The Chiefs’ offense faced fourth-and-long in the practice setting, and for a moment, it appeared Patrick Mahomes was going to connect with Mecole Hardman for a big gain.
It never came to be. That’s because first-round draft pick Trent McDuffie extended to bat the ball away — one of two pass breakups for him during Saturday’s practice at Missouri Western.
It was part of a solid day for the 21st overall pick out of Washington, with Chiefs coach Andy Reid saying that he’d liked what he’d seen from McDuffie recently.
“He’s smart, strong. He understands leverages, which is important,” Reid said. “He’s got that want to, and he’s making plays.”
McDuffie says part of his improvement has come from a mindset shift. He said he’d made a conscious effort to focus on finishing snaps.
“Everything doesn’t go perfect, and I’m going to mess up at the line in my technique or at the top of the route,” McDuffie said, “but being able to fight through that adversity and finish on the ball at the end of the play I think is something I’m working hard at and something that you saw out there today. It’s just something I’m trying to do each and every day.”
His coaches are seeing improvement.
Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo described McDuffie’s effort earlier this week as “outstanding,” saying he was especially impressed he’d been able to hold his own against veteran receivers.
Reed, meanwhile, says that even when McDuffie doesn’t make a play, he still seems to be right around the receiver.
“So he’s at least in position to make things happen,” Reid said. “For a young guy, that’s pretty good stuff. We can work with that.”
McDuffie said the biggest transition from college was seeing athleticism at every spot on the field. Another change: Reid’s practices — held Saturday in hot and humid conditions — have been more grueling.
“I think Andy Reid does a good job of making us run a lot, building up our stamina and going out here and playing tired,” McDuffie said. “I feel like that’s a big thing that a lot of us players can do during these days that are hot. Your body’s sore right now, but going out there and keeping that energy up, keeping that focus going when things are uncomfortable has been huge.”
There’s still more to process and learn. McDuffie has played inside and outside cornerback, saying he doesn’t have a preference but needs to know both spots in case of necessity or injury.
The fact that he’s starting to make plays like he did Saturday, though, is the beginning of a confidence-building process that he hopes will continue.
“Going against this offense is always difficult, especially for a young DB coming over,” McDuffie said. “But I feel like I’m getting the hang of it, and I feel like it’s going to help me tremendously.”
Wide receiver Greg Jennings (concussion), defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth (knee contusion) and tight end Jody Fortson (quad) did not practice Saturday. Fortson has now missed five straight practices, with Reid saying afterward that the tight end was progressing.
“It doesn’t seem to be serious, but it’s serious enough where we need to keep him out and not have it happen again,” Reid said of Fortson.
Cornerback Rashad Fenton (shoulder) and tackle Lucas Niang (knee) are still on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
Receiver Daurice Fountain hurt his finger on Saturday, with Reid saying that the team was going to X-ray it to assess the injury further.
• Hardman had one of the day’s top plays in early reps, going over defensive back Nazeeh Johnson for a one-handed catch.
• Receiver Omar Bayless also flashed his ability, bringing down a fingertip catch on a sideline throw from Chad Henne during 7-on-7s.
• Rookie cornerback Joshua Williams was back with the first team as nickel corner during Saturday’s workouts. Rookie Jaylen Watson had been in that spot in the previous few days.
• The defense had a good day during 11-on-11s while limiting Mahomes’ throwing options.
• Josh Gordon, who has had a quiet camp thus far, had one of his best plays during 7-on-7s, hauling in a deep throw down the sideline.
• Defensive end Carlos Dunlap participated in most of the practice before leaving the field early. The Chiefs are easing him into drills after he first arrived for drills Thursday.
• Tight end Travis Kelce shaved and is now sporting a mustache.