There are many elements and reasons to watch the Kansas City Chiefs in their Week 11 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Perhaps the biggest thing in the Super Bowl LVII rematch is the deployment of the club's wide receiver group.
Hands down the most pressing cause for concern with the 2023-24 version of Andy Reid's team is the wideout room. Letting JuJu Smith-Schuster walk and replacing him with a by-committee approach hasn't exactly panned out. Mecole Hardman was allowed to sign elsewhere in free agency, only to be traded for in-season. Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney haven't taken steps forward in their second years in the system. The result is a consistently inconsistent collection of non-Travis Kelce pass catchers.
Coming out of a bye week and entering a pivotal matchup versus perhaps the best team in the NFL sounds like a perfect time to be intentional. Intentional in when receivers are put on the field, intentional in which receivers are put on the field and intentional in how they're utilized in the game. Kansas City may have left a breadcrumb or two along its trail over the past few weeks.
In Week 9's win over the Miami Dolphins in Germany, Rice led all Chiefs receivers in snaps. When Kansas City went into 13-personnel (one running back, three tight ends and one wide receiver on the field), he was by far the biggest snap-getter per Jefe's Handiwork. Moore, who saw a season-low number of snaps by a significant margin, got three-quarters of his reps in three-receiver sets. Reid and company hinted at Rice being their top wideout and Moore dropping down the ladder heading into the bye. There's also another dynamic to monitor, and it doesn't involve Justin Watson or Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Toney has played in every game this season, seeing his snaps increase from 17 to 25 to 30 in Weeks 4-6. Once Hardman was acquired prior to Week 7, though, those totals dropped from 13 to 12 to 7. In his first three outings back with the Chiefs, Hardman's totals are 11, 22 and 13. It could be a coincidence, but there's an argument to be made that some sort of correlation exists. Will the coaching staff prove otherwise post-bye? Reid confirmed some Toney load management last week. Maybe it's for this exact time.
All season long, the Chiefs have pushed the narrative of having so many wide receivers at their disposal. During the offseason and into training camp, it was viewed as a potential strength and something that would keep defenses honest. Early in the campaign, it was an excuse for things not clicking yet. The problem is that the same story is being used now, pretty late into the season. Wide receivers coach Connor Embree was asked about the chemistry between quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his weapons this week, echoing that sentiment.
"I think a lot of it, it just takes time," Embree said. "Like I said, we've got seven [or] eight receivers. Throughout the season we're just, little by little, we're getting better chemistry, more in touch with each other and kind of understanding when we get this look, what Pat's thinking [and] what the wideouts are thinking. It was a big group coming in this offseason — a bunch of new faces. Now that we're kind of settling in and figuring out who can do what, it's that. That's it."
In years past, the Chiefs' defense would start very slow before putting the pieces together down the stretch. Those units didn't have the genius of Reid nor the talent of Mahomes or Kelce. After Week 6, this writer may or may not have penned a piece outlining why the offense earned at least the same bit of patience displayed multiple times prior for the other side of the ball. It's time for Kansas City to hold up its end of the bargain, though. If the team doesn't unleash a defined wide receiver plan similar to a playoff environment, there may not be much optimism left for potential improvement at the position.