Mahomes is just 23, Hill 25, Hardman 21, Thompson 23. They’re all rising. The elder statesman of the offense is the 29-year-old Kelce. No projected starter is older than 30.
But they don’t lack experience, either. Sammy Watkins has 232 catches in five NFL seasons. Kelce’s been to four Pro Bowls. All-Pro right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is an eight-year veteran.
The team should also benefit from Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s return after the well-established right guard missed all but five games with a serious leg injury in 2018.
They’re sitting pretty. They weathered the midseason loss of Pro Bowl back Kareem Hunt, averaging nearly 32 points per game without Hunt in a seven-game stretch that included two tough playoff outings and difficult December matchups with the Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers and Seattle Seahawks. Veteran back Damien Williams, who came into his own with a series of strong performances during that run, is expected to lead the running back committee this fall.
“I was just kind of scrambling out, trying to find someone open and I kind of cut back and saw the end zone and I knew there was a good chance I could’ve gotten in there,” Mahomes said later, “but he was coming down hill pretty fast, so I decided to save it for the regular season.”
It was a split-second decision that showed Mahomes’ understanding of time and place. The first series of the first preseason game is hardly a situation to take chances, especially when Kansas City has expectations of winning not only a fourth straight AFC West title but making a Super Bowl run.
No doubt Chiefs coach Andy Reid was holding his breath when Mahomes scampered toward the Bengals sideline, and certainly no doubt he was pleased to see his quarterback get to the ground.
Williams said he was pulling for his teammates while recovering.
“No one is here to chill or feel like you’re safe (with a roster spot),” Williams said. “But for me, those are my guys. I’m going to roll with them every day.”
This is Williams’ sixth NFL season. He had started four games with the Dolphins in his first five years and became the Chiefs’ starter last year after Kareem Hunt was dismissed and Spencer Ware was injured.
In the final three regular season games, Williams rushed for 203 yards and three touchdowns. In two playoff starts, he rushed for a career-best 129 yards against the Colts and scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter against the Patriots.
Now, he’s one of the guys.
“We’re all here to compete,” Williams said.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
But the concern surrounds the Chiefs’ defense, which ranked 31st in the NFL last season with 6,488 yards allowed. They’ll likely need to play better for the team to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Steve Spagnuolo has taken over as Kansas City’s defense coordinator, implementing a new 4-3 scheme. It also added to its struggling secondary, signing safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Bashaud Breeland.
Either way, the Chiefs’ offense is strong enough for them to again be one of the best teams in the NFL this year. If their defense plays better, it could end up being a special season.
The rich got richer.
A team that was a few plays away from going to the Super Bowl a season ago added Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman in the draft as Tyreek Hill insurance. That insurance wasn’t needed since the NFL apparently had Inspector Clouseau looking into the allegations of child abuse that were levied against the Chiefs star wideout. As such, Hill is free to play ( I know, we’re all shocked the NFL didn’t do the right thing), and now the Chiefs have added another electric offensive weapon to the most dangerous attack in the NFL.
Chiefs second-round rookies: The Chiefs traded up to draft receiver Mecole Hardman as an insurance policy for Tyreek Hill. Now that they’ll have both players on the field together -- at least for the 2019 season -- it’s safe to expect coach Andy Reid to make life difficult on opposing defenses.
Hardman may only be a garnish on football’s best offense for now, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the other Chiefs second-round pick, safety Juan Thornhill, plays an even bigger role for this year’s team. A splashy camp from Thornhill has Chiefs fans dreaming of a playmaking safety tandem including Thornhill alongside Tyrann Mathieu.
2. Reid later explained the Chiefs’ decision to sign Claiborne and what he expects moving forward
“He’s played in this league for a few years here now and he’s a good, solid player,” Reid said. “You can’t have enough of those guys – especially at that position. We’ll get him in the mix and see how he does, but I’ve competed against him and thought he was a good player. [General Manager] Brett [Veach] studied him like crazy and felt good about him, so we went with it.”
Honorable mention: There aren’t many bargains at cornerback. Good cornerbacks get big bucks. There are a couple solid midpriced veterans, though. After an injury-plagued season with the Packers, the Chiefs signed Bashaud Breeland to a one-year, $2 million contract. A solid four-year starter with Washington, Breeland had two interceptions in seven games last year for Green Bay. Last year for the Giants, B.W. Webb ranked 18th with 0.94 yards per pass route and yielded an 83.5 passer rating. The Bengals signed him in free agency to a three-year, $10.5 million deal.
Darwin Thompson and Mecole Hardman are real threats to opposing defenses, and Fantasy relevant.
