On Saturday night time, the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs opened their 2021 preseason with a 19-16 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Listed below are 5 issues we discovered from the sport:
1. The offensive line rebuild was concerning the working sport, too
Everyone knows that the Chiefs’ offensive line was the primary downside of their Tremendous Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers… proper?
The road had been decimated by a sequence of accidents that began within the season’s early weeks and continued during the AFC Championship. In the end that led to a championship sport wherein not a single participant on the road had been in that place because the season started — and wherein Mahomes was below strain in an astounding 29 of 49 passing performs.
However that’s a top-level interpretation of a scenario surrounding the league’s greatest quarterback. What’s been virtually utterly ignored is the opposite a part of that equation: in 2020, the Chiefs scored solely seven touchdowns on working performs contained in the 10-yard line. That was tied for thirtieth within the league. Whereas hardly anybody talked about it whereas it was underway, the group’s rebuild of the offensive line could have had as a lot to do with enhancing the group’s working sport — significantly in vital short-yardage conditions — because it did with defending Mahomes.
Within the opening play of their first offensive drive, the Chiefs selected handy the ball off to second-year working again Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He ran for 10 yards with out anybody placing a hand on him. On the following sequence, he transformed a thrid-and-2 on the San Francisco 5-yard line — and the Chiefs scored on the following play.
Make no mistake: when the Chiefs rebuilt the road, they have been additionally interested by making their 2020 first-round decide a extra important a part of their offense.
2. Andy Reid won’t be transferring on from a fullback in spite of everything
When Pete Sweeney and I mentioned the Chiefs’ first unofficial depth chart of the season throughout Tuesday’s Arrowhead Pleasure Editors Present podcast, one of many issues we coated was the likelihood that the Chiefs’ head coach won’t hold a fullback on the roster in 2021.
And why not? Upon the retirement of their longtime fullback Anthony Sherman, the Chiefs acquired free agent Michael Burton, who was signing together with his fifth group since becoming a member of the league as a fifth-round decide of the Detroit Lions in 2015. However throughout coaching camp, we’ve heard little about him — and contemplating the group may must hold ten offensive linemen or 4 tight ends, there won’t be a roster spot accessible for a fullback. In 2020, Sherman was on the sphere for simply 6% of the offensive snaps. With all the opposite issues the Chiefs want to resolve, does retaining a fullback make sense?
However our dialogue befell earlier than we noticed what Reid did in Saturday night time’s first two offensive possessions. That 10-yard run by Edwards-Helaire to open the primary drive? Burton was on the sphere as an additional blocker. Burton additionally caught a Chad Henne cross for seven yards within the second possession to take Kansas Metropolis contained in the 49ers’ 10-yard line.
As they determine on their last 2021 roster, the Chiefs may have some powerful math issues to resolve. However we most likely shouldn’t assume that giving up a fullback will likely be a part of their answer.
3. Mike Hughes now has a leg up within the cornerback competitors
When he spoke to reporters every week in the past Friday, Chiefs particular group coordinator Dave Toub mentioned that the group deliberate to make use of Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle as kick returners.
“Yeah, we’re going to start out off with the way in which we ended final yr. I believe each of these guys have improved as a result of we had OTAs, we didn’t have that final yr, and now we’re having camp and so they’ve actually developed on a few of their weaknesses. They’re getting higher seeing the ball and catching it coming ahead, and I believe each of them are going to take a superb step ahead.”
And when the team’s unofficial depth chart got here out a number of days later, Hardman was listed as each the punt returner and kickoff returner.
However on Saturday, neither of them returned kicks. As a substitute, Toub used a wide range of gamers. The one who stood out was cornerback Mike Hughes, who had a 13-yard punt return — after which made a gutsy choice to return a kickoff from eight yards deep in the long run zone. He made it to the 32-yard line.
That is precisely what Toub likes to see: returners who will take a threat — and make it repay. A lot has been made throughout coaching camp concerning the battle between Hughes and Deandre Baker — each former first-round picks who didn’t work out with their earlier groups — to seize a spot because the cornerback throughout from Charvarius Ward in nickel subpackages.
But when Hughes can convey abilities as a returner to the calculation, he stands a greater probability to make the group. Since Hardman will most likely see a considerably bigger position within the offense, Toub will doubtless need to work out a solution to lower the large receiver’s position as a returner. Hughes could possibly be the man to do exactly that.
4. The depth within the trenches is wanting good
All the eye has been on the Chiefs’ starters on each the offensive and defensive traces in the course of the offseason. After this sport, many phrases will likely be written about them.
However what struck me was what occurred after the starters sat down within the second quarter. On each offense and protection, the backup linemen acquitted themselves nicely. All people will likely be speaking about Chris Jones’ sack (from the inside, not from the sting) within the 49ers’ second offensive sequence. However the Chiefs had 4 extra sacks within the sport — cut up between Omari Cobb, Tershawn Wharton and Tim Ward. All of them — besides Ward’s second sack to clinch the sport — got here in opposition to 49ers backup quarterback Trey Lance. In the meantime, Chiefs backup Chad Henne was solely sacked as soon as.
It’s definitely a small pattern measurement — and it’s all the time dicey to make judgments primarily based on backups taking part in backups. However it’s nonetheless an encouraging signal — hopefully simply the primary of many — that if the Chiefs ought to have a nasty string of accidents amongst their linemen in 2021, they’ll be capable of deal with it.
5. The Chiefs could have discovered the proper components for a second tight finish
Over time, the Chiefs have tried many issues to seek out their subsequent Tony Gonzalez — and later, their subsequent Travis Kelce. Aside from finding Kelce, nothing has actually labored.
Certainly one of their extra distinctive makes an attempt was to transform a former basketball participant to a good finish. Whereas Demetrius Harris didn’t give the group the outcomes they needed, he’s nonetheless been the most efficient participant they’ve had behind their most up-to-date famous person tight finish.
Once more… it’s difficult to attract too many conclusions from a preseason sport. However the way in which Jody Fortson performed on Saturday — significantly on the finish of the sport — means that the Chiefs could have discovered a solution to get a second tight finish to have behind Kelce: hold a large receiver stashed on the observe squad for a few seasons — after which have him add 20 kilos of muscle within the offseason.
Fortson’s stat line from the sport won’t appear all that spectacular — three catches on 5 targets for 32 yards — however his one-handed reception and 15-yard scamper in the course of the Chiefs’ last drive certain seemed quite a bit like classic Kelce. And one of the vital important methods it seemed just like the All-Professional tight finish was that it occurred when the Chiefs have been in a two-minute drive, making an attempt to regain the lead and put the sport away.
NFL coaches wish to see their receivers make performs. However they love to see these receivers make performs after they matter most. That’s all the time been certainly one of Kelce’s biggest abilities — and on Saturday night time, Fortson confirmed he may do it, too.