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Richie James’ role is set to expand on Monday vs. Raiders

The Chiefs are excited to finally see what the 2023 free agent signee can do.

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

This week, the Kansas City Chiefs have been unusually transparent about a key change in their offensive lineup for Monday’s Christmas Day game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Wide receiver Richie James, who has played in just 26 snaps since his return from injured reserve in Week 11, will receive more opportunities with the offense. It remains to be seen if added offensive responsibility could lead to a reduction in his kick-return duties.

James is coming off a 2022 season with the New York Giants in which he finished second on the team with 569 receiving yards. Despite limited opportunity over the last three games, he has managed three catches for 33 yards in Kansas City.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs are trending toward dialing back time for wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who has missed the first two days of practice this week due to a hip injury while coming off a disappointing performance. Last weekend, wide receiver Skyy Moore was placed on injured reserve due to a knee injury.

Had it not been for James’ early-season knee injury, it sounds as though he might have been an integral part of the offense already.

“He can play different roles,” said offensive coordinator Matt Nagy in his Friday press session. “In this offense, different guys play different spots. You guys know that. I think he’s good in the slot. When you’re in the slot, you want to be able to have a feel with defenses and zones, and then you’ve got to beat man, inside and outside leverage, so he’s done a good job.”

Last year, James lined up in the slot 85% of the time. In his limited action with the Chiefs, that’s down to 45%. His two snaps against the New England Patriots were out wide.

“Richie’s been great,” raved wide receiver coach Connor Embree. “He’s been great in our room. He’s a great leader. He helps the young guys out a lot. He helps [Rashee Rice] out. He’ll play [Monday], and he’ll get his shots. We like to move everyone around, and everyone has to know every spot out there. I’m excited for Richie. I know he’s excited. He’s been working hard behind the scenes. When you’re injured, you have to do stuff on your own. He’s been working hard, been in the meeting room, in the playbook still, so I’m excited for him.”

There’s a perceptible feeling drawn from listening to the coaching staff that — through James’ rehab work and response to his limited role upon his return — he has earned what is to come. Chiefs fans hope that is yet another strong option for quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“He went through some injuries and got back, and now, I think he’s handled his situation as a true professional,” concluded Nagy. “When opportunities come up, coach [Reid] says that about Richie, and you get him chances, I think you’ll see good things from him.”

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