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How Ricky Seals-Jones can earn the Chiefs’ backup tight end job

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Kansas City signed the potential TE2 on Friday.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs fans love themselves some running backs and tight ends.

The Chiefs have a storied history at those spots, with some all-time greats having spent long stints in Kansas City. Maybe it was the lack of news we’ve had this offseason or that love of the tight end bubbling up to the surface, but there was some buzz when it was announced that Ricky Seals-Jones was signing a one-year deal to join the world champions.

We have yet to hear contract figures, but my guess is Seals-Jones is on a contract that puts him in the TE2 competition but does not provide him a guaranteed roster spot should things not pan out. He’s likely just in the competition with the likes of Deon Yelder and Nick Keizer. He presents different skill sets than those two, but if he’s going to make the roster, he probably needs to be a little more like them.

Here’s what Seals-Jones will have to do to separate from the pack:

Why the Chiefs are interested

The wide receiver convert still shows some of that ability despite going through a body change to accommodate a position with a different kind of workload.

Seals-Jones can move. He covers a lot of ground and he’s been given opportunities to challenge linebackers and safeties down the field. He still possesses the ability to track the ball deep and shows good body control. He’s averaged over 16 yards per catch in two of his three seasons in the NFL. He has capable hands and his down-the-field ability fits well with the kind of arm talent Patrick Mahomes possesses. If Seals-Jones is going to earn an opportunity as a backup tight end, there are things he’ll need to clean up to earn those chances.

Blocking

The Chiefs ask their TE2 to block. Blake Bell and Demetrius Harris were both more than capable as blockers — physical at the point of attack and willing to do the job.

That’s not been the case so far with Seals-Jones. He’s definitely more of a move tight end (a tight end not only used as a blocker but also as a receiver who flexes out away from the formation and can beat defenders with athleticism) — but even by that standard, he needs to get better as a blocker.

He still looks like a wide receiver at the point of attack, so he’s going to need technical improvements too — he’s out over his skis too often with his head down. There is an overall lack of balance as a blocker and it shows. He doesn’t possess pop in his hands and likely never will. Seals-Jones is never going to be a people-mover and is typically just trying to gain good body position when he’s tasked with blocking. Either the Chiefs plan to adjust their scheme and what they ask of their TE2 or Seals-Jones is going to have to improve as a blocker.

Special teams

Last season, Blake Bell played 50% of the special teams snaps in games he was active for. Seals-Jones has never gone above 34% of his team’s snaps on special teams, and that was his rookie year.

He has been used sparingly in the last two season in the “hidden third” of the game. If Seals-Jones is too make the team, he’s likely going to have to show enough to earn the trust of special teams coordinator Dave Toub.

In his rookie year with the Cardinals, Seals-Jones was able to show some ability on kickoffs — getting off a block and making a big hit on the return. He’ll need to prove to be consistent with effort and assignment to meet Toub’s high standard for his special teams units.

The bottom line

The Chiefs already have a dynamic pass catcher at tight end in Travis Kelce. If they’re going to keep Seals-Jones, he’s likely going to need to show more as a blocker than he has so far in the NFL. He’s also likely going to need to see an increase in special teams usage to help fill the hole left by Bell.

Kansas City is a great location for Seals-Jones to develop. If he earns a roster spot, he will be in prime position to have success, with the Super Bowl MVP throwing him the football and some elite weapons around him.

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