Camp notebook: Run game focus on both sides for Chiefs

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs put the shoulder pads on for the second time during training camp, and the defense once again took advantage of the opportunity to level the playing field against the offense.

Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware runs the ball during a practice at the team’s training camp in St. Joseph, Mo., Aug. 1, 2017. (Photo by Justin Olson, ChiefsDigest.com)

The secondary turned in several interceptions and the entire defensive collected many big hits. The front seven also fared well against the run.

The brightest offensive spot cam from first-team group, which won three of its four reps in the goal line period.

Running back Spencer Ware scored on a shovel pass from Alex Smith and caught another pass out of the backfield for a touchdown. He scored on a short run as well.

The Chiefs ran six offensive plays from the opponent’s 1-yard line and scored just one touchdown. That came on the infamous “Hungry Pig Right” when Dontari Poe scored on a lateral against Oakland in week six.

The Chiefs on average lost almost a full yard on plays from the 1-yard line.

Starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif said the offensive line wants conversions automatic in those situations this year.

“We want to be one of those teams that are able to do that consistently,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “That’s why we’re working on that today. I think it was a great period.”

The second and third team offenses struggled in the same drill, however, with the defensive clamping down hard.

Defensive tackle Bennie Logan, signed as a free agent to replace the departed Dontari Poe, demonstrated his run-stuffing abilities in the live practice. He also collected a sack against Tyler Bray in team drills.

The Chiefs remained focused on the run game on both sides of the ball in training camp. The Chiefs ranked 15th running the ball last year but seemed to struggle in the red zone.

The defense ranked 26th against the run last year. Linebacker Derrick Johnson said the team wants to force more third-and-long situations and get off the field quicker than it did a year ago when bend but don’t break served as the motto.

“I promise you we will be better in the run game this year,” Johnson said.

SMITH AND HILL CONNECTING

Tyreek Hill and Smith developed early chemistry last year as the rookie wideout caught 61 catches for 593 yards. In his second camp, however, Hill continues emerging as a one of Smith’s go-to targets along with tight end Travis Kelce.

Offensive coordinator Matt Nagy gave much of the credit last to Hill’s athleticism and ability to quickly immerse himself into the playbook.

“It started last year right away with Tyreek, just coming in and knowing what he’s doing,” Nagy said.

Now that Smith owns a better sense of Hill’s speed and abilities, the quarterback and receiver seem to share a tighter connection on the field.

The duo delivered perhaps the prettiest play of the day, an over-the-shoulder bomb up the right sideline that set the first-team offense up for a touchdown during team drills. Hill made the catch despite tight coverage from CB De’Vante Bausby.

Nagy said quarterbacks must adjust and understand how fast Hill truly is.

“Once you get that tempo down especially on a lot of the go ball and deep routes,  knowing that there’s some air time there and you can put that ball up and he’s going to go get it,” Nagy said. “It’s been impressive, and Alex has done a great job with it.”

PLAYER NOTES

  • WR Seantavius Jones continues pressing his case in the wide receiver rotation. Jones hooked up with Bray for a long touchdown during seven-on-seven drills and continues to show reliable hands and an ability to get open.
  • TE Orson Charles spent much of Thursday’s practice working with the running backs. Charles continues to pick up snaps in a backup full back role on second and third teams.
  • Newly acquired DT Roy Miller wore No. 98 in his first practice with the Chiefs. Undrafted rookie DL Ricky Ali’fua switched to No. 64 to accommodate Miller.
  • CB D.J. White was among the defensive players having a good day at camp. He delivered a big hit on TE Demetrius Harris early in team drills. He later picked off a deep pass from Smith to Harris.
  • Rookie CB Leon McQuay missed one opportunity to pick off QB Patrick Mahomes, but he made the most of a second chance. Both times Mahomes targeted rookie WR Marcus Kemp but his throw sailed high toward the safety. McQuay could not bottle up the first ball, but did turn in an interception on a similar throw later in practice.

INJURY REPORT

Johnson returned to practice after missing two workouts this week following dental work for a tooth abscess.

Three players left practice early. Cornerback Terrance Mitchell rode a cart back to the locker room with a sore hamstring. Cornerbacks J.R. Nelson (groin) and Keith Baxter (wrist) also left practice for attention in the medical tent.

Running back Charcandrick West worked on the sidelines without pads or helmet in his return from an ankle injury that kept him out of practice earlier this week.

Defensive end Chris Jones appeared in the medial tent for rehab work. The team placed him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list last week following arthroscopic surgery July 12. Left guard Parker Ehinger also did rehab work along the sidelines. He remains on the PUP list as he returns from ACL surgery last November.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“They can run down the field like it’s peaches and cream, but when they get to the 20-yards line to 12-yard line, we can hold them down. That’s a win for us when the offense kicks three.No offense wants to kick three unless it’s to win the game.”

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Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.

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