Analysis Necessary Roughness

Necessary Roughness: The Chiefs debut felt more like a preseason game; This week may be the same

The Chiefs may be keeping things pretty close to the vest until their week three matchup against the Ravens.

With week one in the books for the Kansas City Chiefs and the rest of the league, it became pretty clear that the Chiefs were not opening up the entire playbook against the Texans. They didn’t have to, either. Patrick Mahomes put up modest numbers by his standards, with 211 yards through the air and three touchdowns. He probably should’ve had fewer touchdowns since two of them were inside the five and the first one was from the six. The Chiefs did struggle to punch the ball in on the ground from inside the five.

That was the only thing they couldn’t do on the ground though. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was an absolute beast in his NFL debut. He finished the night with 25 carries, 138 yards, and one touchdown.

That is a lot of carries for a running back in an Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes led offense. Last season, starting running back, Damien Williams averaged 11.21 rush attempts per game while Patrick Mahomes averaged 8.28 passing yards per attempt. On Thursday, Mahomes only threw for 6.59 yards per attempt while Edwards-Helaire had 25 carries. It was definitely a little bit of a role reversal in the season opener, which some people are attesting to the fact that the Texans were forcing the offense to play that way. I think, however, it was more of what Andy Reid was giving Mahomes: a vanilla playbook.

Think about what you’ve heard from analysts about Clyde Edwards-Helaire since the Chiefs drafted him. They all said that he would be a new toy for Andy Reid in the passing game. In fact, until Damien Williams opted out of the 2020 season, that was pretty much the only expectation for Edwards-Helaire. He wasn’t going to be the feature back. However, against the Texans, the LSU rookie was not only the feature back on the ground, but he also wasn’t used once in the passing game. There were no crazy play designs to get him along in space, there was just him getting the hand-off and running with it.

There was nothing real flashy on the defensive side of the ball, either, aside from L’Jarius Snead getting his first NFL interception. The Chiefs drafted linebacker Willie Gay Jr. back in April with the expectation for him to step in and be an immediate impact. However, in week one we saw more of Ben Niemann than we did with the rookie. In fact, Gay Jr. didn’t see a defensive snap all game. I get that he is a rookie and that there was no preseason, but this kid has been labeled as the second coming of Derrick Johnson. I wouldn’t have expected him to get beat out by Niemann, especially after watching Niemann miss a few tackles in the game. Snead is a rookie and played most of the game. Defensive End Mike Danna played almost 50% of the snaps on defense. Both of these guys were drafted after Gay Jr. This is just speculation, but maybe Andy and Steve Spagnuolo know what they have with Gay Jr. and they don’t want anyone else to see it until it matters.

It may be the same story this week as well. The Chiefs head to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers. The Chargers are coming off a slight win over the lowly Cincinnati Bengals. L.A. is just buying time with quarterback Tyrod Taylor until it is time to hand the keys over to rookie Justin Herbert. Their offense will have a tough time hanging with the Chiefs, even if Kansas City plays it safe as they did against Houston. I believe they will, too.

The real Kansas City Chiefs may not show up until the following week against the Baltimore Ravens. This may be the first time we see how the reigning Super Bowl champs got even better in the offseason. And if that is the case, Baltimore and the rest of the NFL are in for a rude awakening.

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