Earlier this season, the Kansas City Chiefs were desperately searching for production out of their wide receivers. All eyes were on rookie Rashee Rice, but the Chiefs coaching staff was patient with his development, allowing him to learn and grow in the offense.
Their prudence has paid off.
Rice had his national coming-out party last week in what’s sure to be the first of many playoff games in his career. Leading all Chiefs receivers with eight receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown, highlighted by a 39-yard pass from quarterback Patrick Mahomes at the end of the first half to help set up a 32-yard field goal by Harrison Butker to close out the half.
Speaking after practice on Friday, veteran Travis Kelce spoke highly of the rookie, saying that he was proud of how well he played with the bright lights on him.
“He’s come a long way, and I think he’s still ascending as a player in this offense,” said Kelce.
Fans who watch the Chiefs regularly can attest to Rice’s ascension over the season. Rice was only used sparingly over the first half of the year, but he was used more as the playoffs drew closer, as the coaching staff began to ramp up his usage.
His increased role wasn’t just handed to him, though; Kelce said Rice worked hard to get to this point.
“It’s been awesome to see him accept the challenges every single week.”
Rice set the record this season for receiving yards by a rookie playing in Andy Reid’s offense. It’s an achievement that Kelce attributes to Rice’s quest for improvement.
“We tend to through 15... kind of as a rookie, you kind of get lost a little bit. And he’s been real focused,” said Kelce.
The big difference that Kelce’s noticed in Rice is his in-game attention to detail and his ability to feel out defenses.
“[To] be confident in what he’s seeing in the defense, to be able to find voids, I think he’s been he’s been pretty spot on with that and open to learning more about that kind of stuff. And obviously, when you’re open to learning about stuff in this building, you’re going to figure it out.”
Kecle said that he and Rice have developed a good relationship this year, and he’s happy to help his younger counterpart grow.
“I’ve been in coach Reid’s offense for forever. I kind of understand how he wants it ran. How Pat likes some things ran... feeling comfortable in what you’re seeing and kind of the rules and the leverages that the defense has. Sometimes, you just need a little reassurance.”
That’s also what makes Kelce one of the best players in the league. Even if he’s not having his best year from a statistical standpoint, he is a wealth of knowledge that he happily shares with his teammates to help everybody improve.
With a young Mustang like Rice leading the charge and an old war horse like Kelce showing him the way, there is a legitimate shot that the Chiefs have the cavalry to see this thing through to the end and win the whole thing.