KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs closed up offseason workouts with an eye toward training camp in St. Joseph, Mo., in six weeks, but the date the team circled on the calendar remains the season-opener showdown against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on Sept. 7.
“You’re kicking it off,” head coach Andy Reid said. “You got to be ready to roll.”
The game may be almost three months away, but the team already holds a laser-focus on the showdown against New England. Game planning for the Patriots is well under way, and the early opener means no break between the end of camp and the beginning of a season with high expectations.
“You got to get in, you’ve got to prepare yourself, you’ve got to come out, you’ve got to be ready to go,” Reid said. “It’s against good competition, national TV, all those things are positives.”
Preparation for the Patriots and the rest of the schedule means Reid must tweak his famous playbook, throwing out plays that lost their usefulness while working on new schemes to best utilize his team’s talents.
“I thought we improved in some areas there,” Reid said. “Then we added some stuff, which you do every year. And you want to master that as best you can, then you still know you have training camp to figure that out.”
Reid tells his players he gives them one, maybe two, shots at making new plays work.
“If it stinks it’s gone,” Reid explained. “We got a lot of options, we have lot of plays, so I’m not going to beat our heads up against the wall with something that’s not good.”
One of the beneficiaries of this offseason research and development stands to be Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs drafted the speedy Hill in the fifth round last year, marking this the first full offseason for Reid to game plan around Hill’s elusiveness.
Reid said Hill holds the aptitude to improve on a rookie performance that included ranking fourth in the league in all-purpose yards.
“We experimented in that area with him last year,” Reid said. “Found out he’s got good capacity and can recall it quickly and he’s able to make adjustment.”
An expanded role appears likely for Hill, who caught 61 passes for 593 yards and also rushed 24 time for 267 yards.
“Does he need to continue to learn?” Reid asked. “Yeah, he’s a second-year player, so he’s got to continue to learn and work hard and do those things. But he’s a pretty sharp kid.”
The Chiefs’ workouts also focused on another young talent – quarterback Patrick Mahomes, a first-round pick. The club spent portions of offseason practices with programs designed specifically for developing the young gunslinger, who showed steady improvement since his arrival in Kansas City.
“That’s how it is with a rookie,” Reid said. “They come in and it’s a clean slate, and you’re building every phase of the offense with them.”
Reid said Mahomes showed tremendous growth since rookie minicamp in early May.
“If you took how he was in the rookie camp and compare it to now there’s no comparison there,” Reid said.
The head coach now wants Mahomes and the team’s other rookies to build on their progress and avoid losing the gains made during the last few weeks of workouts.
“We put a big emphasis on that,” Reid said, “and they’ll stay on top of their game there, so when they come back we’re not just starting from scratch; they’ll be able to step in and get going fast.”
He said young players find it too easy to fall behind if they do not keep working between now and the opening of training camp.
“You get drowned if not,” Reid said. “Training camp is so fast, then you’re tired and it’s hot obviously with a little humidity thrown in there. If you come in behind, very hard to catch up.”
On the injury front, tight end Travis Kelce, recuperating from shoulder surgery, did not participate in any of the club’s offseason practices. But Reid reaffirmed his elite pass catch remains on pace for training camp.
“There’s a pretty good chance he’ll be ready,” Reid said.
The prognosis for linebacker Derrick Johnson also appears promising as well. The veteran defender sustained a ruptured Achilles tendon last December. Johnson did not take part in live drills but did perform individual and positional drills during the mandatory minicamp.
Training camp exists for rounding players into shape for the upcoming season, and Reid said that remains the primary objective coming in late July. But taking their game up another notch ranks a close second for a team aiming for dethroning the champs.
“We’ve done OK the last few years, but never satisfied with that at all,” Reid said.