To close, we looked at a trait that leads to so many highlights throughout an NFL season. Quarterbacks won’t always be able to sit in the pocket and throw darts. With pressure coming off the edge or up the middle, getting outside the pocket and making off-schedule throws on the run is important in today’s game. Those are the off-platform passes from different arm angles and body positions, often on the move.
Best of the best: Mahomes has made off-platform throws look routine since the very first practice he had as a Chiefs rookie, and he is only going to get better there as his confidence continues to grow. Right below Mahomes, it sometimes appears at though every throw from Rodgers is off-platform, as he rarely has his feet set and can deliver the ball however and wherever he needs with a flick of the wrist. But the guy who is going to get his overdue credit in this category in 2021 is Stafford. Wait and see. — Riddick
Chiefs’ running game: This sounds strange to list on the same weekend that Clyde Edwards-Helaire suffered an ankle injury, but the stranger part is that I don’t think Kansas City would miss the second year-pro much if the ailment were to linger.
The Chiefs use the preseason to refine their starting offense and they often have explosive games in September to prove it works. It’s not hard to spot how much more dynamic and diverse the running game looks this year. The young offensive line — with three rookie starters — is full of road graders. Andy Reid wanted to get them quality time to jell in the preseason. Veteran runner Jerick McKinnon looks way more dynamic than he did at any point in San Francisco, and I suspect he’ll have a much bigger role behind CEH than many have anticipated. Kansas City’s 15-play opening drive against Arizona reportedly mirrored much of camp, with Patrick Mahomes staying in structure and the Chiefs taking what the defense gives them. That could lead to a lot more rushing attempts by a Reid-coached team than we are used to.
1. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
2020 stats: 14-1 record, 66.3% completion percentage, 4,740 passing yards, 38 passing TDs, six INTs, 108.2 passer rating
Wright’s distinction: Best player
Wright’s thoughts: ”He’s the best player in the league. Everybody knows he’s the best player in the league. You wouldn’t trade him for Donald, Henry and Ramsey. He’s the most valuable guy in football.”
Kansas City Chiefs
A Day 2 pick to the New Orleans Saints for edge Marcus Davenport
Or to the Green Bay Packers for Preston Smith. Or to the Arizona Cardinals for Chandler Jones. Or to the Houston Texans for Whitney Mercilus. The point is, the Kansas City Chiefs could use another edge defender to work with Frank Clark, Chris Jones and Alex Okafor.
Clark and Okafor had just nine sacks combined last year, Jones doesn’t spend every down on the edge, and they lost the underrated Tanoh Kpassagnon in free agency.
With that in mind, a win-now team should make some offers for expendable pass-rushers. Davenport isn’t as established as the rest of those aforementioned players, but he’s a 24-year-old first-round pick with lots of room to grow in a new setting, and he’ll cost just $4.4 million in 2021.
If the Saints aren’t convinced of his trajectory and feel Kpassagnon (who they signed away from K.C.) and first-round rookie Payton Turner can do the job, they might be willing to take a third-rounder from the Chiefs.
Kansas City Chiefs: Mecole Hardman, WR
With the loss of Sammy Watkins, the Chiefs expect another wide receiver to step up. The speedy Hardman looks like the most likely candidate in his third season. He’s been more comfortable in training camp and could be a great offense even better.
Around the NFL
Hang onto Minshew. Speculation that the Jaguars might be willing to trade quarterback Gardner Minshew if he, as expected, loses the starting QB job to Trevor Lawrence, should stop. Not because Minshew should win the job — he shouldn’t — but because the Jaguars offense needs as much mobility in the QB room as it can get. Jacksonville’s pass protection left a lot to be desired Monday, and although the Jags played with less than a full deck up front, the regular season might not signal much improvement. Extending plays and operating around traffic in the pocket is what Minshew does best. Urban Meyer’s offense puts the QB on the move by design at times, too, so a stationary QB behind leaky pass protection is the last thing he needs. That logic doesn’t just extend to Lawrence, who is plenty mobile himself. It only makes sense for QB2 to have wheels of his own.
“On Saturday, Cam Newton traveled to a club-approved medical appointment that required him to leave the New England area,” the statement read. “He received daily COVID tests, which were all negative. Due to a misunderstanding about tests conducted away from NFL facilities, and as required by the NFL-NFLPA protocols, Cam will be subject to the five-day entry cadence process before returning to the facility. Cam will continue participating virtually in team activities and return to the club facility on Thursday, August 26.”
Coach Robert Saleh, speaking to reporters Monday, wouldn’t specify the nature of Davis’ injury, except to say it’s not a high ankle sprain. Saleh said they hope to have him back “around the bye week,” which is Week 6 for the Jets.
A trip to injured reserve seems inevitable. As long as Davis is on the initial 53-man roster after the final cutdown on Aug. 31, he will be eligible to return after three weeks on IR.
Davis was carted to the locker room in Saturday’s 23-14 win over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Two days earlier, in a joint practice with the Packers, defensive end Carl Lawson suffered a season-ending Achilles injury.
Los Angeles Chargers: Of the seven teams with new head coaches, the Chargers are the one with the best chance to win because they have the most talent. The defense has a chance to be very good, aided by new coach Brandon Staley, who helped make the Rams one of the NFL’s best defenses as their coordinator last year. Edge rusher Joey Bosa and safety Derwin James could have big seasons.
On offense, reigning offensive rookie of the year Justin Herbert will be playing behind a much improved offensive line. General Manager Tom Telesco attacked his team’s biggest roster weakness in the offseason, signing all-pro center Corey Linsley and guards Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi and drafting left tackle Rashawn Slater in the first round. That’s four new starters to pair with right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who was signed last year.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Jones moved up a whopping 18 spots from his 2020 ranking, which sort of makes up for how poorly he was ranked a year ago — but not quite. What should be more interesting to see is how he is ranked a year from now. If defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s idea to move Jones from the inside to the outside based on opponent and game situation works as planned, Jones could become uber-disruptive in the coming season.
Meanwhile, Hill continues to shed his “gadget player” reputation among his peers. Reading NFL.com’s summary of his abilities, it’s hard to understand how he isn’t ranked among the league’s top 10 players. There’s a legitimate argument that he is the league’s top wideout — and yet, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs is ranked ahead of him at 11th — and there will likely be another wideout in the top 10.
But speaking of that top 10... two Chiefs have not yet been named to 2021’s Top 100. We don’t want to spoil the surprise, but their names are spelled T-r-a-v-i-s-K-e-l-c-e and P-a-t-r-i-c-k-M-a-h-o-m-e-s.
Three veteran players have been released: defensive end Taco Charlton, defensive back Will Parks and offensive guard Bryan Witzmann. The team also waived two young players: linebacker Riley Cole and quarterback Anthony Gordon.
Among these moves, the release of Charlton — a former first-round pick — is likely the most surprising. He finishes his single Kansas City season after appearing in just seven games, collecting seven tackles (four solo, one for loss), two sacks, four quarterback hits and a forced fumble.
While it didn’t show up in his basic stat line, there were moments last season where he was consistently getting quarterback pressure. But he was also inactive for two games during the first nine weeks of the season — and ended up on injured reserve after having surgery to repair a fractured ankle suffered in Week 9.
It had been hoped that in 2021, a healthy Charlton could have been a more consistent player in the team’s rotation, but after missing a number of training camp practices and the first preseason game — and playing just eight snaps against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night — the Chiefs apparently believe they have better, healthier options available.