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3 pleasant surprises standing out for the Chiefs in 2022 NFL training camp

NFL, 2022 NFL training camp, 2022 NFL offseason, Kansas City Chiefs, Mecole Hardman, Trent McDuffie, Isiah Pacheco

The Kansas City Chiefs have been hard at work during training camp at the Missouri Western State University.

For weeks now, training camp for one of the NFL’s top teams was packed to capacity. Chiefs supporters gathered to practice to see the team’s newest incarnation, which has seen up and down days so far.

Head coach Andy Reid, however, cannot fault the players for lack of effort or enthusiasm. Especially during the last few training camp sessions, the squad participated in many 11-on-11 sessions throughout practice, and there were many spectacular plays on both ends of the field. The defense worked on their dime package and blitzes. The offense, meanwhile, went through two-minute drills, fast passing plays, and team run drills.

Throughout the myriad sessions, there were a few pleasant surprises that came out.

Chiefs training camp surprises

3) Trent McDuffie is getting strong

Throughout the last few days of training, McDuffie made a number of good plays. The rookie cornerback continued what has been a tremendously productive stretch of camp for him.

During one of their “two-minute” drills, one such play occurred when McDuffie recorded a pass-breakup on fourth down. Later in the same practice, McDuffie added another pass-breakup.

It is hardly surprising that McDuffie’s outstanding athleticism in coverage is already showing in training camp. Consider that he only allowed 16 catches on 36 targets the whole 2021 season in the US NCAA. Along with fellow rookie cornerbacks Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson, he is one of a number of young players who might make a leap this coming season. After practice on Saturday, McDuffie discussed his development.

“We started out with some bumps and bruises during [OTAs], but right now, the repetitions have given us so much more confidence,” McDuffie said. “I feel like when we’re out there on these long drive drills and we’re tired or nothing is going our way, to be able to come together in the huddle and form as a group and understand that we’re in this together really adds to our confidence as a defense.”

Although McDuffie has struggled with longer receivers like Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster, he has also shown improvement there. His sticky coverage against some of the quicker wideouts has persisted and been impressive. In one particular play, he actually victimized JuJu Smith-Schuster with an interception.

The rookie corner appears to be consistently developing confidence and positive habits that will undoubtedly carry over to the regular season. Right now, he’s slotted as one of the starting cornerbacks, and he might actually live up to the billing.

2) Mecole Hardman is Amazon Prime in cleats

After practice a couple of days ago, Chiefs WR Mecole Hardman was in exceptional shape. He also spoke to the media and said some intriguing things.

He referred to himself as an Amazon Prime option while everyone else was just the standard Amazon option.

Hardman probably implied that he was the preferred option, especially on special teams. On the flip side, it also means he may not be very available. This coming season, he is anticipated to have a bigger role on offense, which would prevent him from making special teams contributions as regularly as before.

It was an interesting metaphor to use, but Hardman could indeed have a “prime” season coming up.

He has shown flashes of brilliance throughout camp. For instance, one of his highlights happened during an 11-on-11 long-drive phase. Hardman made a couple of outstanding plays, but he also made a terrific catch in a one-on-one matchup with rookie CB Joshua Williams.

1) Watch out for Isiah Pacheco

Before training camp began, most pundits assumed Ronald Jones had a strong opportunity to lead the Chiefs in rushing this season. After a couple of weeks, however, one of the greatest surprises was rookie Isiah Pacheco. With Clyde Edwards-Helaire turning into more of a passing down back this season, observers anticipated that he may receive a majority of the first and second down work, as well as the short yardage carries. In fact, most would have placed CEH and Ronald Jones as the prime RBs with Jerick McKinnon in tier 2.

Currently, though, Pacheco has risen up the ranks.

Isiah Pacheco, a seventh-round pick out of Rutgers, has the physical characteristics of a legitimate player. He weighs 216 pounds, has a 4.3-rated speed, and has reminded the coaching staff of former Chief Kareem Hunt.

Pacheco has also demonstrated remarkable vision in addition to his other qualities. He is looking really good in camp. The Chiefs have slotted him as a kick returner right now, but Reid will likely give him reps at RB sooner rather than later.