The Kansas City Chiefs look to solve their offensive struggles heading into the second half of the season following last week's bye. Among their problems, the greatest area of concern lies within their wide receiving corp. The team is still searching for consistent production from the unit. However, their lone bright spot is the early returns they have seen from rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice.
"He's done a good job of trying to understand this offense," offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said of the rookie Rice. "How he fits, how we fit him into certain things, and us figuring out what he does well. So, he'll probably continue, and that's a good thing."
The second-round pick out of SMU has done well so far in his rookie year. His 41 targets, 32 receptions and 378 receiving yards all rank second on the team in each category. Meanwhile, Rice's four trips to the end zone tie him with All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce for first on the team in touchdowns.
While the numbers may not be massive from a production standpoint, wide receivers coach Connor Embree likes the progress he has seen from the Chiefs' rookie, especially considering the depth that they have at the position.
"[Rashee Rice] is coming along throughout the season," Embree said after Friday's practice. "I like where he's at. He's working well and working hard every day. Then the snap count, it just depends. We got seven to eight receivers, so it's kind of whoever has the hot hand, we'll keep feeding. Then it's a next man up mentality and stay ready."
As Embree mentioned, Rice leads the Chiefs receivers in snaps over their past two games and has seen his snap percentage increase weekly since Week 5. Embree says the gradual increase for Rice is just part of the development process for young receivers.
"That's part of the learning experience," Embree explained. "Most of these guys in this room, they've played every snap their whole life. They've always been the best guy out there and never off the field. So, that's a learning experience where you have to learn, hey, this game I might get 15 reps, the next game I might get 40 like you were talking about with Rashee (Rice). You just got to be locked in and know what you're doing. Know what role we have for you in the game, and then when the play comes for you to make it, you got to make it."
While Nagy acknowledges there will be some rookie struggles, he knows Rice can make a consistent impact on offense – something that would be huge for the Chiefs as they enter the season's final stretch.
"When you draft somebody, you want to develop them, and it takes a little bit of time," Nagy said. "It doesn't happen overnight. There's some ups and downs with it, there's some frustrations and excitement. But if the kid wants to be great and we have great wide receivers — guys that want to be great — it's just a matter of continuing to just keep practicing and getting out on that field and producing."