The Chiefs’ offense got off to a slow start Monday night against the Las Vegas Raiders, but a consistent connection formed between Patrick Mahomes and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. As the night went on the connection grew stronger, and it displayed how trust is formed in the NFL.
Football is both a physical and mental game. This is evident at any level of the sport that you can find but in the NFL trust is the very foundation that successful teams are founded on, and what the poor teams lack. Unlike high school or college, most of these players will only spend a season together before the winds of free agency take them someplace new for the next year.
Most of these players don’t have years of chemistry with one another that you see in the high school and college ranks, and the NFL is not patient enough to allow most of them to develop a years-long bond that is a privilege only the best of the best are fortunate to experience. Most players just have to blindly buy into what their team is selling and hope that it works out. On teams with poor cultures, this can lead to a lack of communication and trust in coaches as well as teammates. This is not the catalyst for success in the NFL.
The teams that are able to get their players to buy in are oftentimes the most successful, and this is the true base of most of the best cultures in the NFL. This is evident in Andy Reid’s locker room and the Chiefs organization as a whole, all the way from Patrick Mahomes and down the line.
After they hype of the Tyreek Hill trade subsided and the Chiefs finalized free agency deals, it took no time at all till Mahomes and Marquez Valdes-Scantling were training together in Texas. The focus was simple but crucial; Learn the offense, and gain chemistry. We saw this off-season work lead to a nice-looking minicamp from Valdez-Scantling, but a quiet training camp and quiet pre-season left some skepticism about whether or not this pairing would work out.
After the Chiefs’ offense was stifled in the first quarter on Monday night, Patrick Mahomes had no choice but to throw to Valdez-Scantling, and it was clear that the extra work had paid off.
The first four years of Valdez-Scantling’s career were spent in Green Bay where he was relegated to being just a deep threat due to his blazing speed. His role in Green Bay never really grew, and due to some drop issues early on in his career were rumored to have fractured the trust of his then-quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Packers only looked to use Valdez-Scantling deep down the field, but given his size of 6’4″, he does have some untapped potential as a possession receiver due to his large catch radius and large frame.
The Packers opted to continue to feed Devante Adams at all costs, and in 2021 Valdez-Scantling saw just 55 targets the entire year, catching 26 passes. This season he is already at 31 targets and 19 catches, and most of his receptions have come underneath the defense, much like the slant below.
Finishing with six receptions for 90 yards, Valdez-Scantling was able to be the go-to target between the redone for Mahomes. We saw him challenge Valdez-Scantling to go up and come down with a jump ball, test him to create separation underneath, and then use some of his magic pocket presence to help Valdez-Scantling pick up a solid chunk of yards on the run. They still have not yet found a connection on the deep ball, but that will come in time as they continue to develop chemistry.
Quickly pacing for a career year, and emerging as yet another player that Patrick Mahomes will throw the ball at in big games, teams will now have to account for Valdez-Scantling more often than not. With him and JuJu Smith-Schuster becoming legitimate options for Mahomes to go to, it makes the job of defenses even harder. The Raiders played man nearly all game and were able to take away Kelce outside of the red zone, and Smith-Schuster for most of the night. All that did was give MVS favorable one-on-one matchups as the Chiefs fought back from down 17 points to come back and beat the Raiders.
As good a game as he was able to play, Valdez-Scantling would more than likely still like to have the one ball that he dropped in the fourth quarterback. It would have given him a chance to score a touchdown and was the difference between a good day, and a great day. The Chiefs’ offense is rolling right now and Patrick Mahomes is looking to take charge as the MVP front-runner.
Unlike other quarterbacks in the league, he is the kind of leader that instills confidence in his teammates, much like Andy Reid instills confidence in him to play the most entertaining brand of football in the NFL. Valdez-Scantling is doing everything the right way in Kansas City so far into his tenure with the Chiefs, and if he continues to develop and elevate his game he is going to find himself on the end of some more electrifying Mahomes passes, and other big games.
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