ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes III trotted onto the practice field with just under 2 minutes on the clock and 75 yards to the end zone, the rookie thrust into a challenging spot on the second full day of training camp.
It took him four plays to hit pay dirt.
The former Texas Tech quarterback hit tight end Ross Travis for a big gain over the middle after looking off a safety, showing the kind of nuance it takes to succeed in the NFL. Then he avoided a mistake when his protection broke down.
Finally, he scrambled for a touchdown, showing off the kind of elusiveness that helped to coax the Chiefs into selecting him with the 10th overall pick.
What was the teaching point after such an impressive drive?
“We told him not to get too big of a head,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said.
There is no disputing that Alex Smith is the Chiefs’ starting quarterback, and that it would take an injury or monumental collapse by the veteran for Mahomes to see much of the field this season.
But if nothing else, Mahomes is quickly making the kind of impression that should make new Kansas City general manager Brett Veach and coach Andy Reid feel good about the backup job this season — and perhaps the notion of handing the youngster with the big arm the full-time job the following season.
“I thought he was the best quarterback in the draft,” said Veach, who at the time was working in the front office for then-GM John Dorsey. “There was no doubt in my mind that was the right decision.”
Lest the plaudits get out of hand, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, Mahomes was wearing a yellow jersey to keep him from getting hit during that two-minute drill, and that tends to give quarterbacks a little more comfort in the pocket.
Second, the Chiefs did not put on full pads until they hit the practice field Sunday, so in fact nobody was getting hit.
And third, he was working with a hodge-podge of players rather than the best on both sides of the ball.
He was also in his element: Mahomes worked in a fast-paced offense that rarely huddled in college, so calling plays on the fly and working from the shotgun was nothing new.
In fact, it may have worked to his advantage.
But none of that stopped the crowd from cheering when Mahomes reached the end zone, especially those fans who have already forked over their hard-earned cash to buy his No. 15 jersey.
“I tell everybody from his very first practice that he had,” Nagy said, “when he came in and was screaming in the huddle what the play was and didn’t realize he was talking to the defense to where he is right now, looking off safeties, is a huge leap.”
Much of the progress came in the offseason, when Mahomes never missed a voluntary workout. He also was present for rookie and mandatory minicamps, even though he didn’t sign a contract until last week.
More progress came when the team broke for a couple of weeks of vacation.
“We were just out there working a little extra,” said Mahomes, who put in extra time with former NFL quarterback and current Chiefs offensive quality control coach Mike Kafka.
“He could see the improvement that I had stayed with and didn’t lose anything,” Mahomes said. “So trying to keep building on that and keep building and building until the season comes.”
Mahomes made a few dazzling throws when the Chiefs put pads on Sunday, but his first real test will come when the Chiefs play the San Francisco 49ers in their preseason opener on Aug. 11. He will likely be the third quarterback on the field after Smith and current backup Tyler Bray, but the race for the No. 2 job already has become a tight one in training camp.
It’ll become even tighter if Mahomes keeps leading the offense to touchdowns.
“You can’t break him down,” Nagy said. “Coach (Reid) gets after him and every once in a while I’ll be looking out the corner of my eye to see if he’s starting to break down but he’s doing great. And as of now he’s pretty unbreakable, but we’ll see how it goes as this test goes on.”
NOTES: OL Isaiah Battle (hamstring) returned to practice Sunday. … LB Justin Houston showed up a bit late to practice, though Reid said there was a good excuse. “He had a mandatory drug test. He’d just went to the bathroom,” Reid said, trailing off. “Maybe that’s too much information.”
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