We’re nine stops into my training camp tour after sending off the Bills, Packers, Bears, Colts, Bengals, Steelers, Browns and Vikings. The main ones are next:
ST. Joseph, Md. — Every time I come here, there seems to be at least a threat of storms, and this year was no different. Thunderstorms, but no rain through my run this morning. And then the skies opened up, and practice moved to Missouri Western’s fieldhouse. Here’s what I saw and heard…
1) Isaiah Pacheco, a seventh-round pick out of Rutgers, looks like a real player – 216 pounds, 4.3 speed and traits that remind the staff here of former chief Kareem Hunt (only he may have extra gears that Hunt didn’t). A product of what the personnel department saw as a 3-day surplus in this year’s draft class, a result of the 2020 COVID season taking work away from guys entering the ’21 class. And Pacheco is more than just a feature guy — he’s also shown real vision. It will be interesting to see how he fits into a crowded backfield with Clyde Edwards-Heller, Ronald Jones and Jerick McKinnon.
2) Fourth-year safety Juan Thornhill is finally healthy, and looks like a much more versatile player at the position. The idea behind signing Justin Reid from Houston was to fill the void left by Tyrann Mathieu. But Thornhill’s growth made the Chiefs feel that he and Reed would be interchangeable, allowing Steve Spagnuolo to get creative with their usage. And second-round pick Brian Cook has been a quick study, and will depend on the team’s three-safety look.
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3) The corner will be attractive. L’Jarius Sneed has developed into one of the best nickels in the league, with the versatility to move outside. First-round pick Trent McDuffie is repping exclusively with the first team. And the third corner spot is, well, pretty wide open. Rashad Fenton may still be the favorite for it, but he’s on the PUP now, and Josh Williams, a long, colorful, fourth-round rookie out of Fayetteville State, is running hard at the job and has a chance to be a pretty significant player. Seventh-rounder Jaylen Watson has also shown promise.
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4) Right tackle may be the biggest question on the roster. Andrew Wylie is trending toward being the Week 1 starter. Lucas Niang, on the PUP, could be a factor when he’s healthy. And Mike Reimers is gone. The good news is that the rest of the line, as it stands, is rock solid.
5) Patrick Mahomes has more ownership over the offense as a whole and because of that, I think the Chiefs will be fine as they make some changes at receiver. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling both bring what was advertised—the former is a physical middle target, and the latter is a size/speed guy who should replace some of the juice lost to Miami from Tyreek Hill. The obvious difference, this year from past years, is that this year’s group is much bigger (and not as fast) as its predecessors.
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