Everyone’s seemingly looking for offensive line depth, and the Chiefs (the same Chiefs team that’s line collapsed in the Super Bowl) have become a place for teams to look for that help, which is a tribute to the job Kansas City did rebuilding the position. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (who was doing things more important than football last year) has come up in talks, but he’s got a no-trade clause, making it more likely he’ll be on Kansas City’s roster.
1 - Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · 6.32 wins
Mahomes ranked in the top five in passing touchdowns (35) and passer rating (116.1) when he wasn’t under pressure in 2020, according to Next Gen Stats (min. 100 pass attempts). A big driver in his league-leading win share number is that he likely won’t be under pressure as often this season, given his retooled offensive line. And maybe teams should think twice about blitzing him. Mahomes has been blitzed on just 20.7 percent of dropbacks since 2018, the lowest rate in the NFL, but he averaged 9.1 yards per attempt when facing the blitz over that same time period, which was the highest average in the NFL. Last season, he earned 13 touchdowns with zero interceptions and a 134.2 passer rating against the blitz, leading the league in those categories.
Computer vision shows that the Chiefs’ offense spreads the field vertically and horizontally more than any team in first halves of games, which helps explain why Mahomes’ targets averaged 3.8 yards of separation last season, the second-most in the league. However, in the red zone, when space was constrained, his targets averaged 2.9 yards of separation, which ranked 15th. With that in mind, look for the Chiefs to try to create space for their weapons even more frequently to establish the game tempo early on.
Another key takeaway here is that Mahomes has his eye on the quick strike and he knows how to put the ball in the end zone in a hurry. He threw 12 TDs on deep passes last season (tied for second-most in the league), six on deep play-action passes (most) and 13 on the run (most). One last thing that’s a bit more predictive: The Chiefs used play-action on 18.6 percent of dropbacks in Weeks 1-6 (ranking 26th) last season, compared with 33.3 percent in Weeks 7-17 (second-highest). My models show that the improved O-line and its run-blocking potential creates the opportunity for increased rushing (or short passes that essentially function as a run) productivity, which will make play-action an even stronger tool in Mahomes’ tool belt.
DB Devon Key
Key was among the first players released by the team during the cutdown to 53 players. The undrafted rookie safety was the subject of much hype heading into the preseason after having received some repetitions with the first-team defense in training camp. Unfortunately, when the bright lights came on, Key looked overwhelmed at times. He also flashed some of those traits he was praised for during training camp. It’s clear he needs more refinement before he’s ready for the NFL game. A season on the practice squad would serve him well.
Missouri · LB
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs played Bolton with the second unit in their Friday night win over the Vikings, but it’s clear his future is as a starter. His speed and agility helped him pick up a receiver on his first third-down play and then attack quarterback Kirk Cousins at the sideline to prevent a scrambling conversion. Bolton’s quickness allows him to shoot gaps in the run game and stick with tight ends and running backs out of the backfield when called upon in coverage. Bolton takes on blocks with intensity, though linemen can overpower him at times so he must use violent hands to shed their advances. Bolton contributed on special teams return and coverage units, as well.
The Chiefs are not going to go 17-0. They will remain champions of the AFC West and continue to be the dominant team in the conference. Will Patrick Mahomes make it to a third straight Super Bowl? The Bills, Ravens, and Browns will have a say in that. Record: 15-2
Kansas City Chiefs: WR Byron Pringle. If you’re looking for a WR2 in Kansas City, you’re going to be disappointed. Travis Kelce is virtually the WR2 with a TE1 label. Mecole Hardman may have a chip on his shoulder after some media chatter lately, but he hasn’t been consistent during the offseason and preseason. The player that has most impressed with consistency is fourth-year WR Byron Pringle. The 27-year-old caught 6-of-7 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in 34 snaps this preseason. It was basically a snapshot of what his training camp has looked like as well. Hardman is likely the safer handcuff to Hill, but Pringle has a better chance to emerge as a tertiary or quaternary target in the K.C. offense. — Charles Goldman, Chiefs Wire
Around the NFL
This will be a simple conversion to lower Evans’ team-high $16.637 million cap hit. Tampa Bay needs the help. The latest NFL Players Association salary-cap report lists the Bucs with $270,339 in cap space.
Evans, 28, has three years left on a five-year, $82.5 million extension. He is due $12.25 million in base salary, which the Bucs can convert to a signing bonus to prorate the money against the cap.
Veteran Cardinals cornerback Malcolm Butler is dealing with a personal situation and is mulling retirement, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported on Monday’s NFL Total Access. Butler has been away from the Cardinals’ team facility within the last week as he’s still trying to work through his personal issue, Garafolo added. The Cardinals had no comment.
Butler signed with the Cardinals in the spring on a one-year contract worth up to $6 million and is projected to be one of Arizona’s starting corners.
Loser: Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton didn’t play in Week 3 of the preseason, but the Bears quarterback does seem to be on the doorstep of losing his job. At every turn, rookie Justin Fields continues to show that he’s ready to ascend to starting status on Chicago’s depth chart, despite the coaching staff already pegging Dalton as the man for Week 1. Against the Titans, Fields was once again impressive, completing seven of his 10 throws on the night for 54 yards and a touchdown. That lone score was his best throw on the night, rolling out right and threading the needle on an end-zone throw to Jesper Horsted while on the run. Those plays that should have Dalton seriously looking over his shoulder right out of the gate in 2021.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Reading the defense
On his second pass attempt, Mahomes threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tyreek Hill on a deep route down the right sideline. His pre-snap recognition of the defense made it an easy throw-and-catch.
Tyreek TD. Trent Green broke it down on the broadcast— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) August 30, 2021
Vikings start in 2-high; SS gives away Cover 1 man by rolling down into Robber role pre-snap. Deep S is too far left to get over the top of Tyreek
Mahomes sees it pre-snap, confirms it post-snap, then fires away #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/Kf9fhz4xRM
The Vikings come out in a two-high safety look — but as the snap draws near, the strong safety creeps closer to the line of scrimmage. This indicates to Mahomes that the defense will likely be in Cover 1 man coverage — meaning that there will be only one safety helping over the top as defenders cover their men.
Because the Vikings first want to show a two-high safety look, the deep safety is already cheated towards the left of the offensive formation. This makes it hard for the deep safety to help over the top of a deep route on the right side. Mahomes recognizes this — so he knows that on Hill’s go-route on the right, cornerback Bashaud Breeland will be the only player with any chance to stop it.
After the snap, Mahomes quickly confirms the Vikings are indeed in one-high safety coverage — and then let its rip to Hill. Breeland doesn’t stand a chance of keeping up with Hill — and the perfectly accurate pass results in a touchdown.
A tweet to make you think
Guess who stopped by to visit?! pic.twitter.com/sGPtwfMGP5— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) August 30, 2021