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Patrick Mahomes preseason game three: something improved and something that needs improvement

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Two more looks at Mahomes from Saturday’s game

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Chicago Bears Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

This is part three of a three-part weekly film analysis on the performance of Patrick Mahomes.

Part one here, part two here.


There is noticeable improvement and reason to be optimistic every time we see Patrick Mahomes take the field. He’s both wowed us and given us hope for his ascension to the franchise quarterback this city has desperately craved. Sometimes, I forget how difficult a transition he is making from his time at Texas Tech to now. He was very raw, very green coming out and it still shows. From last week’s game, we have talking points about the same facet of the game, but on opposite ends of the spectrum. There are areas of improvement and areas that require improvement in Mahomes’ work from the pocket.

Something improved

We need to see this happen more often (more on that in a minute), but Mahomes is becoming more space efficient when he hangs in the pocket.

Mahomes is gradually learning to work within tighter spaces. Where we’ve seen him literally run to space in college to work in a uniquely large and wide pocket and still fight that urge in the NFL, the clip above was a very encouraging sign. The potential for Mahomes to be lethal from the pocket is tremendous. He doesn’t need a ton of space to set up because of his arm talent and fearlessness to pull the trigger, so he has the potential to create big plays opportunities other quarterbacks can’t.

Tom Brady is phenomenally efficient with his movement in the pocket. Everything is subtle, quick and he finds the best space he has to work with great consistency. In college, Mahomes’ pocket was large, wide and oddly structured, and it led to bad habits. It’s not remotely as big in the NFL, and the players coming to get him are bigger, faster and stronger.

Efficiency of space is everything. The old saying, “aim small, miss small,” works here. He’s never needed to aim small. He could literally run up in his pockets in college. He can’t get with the extra half-step here or there now. His movements are starting to tighten up. He’s starting to aim small when he’s working within the pocket to find the best space. It’s just a matter of him getting enough live reps to understand when to leave, when to hang in the pocket, when step up, when to back out. Speaking of which...

Something that needs improvement

If only we can get him to stay in the pocket long enough to continue to develop his management of tight spaces. The decision making from play to play has been inconsistent. He hasn’t consistently made the right choice about when to hang in and give the design of the play a chance, when to ad lib or when to run for yards. It’s wildly inconsistent. In the clip above, he leaves a clean pocket too quickly, hangs in too long with an open receiver in front of his face and finally elects to run for a touchdown from a clean pocket.

There doesn’t appear to be a consistent logic to it yet. Brady, for instance, on that last clip, would stay in the pocket to see if he can find someone on the back line of the end zone for as long as he can, only using his legs as a last resort. Mahomes saw the routes covered and decided to make a break for it immediately, even though he could’ve given his playmakers time to separate. He’s too early and too late in different instances. These clips appear to be the times that Mahomes is thinking the most on the field.

All those clips were from the third quarter. He may have been feeling the pressure he’d faced all day. It could’ve been affecting him. That’ll be something to look for moving forward.

There’s both good and bad happening in his navigation of the pocket. It’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together. It’ll take time, but there’s promise amidst the issues he’s dealing with. He can be exceptional from the pocket someday, but he’s got to smooth out the rough edges of his game in that regard.