Chiefs: Anthony Hitchens, LB
KC • ILB • 53
The Chiefs know the value of having Hitchens around, but they also diminished it by adding Nick Bolton in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The best plan would see Kansas City allow Bolton to learn under Hitchens this coming season, but with Hitchens approaching a contract year in 2022 and $6.44 million in cap savings to be had if he’s traded or released in 2021, the veteran might be in very real trouble if Bolton hits the ground running in camp and beyond.
A six-year veteran, Bell caught 11 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown last season in Dallas and hauled in eight grabs for 67 yards back in 2019 during his first tenure with Kansas City. He’s a capable receiver – as demonstrated by his 30-yard reception against Denver back in 2019 and his 8-yard touchdown grab vs. Houston in the playoffs that season - but where the six-foot-six, 252-pound Bell really excels is as a blocker.
In fact, Pro Football Focus rated Bell as the best pass-blocking tight end in the NFL last season.
Originally an undrafted free agent signee with the Baltimore Ravens back in 2018, Keizer joined Kansas City prior to the 2019 campaign and went on to spend the year on the Chiefs’ practice squad. He then made the team out of camp last season, suiting up for all 16 games while catching six passes for 63 yards.
Keizer was also a regular on special teams, logging 220 snaps. According to Pro Football Focus, Keizer turned in the fifth-best special teams’ grade on the roster in 2020.
The Ravens and Chiefs could battle for supremacy this season, according to Adam Rank, of NFL.com.
“I’m bullish on Baltimore this year, despite the fact that the Ravens have one of the league’s toughest schedules,” X wrote. “But as long as the defense can stay in the top 10 — and it’s the Ravens, so of course that’s going to happen — I look for the offense to improve on last year’s No. 19 ranking in total yardage, which could make Baltimore the most dangerous AFC team outside of Kansas City.”
So where does Kelce rank among the NFL’s best tight ends heading into the 2021 NFL season? Touchdown Wire’s Mark Schofield recently sought to answer that question, ranking the 11 best tight ends in the league. While he says you can stack the top-two players any way that you wish, he stacked them with Kelce at the No. 2 spot in his rankings.
“. . .while the line between him and George Kittle is very blurry, and the discussion is more of a “1A and 1B” ranking, what is not in dispute is what Kelce offers offensively.
Kelce is every bit the matchup nightmare at the position that strikes fear in the hearts of NFL defensive coordinators, with his ability to separate from man coverage whether facing a safety, a linebacker or a cornerback.”
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
It was fashionable to bag on CEH last season, but we won’t have anything to do with that silly slander. Edwards-Helaire didn’t build on a big opening game as well as we hoped, but there’s plenty to appreciate from his rookie season — and even more to be excited about in Year 2.
His rookie numbers were quite comparable to what Christian McCaffrey did his first season. There was similar ambivalence over McCaffrey’s rookie production at the time, too. That went away with his sterling second season.
Edwards-Helaire could see a similar jump. It’s unclear why he wasn’t used more as a receiver. That element of his game is what made CEH, to use Joe Burrow’s words, LSU’s MVP in the Tigers’ national championship season of 2019.
Expect the receiving bump to happen. Edwards-Helaire received just shy of seven targets a game over his final seven games in college (not counting the Oklahoma game in which the injured CEH played only a few snaps as a decoy). That number last season, including the two playoff games, was below four targets per game.
Edwards-Helaire also figures to benefit from a vastly improved offensive line, a unit that was in shambles by the end of last season.
The Chiefs’ name and some of the accompanying traditions — the tomahawk chop, for example — have sparked debate about their appropriateness.
That debate often rests within the American Indian community itself, and the disagreement is often passionate.
More recently, the Chiefs have tried to learn more. For seven years, they have worked with Native Americans, forming what they call the American Indian Working Group, to “honor, educate and create awareness of American Indian culture for our fans,” team president Mark Donovan said.
