After an up-and-down start to his rookie season, Skyy Moore was able to rise to the occasion when his number was called. He was able to showcase why he was so highly touted out of Western Michigan and why the Chiefs might have their WR1 of the future.
The development of the Chiefs rookies will define the 2022 season, in particular the players on the offensive side of the ball. While the defensive rookies have shined bright, this team will always win with the lethal combination of Mahomes and Kelce, meaning that the offensive rookies must elevate even higher. I will talk about the emergence of rookie running back Isiah Pacheco, but for the first time all season, we saw Skyy Moore become a viable target for Patrick Mahomes and a player he trusted late in the game.
The Chiefs tried to turn Moore into a punt returner early on but after some crucial misplays and one key muffed punt vs Indianapolis, he was relieved of duties for the most part outside of a few spot returns. With just seven receptions through his first ten career games, he had been buried by the Chief’s depth at wide receiver, and that combined with the early struggles might have taken a huge toll on his confidence.
Every player wants to play, but for the first time all season, the Chiefs NEEDED him to play. With Mecole Hardman on the IR, and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the concussion protocol the Chiefs let Moore loose, and he delivered a performance that displayed to all of the Chiefs Kingdom who he is.
Coming into the NFL with the reputation of being a “man coverage beater”, Moore displayed the ability to run a wide variety of routes at Western Michigan, mostly slants, in cuts, crossing patterns, or any route that involves planting his foot and exploding in another direction. This elite stop-and-start ability and quick transitions had many fans excited to see him play. We had glimpses, but now the full picture is coming together.
This was especially so when, late in the game, Moore matched up one-on-one with the Chargers’ star safety Derwin James. Some pre-snap movement took Moore over to the slot with James following. This tips the defense, showing that they are in man coverage. The entire inside ends up being clear for Moore to operate, with Travis Kelce staying in to help chip block with a late release, and two high safeties playing deep to prevent a deep shot. Moore shook Jame out of his shoes, and his burst into his route showed the elite short-area movement that had Chiefs fans raving in the preseason.
Seeing the involvement and trust from Patrick Mahomes was awesome, but seeing the Chiefs utilize him on key downs late in the game showed that despite him being buried on the depth chart early on the team still considers him an integral part of their team moving forward.
The improvisation skills of Mahomes were on point all night, but this was the first time that we had seen Moore involved on the receiving end of the play. His awareness on the fly to find the open space where Mahomes wanted him to go was impressive, but also the catch. With the largest hands of any wideout in the 2022 NFL Draft, Moore suction cupped the ball before it was able to hit the ground and secured it as defenders closed in.
The Chargers have built their entire defensive scheme revolving around beating Kansas City and playing two deep safeties to stop deep balls down the field. The Chiefs know this, and while Moore isn’t a deep ball threat yet, his skill set is the perfect counter to the coverages. Late the defense was so worried about being beaten on one play they were giving a lot of cushion to the Chiefs wideouts. Moore created enough separation and picked up a big chunk of yards on just a simple deep hitch route.
Five receptions for 63 yards is a modest day of work for almost any wideout in the NFL, but given his previous volume and the situations in which he was targeted, it seems that things are trending upward for Skyy Moore.
What will be interesting to see is how often Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy call his number in the coming weeks, with the anticipation of JuJu Smith-Schuster being back soon, and eventually Hardman off the IR. The addition of Kadarius Toney makes this situation interesting, especially as the playoffs roll around. If there is one thing that the Chiefs have proven this year, it’s that more weapons for Patrick Mahomes make everything better.