Chiefs OTA observations: Patrick Mahomes already in groove with new WRs, linemen

Chiefs OTA observations: Patrick Mahomes already in groove with new WRs, linemen
Video patrick mahomes otas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the reigning league MVP and Super Bowl MVP, Patrick Mahomes spent much of this spring doing what he has always wanted to do since he became the Chiefs’ superstar quarterback: He went on a gallivanting tour.

His journey started with some tennis in Indian Wells, Calif., where he was a patron at the BNP Paribas Open. He and Brittany, his wife, were two of the newest celebrities to be featured at the Met Gala in New York earlier this month. A few days later, Mahomes was given the honor of commanding the jockeys to mount their racehorses for the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby. Then Mahomes was seen enjoying the F1 Miami Grand Prix. And on Mother’s Day, Mahomes was with Brittany to watch the home match of the Kansas City Current, the NWSL club for which the couple is part of the ownership group.

This week, though, Mahomes has enjoyed his return to the office.

The opening stretch of the Chiefs’ voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) at their training facility this week included Mahomes’ participation, as expected, with No. 15 leading the offense through several on-field repetitions. An even bigger positive for coach Andy Reid was that Mahomes was surrounded by nine of the other 10 projected starters on offense, including new left tackle Donovan Smith and new right tackle Jawaan Taylor.

“You’re building those relationships, and you teach the little things that we do within our offense,” Mahomes said after Wednesday’s practice, which was open to reporters. “You stay fresh. That’s the biggest thing. There’s a lot of competition. It helps when those veterans are here because then it shows we all need to get in the building and get the work in.”

Just three months after winning Super Bowl LVII, the Chiefs’ offensive operation Wednesday was crisp.

In the first team period, Mahomes threw an intermediate pass with perfect touch to tight end Matt Bushman, who was closely guarded near the sideline by linebacker Willie Gay Jr. Inside the red zone for a seven-on-seven period, Mahomes attempted a bold, daring sidearm pass, even though safety Bryan Cook was in perfect position while covering receiver Justin Watson. Mahomes’ precise pass ended as a touchdown, as Watson caught the ball in the back of the end zone. Toward the end of Wednesday’s practice, in the second team period, Mahomes rolled to his right and unleashed another sidearm pass, this one placed just far enough away from cornerback DiCaprio Bootle and in the correct spot for receiver Skyy Moore.

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Mahomes reacted to each successful rep the same way: He hopped several times in a jovial manner while nodding his head.

Office hours are back in session.@PatrickMahomes x @MVS__11 pic.twitter.com/L0LZ07TJon

— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) May 24, 2023

“He’s 100 percent in and going after it,” Reid said of Mahomes. “He challenges himself and the guys around him to be great. As a head coach, I appreciate that. That’s what the great ones do. He’s doing a great job.”

By having Mahomes in such a rhythm, one of the biggest revelations from the practice is that the Chiefs could have more quality receivers than spots available on their initial 53-man roster.

The players projected at the top of the depth chart are Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Moore. But Mahomes, at this point, doesn’t know which of his teammates is the favorite to be the No. 4 receiver. Rookie Rashee Rice, a second-round pick, didn’t make any major mistakes Wednesday and caught an easy touchdown pass from backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Receivers Richie James and Justyn Ross were also impressive with their targets.

The most surprising performance was from John Ross, a six-year veteran who signed with the Chiefs in early January after not playing last season. In 2021, Ross recorded 11 receptions for 224 yards and a touchdown in 10 games before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. Flashing his elite speed, Ross made splendid receptions Wednesday on the perimeter and near the hashmarks.

“We’re deep,” Mahomes said of the receivers. “Usually, you have a good feel for who the guys are going to be, but with this group, it’s like every single guy. You’re like, ‘I can see him making a path for making the team.’ You want that competition. I’m happy with where we’re at.”

John Ross goes TURBO SPEED & gets the TD ⚡️

📺: @NFLonFOX & Giants App pic.twitter.com/2hu8wZ3xUs

— New York Giants (@Giants) October 3, 2021

At this stage of the offseason, Reid enjoys teaching his new players, sometimes even having quick one-on-one chats between repetitions.

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The newest veteran to join the Chiefs is Smith, who earlier this month signed a one-year, $4 million contract that could increase to a maximum of $9 million through performance-based incentives. Before then, Smith was an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his nine-year career, having been released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in early March for salary-cap reasons. Smith acknowledged he is still early in the process of learning Reid’s complex playbook, but he said Reid and offensive line coach Andy Heck have helped make the first transition in his career a smooth experience.

“He’s an offensive line guy, so that’s always a good thing,” Smith said of Reid, who began his career in the NFL in 1992 as the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line coach. “He communicates with a lot of guys, and he coaches you hard. You see why they’re a championship team, the way that they prepare.

“It’s good to see that the locker room is good. You see the camaraderie that they have.”

Last season, Smith was responsible for protecting legendary quarterback Tom Brady’s blind side, and now Reid has entrusted Smith with the same responsibility with Mahomes, arguably the league’s most talented quarterback.

Listed at 6 feet 6 and 338 pounds, Smith, 29, is eager to prove he can be effective in his role despite struggling at times last year, in part because of injuries (elbow, foot and thumb).

“I played with a lot more injuries than I probably should have,” Smith said. “We go out there and we sacrifice our bodies for the greater good of the team. But this is a new beginning, a new journey. I’m healthy. I’m fresh.

“I’m a selfless person. Pro Bowls and those things matter, but not really. I’m more about the championship thing. That’s what means the most to me. I have a lot of high expectations for myself.”

New faces in new places 📍 pic.twitter.com/zzwV0gjw5c

— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) May 22, 2023

Mahomes, who at age 27 is the franchise’s greatest player, was pleased with the ingenuity of general manager Brett Veach, who once again completed the team’s biggest offseason goal by putting together one of the league’s best offensive lines. In free agency, the Chiefs signed Taylor to a four-year contract worth $80 million, including $60 million guaranteed.

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The Chiefs had to replace former starting tackles Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie, who were unrestricted free agents. Wylie signed a three-year contract worth a maximum of $24 million with the Washington Commanders, and Brown signed a four-year, $64 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, one of the Chiefs’ biggest rivals.

“I still talk to Orlando,” Mahomes said. “You understand how great of a player he is. He makes Cincinnati an even better team, so that stinks for us. But I’m happy for him that he got to go to a good place where he was able to get a good contract that he deserved. We’ll still have that friendship.”

The Chiefs expect their offensive line to feature Smith, star left guard Joe Thuney, star center Creed Humphrey, right guard Trey Smith and Taylor.

Even in Wednesday’s team periods, when defenders are prohibited from touching him, Mahomes received above-average protection from his linemen, which allowed him to make his highlight-worthy completions.

“We’re in a good spot,” Mahomes said of Donovan Smith and Taylor. “We’re bringing in two guys that have had success at other places. They’re getting familiar with how we do things, the (terminology) and what I’m saying at the line of scrimmage. As far as talent and work ethic, they’re both at the very top.”

Attendance and injury report

The Chiefs’ three practices this week featured 86 players on the 91-man roster, an increase of 11 players from last year.

Cornerbacks L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie were on the practice fields Wednesday watching their teammates. Reid said they were held out for precautionary reasons, although he didn’t disclose the minor injury for either player.

Superstar defensive tackle Chris Jones, running backs Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon, and defensive tackles Derrick Nnadi and Tershawn Wharton chose not to participate this week.

(Photo: Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)