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Film review: Kadarius Toney could shake up the AFC playoffs

In his third game since returning from injury, the wideout led Kansas City in receiving yards against Denver.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The possibilities for how Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney’s season could play out include a fairly wide range of outcomes.

Since being traded from the New York Giants back in October, the raw talent which made Toney a first-round draft choice just over a year ago has flashed multiple times. There have been moments where he looked like the team’s most dynamic receiving option not named Travis Kelce.

But after suffering a hamstring injury during November, Toney has returned from his multi-game absence — and his offensive snap counts have risen steadily in the three games since then.

During Kansas City’s 27-24 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Toney once again showed us why his repetitions should continue to grow.

Let’s take a look.

Film review

Against the Broncos, a lot of the ways Toney was used in the offense looked similar to prior weeks. But there were some noticeably different alignments and assignments that should be a factor when the playoffs begin.

Here we see Toney deep in the offensive backfield within a full-house formation. The formation is not new to head coach Andy Reid’s teams; it is used every season. The play isn’t fresh, either. But using Toney in it is new — and ironically, he is placed in the same spot where former Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill once was.

In the postseason, there will come a time — likely a third or fourth-and-1 scenario — when Kansas City will once again call this play. It might even happen multiple times. When it does happen, don’t be surprised to see Mahomes pitch the ball to Toney for what could be a season-altering result.

But Toney isn’t just a gimmicky player who can only be used in a gadget role. He has shown on more than one occasion that he can adjust to downfield throws very well — perhaps better than any wide receiver on the roster. He looks very natural — and provides quarterback Patrick Mahomes with room for error that he doesn’t have with every other receiver.

Learning the playbook is not an issue for Toney. The Chiefs have repeatedly said they have been amazed by his ability to process information and learn during his first couple of weeks on the team. Right now, the likely reason for his reduced role is the ramp-up period that he’s been going through as he returns from his hamstring injury. Especially with wide receiver Mecole Hardman’s health still in question, the coaching and medical staffs have to do all they can to ensure Toney is available for the postseason.

In the event Toney’s offensive role doesn’t increase, one thing remains clear: Kansas City has a package of plays for him that are especially helpful in the red zone; it’s similar to how the team has previously used Hardman. Still, it was obvious that on Sunday, Denver had a great feel for how to defend certain plays. Fans get understandably frustrated when the offense stalls — as it did on those snaps.

Divisional games magnify this issue. Teams like Denver or Kansas City’s upcoming opponent — the Las Vegas Raiders — have played against Kansas City’s offense more than any other teams. There are moments in these matchups when the opposing defense knows exactly what the Chiefs' offense is about to do. From there, Kansas City simply has to focus on execution.

The bottom line

It still feels a bit weird to discuss these playoff-related topics as the world more positive reports about Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin — and the NFL decides how the postseason will ultimately look.

In the meantime, all the Chiefs can do is control what they can control. When the dust settles, though, there’s one AFC player who is ready to change how things shake out: Kadarius Toney.

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