It didn’t take long for the Chiefs’ speedy rookies to strike fear into the hearts of the AFC West. Thompson ran the ball five times for 22 yards and caught a 29-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Hardman caught two passes for 31 yards including a 17-yard score in the first quarter that was as much jet sweep as forward pass. The No. 1 thing you noticed with both players is that they were moving a different speed than everyone else. It doesn’t seem fair to give these weapons to Patrick Mahomes, and it’s going to seem even less fair that they’re available in the double-digit rounds of Fantasy drafts.
Verdict: Believe it. Mostly.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Brad Evans: Yes, I’ve fallen off my rocker, down a cliff and into a deep, dark watery bottom with this take. Before you call for my firing, understand that it’s extraordinarily rare for a QB to repeat as position king in consecutive seasons. The last player to accomplish the feat was Drew Brees, 2011-2012. Setting an over/under at 39.5 passing TDs is entirely realistic. Only 13 QBs in NFL history have thrown for 40-plus in a season. It’s highly doubtful, despite his otherworldly talents, sterling profile and Tyreek Hill’s clearance, that he’ll come close to repeating the feat. Regression is inevitable. You’ll be overpaying at his 39.4 ADP. Mahomes simply isn’t 30-40 picks better than Deshaun Watson, Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers.
Around the league
The Houston Texans’ receiver, who earned zero recorded drops on 115 receptions in 2018, told Peter King of NBC’s Football Morning in America that growing up he had a unique way of practicing snatching things.
”This is something I haven’t told many people, because it’s embarrassing,” he said. “We always used to catch flies with our hands. I was the only one who could catch ‘em. One-handed, two-handed. I actually studied flies. I’d watch ‘em. How do you catch flies? They fly up. If I can catch that, I can catch anything.”
’If you can catch a fly, you can catch anything,’ should become Hopkins’ ‘If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.’
It’d be surprising if he left
Prescott has shown he has the potential to be a top-end starter in the NFL, and he remains a solid dual threat, rushing for six touchdowns in each of his three seasons in the league. He’s also a bargain for the Cowboys. This upcoming season, Prescott is only scheduled to make $2 million and unless the Cowboys give him an extension, he’ll become a free agent in 2020.
But Jerry Jones has always had high praise for Prescott and looks committed to him. There isn’t a big possibility that he lets Prescott leave Dallas, though the Cowboys are also facing a decision with Ezekiel Elliott and Cooper. Signing all three would be locking them, and their large salaries, in for the distant future. The Cowboys should be playoff contenders again this season, but have some contract negotiations they have to get in order as well.
A $30M-per-year pact, meanwhile, would put Prescott in the company of Matt Ryan (fifth in AAV).
How likely it is that Dallas would agree to make Prescott the league’s highest-paid QB and by such a large margin is unknown, though probably miniscule. As Slater added, Prescott demanding $40M per year is “negotiating and business” and that the eventual agreed-to number is likely closer to $34-35 million per year.
Dak’s not-so-subtle contract demands come while the Cowboys are juggling three concurrent negotiations with their star quarterback (Prescott), running back (Ezekiel Elliott) and wide receiver (Amari Cooper). Prescott’s and Cooper’s deals are up at the end of the 2019 season, while Elliott’s is set to expire following the 2020 campaign. Slater reported last week that all three have “generous” offers on the table from Dallas, though what is perceived as “generous” at this point is a matter of perspective.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
There’s only so much that you can take away from preseason games. Every year, there are preseason studs with whom fans fall in love — and when it comes time for roster cuts, the bulk of those players fall by the wayside. The competition is weaker, there are no real game plans being implemented, and very rarely do teams show anything of importance.
I know all of this. You know all of this.
So naturally... I’m going to over-analyze a preseason game.
Going into Saturday’s 38-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, I was very interested to watch the speed with which Kansas City Chiefs linebackers processed the action on the field — one of the few things we could take from an exhibition game. We only got a couple of snaps from starting linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson, but the rest of the linebackers that are most likely to make the roster got plenty of snaps through the middle of the game.
Boyd, 22, is a rookie listed at 6 feet 4 and 300 pounds. He graduated from the University of Rhode Island — where he played three seasons after being redshirted as a sophomore — and then in 2018, entered graduate school at the University of Cincinnati to complete his final year of eligibility. For the Bearcats, he started 13 games at left tackle and earned first-team All-American Athletic Conference honors.
Keizer came into the league as an undrafted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens in 2018. Cut by the team after training camp, he was signed to their practice squad in late November and given a reserve/futures contract in January. The Ravens released him in mid-May, and he~ was signed by the Chiefs on May 31.
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Brett Veach will be keeping a very close eye on the negotiations between Dak Prescott and Jerry Jones. If the Dallas Cowboys QB values himself at $40M a year, then how much is Patrick Mahomes worth? Could we be looking at a situation where Mahomes is signing a $50M a year deal? Most probably not. But based on each of their body of work, it would be safe to say Mahomes would be worth $50M a year, if Dak Prescott gets the deal he is looking for.