Well that was fun. Was it fun? Was it football? Close enough.
We got our first opportunity to see a young quarterback be the guy for the Kansas City Chiefs. There wasn’t a large sample size to pull from nor a ton to write about. Nevertheless, there was something good and something bad worth discussing from the 22-year-old’s performance.
I’ll be breaking down Mahomes all season as part of our film analysis. I can’t wait for you all to see the great series that the AP Nerd Squad (myself, Craig Stout and Matt Lane) will have for you every week. For the time being, here’s a little Mahomes analysis from the few plays he was in:
Mahomes has worked hard to grow comfortable in aspects of the quarterback position that were foreign to him before being drafted last season. Being under center was something not required of him in college. It’s not the taking the snap part that holds people up; it’s everything after.
The footwork to set up and throw takes a lot of repetitions to develop. The feet look better from under center, as does the play fake. The second aspect that’s critical is training your eye placement. You’re turning your back to the play, so getting your eyes quickly on the play after the action and knowing where they need to start is important to reading the play. Mahomes looks much improved in that aspect.
Everybody in the building knew once they lined up in the I-Formation that the Chiefs were calling a play action pass with Hill on a vertical. Mahomes eyes are quicker out of the PA than they were last year. He sees the post is capped, works down to Kelce in rhythm. pic.twitter.com/DC8d9lsH6s— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) August 10, 2018
To the surprise of no one, the Chiefs tried to start the Mahomes era off with a bang: a play-action pass with a post to Hill in the read. Mahomes does a good job of getting his eyes out of the fake and sees the post is capped. He works down to Kelce in rhythm and delivers a strike for a first down to start the game.
Mahomes wanted to generate an explosive play as much as we wanted to see it, but he showed some maturity in not abusing the arm talent. He was decisive and was able to get the ball to Kelce on time. Had he waited a little longer, Mahomes is sacked, or sack-fumbled or the ball goes off target and potentially in harm’s way. The fact that Mahomes stayed patient, on-time and worked within the structure of the offense was encouraging. He’ll need to continue to navigate that fine line to have success this season.
It was a boring and imperfect night for Mahomes. There were some more granular details that we could discuss, but let’s talk about something obvious and bad.
Mahomes is going to have to manage the juice on 15-25 yard throws. That's a space you don't want ball sailing, like his only career interception. pic.twitter.com/F1s7SRFgV3— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) August 10, 2018
Mahomes has shown a tendency to sail some balls in the 15-to-30-yard range. That’s the most dangerous place to do that, especially in the middle of the field. His only career interception came on a throw where he put too much juice on a ball in that range, and he paid the consequences.
The throw to Kelce was similarly overthrown. Mahomes made the right read. His base was fine and he was on time. The pressure might have affected the end slightly, but to me, it looked like he just sailed the throw.
For this offense to reach its full potential, Mahomes will need to have success at all levels of the field. It’ll be difficult to defend this unit if they are threatening the largest amount square yardage possible. I’d like to see more consistency in this area moving forward. Hopefully, he gets a few more chances in the next couple weeks.
The bottom line
Don’t look too much into this week.
There are small things to look for improvement and growth, but don’t let the success or failure drive the narrative too much.
That being said, there is obvious growth and improvement in Mahomes. You’re seeing increasing comfort in certain aspects of his game and that’s an important piece of what we’re looking for in August.