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Dixon’s AP mailbag: adding a former Chief to the current roster — and more

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What’s on the minds of our readers this week?

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Welcome to Dixon’s Arrowhead Pride Mailbag, where I’ll do my best to answer your questions about the Kansas City Chiefs — and anything else that’s on your mind. If you have a question, you can hit my profile page to e-mail me, or ask me on Twitter.

While you’re at it, please follow me on Twitter, too.

Who will lead this team in receptions this season?

— Todd

Thanks for the question, Todd.

Any guess that isn’t tight end Travis Kelce is probably wrong. Kelce has led the team in both passing targets and receptions in each of the last three seasons.

The wide receivers get all the attention in the NFL, but for the Chiefs, Kelce is the backbone of the passing offense. It was true when Alex Smith was the quarterback, and it’s no less true now that Patrick Mahomes is the quarterback.

And I wouldn’t be concerned about Kelce’s offseason ankle surgery. Remember: this surgery wasn’t to repair an injury but rather to “clean up” scar tissue that had been bothersome to Kelce. The Chiefs have wisely kept him out of offseason workouts, but it’s not as if there’s a broken bone that needs to be fully healed. Expect Kelce to be 100% by the time the season begins and to again carry the greatest share of the passing targets.

Pick a former Chiefs player (can’t be on the Ring of Honor) to add to the current roster. The year/s they played for the Chiefs would be the age of the player you’re getting. Without doing too much digging, I think I’d go Ty Law or Larry Johnson

— Cory

Hmmm. You made this one interesting by saying they can’t be in the Ring of Honor. Thanks, Cory!

I like your choices. Ty Law would be great — although I must note that you’ve sneakily chosen a new member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who isn’t in the Chiefs Ring of Honor. On that basis alone, it’s a solid choice.

Larry Johnson — at least the version of him the Chiefs had before his big contract — is a pretty solid choice, too. I’m not sure how effective he’d be in an Andy Reid offense, though — and right now, I’m not very concerned about the Chiefs at running back.

The position on the Chiefs roster where I am (currently) most concerned is tight end.

As I just noted, Kelce is the backbone of the Chiefs offense. If he is injured, his loss will be significant. The good news is that the team has a lot of tight ends on the roster; the Chiefs have a lot of players from which to choose. The bad news is that there’s relatively little proven ability among them. I trust the Chiefs know what they’re doing, but until we see more of what these other guys can do, I’m nervous.

So to back up Kelce, I’d take Jonathan Hayes. Hayes would be a good complement to our current tight end if Kelce is healthy and could step up to be a receiving threat if Kelce is on the sideline. I’d be very interested to see what Hayes in his prime would look like with Mahomes throwing passes to him. Of course... I’d much rather have Tony Gonzalez or Fred Arbanas, but Cory said I can’t have those guys.

And since Reid loves versatile guys, how about Joe Valerio? What could Reid do with a backup offensive lineman who can catch? Marty Schottenheimer kept sending Valerio on the field to declare himself eligible on goal-line plays, and teams kept falling for it. Valerio was thrown four passes during his four seasons with the team and caught every one of them for a touchdown.

Is the season a failure without a Super Bowl win? (And doesn’t it feel cool that the answer is yes?)

— Taylor

Seems like you’ve answered your own question, Taylor. But thanks anyway!

I’m not quite as sure as you are that the answer is yes. As is well-established by now, I’m an old guy. I’ve waited as long as anyone for another Super Bowl win for the Chiefs. But unlike some other fans, I’m not as devastated if they fail to win a championship in a given season. That’s not a knock on such fans; everybody has their own way to do it. Who am I to say the way they do it is wrong?

That said... yes, the Chiefs are better-positioned to win a championship than they have been in many decades. It will be disappointing if they don’t seriously contend for one in 2019. But here’s the thing: with Mahomes under center, I don’t feel the Chiefs’ opportunities are limited. If they can’t make it happen this year, they’ll have another legitimate shot in 2020 and thereafter. The team has a great coach, a great quarterback, a solid core of young players and fantastic fans. What’s not to like?

And yeah... all of that does feels cool.

When Tyreek Hill comes back, and with Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman all shaping up to be top-tier receivers and Damien Williams looking to be in “beast mode,” is it unrealistic to say that there isn’t a defense that can even begin to keep up with Mahomes and crew?

— Brian

You also seem to have answered your own question, Brian. Thanks to you, too!

From what we saw of the Chiefs last season, there’s every reason to believe the team will field another outstanding offense in 2019. But even last season’s astonishingly-good offense wasn’t enough to keep the Chiefs from losing four regular-season games, and dropping the AFC Championship to the New England Patriots.

With new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, his new staff, a large handful of new players and a new attitude on defense, the 2019 team should be better equipped to win those kinds of games. But even if the defensive performance far exceeds our expectations, there will be offenses that will find ways to beat it.

The same will be true of the defenses facing the Chiefs. That’s just the way it is in the modern NFL. Generally speaking, it’s just too difficult to completely dominate other teams. That’s the way the NFL wants it — and honestly, it’s one of the reasons the NFL is so much fun to watch. Every victory must be earned.

So while I share your optimism about the offense, Brian... let’s just hope the Chiefs earn some wins.

Do the chiefs have more interceptions on defense or does Mahomes throw for more interceptions? Assuming Mahomes plays 14+ games

— Michael

Thanks for your question, Michael.

Defensive interceptions are hard to predict. Since Reid arrived in Kansas City, they’ve varied pretty widely from one season to the next. I can’t say with certainty that anything in the defensive changes will lead to more (or fewer) interceptions.

But I also see no reason to expect that Mahomes will tend to throw more picks than he did in 2018. Fans love Mahomes’ ability to make plays when things break down — seriously, who doesn’t love that in their team’s quarterback? — but Reid loves that he’s an incredibly smart player who learns from his mistakes. That ultimately leads to fewer interceptions.

Sitting in the stands at training camp last year, I remarked that Chiefs fans were going to go absolutely crazy watching Reid turn Mahomes into an NFL quarterback. My thought was that with each passing game, we’d see Mahomes shedding the gunslinger attitude that so endeared him to fans.

But that didn’t happen. Thus far, Reid and his staff have done a masterful job of teaching Mahomes how to be a smart NFL quarterback without tamping down his instincts. Mahomes might have come out of college looking like another Brett Favre, but Reid’s goal seems to be making him into another Aaron Rodgers.

And Mahomes is well on his way.