So much of the national narrative surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs' offseason has been what life would be like after wide receiver Tyreek Hill. With Hill’s departure, there have been hot takes that the conference was no longer Kansas City’s to win — even though the team has hosted four straight title games.
The most popular emerging thought — from “Good Morning Football” to our DraftKings Sportsbook — is that the conference is actually the Buffalo Bills’ to lose.
Now look. A 24-14 preseason win for the Chiefs against the Washington Commanders won’t change that notion. It will take weeks of regular season games, highlighted by a Week 6 tilt between the two teams.
But what I think what we have seen through two weeks has been a glimpse of what we might see during the opening weeks of the NFL season. And it could mean that for the Chiefs, there will be no dropoff — and no buffer year between trips to the AFC title game.
Because through two weeks, Patrick Mahomes hasn’t only played as if the Cincinnati Bengals game didn’t happen. He also appears to have his elevated his game, embracing a new era of Chiefs football. 2022 won’t be about the trifecta of Mahomes, Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. It will be about winning in different ways. Sometimes that will be with new faces — and sometimes it will be with familiar ones.
A week after Mahomes found six different pass-catchers in a solid performance against the Chicago Bears, he found seven different pass-catchers in two touchdown drives against the Washington Commanders, finishing 12 of 19 for 162 yards. A reinforced offensive line provided Mahomes with more time — and when the pocket did break down, the quarterback comfortably rolled out, finding a way to get the first down.
Only Mahomes. pic.twitter.com/pFwtxkGy7r— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) August 20, 2022
Sometimes the first down came from those old faces, such as Kelce, tight end Noah Gray or running back Jerick McKinnon, who tiptoed down the left sideline and continued to show to be an asset for the Chiefs. And sometimes the first down came from new ones, such as wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Justin Watson or running back Isiah Pacheco.
Chiefs new additions — Watson , Pacheco, MVS— all looking awfully comfortable. Good team.— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) August 20, 2022
Twice in the red zone, Mahomes found his big-bodied Kelce protege: tight end Jody Fortson. Fortson appears to be over last season‘s Achilles injury — and the groin issue that cost him two weeks of training camp. In the 10th year that Kelce has been in a Chiefs uniform, it finally seems as though the team may have finally found a formidible pass-catching tight end to play behind him.
The fact that Hill’s name still comes up so often in conversations about the Chiefs has no doubt grown annoying — and many Kansas City fans rightfully have Hill fatigue. I only bring him up in this meaningless Chiefs-Commanders game because I think it’s important to note the Chiefs’ personnel staff designed this season to win without him.
And through the only brief looks we have, they are showing that they can do so.
“When you have guys that are big and still run fast and stretch the field but can make those tough contested catches, it shows how versatile they are, and I think it attests that we’ll come from everywhere this year,” said Mahomes on Thursday. “It’s not going to be one guy. It’s going to be everybody kind of putting their blueprint on this offense — and I’m excited for it.”
The names to know on defense
On the defensive side of the football, cornerback L’Jarius Sneed made a fantastic one-on-one play on a good ball from Carson Wentz to wide receiver Curtis Samuel. Linebacker Nick Bolton made a great play in coverage on Samuel on the next drive, driving to the ball. Both players made their pass breakups on third down, resulting in another perfect outing for the first-team defense.
The Chiefs’ young secondary was impressive beyond Sneed, with rookie cornerbacks Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson, defensive ends Josh Kandoh and Matt Dickerson and cornerback Chris Lammons all registering pass breakups. Lammons added an interception late.
A week after he earned his first preseason sack against the second-team offensive line of the Bears, defensive end George Karlafits got a series against the first-team offensive line of the Commanders. It led to another sack. This time, Karlaftis had to fight through two linemen — and he was probably held on the play. Defensive tackle Khalen Saunders later sacked quarterback Sam Howell as part of a strong outing.
The one concern right now is the status of cornerback Rashad Fenton, who was ruled out due to a groin injury during the second quarter. If the Fenton injury is serious, Williams would be the next man up.