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Chiefs’ Matt Nagy on Kadarius Toney’s drops: ‘Nobody’s more frustrated than him’

Kansas City’s second-year wideout has made some highly-visible mistakes this season.

Philadelphia Eagles v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

When the Kansas City Chiefs celebrate Christmas Day by hosting the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday, they hold the opportunity to clinch their eighth consecutive AFC championship and their ninth straight postseason berth. By winning the rest of its games — and having some other results fall the right way — the team still has an opportunity to win the AFC’s top playoff seed.

But many believe the Chiefs will not succeed in the postseason because the team’s offense has not performed in the way it has in recent seasons. In 2022, the team ranked first in both points scored and yards gained — and in 2023, it ranks tenth and eighth, respectively.

The perception is that the problem is with the team’s wide receivers — and that drops are among the biggest problems. According to information acquired through the Pro Football Reference Stathead service, Kansas City has three players among the top six in percentage of dropped passes among wideouts with at least 30 targets: Kadarius Toney (first at 13.2%), Rahsee Rice (fourth at 9.5%) and Justin Watson (sixth at 9.3%).

Rice, of course, has significant production to go along with those drops. He’s now gained 754 yards (and scored seven touchdowns) on 68 receptions. But Watson has only 381 yards (and two touchdowns) on 22, while Toney has registered just 169 yards (and a score) on 27. Even worse, Toney’s drops have taken place in high-leverage situations — and according to the Chiefs’s wide receivers coach Connor Embree, that’s part of the problem.

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

“I wouldn’t say he hasn’t lived up to the expectations,” the position coach told reporters on Friday. “There’s just been a couple plays throughout the season that just happened to be a big situation or something — and he might have had an error [on those].

“So I think it looks worse than his actual season as a whole, because when I grade him out in games and stuff, it’s not like he’s getting a half-grade every game. So I think it’s more just kind of situational — when it happened [and] where it happened, that type of stuff.”

Embree deserves criticism for saying that Toney “might have had an error.” There’s no doubt that in those high-leverage situations, Toney made mistakes.

But otherwise, Embree was making a significant point. In that same group of 100 wideouts with 30 targets, Toney’s catch percentage ranks 15th-best at 71.1%. (Rice, by the way, ranks third at 81.0%) Toney’s figure is better than his quarterback’s completion percentage of 67.4%. It’s also better than the catch percentages for Deebo Samuel, Jaylen Waddle, Ja’Marr Chase, Courtland Sutton and A.J. Brown.

No one’s going to deny that dropped passes are bad. But if a receiver catches the ball at a rate close to (or exceeding) the rate at which his quarterback is completing passes, he’s doing what we should expect of him. It’s always better if a receiver makes more catches — and it’s fair to expect that if a ball hits a receiver’s hands, he should bring it in. But it’s probably a mistake to expect a receiver will never drop the ball — or to focus only on the drops they do make.

“That’s probably the hardest thing — or the thing that keeps coaches up the most,” said Embree. “You hear it all the time: people talk about [how] you remember the losses more than the wins. So it’s the same type of thing.”

And according to his coaches, Toney is being held accountable for his mistakes.

“That’s a part of this business — and everything that we do,” said Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Matt Nagy on Friday, “so we know that day-by-day, play-by-play [and] game-by-game, we’re all accountable. And KT will handle it just fine.”

Embree flatly denies that Toney isn’t trying.

“It’s not from a lack of effort,” declared the wide receivers coach. “I think more of it is from trying to make plays. He’s trying to catch the ball — or move before he has the ball. It’s not anything other than that: him [being] out there trying to make plays for our team.”

According to Nagy, Toney is taking it personally.

“Nobody’s more frustrated than him,” insisted the coordinator. “We understand that he’s got to make that catch — and as a team, collectively, the way we’ve looked at it is [that] we talked last week about starting fast and finishing strong. [But] we didn’t finish strong — as an offense — on those last four drives, whether it was punts or turnovers.

“At the end of the game, we took the victory — but we didn’t finish strong. We had a 17-point advantage, and we gave them momentum to get the touchdown. So we all want to be better.”

And according to Embree, Toney is continuing to put in the work.

“He’s been doing good,” said the coach. “That’s one thing I love about KT: he doesn’t let all the noise — or any of that — get to him. He’s still the same person every day; we love that about him. He’s still working hard [and] doing everything he’s supposed to do. That’s him — so we like that.”

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