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Rashee Rice continues to earn the Chiefs’ trust

The offense clicked around midseason for Kansas City’s rookie wideout.

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

During the Kansas City Chiefs’ first rookie practice of training camp in July, rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice made the local news circuit after vomiting in his first football action at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph.

Six months later, the SMU product has more than put to rest some of the hot takes that surfaced in the midst of losing his breakfast after totaling 938 yards and seven touchdowns on 79 catches in his first season.

The Chiefs’ 26-7 Wild Card Round playoff victory over the Miami Dolphins served as Rice’s coming out party to a national audience. Kansas City would likely not be set to travel to Orchard Park, NY, this weekend to face the Buffalo Bills in the Divisional Round without his dominant night — racking up eight catches for 130 yards and a touchdown in his first playoff game.

Speaking before Thursday’s practice, Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy explained that Rice showed he was ready for a more significant load as the season went on based on what he was showing in games.

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

“It’s on the field in the game is when you see it,” said Nagy. “Specifically, I feel like against the Dolphins — for whatever reason, I don’t know why, I can’t give you an exact reason. I just feel like around that time, you could really feel like, ‘Okay, it’s starting to click with him,’ whether it’s in practice, the tempo, him getting in and out of the huddle.”

When they were on the field together in St. Joseph, Nagy was most concerned about Rice getting on and off the field quickly, knowing his assignment. That seems like a lifetime ago with where the wideout currently stands.

“We were talking about in training camp,” the coach recalled, “getting in and out of the huddle and getting lined up and just trying to run the play the right way. He’s way past that now. Now he gets up to the line of scrimmage, [and] he’s seeing what the defense does, and now he can let his natural ability take over. Probably mid-season, around that time is when I felt like it clicked.”

Reiterating comments throughout the season from Chiefs players and coaches — Nagy lauded Rice’s willingness to learn, both from staff and teammates.

“The beauty is that he wants to be coached,” Nagy stated. “He wants more. I think the other thing to is...these other players around him are helping him out too, that wide receiver group. You see guys in there — the veteran guys — that are really helping him [and] becoming coaches themselves. Which is great, you need that. He knows he’s got a lot of room to grow, but he’s done a great job.”

Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images

Last month, Chiefs wide receivers coach Connor Embree praised Rice for fixing mistakes immediately. Nagy had a similar assessment when recounting Rice’s evolution from the package player deployed in intentional alignments earlier in the season to the polished pass catcher he became down the season’s stretch.

“There were some sprinkled plays where you’ve seen the explosiveness of how he is on a play,” he noted of Rice’s early play. “It might be more so us feeling, ‘Hey, this is clicking for him. There’s not a lot of mental mistakes.’ When we get together on Monday morning and watch tape we’re seeing [that] it’s clean. As a coach, when you have guys who don’t make the same mistake twice, you love that, and that’s what he’s done.”

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