In policies that derived from those conversations — which remain ongoing today — the Chiefs announced ahead of 2020 season a ban of fans entering the stadium with headdresses or their faces painted in a way that depicts American Indian culture. They also have instructed fans to used a closed fist for “The Chop,” though getting them to follow suit is an evident hurdle.
In 2014, also a product of discussions with the working group, the Chiefs began inviting Native Americans onto the field for the blessing of a drum, on which a former player bangs a mallet to start The Chop.
But they’ve made no plans to take the action that the Washington Football Team made one year ago.
Around the NFL
The NFL says it cannot confirm Eugene Chung’s allegations that a team official made discriminatory comments during his interview for a coaching job.
“After multiple discussions, including with Mr. Chung and his representative, we were unable to confirm the precise statement that was made, or by whom and under what circumstances any such statement was made,” the league said in a statement Thursday.
Chung, a 1992 first-round pick by the New England Patriots, played five seasons in the league and served as an assistant coach for a decade.
Jared Goff might be better than anyone thought
It’s super early. Like way too early to really even buy into this. But the reports out of OTAs and minicamp are that Goff has looked great. We’ve done our own deep dives into Goff’s play and his stats and the results are more positive than many think.
Goff appears to be the real deal. While more than likely a downgrade from Stafford, the Lions certainly sound like they don’t think it’s a huge step down. Lions GM Brad Holmes said in a recent interview that Goff is not the bridge quarterback to a better player.
The $10 million fine will be used charitably, the league announced, as it will be applied “to support organizations committed to character education, anti-bullying, healthy relationships and related topics. They will also fund programs directed more broadly at improving the workplace, particularly for women and other underrepresented groups, and training and development programs throughout the league, with recipients identified with the assistance of respected third-party advisors. We will solicit recommendations from the club, particularly for organizations based in the Washington metropolitan area.”
Snyder released a statement through the team Thursday.
“I have learned a lot in the past few months about how my club operated, and the kind of workplace that we had. It is now clear that the culture was not what it should be, but I did not realize the extent of the problems, or my role in allowing that culture to develop and continue. I know that as the owner, I am ultimately responsible for the workplace. I have said that and I say it again,” Snyder said. “I feel great remorse for the people who had difficult, even traumatic, experiences while working here. I’m truly sorry for that. I can’t turn back the clock, but I promise that nobody who works here will ever have that kind of experience again, at least not as long as Tanya and I are the owners of this team.
“I agree with the Commissioner’s decisions in this matter and am committed to implementing his investigation’s important recommendations.”
The following is a breakdown of the fines, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter:
The Jaguars were fined $200,000 and coach Urban Meyer $100,000
The 49ers were fined $100,000 and coach Kyle Shanahan $50,000
The Cowboys were fined $100,000 and coach Mike McCarthy $50,000
Other penalties, sources told Schefter, include the NFL management council ordering the 49ers to cancel the final week of OTAs last month.
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Since the Chiefs were among the suitors trying to land Pittsburgh Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster — and were rumored to be in the mix for others — it’s hard to blame Yates for making this suggestion. The 11-year NFL veteran would indeed bring a lot of experience to Kansas City — and unlike Smith-Schuster, might be willing to accept a relatively inexpensive contract for a role where he wouldn’t rack up a lot of production.
But if we’re really talking about the best move the Chiefs could yet make, I’m not sure this is it. Extending safety Tyrann Mathieu’s contract — which would have both long and short-term benefits — should be Kansas City general manager Brett Veach’s next priority. Once that is done, Veach would also have some additional cap space with which to work, giving him options beyond signing a wide receiver who will be 33 years old when the season begins.
Besides... the Chiefs are overloaded at wide receiver — more so than any other position. They will have 15 wideouts on the roster when training camp opens in St. Joseph — and while some of the names among that position group may not be familiar to national writers like Yates, some are young players in whom Kansas City has already expended some coaching capital. Others — like Antonio Callaway, Daurice Fountain and Darrius Shepherd — have already made NFL rosters but could take steps forward while catching passes from Patrick Mahomes.
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