Patrick Mahomes to Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs
Next Gen Stats says ...
Playing with Mahomes helps any receiver, but Watkins gives his quarterback plenty of opportunities for efficient completions. The sixth-year wideout got open (3 or more yards of separation from the nearest defender) on 36.4 percent of his targets and wide open (5 or more yards) on 18.2 percent. Even deep down the field, those big passing windows constitute layups for a starting quarterback in the NFL. Mahomes certainly recognized the opportunity, targeting Watkins on 34.4 percent of the receiver’s routes. Expect the two to continue connecting while Hill remains sidelined.
Personal reinvention leads to Watkins’ revival
“Now I know what I can and can’t do,” Watkins said. “Last year, I was really running around kind of like a robot, not really trying to get the ball. Now, every play, I’m trying to get the ball. Even if I’m not getting it, I’m wanting it.”
The comfort wasn’t there, either. He felt that he didn’t really belong.
”Everything is adding up to where it should be,” Watkins said smiling. “I’m good with the guys now. I felt like last year, I was kind of an outsider; now, I think the bond is better.”
Added reps at different spots during the offseason, with receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce both missing time during OTAs and minicamp, made a massive impact, as well.
”Last year, I played just one position and knew only one position,” Watkins admitted. “I didn’t really know what my job was or what other guy’s jobs were or if was I actually going to get the ball.”
For years, offensive linemen learn the ins and outs of pass protection. They are drilled to use specific techniques to keep the quarterback’s pocket clean, tweaking it for interior and edge rushers.
But Mahomes is among the few quarterbacks in the NFL to prompt linemen to deviate. It’s not throw-your-technique-out-the window adjustments. Far from it. They still use their ingrained methods. But they must be ready to adjust in a moment’s notice. Because whereas many passers might lock into a specific area directly behind the line, Mahomes has no problem winging it.
“You just have to block where he’s supposed to be at the beginning of the play,” Schwartz said. “And then as you see the entire defensive line running in one direction, you try to chase as best you can.”
“As a coordinator, I would rather the Chiefs die a slow death with them making a bunch of 5- and 6-yard plays, instead of 50- and 60-yard plays over the top of the defense,” the former DC told me. “You dare them to run it and see if Reid will stick to it. If McCoy faces a soft defense like that, he could put up big numbers for them.”
That last sentiment is music to McCoy’s ears. He spent the past few years as the clear No. 1 offensive option in Buffalo, and although he posted a pair of highly productive seasons (including 1,267 rushing yards and 13 TDs on the ground in 2017), Shady watched his yards-per-carry average dip. After averaging 5.4 yards per carry in 2016, he could only muster 4.0 and 3.2 yards a pop in each of the past two campaigns with a supporting cast that lacked A-listers on the perimeter.
In his initial appearance with Kansas City, McCoy scooted to 81 yards on just 10 carries in the Chiefs’ 40-26 win over the Jaguars. That’s the kind of production we came to expect from McCoy for the bulk of his career, the kind of production that’s possible for an older back playing in a wide-open offense with explosive athletes all over the field.
3. Which tight end wins the day?
Darren Waller and Travis Kelce won’t square off against each other Monday afternoon at the OACC, but nevertheless, I’ll be watching both of them to see which athletic tight end has the more productive day for their respective team.
Kelce’s résumé speaks for itself – the four-time Pro Bowler has gone north of the 1,000-yard mark three years in a row, and with 10 touchdowns to his name last year, No. 87 is coming off a career year for the Chiefs.
Waller, on the other hand, is still growing into the tight end position – and with just 23 games as a tight end, it’s hard to compare him to Kelce – but the fact remains, he’s a vital piece of what the Raiders want to do offensively.
Both tight ends are coming off quality performances in Week 1, so I’ll be watching to see which guy has a better outing for their squad.
Miller remembers that Week 6 defeat well, when Carr was under constant duress under less-than-ideal circumstances.
“That was our sixth game, and it came a little bit after the injury,” Miller said. “That week was an adjustment in London. We had three days to get calibrated. It was a different field. The grass was muddy and we were losing footing. I think it should be a lot better this game. Plus you’re not, knock on wood, injured going into this game.”
