Generally speaking, "small sample size" is a very real thing. When you've only got a couple of examples to look at it's almost impossible to accurately make any real conclusions. A sound, careful researcher will refrain from drawing conclusions until enough data is presented to properly judge something.
Of course, we're not sound, careful researchers. We're football fans. And how about that Travis Kelce?
The hype over Kelce was substantial last season after he was drafted in the third round by the Chiefs. Standing 6'5 and weighing 260 pounds, Kelce possessed exceptional speed for a guy his size to go along with a mean streak when blocking.
Of course, the hype was short-lived, as Kelce went down to injury and wasn't seen again until training camp. This led to quite a few Chiefs fans moving on from Kelce. Often times, here on Arrowhead Pride, enthusiasm about Kelce's return was met with skepticism. "What do you really expect from a guy who hasn't done anything?" was the common question among those who doubted Kelce could have an impact this season.
Two catches later and that group has shrunk considerably. Because what a couple of plays they were. And those plays helped answer the question of what those of us who were excited about Kelce's return expect him to add to the Chiefs offense.
I'm going to start with my SECOND favorite play by Kelce on Thursday. Here's Kelce just starting out on his route, with a lone cornerback in single coverage waiting to get burned (though the poor guy didn't know that yet). The next picture moves forward about a second.
Note: See the play here
What you see Kelce doing in that second picture is crucial to the gigantic success the Chiefs had on this play. Kelce makes a hard fake outside. You can see that he puts his whole body into the fake (rather than a quick juke or a mere head fake).
The cornerback (yes, remember, this is a cornerback. A guy who is 50-60 pounds lighter than Kelce and 5-6 inches shorter. I'd look him up, but let's face it, history will not remember his name on this play) bites on the fake HARD. I'm talking when a northern outright swallows your lure hard (fishing analogies? No? Fair enough). Of course, we can't see him in the above picture, so how do I know he gets so faked out?
Well, it's pretty obvious when we look at the next two pictures. The first is with the ball in the air (which is blurry as the cameraman looks to follow the ball). The second is the moment immediately following Kelce catching the ball, and he's turning upfield to go to the house.
THAT'S how we know the corner bit hard on Kelce's fake. Look at that separation. The only way Kelce could have been more open is if he'd maced the defender or something. This is an excellent example of committing and running a solid route paying off for a receiver.
I'm also quite certain the defending corner was surprised by Kelce's speed / quickness. I mean, I don't know the guy personally so I haven't had an opportunity to ask him about the play. But when you consider how hard he bit on Kelce's fake and how quickly he ended up torched, it's a pretty safe assumption that his thought process was something like, "Big dude, he'll try to muscle me. He's going outside, I'd better shade WHAT'S HE DOING NOOOOOOO!!!!!"
The next series of pictures show the "whoa" part of this particular play. Up until now, it was a very nice gain for the offense. Looking at the above picture, you'd assume (with a normal tight end) that it's going to be around a 30-yard gain or so before Kelce gets caught by all the small people around him.
Of course, Travis Kelce isn't a normal tight end, and that's not what happened. Instead, this happened.
So what we've got here is a 6'5, 260 pound man running 35 yards while being pursued by a bunch of 6 foot, 200 pound men. Those tiny men started off roughly 3-4 yards behind Kelce (or in the case of Albert Wilson's cornerback, with a "head start" to get an angle). 35 yards later, they all remain 3-4 (or more) yards behind Kelce.
There's fast. Then there's really fast. Then there's "Holy crap that guy is fast." This play falls into the last category. I hate to bring up a bad memory, but recall last year's first game against the Chargers. Remember Ladarius Green's 60-yard touchdown? I know, I know, it sucked and you want to forget it. But the reason I bring it up is I remember thinking on that play that I'd never seen a tight end run like that.
Well, now I have. Travis Kelce is stupid fast.
But unlike Green, Kelce isn't a beanpole receiver masquerading as a tight end. Travis Kelce brings a physical edge that no other tight end with his athleticism (outside The Gronk) brings to the table.
And that physicality was on display on may favorite play of the game, which was a measly 4-yard gain.
With 12:03 left in the second quarter, Kelce took a quick pass from Chase Daniel that looked destined to go nowhere. It was one of those "substitute for a run" type passes Andy Reid loves that drives me absolutely crazy, but that's a whole separate column.
Be forewarned, we're going to be counting. Because counting CAN be fun sometimes. Let's start off with a shot of Kelce as he's turning upfield after catching the ball.
Kelce looks dead to rights, no? Linebacker closing, trailing defensive linemen to clean up. Now let's start counting.
That's ONE, as the foolish linebacker who thought he'd tackle Travis Kelce on his own goes sliding off due to a well-executed spin move by Kelce.
Of course, here come the big uglies to clean up. It's over now, right? Well, not really. These next two shots barely look like they're from the same play. In the first Kelce looks finished, in the next ... well, I'll just show you. I have no idea how Kelce does this. We'll be counting from here on out:
That's TWO, as a secondary player (poor guy) goes flying off Kelce like he's made of rubber and Kelce's made of... well, rubber.
Now come the Big Men (defensive linemen 99 and 75) to finish the job. 99 in particular has Kelce. I mean, he has him, right?
Nope. That's THREE, as the defensive lineman can't hang on while Travis twists and keeps his legs churning. Dude's running like 2.7 before 2.7 become 2.7. And another defensive lineman now has his hands on Kelce.
Remember number 75? You know, the giant defensive lineman who was hitting Kelce? Yeah. that's him laying on the ground behind Kelce. That's FOUR. And now we're back to calling him Angry Travis. Because that's just some flat-out Angry Travis running.
Four broken tackles, two of which were defensive linemen. Here's my absolute favorite picture of the bunch.
Look at the carnage left in the Wake of Angry Travis. It's a freaking bloodbath. Four players in various positions of "ow." It's like looking at a room after a Liam Neeson fight scene. I love it. That physicality is what separates Travis Kelce from the rest of the pack. He runs angry and fights for extra yardage.
I had Mrs. MNchiefsfan watch that play, and her response was, "Wow, he really wanted those extra two yards." I know that sounds kind of like a backhanded compliment (by pointing out how little yardage all that fighting gained), but that's how Mrs. MNchiefsfan rolls. Getting a "wow" from her with a football play is like getting a "wow" from me during a gymnastics routine. You have to do something REALLY impressive to impress Mrs. MNchiefsfan.
These two plays do a wonderful job summarizing the answer to that "What will Travis Kelce bring to the offense" question. He brings a unique size / speed combo that's an incredibly tough matchup on defenses. Put a linebacker on him and he'll outrun him. But a corner on him and he'll outmuscle him. There are no good options. And that's leaving out the fact that he brings that same aggressiveness to his blocking.
Two preseason plays are definitely a small sample size. But we're football fans, and those were awesome plays. We'll see where it goes from here, but I'm as excited about Travis Kelce in our offense as I am for any other player this season. Our offense needed more speed and attitude, and he's bringing plenty of both.