We’re working our way through each of the broader position groups on the Chiefs and taking stock of where they stand going into training camp.
This week, it’s the good stuff... the offensive skill positions.
With the best quarterback in the league, the best offensive mind at head coach, the best tight end and the most dangerous playmaker in the league, there’s no doubt this team will be fun to watch. What will be interesting is how they mix and match all of these guys with the additional young players in 2019.
1. The Mahomes factor
Patrick Mahomes is going to spread the ball around. Last season, 12 different players caught touchdown passes from Mahomes. Some of the names have changed, but the Chiefs likely now have even more playmakers than ever. Whether Pat throws for 40, 50 or 60 touchdowns this season, it’s a safe bet that they won’t all go to Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. The great quarterbacks elevate the play of an entire offense, and getting everyone involved is one of the ways they make it happen.
2. The wide receiver room is crowded with young talent
Chris Conley’s snaps are up for grabs, but who grabs them? Byron Pringle has been the talk of the offseason thus far, and Gehrig Dieter has the experience in the offense and some ability. Cody Thompson and Jamal Custis are the offensive undrafted free agents to watch. In theory, the Chiefs will keep six wide receivers, or perhaps seven if Hill is facing any suspension. There is a case to be made for each of the receivers after Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman, but they all won’t make it. It’s certainly a position to watch in St. Joseph, with all of the young talent and speed. Even after the roster is finalized, there will be plenty of questions about how to get all of these guys involved.
3. I’m still rooting for a tight end group made up of all former quarterbacks
Obviously, Kelce is the starter, but the depth behind him is very much in flux. If my vote counted (it doesn’t), Blake Bell and John Lovett would emerge from the pack in camp. There is something to the idea of having the perspective of a former quarterback on the field when it comes to reading the defense and understanding route combinations and spacing. Also, the hope is that there will be only two true quarterbacks on the initial 53, meaning emergency quarterbacks could come in handy even if Andy Reid doesn’t get creative with trick plays (and I hope he does). These guys could also be a force on special teams, where the Chiefs will be looking for someone to take the snaps previously reserved for Demetrius Harris.
There will be a lot of mouths to feed in the passing game, with tremendous competition in camp at wide receiver and running back. With Watkins apparently primed for a career year, Hill likely sticking around for the bulk of the season and the receiver competition behind them, there will be plenty of receivers for Mahomes. But the running backs can all catch as well. Starter Damien Williams is an accomplished receiver out of the backfield. Carlos Hyde prides himself on his versatility, and we’ve seen glimpses of Darrel Williams’s ability. Darwin Thompson might be the guy that turns the competition for targets on its head. Whether he’s the new De’Anthony Thomas, Charcandrick West, or something greater, Thompson will have a chance to survive and thrive in this offense.
5. Mecole’s role
Remember Hill’s rookie year? Part of what made the Chiefs offense tick in 2016 was Hill’s ability as a dangerous threat, whether running or receiving. But, perhaps even more importantly, he was a decoy that could create havoc prior to the snap. Hill would go in motion, pulling linebackers and safeties along with him, causing defensive confusion and opening up opportunities for others to make plays. This might be how the Chiefs deploy Hardman this season. The only difference is that they now have an elite receiver on the outside and Mahomes at quarterback. Hardman might not duplicate Hill’s 2016 production (593 yards and six touchdowns receiving, 267 yards and three touchdowns rushing, and three return touchdowns), but he might be enough of a threat to give defenses something else to think about.
From the upside down: utilizing “The Sausage”
Perhaps the Chiefs should get Anthony Sherman more involved? One of Mahomes’s first 2018 touchdown passes was a 36-yard beauty to the Chiefs’ Pro Bowl fullback. Go back to Mahomes’s first start in 2017 — Sherman was fully competent as a featured back. I’m not saying that Sherman should supplant Damien Williams or anything, but he certainly could be more of a factor if given a chance this season.
With the apparent lack of a second tight end, perhaps there’s an opening for the Sausage?