Unlucky, sure. But it cannot be denied that the understudies playing on that long evening in Tampa back in February simply weren’t up to the task in front of them.
Once a team has gone through the type of defeat the Chiefs did in the biggest game of the season, the last thing they want to happen is for it to happen again. Injuries aren’t something you can predict, but you can at least try and prepare for them.
Now that the NFL has added an extra game to the season, the risk of injuries has obviously increased – meaning roster depth is more important than ever.
During his post-draft presser on Monday, when asked specifically about the addition of a 17th game and how it affects roster construction, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach stressed where his offseason priorities lied this offseason:
“It just puts more of an emphasis on what we already know, and that’s just about all the attrition,” said Veach. “It’s so hard to stay healthy in this league, and you can have a good team, but we saw it last year, if you can’t make it to the end and you don’t have enough depth, it’s certainly going to come into play.”
And it hasn’t just been Veach’s words; his actions have spoken for him.
There has been no greater example of what Veach and his scouting team have managed to do this offseason than the revamped offensive line. From feeding off scraps in February to now possessing one of the best and deepest units in all of football, there won’t be any shortage of competition at training camp this year.
Even if history did come to repeat itself this year, thanks to Veach’s plan, the Chiefs will be able to field something that at least resembles an offensive line.
The offensive line isn’t the only position group in which we have seen bodies added. Having just lost Sammy Watkins in free agency, the Chiefs are seemingly taking a receiving-by-committee approach behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. They have added free agents Tajae Sharpe and Antonio Callaway — and of course, they drafted Cornell Powell and former Duke tight end Noah Gray. Again, depth and competition are the focus.
Building depth isn’t just restricted to the 53-man roster. Veach also wants the depth to go as deep as the practice squad, too.
“So, we’re always looking for ways to build that depth and we put a high priority on our practice squad, and that’s why I think when you look at our roster during the season, we’re always active in regard to changing our practice squads and keeping an eye on that. But it’s just going to put more emphasis on making sure we have guys in place to fulfill that next-man-up mentality and continue to identify young prospects that can quickly grow and develop and be ready for when their number is called.”
It’s clear that the team knows the importance of depth. It does not want to see a second straight year of Mahomes end without a championship. There are a plethora of exciting, young quarterbacks in the AFC who will look at the Chiefs as both the gold standard of the AFC and the obstacle in their way from making the Super Bowl.
For the Chiefs, resting on their laurels would be a huge mistake. To fend off their challengers, Veach and Andy Reid need to be able to guarantee that whoever gets on to the field is not just a body, but also a contributor.
If that was plan A for this offseason, it has been going very well.