This season, it’s just impossible for the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense to look the same. The departures of key players like Tyreek Hill, Darrel Williams and Byron Pringle have created a lot of turnover in the skill positions. New players like Juju Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Ronald Jones are looking to help smooth that transition.
With training camp officially opening on Friday, head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes had chances to talk about those new players — but not before wide receiver Mecole Hardman did.
Now entering a contract year, Hardman took to the national television shows on Friday — starting with NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” — to get the hype train for the 2022 Chiefs offense rolling.
“I think, just with Pat and Trav alone, the offense is going to be great regardless,” declared Hardman. “With the pieces of me, JuJu [and] Marquez, I think we’re gonna have a significant role in the offense to boost it up a little bit. I think you’re gonna see a more overall play of the offense.”
While he started with team-oriented excitement, he went into more detail about his individual impact during his next stop: ESPN’s “First Take.”
.@MecoleHardman4 thinks Tyreek Hill leaving will take his game to the next level with the Chiefs— First Take (@FirstTake) July 22, 2022
"I'm going to show you. ... I can take the top off too!" pic.twitter.com/H7IxaezKQQ
Hardman’s thoughts were similar to those I have expressed about how his role could change without Hill — something that I highlighted last month in “The Reid Remix.”
While there’s a lot of anticipation to see how the unit will change, we just don’t know how it’s going to look — and it’s hard to believe the team truly does, either. They’ll start putting it together during training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, where Reid will be emphasizing the construction of that cohesion.
“I look at it more of everyone getting on the same page, and there’s an urgency to that — because we know the level we’re capable of performing at,” Reid told reporters on Friday. “Whether it’s coaches or the players, I think there’s a sense of urgency — and that’s the exciting part.
“Let’s see what we can do. We’re always trying to be a notch better than what we were before, so we’re going to try. Every day, we’re going to get better.”
Reid said that he knows Hardman will have a big role — mainly because he believes Hardman has already been a significant part of the team’s success.
“I think Mecole will do fine,” Reid assured his listeners. “I don’t know if there was somebody in line; he’s had some pretty good plays for us. I think he’ll just continue to grow. He in the right frame of mind, he’s worked hard — and I’d expect that to take place: that next step.”
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has just as much to do with the wideout having a breakout season as Hardman himself — but that’s obviously not Mahomes’ focus. The quarterback knows he has to mesh with every cog in the machine — and he’s confident about what he sees in the apparatus right now.
“I think we just have to get the right guys in the building,” Mahomes acknowledged during his media availability on Friday. “Obviously it starts with the coaching staff. We have a coach that has coached a variety of weapons at all of his different stops — and his offense has always been great. We have a lot of great coordinators, great position coaches... and then the players. We have a lot of guys that love football that want to come in here and work.”
Mahomes added that his teammates are motivated to put the doubters to rest.
“Obviously, we see stuff on SportsCenter — or whatever it is — that people are doubting us a little bit,” he observed. “I think it gives guys extra motivation to come out here and play even better than they thought they could — because they want to prove we can still be the prolific offense we’ve been since Andy Reid has been in Kansas City.”
It has become clear that Mahomes and other members of the offense feel as doubted as they ever have been since the start of this era. If you believe Mahomes, it’s lighting a fire in his teammates’ bellies — and if it isn’t, he’ll make sure it is.
That’s because the Chiefs’ quarterback is as much a leader as he is a superstar athlete — and his head coach continues to appreciate that about him.
“Patrick does a great job with his leadership ability,” noted Reid. “He’s got a nice feel for things. He understands his strengths and he understands his weaknesses; he’s willing to work on his weaknesses like a wild man. He wants you to coach him — and coach him hard — and that’s where what we’re here for: to be teachers.
“That’s what he is. And with that comes natural progress — every year you’re in it. You just take another step up.”
That step up is vital for a unit that will have to go through growing pains as its players learn how to work with each other. As cornerstones of the offense, Reid and Mahomes are gearing up to assimilate the team’s new players into the system.
In the meantime, Hardman wants to be one of those cornerstones — and if he lives up to the expectations he has set for himself, he absolutely can be.