NS. JOSEPH, Missouri – At one of the first training camps last week, receiver Mecole Hardman did what the Kansas City Chiefs called him two years ago. He used his 4.3340 speed to run down the left sideline and run past cornerback DeAndre Baker to catch a deep ball from quarterback Patrick Mahomes in a 7v7 drill.
It was a nice start to a potentially important season for the wide receiver in his third year.
“It’s probably one of my most important seasons,” said Hardman. “I think it’s up to me personally to do what I have to do and take every opportunity I have to gain the trust of the coaches, the rest of the staff and Pat and my teammates and them just to show that I can do it Every Sunday or whatever day we play, a useful addition.
“It’s kind of time to just take up these challenges and try to prove myself.”
Making more of the kind of games he did at the start of camp isn’t all Hardman has to do to secure the available game time after Sammy Watkins leaves as a free agent. The Chiefs never seemed comfortable with him as a full-time player for the past couple of seasons and often gave the game time to someone else when Watkins was not on the line-up due to injury.
Mahomes appeared to be at times frustrated with Hardman over two seasons, including last season’s Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So it seems important for him to gain the trust that Hardman was referring to.
“I like Mecole’s work in the offseason and the way he treated himself,” said coach Andy Reid after the first day of camp. “I like the way he came out today and what he’s done here. I’m looking for good things of his.
“He’s getting better and better as he gets here. This will be a great camp for him.”
Hardman continued to deliver big games in the following trainings. He got past secondary school in a recent training session and caught a long pass from Mahomes. He lost a similar game in the same training session when cornerback Charvarius Ward recovered and interrupted a deep pass at the last moment.
Games like this make Mahomes think Hardman is a more reliable player this year.
“The maturity that can be said about how he practices, how he does his business, is completely different,” said Mahomes. “We have always seen the talent. We have always seen the speed, the way in which he is able to implement games. But since he is so comfortable with the offensive and the way we do things, feels good, I think it will take his game. ” to another level. “
The Chiefs tried in private to sign a replacement for Watkins, in particular Pittsburgh’s Juju Smith-Schuster. Ultimately, the Chiefs didn’t sign a replacement, which signaled a trust in Hardman that they hadn’t shown before.
Hardman isn’t the only beneficiary the Chiefs have to replace Watkins. But Hardman comes first in a row that includes Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle, among others.
“Somebody has to fill this in, right?” said Hardmann. “However the coaches give away these goals is up to them. It is up to the three of us to fill this gap as well as possible.”
Given the previous issues between Hardman and Mahomes, it seems natural that the two would have spent extra time together in the off-season. Hardman said that never happened outside of practice.
“We have a lot of time at camp to get the chemistry and timing down,” Hardman said. “That should not be a problem.
“No pressure. I’ll just come in and do my job and do what I have to do and get better as the days go on. Hopefully that’s enough to get me where I need to be.”
NFL Nation reporters break up each division to prepare for the season.
• NFC East | AFC East
• NFC North | AFC North
• NFC South | AFC South
• NFC West | AFC West
In losing Watkins, the Chiefs must factor in his 37 catches, 421 yards and two touchdowns elsewhere. Watkins missed six games in the regular season due to injury.
“It’s definitely going to be tough, but I definitely have a feeling as the season progresses the guys will start to fill that void that Sammy has filled,” said Tyreek Hill. “Have pat, have [Travis] Kelce, having a great offensive definitely helps because you have other people looking after those people. Mecole played [Robinson] played in super bowls, Pringle [also]so I have a feeling we’ll be fine. “
Not only is Hardman first in line to replace Watkins, he’s the obvious candidate. He is a former second round draft pick and was groomed for this moment. Robinson has drawn little interest as a free agent in the past two years, while Pringle moved to the Chiefs after not being drafted.
So what’s interesting is that the Chiefs didn’t trust Hardman with the extra playing time available. Reid said the chiefs could committee the launch site across from Hill.
“Mecole, Pringle, [Robinson], They’ve all had the opportunity to do this for us throughout their careers, so we’re counting on these guys to strengthen themselves, “said offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.” And when it’s all done, we’ll coach our guys, every single one of them them to be the starter. So when all is said and done these guys will be both mentally and physically prepared to take on whatever role we have for them. “