By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFL Writer
Andy Reid waved a dismissive hand when asked about the criticism directed at Patrick Mahomes by the old Chiefs recipient Tyreek Hillwho claimed he didn’t have enough ball last season.
Yes, that’s the same Hill who finished with a career-high 111 receptions for 1,239 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in his final season in Kansas City.
“I love Tyreek,” Reid said. “He’s a good boy. We think the world of him.”
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Mahomes offered more deflection when asked about Hill’s claims that his new Miami quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, is more accurate than the one who helped him win a Super Bowl ring.
“I’m sure it had something to do with trying to give his podcast some stuff and keep it rolling,” Mahomes joked. “Certainly, I still love Tyreek. He’s a one-of-a-kind player.”
Reid and Mahomes aren’t dwelling on the past because Hill is gone, and they must spend their time this offseason recreating what was one of the NFL’s most explosive and dynamic offenses without the services of one. of their best playmakers.
What Mahomes can rely on is Reid’s history as a leader of some of the league’s best offenses. But without Hill, the Chiefs will have to do otherwise.
“In Coach Reid’s offense it takes the whole team,” Mahomes said. “This offense was rolling before I got here. This offense was rolling when I was a young Cowboys fan watching the Eagles beat the Cowboys. So it’s an offense that involves more than one player, and that bothers me. includes.”
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Here are three ways the Chiefs can keep their offense going in the post-Hill era.
1. Don’t get bored with short completions.
First of all, let’s not twist it. The Chiefs finished third in total offense (396.8 yards per game) and fourth in points per game (28) last season. Mahomes & Co. moved the ball.
However, opposing defenses were more successful in slowing them down, especially the Cincinnati Bengals in the second half of their 27-24 overtime win in the AFC Championship game.
These teams have taken a page from Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles’ defensive playbook. During his team’s Super Bowl victory over the Chiefs two years ago, Bowles used two high-security looks to keep Kansas City’s electric point guards from burrowing and creating explosive plays.
The Chiefs finished 11th in the NFL with 58 passing plays for 20+ yards in 2021. It was the first time since 2017, when Alex Smith was the starting quarterback, that the Chiefs did not finish in the top 10 in the league in this category. .
According to Next Gen Stats, the Chiefs saw two high-security looks a league high 66.2% of the time last season. In the AFC title game, that number jumped to 69% as Kansas City failed to hold onto a 21-3 halftime lead against Cincinnati.
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“That second half that I played, I really didn’t play good football at all,” Mahomes said. “It’s probably the worst playoff football I’ve probably played in the second half of this game. I just try to use it as a learning thing, that every time I fight or the “Team fights, just finds a way to get positive plays. Because when you have a lead like that, you don’t want to lose that lead.”
Mahomes went on to say he needed to be better at taking what the defense gave him. The adjustment for the Chiefs this offseason was to add more big-body receivers such as JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling through free agency — as well as undrafted rookie Justyn Ross from Clemson — for winning in the middle of the field, shifting the emphasis to the refined road runners who create separation.
“I like the guys we brought in,” Reid told reporters last week, “they have a sense of space. I’m still a little worried about that. They’ve done a good job with that. “This side passes everything. We don’t run the ball. So that gives you a good idea in the passing game of what the guys are capable of, and I liked that. We just need more reps.
To help develop better chemistry, Mahomes invited his new set of passers to Texas before the start of the team’s offseason program and plans to do the same before training camp begins this summer.
“We’ll have guys there,” Mahomes told reporters last week. “Luckily enough, some of these guys are already living in Texas. And we’re going to be training, pitching. You don’t want to do too much, obviously, going to training camp. But we’re trying to keep everybody fresh and working. “
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2. Run the football.
Reid’s offense has never been known for a run-first approach. However, he has had talented runners in the past who have created a balance, including LeSean McCoy, Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook and Kareem Hunt.
With defenses keen to give up big plays in the passing game, the Chiefs should use that to their advantage and shift more to the running game.
Last season, the Chiefs averaged 4.54 yards per carry, good for seventh place in the NFL. However, Kansas City only rushed for 116 yards per game, 16th in the league. Additionally, the Chiefs’ 431 carries finished 20th in the NFL last season.
Mahomes is one of the best action-playing passers in the game. He finished 118 for 174 (67.8%) on game throws, totaling 1,174 passing yards, with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions on the season latest, according to Next Gen Stats. Mahomes had a 109.7 passer rating on play passes.
Another way the Chiefs are creating more chunky plays is to make the football work more, creating deep shots for the team’s biggest receivers in action play.
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To that end, Reid has beefed up his running room this year, signing Ronald Jones II in free agency, bringing back Jerick McKinnon and selecting Rutgers product Isaih Pacheco in the seventh round of the draft. They join starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Derrick Gore in what should be a packed competition in training camp.
“You can’t have enough running backs,” Reid told reporters. “Particularly experienced. … I think [Chiefs GM] Brett [Veach] did a good job of just bringing competition. And that will help us become a better football team.”
3. Distribute wealth.
Tight end Travis Kelce and Hill accounted for nearly 50% of Kansas City’s receptions last season and have received the bulk of the Chiefs’ goals since 2016.
That will change with Hill gone. Kelce remains one of the best tight ends in the NFL and will continue to be a mainstay on offense. Mecole Hardman, who has similar skills to Hill, should see an increase in targets, along with new receivers Smith-Shuster and Valdes-Scantling.
For Reid, it should be a return to a more traditional West Coast offense in terms of splitting the ball between different passers and not allowing defenses to focus on just two dominants.
“What you’re going to see from this offense this year is it’s going to be everyone,” Mahomes told reporters last month. “It’s not going to be just one guy. Obviously Travis is still going to get a lot of finishing and a lot of yards. And I think the whole receiving room is going to have some big plays. And that can be something that we can use to our advantage.”
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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