ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — On one of the primary performs of coaching camp final week, receiver Mecole Hardman did what the Kansas City Chiefs drafted him to do two years in the past. He used his 4.33 40 velocity to run down the left sideline and previous cornerback DeAndre Baker to catch a deep ball from quarterback Patrick Mahomes in a 7-on-7 drill.
It was a pleasant begin to what might be a key season for the third-12 months vast receiver.
“It’s probably one of my most important seasons,” Hardman mentioned. “I think it’s up to me personally to do what I need to do and take advantage of every opportunity that’s given to me and gain the trust of the coaches, the rest of the staff and Pat and my teammates and just show them I can be a viable asset every Sunday or whatever day we’re playing on.
“It’s form of that point to simply take these challenges head on and attempt to show myself.”
Making more of the kind of plays he did early in camp isn’t all Hardman needs to do to secure the playing time available after Sammy Watkins departed as a free agent. The Chiefs never seemed comfortable with him as a full-time player the past couple of seasons, often giving the playing time to others when Watkins was out of the lineup with injuries.
Mahomes has seemed frustrated with Hardman at times over two seasons, including during last season’s Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So earning the trust that Hardman referred to seems essential for him as well.
“I like Mecole’s work he put in within the offseason and the way in which he dealt with himself,” coach Andy Reid said after the first day of camp. “I like the way in which he got here out at the moment and what he did right here. I search for good issues from him.
“He’ll keep getting better as he goes here. This will be a big camp for him.”
Hardman continued to ship large performs in subsequent practices. He acquired behind the secondary in a current exercise and caught a protracted move from Mahomes. He misplaced an analogous play in the identical observe when cornerback Charvarius Ward recovered and broke up a deep move on the final second.
Plays like these have Mahomes considering Hardman is a extra dependable participant this 12 months.
“The maturity I guess you could say of how he practices, how he goes about his business, is completely different,” Mahomes mentioned. “We’ve always seen the talent. We’ve always seen the speed, the way he’s able to make plays happen. But with him being so comfortable with the offense and just how we do things, I think it’s going to take his game to another level.”
The Chiefs tried in free company to signal a substitute for Watkins, most notably Pittsburgh’s Juju Smith-Schuster. Ultimately, the Chiefs signed no substitute, signaling a belief in Hardman they hadn’t beforehand proven.
“Somebody’s got to fill in that spot, right?” Hardman mentioned. “However the coaches go about giving those targets away is up to them. It’s up to us three to fill in that void the best way we can.”
Given the earlier points between Hardman and Mahomes, it appears pure that the 2 would have spent additional time working with each other through the offseason. Hardman mentioned that by no means occurred outdoors of observe.
“We have plenty of time in camp to get that chemistry down, that timing down,” Hardman mentioned. “It shouldn’t be an issue.
“No strain. I’m simply going to come back in and do my job and do what I must do and get higher as the times go by. Hopefully, that is sufficient to place me the place I must be.”
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In shedding Watkins, the Chiefs might want to account for his 37 catches, 421 yards and two touchdowns elsewhere. Watkins missed six video games within the common season as a result of of accidents.
“It’s definitely going to be tough, but I definitely feel like as the season goes on, guys will begin to fill that void that Sammy was filling,” Tyreek Hill mentioned. “Having Pat, having [Travis] Kelce, having a great offensive line definitely helps because you’ve got other guys to mentor those guys. Mecole has played, [Robinson] has played in Super Bowls, Pringle [also], so I feel like we’re going to be all right.”
Hardman isn’t just first within the line to interchange Watkins however the apparent candidate. He is a former second-spherical draft decide and has been groomed for this second. Robinson has attracted little curiosity as a free agent in every of the previous two years whereas Pringle joined the Chiefs after going undrafted.
So it is fascinating that the Chiefs have not dedicated the extra obtainable taking part in time to Hardman. Reid mentioned the Chiefs could fill the beginning spot reverse Hill by committee.
“Mecole, Pringle, [Robinson], they all have had an opportunity to do it for us throughout their whole entire careers here, so we’re counting on those guys to step up,” offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy mentioned. “And when it’s all said and done with, we coach our guys, each and every one of them, to be the starter. So when it’s all said and done with, these guys will be mentally as well as physically prepared to step up in any role that we foresee them to be in.”