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Travis Kelce: Here’s what Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins can do for everyone else

Kelce has partnered with Cigna on a great initiative, and he spoke to Arrowhead Pride in order to raise awareness. In the meantime, he gave us some good insight into the upcoming Chiefs offense.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

One of the NFL’s elite players on the field and one of its good guys off, Travis Kelce, is partnering with Cigna to raise awareness and share simple, easy solutions to help inform Americans pain management conversations with their healthcare provider.

Kelce spoke to Arrowhead Pride earlier this week to let us know that Cigna’s new online initiative encourages Americans to develop a “pain plan,” which is intended to help give people a better understanding of the questions to ask. People can text “Help with Pain” to 25792 to receive questions to ask and a link to resources before speaking with their healthcare provider.

Kelce was also able to talk a little football, and he gave us a great quote on what wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins can do for the 2018 Chiefs offense:

“When there’s a single-high safety on the outside, they know they have help over the top and in the middle. That means the [safety] in the middle has to go extremely far back when you’re dealing with Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill.

“From that point, it’s trying to keep a cap on the defense where Tyreek is clearly running and taking the top off the defense. What it does is it opens up the field in the middle and underneath all those routes.”

The vertical threats that Hill and Watkins can provide have a very real chance of freeing up a lot of space for one of the best tight ends in football in Kelce. What a terrifying thought (for opposing defenses).

With just Hill on the field last year, we were able to see tangible examples of what Hill as vertical receiver can do. Let’s start by showing you the rare ability of Hill first:

The threat of Hill might be best exemplified by this touchdown catch in Week 3 against the Chargers. The Chiefs are running a four-verticals play in a 3x1 set with Hill on the line of scrimmage and the farthest inside receiver.

Safety Tre Boston is splitting the difference between Hill and Kelce, which is an understandable and probably smart strategy. The only problem is that Hill can create leverage on Boston in an instant.

Hill takes a sharper angle to his opposite hash landmark and Kelce widens slightly, putting Boston in no man’s land. No one is able to carry Hill and his blazing speed, leading to a touchdown.

On the very next pass play, Hill as a vertical threat creates space for fellow wideout De’Anthony Thomas to work:

The Chiefs send Thomas on a play action jet sweep with a vertical concept coming after it. Hill is lined up in the backfield and releases into a vertical. Both underneath coverage linebackers carry deep with Hill, leaving Thomas unattended. Smith gets the ball to Thomas with plenty of space to beat the linebacker for a gain of 13 on a nothing throw.

I found a few vertical stretches from condensed formations that created success for the concepts underneath it:

The Chiefs dial up vertical routes from both point men of their stacks.

‘Albert Wilson and Kareem Hunt are running shallow crosses with Travis Kelce running a dig behind it. The verticals and Kelce push the coverage upfield. Wilson sees zone and sits and Smith hits him with plenty of space to work.

Kelce will certainly be one of the benefactors of Watkins and Hill as vertical threats.

This is a play I wrote about in my in-season weekly segment, 45 seconds, which breaks down one play from that week’s game. Hill, as a vertical threat, demanded attention, and the coverage came with him.

The safety buzzing to the hook-curl zone, the outside corner and middle field safety all play Hill. Kelce ran a deep cross from the other side of the formation and Smith stuck a ball in the void created by the vertical route.

We’ve only shown examples of zone coverage, but it can have the same effect against man coverage as well:

Kelce is bookended by outside verticals, which gives him a lot of space to work with underneath them. He gives a step outside and then a hard inside stem, crossing the field to open space.

The linebacker can’t keep up with Kelce, and the safety can’t get over the top of him. With his back turned to the play, the cornerback can’t fall off his man to make a play on the ball. If the safety has to keep depth at the threat of the weapons outside both numbers, Kelce should be able to feast in the middle of the field against man coverage.

This is just one of the problems that teams will face trying to deal with the weapons the Chiefs can line up all over the field. They can create unique problems personnel-wise that few can match. The vertical fear that is created from the talent the Chiefs have should open opportunities in other areas of the field—and not just necessarily for other players either. If teams have to play off and soft coverage against Hill and Watkins, it could lead to easy catch-and-run opportunities.

Much like the early portion of the 2017 season, vertical threats could allow for Reid’s creativity to shine.

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