Through the first four days of the Kansas City Chiefs’ training camp practices, the wide receiver position has dominated the headlines of takeaways each day.
That might be expected in these unpadded practices — where it’s hard to have solid notes on any linemen or running backs. However, it’s not that one receiver is taking over the practice. Instead, it’s the depth that has truly been impressive.
Each of the four wide receivers clearly in the first-team rotation has made splash plays. Juju Smith-Schuster drew attention on the first day, while rookie Skyy Moore has made a few significant catches. Mecole Hardman earned a big gain on Saturday in team periods, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling has continued to show good rapport with quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Valdes-Scantling was the receiver who seemed to get the most benefit out of OTAs earlier this offseason, and that work has continued onto the field in St. Joseph. When talking to reporters on Saturday, he expressed how much he’s enjoying camp so far — but also how high he is on his new offense.
“Coach (Andy) Reid is one of the most brilliant coaches, best coaches in this game,” Valdes-Scantling acknowledged to reporters. “For him to be able to get playmakers in different positions to go out and succeed, he’s been doing that for a long time — and has been very successful at it. So being a part of that, I’m excited about it. It’s a new challenge, but it’s going to be great. Obviously, with [Mahomes] back there, we can pretty much do anything.”
Being able to “do anything” is another way to describe the versatility and multitude of the offense’s personnel. We know the creativity that features the running backs and tight ends, but we haven’t seen the Chiefs with this deep of a wide-receiver room while Mahomes has been the starter. It expands the pallet of targets they have even further.
“Anybody can get the ball at any time, it’s very explosive, we pass the ball a lot,” Valdes-Scantling detailed. “As a receiver, I’m going to love that. It’s really fun, it’s really exciting, we do a lot of stuff, we move guys all around, a lot of motions. I think it’s just going to be really fun to go out there and make it happen on Sundays.”
The fifth-year receiver knows great quarterback play: he spent all of his previous seasons catching passes from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Many have compared the two quarterbacks in play style, and Valdes-Scantling did so as well when prompted on Saturday.
“It really hasn’t been different, to be honest,” Valdes-Scantling said of playing with Mahomes rather than Rodgers. “They’re the best quarterbacks in the NFL — and there’s a huge gap after those two. Having those two guys throughout my career, I’ve been blessed. There’s not much different; their mentality, how they want to compete every day, how they want to make the defense look bad every single play.”
The only difference in Valdes-Scantling’s eyes is the age discrepancy between the two.
“With Aaron being in the league a lot longer than Pat, he has a lot more experience in certain things and seeing certain things,” Valdes-Scantling began. “But they’re completely the same quarterback. Talent-wise and mentality-wise, I can’t really point out too many differences between the two of them.”
One of their many similarities is how well they can play outside of the structured play. As a receiver, the needed skills in those situations come mainly from the chemistry they have with the quarterback.
As Valdes-Scantling strives to strengthen his and Mahomes’ on-field bond, he can admire and learn from the relationship between quarterback and Hall of Fame tight end.
“Pat is one of those guys that can make any throw,” Valdes-Scantling emphasized. “With that, he kind of gives you some freedom to work some things into it. Obviously him and Kelce have been doing it for the longest here, you learn a lot from those two guys about how they see things, how they run routes, how they get open, how they find different voids in defenses, what he likes, and how soon he reads it. So obviously with those two, I’ve learned a lot in my few months here.”
He and the rest of the newcomers are working towards that strong chemistry with their quarterback, but they’re already confident in the current version of the offense. Very confident.
“Yeah they can’t stop us,” Valdes-Scantling quickly answered when asked about the Chiefs’ secondary. “Yeah that’s it.”
“It doesn’t matter who it is; they just can’t stop us,” Valdes-Scantling continued on. “We feel like that with anybody. It’s not our defense, I feel like we have one of the better, talented offenses in the league. We’re going to feel that same mentality no matter who lines up in front of us, they just happened to be the ones lined up in front of us every day right now.”
That confidence in himself and the offense stems from the confidence he has in the head coach and quarterback. The excitement derives from the expanded role he plays now, compared to a more narrowed responsibility in Green Bay.
As the pads come on Monday, other areas of the team may become more emphasized — but the receiver group is feeling incredibly confident in what they’ll be able to do in 2022.