Lost in the disappointment after the Kansas City Chiefs suffered a 36-35 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night was a very positive sign for the offense. On a night when five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill faced consistent double coverage, the team’s other options at the position took advantage of the opportunity.
One of the criticisms from the team’s come-from-behind victory against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1 was the reliance on Hill — who had 197 yards receiving, compared to only 34 combined yards from Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, wide receivers coach Joe Bleymaier addressed an enviable predicament: trying to get opportunities for other players on a team that has one of the league’s best receivers.
“Yeah, that’s a good challenge,” remarked Bleymaier. “It’s a delicate balance. I think we always want to try and get Tyreek the ball. The more times it’s in his hands, the better for everybody.
“At the same time, without forcing it or really taking away from either [of the] other parts of our offense or the other guys.”
Against Baltimore, Hill faced tight coverage the entire game — ending with only three catches for 14 yards. But Hardman, Pringle and Robinson took advantage of the favorable coverage that resulted, combining for 10 catches good for 164 yards and two touchdowns that included a 33-yard score by Robinson and a 40-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown from Pringle.
While the night ended on a sour note, the team’s rotation of wide receivers behind Hill answered Week 1’s critics.
“It just shows the passion for the game that those guys all have,” Bleymaier explained. “It’s an NFL game, it was Sunday Night Football — it’s the big stage.
“But to a lot of them, it’s like recess. And they’re just out there playing — having fun, fighting for each other. And that type of energy — that kind of excitement — we try to carry that every week of this long season. And I think it will translate to like [what] you saw: big plays down the field, creating opportunities for everybody.”
Later, Bleymaier acknowledged that the team’s second wide receiver is essentially a wide-receiver-by-committee.
“I think you would say ‘committee,’” he admitted. “All of our receivers play all of the different spots based on any given route concept or any given play. They can be all over the field. And like we’ve seen with Mecole or D-Rob or Pringle, they all have their own individual flair — or ways that they prefer to get open or run a route versus a certain coverage.
“So it’s kind of previewing during the week what you expect to see — whose type of route preference or receiver style would be best at a certain spot. And then just try to put them in where they’ll have their most success.”
In particular, Bleymaier said that Pringle — who caught a pair of passes for 63 yards on Sunday night — has his own style.
“Yeah, he puts his own flavor on the routes and the concepts that we have,” Bleymaier noted. “Byron specifically — he’s got great instincts. We’ve seen it on kickoff returns. When he has the ball in his hands, he has great instincts.
“And to his credit: he’s put a lot of work in studying the playbook and then taking a bunch of reps in practice to be able to translate those instincts to the field. And I think that’s kind of what you’re seeing now — he’s just out there using his instincts, he knows the offense, and he’s just out there playing. And that’s when he’s at his best.”
Though many Chiefs fans remain concerned about the second wide receiver position, the team has demonstrated confidence in their existing options. While the team was reportedly interested in adding wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Josh Reynolds early in free agency, no other free agents or trade targets were ever seriously connected to the Chiefs.
If no other positive factors surface from Kansas City’s Week 2 loss, the wide receivers behind Hill took a step toward rewarding the team’s faith in them.