You've read plenty about Travis Kelce this week and last week.
It is beyond doubt that Kelce has, in the course of two games, done everything humanly possible to prove he's exactly what Chiefs fans hoped he was prior to last season. He's gigantic, he's fast, he's physical, he can catch. Basically, he's a nightmare for opposing defenses in a way that few other tight ends are (even in today's NFL, where it seems inevitable that a 7-footer will suit up at tight end soon).
You know Kelce can play. I know Kelce can play. Alex Smith seems to know Kelce can play. Unfortunately, it seems like Andy Reid is still in the process of trusting that Kelce can play.
Kelce played 32 snaps on Sunday. On the surface that seems like a dramatic uptick from Week 1, where Kelce only played 19 snaps. Unfortunately, appearances and reality are two different things. The Chiefs had 58 offensive snaps in Week 1. That increased to 86 offensive snaps (including penalties) in Week 2 (ball control, baby!).
A more accurate number to reflect a player's chances on offensive is snap percentage. In Week 1, Kelce played 33 percent of the snaps. In Week 2, Kelce played all of ... 37 percent of the snaps. If that depresses you, don't worry. It depresses me too.
So we're going to spend another week discussing the traits Kelce brings to the table that make him a player who NEEDS to be on the field more. And we'll do it the week after that. And the week after that. We'll do this all season if it continues to raise the outcry for Kelce to see more playing time (that's how it works, right? Public pressure turns into a team caving to fan demands ... right? RIGHT??????).
(Long side note; I know there are questions about Kelce being in game shape and capable of taking more snaps given his injury last year. Until I hear Reid or Kelce say that's the reason he's not taking more snaps, I'm not going to address that. Because it's impossible to know. Also, yes, I just followed a parenthetical aside with a parenthetical aside. That happened.)
People know about Kelce's speed and athleticism with the ball in his hands. That's no secret. They also know about his ridiculous yards per catch stats (which is at a holy-crap 18.3 yards per catch). And all one has to do is examine the tape to see how one leads to the other. Here's Kelce's first catch (and yes, my Paint skills are... well, they're not impressive).
Look at all that space in front of Kelce. You'd swear he'd run some kind of insane route to split the zone that well. But that's not what happened. As the arrow indicates, Kelce moved diagonally down the field, kinda jogging to be perfectly honest. He was basically playing possum, like he was running a halfhearted out. The outside linebacker shifted just a hair to the outside, and the inside linebacker stayed put.
At the 45, Kelce switched directions and turned on the burners, and that was it. Smith puts the ball between the two defenders and the defense had zero chance.
This wasn't a complicated route, and Kelce didn't even run it all that "sharply." It's just a matter of being able to accelerate too quickly for a defense to compensate. Not a lot of athletes in the NFL have such a clear athletic advantage over the players often defending them that they can run simple routes and still get open with ease. Kelce appears to be one such player.
Another example of that athletic ability comes in the fourth quarter, on Kelce's 24-yard reception.
While a good play design helped Kelce get very open, with most tight ends there's only another 10 yards or so to be had here (that's Aqib Talib in who is at the 20 in pursuit). Instead, Kelce's able to sprint all the way to the 4-yard line. Talib initially takes an angle toward the 15-yard line or so and has to correct as Kelce begins to run right by him. Again, that's an athleticism most tight ends simply don't possess.
In addition to being fast, Kelce, has shown he understands how to use his gigantic frame to be open where other players might not be. The first pass thrown Kelce's way fell incomplete, but it's still worth taking a look at. Kelce and the covering corner (again, Talib) are in the bottom left of the picture.
I understand it's blurry (darn you, technology ... or my inability to use technology), but look at Kelce's positioning. Talib is one of the best cover corners in the NFL when healthy, and he got beat on this play. And once again, it wasn't a complicated route. Kelce simply went inside on a deep slant and placed all 260 pounds of himself between the ball and Talib.
Kelce dropped this pass, which of course isn't a point in his favor. The throw was a bit too far ahead of him, but catchable. But the fact that he was able to soundly beat a corner like Talib by itself is just ... frightening. I mean, not for me. But for, you know, other teams in the NFL who have to figure out how to cover the guy.
We covered it last week, but it's worth repeating; Anthony Fasano (while a solid tight end who is actually playing pretty well right now) simply doesn't provide these kind of advantages when he's on the field. He's a veteran who blocks well, finds open zones, and demonstrates good hands (sometimes great hands, as Sunday's circus catch demonstrated).
One more time, this isn't about who Fasano is. It's about who he is not. He doesn't provide the punch Kelce does on offense.
Of course, this problem COULD be solved if Andy Reid did the obvious thing and ran more packages that are tight end heavy. As I mentioned on Twitter, Reid one-upped the clamoring public and decided a few times to go with not just two tight ends, but three.
That's Kelce in motion (this was on his 17-yard reception shown above). Harris is on the outside, with Fasano next to the RT. Isn't it worth at least noting that when we ran with those three at the same time it resulted in a big gain? I mean, could it really be THAT much of a coincidence?
Our fearless leader Joel Thorman quoted some guy named BJ regarding the snaps the Chiefs had multiple TE's on the field.
That's almost sad. Not the "7 out of 18 went for 10-plus yards" part (that's actually pretty awesome), but the "18 plays" part.
If you read BJ's article (and you should), you'll see that the problem extends even deeper. The Chiefs most successful formation was, by far, the 2 TE formation. Passing out of it led to very good results. In the meantime, 3 WR, 1 RB formations (you know, Reid's favorite grouping and the one we used the most on Sunday) were a giant ball of "meh" for the passing game.
Seriously, read that article. Here's a preview: despite attempting nine more passes in 3 WR sets than in 2 TE sets, Smith passed for more yards in the 2 TE sets. Smith averaged 4.43 yards per attempt in 3 WR, 1 RB sets. He averaged 8.33 YPA in 2 TE, 1 RB sets. I mean ... really?
I understand that Andy Reid is set in his ways. I understand it's hard for an old dog to learn new tricks. But if Reid continues to march out 3 WR sets featuring Donnie Avery and Junior Hemingway (neither of whom are terrible players, but none that give the better matchup that Kelce does) at the expense of getting his offense's second best weapon on the field, it'll be time for that seat to start getting hot. Maybe the return of De'Anthony Thomas will change that dynamic a bit, but for now it is what it is.
Reid, it's time to adapt. Kelce and Fasano on the field is exponentially better than whatever third receiver you want to put out there. Do the right thing and get the tight end who Aqib Talib can't cover on the field more. Change. Evolve. I believe in you.
(late edit; it would seem the Chiefs know they need to get Kelce out there. Read this article by BJ Kissel. If I may direct you to the quote at the end? We'll see how it plays out, but when your offensive coordinator is using your name as a guy who needs to be put in a position to succeed, that's probably a good thing)