ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs left guard Joe Thuney walked off the field following Kansas City’s first full squad practice of training camp drenched with perspiration as the heat index registered 95 degrees by 11 a.m.
“I feel it. I can’t stop dripping,” said Thuney, the free-agent transplant who relocated from New England during the offseason. “But it’s great. I didn’t realize Missouri got this hot.”
It’s not just the temperature that's rising in training camp, but the expectations as well. The club lured Thuney from the Patriots with a free-agent contract valued at $80 million over five seasons in an effort to reinforce a beleaguered offensive line decimated by injuries a year ago.
Despite leading the league with 415.8 yards of offense per game, coach Andy Reid believes his offense headlined by Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill can get better. The Chiefs ranked sixth in the NFL in scoring with 29.6 points despite ranking 16th in rushing yards and 14th in red zone touchdown percentage.
“Those are a couple of spots we can work on, which we have done in the offseason, we’ll continue to do that here,” Reid said.
Indeed, the Chiefs have put time as well as resources into improving both those metrics. The club invested a second-round pick in center Creed Humphrey and sixth-round right guard Trey Smith, both of whom lined up with the starting group on Wednesday.
“(Smith) is really strong, he’s physical, he’s smart, he studies his playbook really hard,” Thuney said. He’s also seen Humphrey learn on the as the new center for Mahomes. “Creed also is in his playbook a lot and Patrick knows so much, so it’s just been great.”
General manager Brett Veach also added left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., measuring in at 6-foot-8, 345 pounds via a trade with Baltimore. Add in veteran Mike Remmers at right tackle, and the Chiefs lined up Wednesday with a first-team offensive line averaging more than 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, nearly two inches taller and almost 12 pounds heavier than the team’s starting offensive line in their Super Bowl LV loss to Tampa Bay.
It’s a more physically imposing lineup well-suited to more traditional man blocking in short-yardage situations. But Thuney says it takes more than beef and muscle to win at the line of scrimmage in the red zone.
“I think everyone’s got to be on the same page in regards to the defense and the blocking scheme,” Thuney said. “I think it just comes down to execution and trying to play hard for the whistle.”
Reid expects efficiency from the run game and his red-zone offense but above all he strives for balance. The Chiefs threw the ball in the red zone 60% of the time last season. Only three teams had a higher passing percentage in the red zone — Houston, Jacksonville and the New York Giants — and those three clubs combined for just 11 victories, fewer than Kansas City’s 14 wins all by themselves.
Balance doesn’t mean 50/50, however, in Reid’s mind — it’s about an offense being able to impose its will when needed
“Balance, being able to do either or when you want to do them against whatever mismatch that you can create, is the important thing.”
The first real test for Kansas City’s rebuilt line comes next week when the pads come on and the hitting starts. It’s not just the one day in pads, either.
“It’s easy to say pads,” Reid said. “Well, it’s pad after pad after pad after pad and that mental and physical fatigue that you get through training camp. So, how are you going to handle that and still play well?”
Thuney is eager to see what he and his new teammate can accomplish.
“It’s only day one of training camp,” Thuney said. “I think we’re all trying to get better each day and keep trying to progress. It’s a process.”
NOTES: Safety Tyrann Mathieu said he wasn’t disappointed that he didn’t have a contract extension in place with the team prior to the beginning of training camp. “I’m all about ball. I love ball," Mathieu said. "It’s important for me to stay focused on that and let other things just handle themselves.” … Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said he hasn’t had a conversation yet with defensive end Frank Clark regarding the player’s recent arrests on weapons charges in California. “There’s obviously a legal process there. At some point the NFL may get involved as well. We’ll cooperate with the league on whatever they need.”