Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy took the podium on Wednesday after a training camp practice from which wide receiver Mecole Hardman departed early — while the team was already missing tight end Blake Bell, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back Jerick McKinnon.
So the Chiefs’ offense was forced to rely on depth at multiple positions — but Bieniemy claimed it didn’t make him nervous.
“Just like any other position, the next man has to perform,” said Bieniemy. “(Wide receivers coach) Joe Bleymaier — all that stuff that he’s been doing in that receiving room, all the drills that he’s done — now it’s time for the younger guys to step up. This is an opportunity for someone else to show that they could play, that they could perform under pressure but also maximize the opportunity.
“[So] not nervous at all. Obviously, you want guys to always stay healthy, but this gives a number of guys an opportunity to go up there and step up and show exactly what they can bring to the table.”
With Smith-Schuster and Hardman sidelined on Wednesday, that meant more top-team receiver reps for Josh Gordon, Daurice Fountain and Justin Watson. Watson had five receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown in the Chiefs’ 19-14 preseason loss to the Chicago Bears on Saturday.
“Every day he goes out there, he’s working to improve upon something — and every day, he’s found a way to make a play,” said Bieniemy of Watson. “Very pleased and satisfied with what we’ve seen so far — but he knows he needs to continue working and continue improving on the little things.”
Second-round pick Skyy Moore also garnered more opportunities on Wednesday due to injuries. Bieniemy noted that he has seen the rookie’s confidence grow as camp has carried along.
“He’s an outstanding person [and] he’s an outstanding player — and he’s just a kid who always wants to know what he can improve upon,” said Bieniemy of Moore. “First of all, I love watching him work because he’s going to work his tail off, and he accepts coaching. The thing that I love as well is that if he makes a mistake, he’s not a kid that’s going to repeat that same mistake; that’s the thing that’s impressive about him.
“And then he’s just having a good time. It’s like he’s playing PlayStation out there. He’s just out there having fun. It’s fun to watch him work — but on top of that, it’s fun to watch his growth process since Day 1.”
Since camp opened at St. Joseph’s Missouri Western State University in late July, Clyde Edwards-Helaire has consistently been the first Chiefs running back to touch the football during each team period. Bieniemysaid that the Chiefs have given him these touches for a reason.
“The thing that my challenge has been for [Edwards-Helaire] is to — I know this sounds crazy — but just to get his wind right, to make sure his endurance is right, to be able to play seven, eight, nine, 10 plays in a row,” said Bieniemy. “It’s been impressive watching him work and challenging himself. And I’ve seen growth in that area.
“And the thing about it: I love the way he’s functioning when he’ssupposed to be tired.’ And that’s the thing that he’s growing with in this process: now he’s learning what it takes to become a professional football player.
“You’re not going to always feel at your best. But when we call upon you at that time, can you react and play just like you would have if it had been the first play?”
When Edwards-Helaire does get winded or need a break, Kansas City has been relying more and more on rookie seventh-rounder Isiah Pacheco — and even more so with McKinnon out of the mix on Wednesday.
“He’s a very confident young man,” said Bieniemy. “Now you’re talking about a kid who plays hard? Pacheco plays hard… first of all, he’s doing a great job. He has a tremendous work ethic. As a young back — this is probably one of the toughest things that they need to learn — is allowing the game to come to him, learning how to be a patient runner. Understand exactly what’s going on up front, so now he can have a better feel on how to square his shoulders up, press it and then read it out from there. As far as work [his] ethics [he] works hard.
“As far as a tough runner — who will try and find 4.5 yards — [Pacheco] check that box. And then on top of that, he does a great job in the pass game where he’s catching it, and he’s still learning to perfect his craft in pass pro. And it ain’t so much with his attitude and blocking. It’s just making sure he knows exactly who to pick up. And that takes a little while for a young guy.”
Injuries are never ideal — and that is especially true at this stage, with the Chiefs’ time in St. Joseph winding down. However, if there is a silver lining for Bieniemy and the Chiefs, it is that the missed time by veterans is providing their younger players much-needed reps.
And through the offensive coordinator’s estimation, they are making the most of their opportunities.
If you can’t see the above (Apple iTunes) embed, click here. The press conferences are also available on Spotify.
- Did not practice (due to injury): OL Lucas Niang (knee), TE Blake Bell (hip flexor), WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee), RB Jerick McKinnon (hamstring)
- Did not practice (personal): LS James Winchester
- Left early: WR Mecole Hardman (groin), DT Chris Jones (back)
Tweet of the day
Our John Dixon compiled all of Wednesday’s tweets here. Here is the tweet of the day:
Country is all over it.
Quote of the day
Kicker Harrison Butker on safety Justin Reid’s ability to kick field goals: “It’s crazy because he’s actually not very efficient, but the ball goes so far.”
The Chiefs finished training camp on Thursday with 10-10-10 practice. It begins at 8:15 am Arrowhead Time. Here’s the complete schedule. Linebackers will be available to sign autographs as head coach Andy Reid addresses the media at the podium. It’s also Military Appreciation Day.