If we were to pick a single story of the offseason that has Kansas City Chiefs fans buzzing the most (at least in a positive way), odds are very good that 90 percent of Chiefs fans would pick the same story. Well, the same name, at least. Travis Kelce.
Kelce has been something close to a sensation through two preseason games. Last week I broke down his 67-yard touchdown reception, where he displayed a stunning amount of speed for a man weighing 260 pounds (for yet another viewing of the play, click here). Additionally in that post I discussed Kelce's remarkable ability to shed tackles, having sent four would-be tacklers to the ground on a single play (two of which were defensive linemen).
Kelce further cemented his reputation as a playmaker in the second game of the preseason, hauling in a 43-yard touchdown reception where he again showed off his speed as well as his strength (effectively finishing the touchdown carrying a safety on his back and barely slowing down). In addition to that play, Kelce had a number of other catches where he demonstrated his ability to make tacklers miss after the catch.
Overall, Kelce has, in 47 snaps (not even the equivalent of a full game in most cases), accumulated the following stats per PFF: 7 targets, 6 catches, 136 yards (22.7 YPC), 2 touchdowns, and 7 broken tackles. For the record, last season Sean McGrath played 642 snaps. In that time he was credited with 1 broken tackle by PFF. Think about that for a second.
If one were to describe those stats in a word, that word would be "whoa." Granted, Kelce's game breaking plays have come against second string defensive players But outrunning corners and safeties isn't something that is exclusive only to second teamers (second team players run 4.4 and 4.5 40s as well). And shaking off multiple defensive linemen is impressive, no matter what group they play with.
All in all, Chiefs fans have a lot of reasons to be excited about Travis Kelce as a playmaker. So today, I'm going to throw another log on the fire; the man can block, too. Here's the first play of the game against Carolina. Kelce is pointed out by the red arrow, and the linebacker he's about to block with the blue arrow.
If you'll recall, this play was a run left by Knile Davis that went for 11 yards and a first down. Here's a snapshot of the play after Davis had moved past Kelce and is on his way to a first down. A lot happened between the first shot and this shot, to say the least. Again, Kelce is pointed out with the giant red arrow (there's no blue arrow this time, because linebackers getting dominated don't deserve a blue arrow).
Note that Kelce has the linebacker moved away from the hole Davis ran through and is completely between Davis in the linebacker, with a solid base and his arms extended. In other words, he's completely controlling the situation at the moment.
How did they get to this point? At the snap, Kelce immediately engaged the linebacker and drove him backward several yards, clearing a gaping hole for Davis to run through (along with the rest of the line doing great work). The linebacker, seeing he was about to get pushed out of the play, tried a wily veteran move and attempted to throw Kelce to the side, using Kelce's own momentum against him. It's a nice move when you're getting out-muscled and moved backward, and ALMOST worked.
But as you can see, it didn't. Kelce kept his feet using the same balance we've seen when he's running with the football, kept his hands on the defender, and reset between the defender and Davis. And there we find the two of them in the above picture.
AFTER the picture, Kelce drove the defender back another 3-4 yards despite them being pretty much out of the play. I love, love, love when a blocker finishes the play. Kelce doesn't just want to block players, he wants to embarrass them. He was the same way in college, and it's great to see that translating to the pros.
Kelce was run blocking on 15 snaps, and after re-watching every one of them I only found one play where he didn't find a defender and lock on (or help another blocker move a defender backward. He had one seemingly missed assignment where he initially went for the defensive end instead of the linebacker (and then couldn't recover in time to get to the linebacker), but other than that he was very solid as a run blocker. He plays to the whistle and put a couple of defenders on their backs. It's fun to watch.
Kelce only had four snaps in pass protection, and nothing of note occurred during that VERY small sample size. He did show a powerful punch and willingness to put in the work. He also seems (again, incredibly small sample size we're dealing with) to understand where to be when pass blocking.
What's the point of all this? That Kelce isn't some one-trick pony who needs to be lined up in the slot 70 percent of the time (ala Jimmy Graham). He's a very physical blocker who can more than hold his own on the line.
Andy Reid seems to like Anthony Fasano, and I can understand why. He's a reliable blocker (he had some good run blocking snaps of his own Sunday), knows the game, and has good hands. He's a perfectly competent NFL tight end.
Travis Kelce is something different. He's a remarkable athlete who presents matchup problems that Fasano just doesn't. Every time I see Fasano catch a pass now, I wonder what kind of gain it would have been had Kelce been the receiver. His talent for gaining yards after the catch and his speed make him a game breaker, something the Chiefs offense was sorely lacking at times last season.
Throw in the fact that he's a solid blocker (an area young, athletic tight ends are often very deficient) and there's no good reason to not have Kelce on the field for the majority of the snaps on offense. He's a matchup nightmare who is way too fast for linebackers, way too strong for secondary players, can turn any play into a touchdown, and shows a great deal of ability as a blocker.
Whether Reid chooses to make double tight end formations a staple this season (not a bad idea, considering the offensive line problems, the lack of real depth at WR, and the ability of the Chiefs running backs) or whether he gives Kelce the nod as starting tight end, Kelce needs to be on the field. I'm looking forward to seeing that happen.