefs really need from him.

Wanya Morris: When Morris was drafted I figured he was the right tackle of the future and would have been skeptical of him playing left tackle at the NFL level. However, I thought he looked promising while I was at camp. He played more snaps on the left side than on the right and held his own against the second and third-string edge players. I don't think he'll challenge Smith to start, but he looks like a guy that could be a legitimate swing tackle if he continues to improve.

Now for my defensive takeaways.