Can the Chiefs Buck the Trend in the NFL?
The Chiefs are a slight favorite over the Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals. But the AFC is very competitive, Patrick Mahomes will have a target on his back, and the offense will be adjusting two big changes at offensive tackle and wide receiver.
It won’t be easy, but some team is eventually bound to repeat again, and a team led by Mahomes and Andy Reid makes a lot of sense to snap that drought. They have been to three of the last four Super Bowls and have won two of them.
Still, I’d put my money on the field.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
The incredible array of different arm angles and launch points that define Mahomes’ unprecedented throwing abilities defy every type of science you can imagine. Especially when you consider Mahomes can apply those unique throwing mechanics on deep balls.
Almost equally impressive is the maturity Mahomes has developed to not rely on it. To use an excellent boxing metaphor that is a favorite of Robert Saleh’s: The Chiefs’ offense that once beat you with haymakers to Tyreek Hill now beats you with jabs to Travis Kelce.
But Mahomes’ ability to always throw those haymakers – even to wide receivers who don’t have Hill’s speed – is a big reason those jabs to Kelce are available. Mahome’s ability to work those jabs propelled him to a second Super Bowl ring in 2022.
In the last two years of the Hill Era (2020-21), the Chiefs faced two-deep coverage looks a league-high 33 times per game. During that time, Mahomes learned to work more underneath, especially in 2021, when his average target depth dropped from 9.0 to 7.7.
Now Kansas City sees two-deep looks a little closer to the league average of 28 times per game, but its underneath passing game continues to expand as things run more and more through Kelce. The point?
In the NFL, where game management is an enormous part of quarterbacking, part of being a truly great downfield passer is knowing how and when to use it. Given the temptation that comes with having the greatest throwing arm in history, no player self-regulates better than Mahomes.
This is why @Netflix “Quarterback” is so cool to watch. Here is Mahomes at his house after the divisional win over the Jags talking about how he thinks they matchup better vs the #Bills but he wants to play the #bengals because he’s a competitor and is “tired of them talking”. pic.twitter.com/d6bpFoKWCd— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) July 12, 2023
Allowing JuJu Smith-Schuster to leave in free agency
While Smith-Schuster was a very productive player for the Chiefs, the downside to signing him long-term was always about his injury concerns, and the Patriots are even feeling a bit of that now. Smith-Schuster has yet to practice with the team in any capacity through OTAs and minicamp as he recovers from injuries suffered late in the postseason with the Chiefs.
Hey @netflix, I’m watching Quarterback. If you wanna do a season 2 on a retired QB with five kids, my DMs are open…— Matt Cassel (@M_Cassel16) July 12, 2023
Around the NFL
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was moved to tears in a stirring moment Wednesday at The ESPYS in Los Angeles when he introduced the team training staff that saved his life after he went into cardiac arrest during a game in Cincinnati in January. He has since recovered and plans to play this fall.
After wiping away the tears, Hamlin introduced the staff, which received the Pat Tillman Award for Service.
The staff was greeted by a standing ovation. They huddled around Hamlin on stage, hugging him and patting his back. With his back to the audience, Hamlin bent his head and appeared to break down.
“Damar, first and foremost, thank you for staying alive, brother,” said Nate Breske, head trainer for the Bills.
“We’re not used to having the spotlight on us. We were just doing our job, but the idea of service is definitely something that is engrained in our profession and that we take great pride in,” he told the audience.
Breske urged support for funding for automated external defibrillators and CPR training, especially in underserved communities, as well as for athletic trainers in youth sports.
“Learn CPR and how to use an AED because they save lives,” he said.
“Barkley has made it clear the franchise tag is undesirable,” Dianna Russini reported Wednesday. “I’m told his availability for Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys will be in serious question if he does not get a long-term deal from the Giants.”
This isn’t necessarily a new stance from Barkley. The former first-round draft pick previously hinted he’d consider sitting out into the 2023 season absent a contract extension, and he’s yet to sign the $10.9 million franchise tag he received early this offseason. But now that the deadline for new deals is approaching, Barkley could be making a last-gasp effort to apply pressure in negotiations.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Unsurprisingly, Jones was near the top. He ranked second behind Los Angeles Rams’ defensive stud Aaron Donald. According to ESPN, one NFL exec had high praise for Jones.
“One-on-one matchups, he has a natural answer for everything,”
But not everyone spoke as glowingly. Another unnamed executive was not impressed with Kansas City’s star defensive lineman.
“I think a lot of his production is inflated,” the exec said. “And he’s not always consistent against the run.”
So where did Jones actually rank when his on-field performance is compared to other defensive tackles who were apparently more “consistent”?
In 2022, Jones had 15.5 sacks. Pro Football Focus credited him with 77 total pressures and a pass-rushing grade of 92.2, which was second only to only to Dexter Lawrence of the New York Giants — which is itself suspect, considering Jones had 14 more pressures (and 6.5 more sacks) than Lawrence.
What about the elephant in the room: Jones’ run defense? In 2022, PFF gave him a run defense grade of 78.0. That isn’t a world-beating number, but it ranked sixth among qualifying interior defensive linemen. Last season, Jones was one of just three interior linemen to earn a pass-rushing grade of at least 85 and a rush-defense grade of at least 75.
A tweet to make you think
There was a man who would rob banks with a wolf mask on to watch the Kansas City Chiefs..— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) July 13, 2023
Think about the bank tellers Mahomes and Kelce pic.twitter.com/LsN98SgCpC