Take away tight end Travis Kelce… and Kansas City Chiefs rookie Rashee Rice is the team’s most productive pass catcher.
Even with the future Pro Football Hall of Famer present, it’s tough to ignore the importance of the 55th overall pick in the 2023 draft, who currently ranks second on the team in receiving yards (305) as he gains more and more of Patrick Mahomes’ trust.
“His confidence is growing in a good way,” offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said of the rookie Thursday. “You can see in practice when he breaks a huddle…there’s not so much where you run out to the left and gotta run back to the right because you went to the wrong side... or (his] split’s a little off, you see less of that.”
Fewer mistakes paired with more of QB1’s trust has equaled early season success for Rice and a 6-1 start to the season for the reigning Super Bowl champs, but a new challenge awaits.
“Honestly I haven’t played a team in my life back-to-back,” Rice said in the locker room Wednesday as Kansas City prepares to face Sean Payton and the Denver Broncos for the second time in three weeks. “It’s obviously going to be different for me just getting a feel for that... and getting a feel for having to add a little bit more to my game. I mean, a guy I just [saw] two weeks ago. I’ve got to figure out how to change certain things up on my routes.”
Rice registered 72 total yards on four catches in Kansas City’s Week 6 win over the Broncos, extending the franchise-record winning streak over Denver to sixteen straight.
“If you go back to training camp, it was hard for him, like any normal receiver that comes in, it’s difficult, not easy to get lined up, and know where to go and what to do within the play,” said Nagy. “Right now, that part’s getting easier for him. So when he breaks a huddle, he knows exactly where to line up. He’s looking across the defense, and he has an idea of what the coverage might be. And now he can adjust his route accordingly.”
From comfort to confidence, some already see the rookie Rice as Kansas City’s top dog at receiver.
“I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily the best wideout. I feel like we’ve all got great roles on the team,” Rice said shyly. “I feel like we all contribute equally on the offensive side.”