Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense looked mortal in their preseason tuneup against the Steelers. The reigning NFL MVP finished 2-of-5 for 11 yards in two fruitless possessions. You may remember -- or Steelers fans may still be trying to forget -- Mahomes throwing six touchdown passes last September at Heinz Field. Is there any reason to worry in K.C.? Of course not. With Tyreek Hill a full go, the Kansas City offense will enter 2019 as an unholy terror. The addition of speedy second-round pick Mecole Hardman, who had a TD catch in each of the first two preseason games, further complicates matters for opposing defensive coordinators.
Who’s on the hot seat: Sammy Watkins, WR
Why his seat is warm: Watkins’ 2020 contract has a cap charge of $21 million. The Chiefs would save $14 million of that by releasing Watkins. Kansas City, which is facing contract showdowns or extensions with Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Chris Jones, could very well need that money. So Watkins needs to be more productive in 2019 than he was last season, particularly since the Chiefs drafted wide receiver Mecole Hardman with their top pick this year. -- Adam Teicher
Kansas City sets new RPO standards. With its staple formational diversity, misdirection designs and three-level route combinations, Reid’s offense remains football’s most schematically diverse, even before expanding its run-pass option game. The RPOs play perfectly to Mahomes’s quick and flexible release, as well as to the unique speed and athleticism of receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, around whom almost all of Kansas City’s designs center.
What do teams have in store for a “non-juiced” NFL season? Much of last season’s offensive spike was the culmination of longer-term trends. Comfort in the spread, primary use of three-receivers and maximizing the value of pass-catching running backs should continue to provide the foundation of offenses in 2019.
The model for annual innovation is in Kansas City, where Chiefs coach Andy Reid can always be counted on to pop a new concept into the NFL lexicon. One of his proteges is in Chicago. Bears coach Matt Nagy smiled this summer when asked if he spent the offseason racing Reid toward innovation.
”I know he’s doing it,” Nagy said. “I grew up learning that from him, and I know that we and everyone else are trying to do our own things, as well.”
“Baker is a competitor and a confident player, so him and Mahomes have that in common,” Harris said. “They both have that confidence and leadership.”
Oh, but the similarities don’t stop there. Harris mentioned the drive to succeed evident in both quarterbacks. And then he offered something nobody saw coming.
“And people kind of sleep on (Mayfield) throwing across his body,” Harris said. “Like, everybody gives Mahomes that, but Baker got that, too. We saw it a little bit last week, so, I mean, he can throw it anywhere and everywhere, so it’s good to see that, and he just keeps coming along every day.”
If Troy Polamalu had been playing for the Steelers last year, it’s possible Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes would have thrown just five touchdown passes in a win at Pittsburgh.
Although Polamalu retired after the 2014 season, he’s still seen in commercials for Head & Shoulders shampoo.
And now Mahomes is joining Polamalu in selling the shampoo. The two argue about the most important aspect of the product in a new “offense vs. defense” advertisement. It likely won’t be as big as the Miller Lite “Tastes Great vs. Less Filling” debate from many decades ago, but it’s still kind of fun.
Kansas City Chiefs (worst): 2012
The Chiefs have had two 2-14 seasons in franchise history. However, in 2008 they were the youngest team in the league and had to revamp their offense midseason. The 2012 Chiefs had four Pro Bowlers on defense and had hired Scott Pioli from the Patriots to try and run the team. It was a pure disaster with no caveats, other than thinking that “having Romeo Crennel be your head coach was a good idea.”
Around the league
“Just waiting on the call,” the running back told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler Monday.
Unfortunately for Gordon, the calls from the Los Angeles Chargers’ brass to his representation likely include some form of the words, ‘we’re not going higher than our last offer.’
Gordon’s holdout nears five weeks. After training in Florida, Gordon told Fowler he’s now in California continuing his “rigorous” training.
The Cowboys reached agreement on a long-term extension with linebacker Jaylon Smith, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Tuesday. The Cowboys announced the deal later.
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Tuesday that the extension is for five years and is worth $64 million, including $35.5 million guaranteed. Smith is now under contract through the 2024 season.
Smith was set to be a restricted free agent after the season. The linebacker missed his entire rookie season due to a devastating knee injury suffered in his college bowl game while at Notre Dame.
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If you listen to coach Andy Reid and his staff, you would think the two quarterbacks have been equally impressive during their two showings this preseason.
“I was very pleased with how they went out and performed,” said quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka after the preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. “[Shurmur] came out and stayed aggressive. There were a few long balls when he came out, but I loved his mentality when he came out on the sideline. Chase, I think he came back with an early interception and a touchdown drive. I love their approach and the way that they competed, and I am looking forward to them continuing to do that.”
While this seems to indicate that the competition is neck-and-neck, the numbers say otherwise.
Mecole Hardman: Even though he had just scored his first NFL touchdown, we listed the dynamic rookie in Stock Flat last week because he hadn’t shown enough as a traditional wide receiver. That’s still true after the Pittsburgh game. But after another impressive touchdown, he’s clearly trending in the right direction overall. At this point, Hardman is probably as good a receiver as Tyreek Hill was during his rookie season — the one where he scored nine offensive touchdowns. While we can’t put those kinds of expectations on Hardman, it’s fair to assume he’s going to be a playmaker for this team. So far, he’s proved that much.
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