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Film review: Kadarius Toney provides glimpses of why Chiefs traded for him

In Sunday’s small sample Kansas City’s shifty new wide receiver displayed some rare quickness.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Before entering their Week 8 bye, the Kansas City Chiefs traded two 2023 draft picks — a compensatory third-rounder and a sixth-rounder — for former New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney, whom New York had selected 20th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.

During Week 9’s Sunday Night Football matchup against the Tennessee Titans, Kansas City’s offensive coaches wasted no time getting Toney on the field — albeit in a very limited role, with just nine offensive snaps.

Let’s see what kind of initial impression Toney was able to make.

Lateral quickness

When we’re looking at a player who was on the field for less than 10% of the total offensive snaps, it’s clear that little was asked of him. Toney’s Chiefs debut mostly consisted of short-to-intermediate out-breaking routes — with just a couple plays that were designed to actually get the football into his hands. He finished with two receptions for 12 yards.

In his biggest highlight snap, head coach Andy Reid called a play that matched Toney against a linebacker in one-on-one coverage.

Here is where we see the rare lateral quickness Toney possesses — perhaps his best physical trait.

Sure... wide receivers are supposed to win when a linebacker is covering them. However, winning that quickly is a different thing. One could argue that if Titans linebacker David Long Jr. hadn’t reached out to grab Toney, he might have been on his way to the end zone for a touchdown. Toney can be just one more receiver that Kansas City can use to counter against murky, clouded zone defenses near the red zone.

The scramble drill

Another way Toney’s foot quickness and instincts shine is when plays break down. Following the trade, we were told this was one of his strengths — and in his few plays on Sunday, we saw some support for that idea.

Receivers who are as good in a scramble drill as they are within normal play structures are incredibly valuable to an offense like Kansas City’s. On Sunday night, quarterback Patrick Mahomes had to extend numerous plays with his legs. It was neither the first (or last) time that will be the case.

Just as we saw with former Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins, it might be the postseason before we see Toney make a big play out of structure — but with increased playing time, he will have more opportunities to create those huge plays when Mahomes breaks the pocket. When those moments come, he just needs to be ready to finish the job.

Inconsistent running

As for negatives, Toney can be a bit sporadic as a runner.

Here, he appears to be in a rush to break his route off — likely because he’s very eager to get a catch. To his credit, he breaks off the route well, continuing to display top-flight athleticism — but because his feet get caught underneath him, it doesn’t matter; he falls to the ground. Fortunately, the play design is set up for the ball to go to running back Jerrick McKinnon.

If Mahomes had tossed the ball to Toney, the cornerback might have undercut the receiver for an interception.

Even though he is smaller than many wideouts, Toney even managed to show explosive strength as an additional blocker.

Seeing his technique in this play — striking a very good pass-rushing defensive end at the perfect time in the right spot of his body — demonstrates Toney’s intelligence. This is the kind of technique we see more often among running backs or even tight ends — not wide receivers.

Lastly, it’s important to discuss Toney’s linear foot speed.

As we see here, it’s clear that he can get to top speed more quickly than most (if not all) other Kansas City wide receivers — except, perhaps, for Skyy Moore.

That burst can give him an even greater impact in stressing coverage defenders — particularly in the zone coverages like Tennessee elected to play so often. It could create opportunities for Toney to get into coverage holes more quickly than most — or it could simply pull defenders in his direction, allowing the Chiefs’ other receiving targets more space to operate.

The bottom line

Sunday night’s game once again showed us how the Kansas City offense can sometimes be vulnerable when an opposing defense marries really good, physical coverage with a dominant defensive line. The offense struggled to connect with anyone beyond tight end Travis Kelce (or wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster) working underneath in zone coverage holes.

This is why it will be very interesting to see if the coaching staff tries to add more to Toney’s plate. His foot quickness (and natural athleticism) represents a potential matchup problem for opposing defenses; when things begin to stall, Toney could unlock the offense.

Reid and his assistants have been very quick to point out just how smart Toney is — and how quickly he picking up the playbook. Combine with the physical profile he showed against the Titans, and we just might be looking at a player who could make a big impact on the back half of the Chiefs’ season.

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