Last week, the Kansas City Chiefs decided to keep four tight ends on their initial 53-man roster. Head coach Andy Reid has always been known to favor tight ends in his schemes. Now with an even deeper group than usual, who knows what kind of formations and concepts Reid and offensive coordinator Bienemy can devise?
All four — Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, Noah Gray and Jody Fortson — caught at least one pass in the preseason finale. Kelce made his presence felt early in the game against the Minnesota Vikings, making a reception in each of the first two touchdown drives. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Kelce looked to be in regular-season form when they connected on a 28-yard gain in the opening minutes of the contest.
Play action flood concept, variation of spider 2 y banana, Fortson is first read and if DB takes away high or low Mahomes works opposite. They cover that cause it’s into the boundary so he hits Bell on the leak route late. Great shoe string grab from Bell with nose for end zone pic.twitter.com/2XSJOvkdH5— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) September 2, 2021
Meanwhile, Bell has cemented his spot as the team’s No. 2 tight end. His blocking prowess is well-documented — but against the Vikings, he showed off some soft hands as well, catching Mahomes’s second touchdown pass. But he left no doubt that he is still at his best in the trenches; he was in on multiple running plays as he threw some key blocks.
Blake Bell is tight to the RT and gets a nice block on the DE, keeps feet moving and drives off LOS, Belldozer isn’t an ironic nickname pic.twitter.com/jBBSKKkEZg— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) September 2, 2021
But we shouldn’t overlook Kelce, who has always been a reliable blocker. His reputation as a receiver often overshadows his ability to be the sixth offensive lineman. Thanks to the team’s new offensive line — and the fact that its primary tight ends are no slouches as blockers — Kansas City may well be able to run the ball more effectively in 2021.
Check out the Kelce and Niang double team, getting the job done, I expect to see a lot of this in 2021. Ideally Kelce should peel off and pick up S who makes tackle, but hard block to make when you’re that far down field pic.twitter.com/iK3kKSZVd4— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) September 2, 2021
Meanwhile, Gray — the fifth-round rookie out of Duke — capped off his inaugural preseason with a couple of catches. Given how valuable development will be to his NFL future, Gray is in a golden situation. The players above him on the depth chart will be mentors — and instrumental to his progress. It is clear how effective Gray can be. He just needs time to get there.
Rookie TE Noah Gray makes a nice grab over the middle, 83 was called for a block in the back the play prior, he made it up here pic.twitter.com/ixdlYRssdx— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) September 2, 2021
While Fortson is the fourth tight end, he may see the field more than the rookie. A converted wide receiver, the third-year player is thriving in his new position. Fortson offers a lot to like — and made a big-enough impression on the coaching staff to warrant a spot on the 53-man roster. Wearing a familiar number for a Chiefs tight end — 88 — we could see him in a variety of formations, being used both as a valid pass catching threat and as a run blocker.
Fortson key on this play, I like his stop-and-start along with his change-of-direction, Reid and Bieniemy will find ways to utilize 88 pic.twitter.com/6eR02xosm9— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) September 2, 2021
While Kelce is still the team’s undisputed No. 1 tight end, the talent behind him should get Chiefs fans excited, Imagine the mismatches that could be created with players like Bell or Fortson, who could be third receiving options while Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill garner all of a defense’s attention.
Strong hands by Fortson, clutch catch on 3rd down pic.twitter.com/mf8FbXghQ0— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) September 2, 2021
Considering the depth behind Hill at wide receiver, the tight ends could shine more in 2021. Reid is one of the most creative offensive minds in the NFL. He loves to find ways to incorporate old-school football into modern use. On game days, don’t be surprised if we see more 13 personnel packages — that is, one running back and three tight ends.
Dare I say... 14?