Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman seems to be prepared for a potential year-two jump.
Hardman spent his offseason focusing on improvements in several areas in hopes of bettering himself, focusing on the basics, and earning a larger role in the Chiefs' explosive offense.
“Fundamentals — different releases, getting better at the line with my hands, top of the route,” Hardman said in a press conference with reporters. “I know I can get deep, I can run the deep ball. I’m just trying to become a more complete receiver in the intermediate routes, the short game, and trying to improve on that area.”
Hardman recorded 538 receiving yards on 26 receptions as a rookie, averaging 20.7 yards per catch, and caught six touchdowns in the regular season.
Through his offseason workouts, Hardman said he made it a priority to develop his intermediate routes before bringing the skill to training camp.
Hardman has had the chance to assume that role a little more since padded practices began due to the absence of Sammy Watkins, who returned Friday after missing four practices due to a strained groin.
"I think I’m more improved on being a more overall receiver instead of just a deep threat," Hardman said. "I can run the intermediate routes now well and I’ll keep improving on that.”
An increased workload for Hardman is exactly what head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy have in mind this season.
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill saw the same between his rookie and second years in the league.
Hill caught 61 passes for 593 yards in his first season, moving to 1,183 yards on 75 receptions during year two.
Bieniemy said Hardman's growth as a rookie may be signs of what's to come in 2020.
"One thing I thought he did a great job of last year was learning the offense," Bieniemy said. "We want to expand his role even more into the offense and just keeping him involved. I will say this, he's done a heck of a job of learning and going out there and doing things we're asking him to do. We just want him to continue to work and continue maximizing every rep that he has an opportunity to get out there and get in rhythm with Patrick Mahomes."
Hardman caught 63% of his targets from Mahomes during the 2019 regular season. The bulk of the numbers arrived before Week 7, while Hill was working his way back from injury. Hill was injured early in the first week of the season and returned in Week 6.
Hardman said his relationship with Mahomes is growing and encourages him to get better for a potential second-year jump.
“My job is just to play my role, do my role and do that well,” Hardman said. “I think we continue to gain trust. It’s my job to gain trust with Pat. We got a lot of weapons on the field so the more he can trust me, the more the offense can be. I’m just trying to do my job and catch every ball that comes my way and takes advantage of every opportunity and keep running.”