This next game offers a shot at redemption for Miller. Clark’s coming to town Sunday now employed by the Kansas City Chiefs, ready to rush off Miller’s side yet again.
“He was one of the most mentally tough guys on our team and, really, when you can play through that kind of pain, you take criticism,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s got a lot of pride and he’s just a young guy. Don’t forget that, he’s just a young guy.”
4. Frank Clark appears to be the biggest addition to this team. Is there someone else we shouldn’t be discounting?
I feel like Mathieu is obvious, so I’ll stick with the rookie in Thornhill. Thornhill started the first game of his career next to Mathieu in Week 1, as Spagnuolo said he earned the spot during preseason and training camp. He led the Chiefs with eight tackles against the Jaguars, has a nose for the ball and plays multiple positions. I know Carr takes care of the ball (less against the Chiefs), but if he throws a pick, look for Thornhill to be a top candidate. A great guy off the field, we noticed he tapped into a mean streak between the whistles Week 1.
Derek Carr wasn’t explosive, but he was accurate
Carr’s 259 passing yards were only the 19th-most in the NFL in Week 1, but that was enough to build a comfortable lead over a Broncos team that hoped to exploit Oakland’s lack of top-line receiving targets. The Raiders’ offense was mainly a two-man show between Williams and Waller, who made up nearly 58 percent of all Carr’s targets. That should have made the passing game easier to stop, but the team built a strategy that kept Denver from shutting down its top two weapons.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson laid out a very basic plan to build up his quarterback and the low-wattage receiving corps around him. The Raiders started the game with simple runs and short passes. This accomplished two important advantages; it kept the all-star Broncos’ edge-rush combo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb away from the ball and it slowly lured Denver’s defensive backs closer to the line of scrimmage. Carr’s ability to connect with quick strikes then allowed him to take greater risks downfield, which paid off in rare spurts.
1. Patrick Mahomes
The son of former Mets pitcher Pat Mahomes Sr., the reigning MVP was drafted in the 37th round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of Whitehouse High in Texas. He was reportedly considered a third- or fourth-round draft prospect thanks to his mid-90s fastball. The three-sport athlete was named the MaxPreps 2013-14 Athlete of the Year as the best overall high school athlete over a school year’s span.
Around the league
Von Miller, Bradley Chubb have heyday vs. Vic Fangio’s former team
Neither Von Miller nor Bradley Chubb recorded a sack or a QB hit in Week 1 (in fact, no one on the Broncos got to the quarterback), but look for that to change Sunday when Denver hosts Chicago, where Fangio served as D-coordinator from 2015 to 2018. Fangio knows exactly how Miller and Chubb, one of the best pass-rushing duos, can exploit Mitchell Trubisky and Co. The Broncos’ duo will combine for five sacks.
“This is not a Le’Veon Bell situation,” the source said. “He still wants to be a Charger. But he’s got to protect himself.”
The belief is the Chargers have shown little-to-no flexibility in moving off a high asking price to facilitate a trade, the source said.
After Gordon did not report to training camp in hopes of a new contract, the Chargers never came close to his asking price and shut down any hopes for an extension once the regular season began.
Berman and Jackson worked together seamlessly
The first game they detail in that episode is a 28-6 win for the Green Bay Packers over the Detroit Lions. The third clip that they show is an 83-yard touchdown run by Ahman Green. After Green clears the defense, Berman lets off his trademark phrase.
Right after Berman makes a joke about Lions general manager Matt Millen not being too pleased with the outcome, the cool voice of Tom Jackson comes in to break down the play.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
Patrick Mahomes playing through injury
The Chiefs quarterback went to the injury tent for the first time in his life, and all Chiefs fans had an early-season scare. After the ankle injury, the game plan was altered to help relieve Mahomes, get the ball out of his hands quick and limit his need to utilize his mobility. We really didn’t get to see Mahomes create out of structure all too much before the injury, and to expect him to be able to do everything he is capable of this week is unfair. I doubt the visible limp is gone for this week’s game. How productive he can be will be interesting to watch.
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