lunes, 19 de junio de 2017


"I've got a ton of trust in the young guys that they'll step up and do a good job for us. We've got enough talent here to do whatever we need to do. I don't worry about that". These statements are from Andy Reid just after the team cut his star wide receiver signed to a big-money deal two years ago. In 2015, Jeremy Maclin came to the franchise with the intention of being the receiver that gave the team a quality jump to a very predictable offense that displayed notorious deficiencies in the passing game. Kansas City gave Maclin top wide receiver money after his great 2014 in the Eagles. The Chiefs signed him a five-year contract and $55 million with $22.5 guaranteed. 

In his first year, Maclin catched 87 receptions for 1088 yards and 8 touchdowns. A good season, although not a the level of excellence that he got under Chip Kelly's offense. Even so, he was the best receiver on the team and gave a very reliable target to Alex Smith. In addition, his injury in the wildcard game against the Texans made him impossible to play against the Patriots in the Divisional Round, something that diminished clearly Andy Reid's offense that day...

By 2016, Maclin´s role was expected to rise, but physical problems and the appearance of Tyreek Hill limited his receptions, and his statistics dropped sharply. In 12 regular season games he got 44 receptions for 536 yards and only 2 touchdowns. Obviously, any team expects much more from their highest paid receiver, but this is not reason enough to cut him, more so if you pay attention to what is left on the roster.

We are going to analyze how the Chiefs can compensate the loss of Maclin, if it can hurt them, or not, and the player that will have to step up after his departure.


Jeremy Maclin was the undisputed number one wide receiver on that offense, so initially his replacement would have to come out between Chris Conley, Tyreek Hill or Albert Wilson. I don't think so. I clearly see a man to be the "go to guy" of this offense. Travis Kelce is the man that Andy Reid grabs to be the backbone of the offense. Undoubtedly, the tight end is the most dangerous player they have right now.

Kelce is a terrible mismatch for rival defenders. In the previous video, we can see how he plays againts the linebacker in that man to man defense. He plays a very quick cut and takes advantage of the space created by the wide receiver to gain yards after catch. He's the playmaker the Chiefs have, along with Hill, to attack by the air. The tight end can come out from any spot in the offense. Attached to the offensive line, within the numbers or glued to the boundary. His physique, and speed in each cut, allows him to gain separation either against linebackers or against defensive backs. He's a constant nightmare for defenses. Last year, he was the most targeted player by his quarterback (85 receptions for 1125 yards and 4 touchdowns), but beyond his stats, Kelce generates space for his teammates as he draws two and up to three defenders. In the following video, we can see his speed, his excellent route-running and his fantastic hands against cornerback in man to man defense. If the defense is man-to-man. If he stays healthy, the tight end will once again become the cornerstone of the whole offensive system. 


Maclin was the man who could play better in the deep passing game. His location of the ball, his hands and his route running made him very dangerous down the field. However, the Chiefs, and Alex Smith, are not much threat since they don´t put the ball too many times in the air for long distance plays. The inconsistency of Smith in the deep throws is something that has harmed Maclin's perfonmance. The next video shows us how good Maclin is in the deep passing game.

The star appearance of the former West Alabama graduate was the most positive feature in an offense that seemed very limited again in 2016. His versatility was used wonderfully by his coach, which placed him in different spots giving them a constant threat in any type of situation, whether in running or passing game. He was located 52% of his snaps out wide, 39% in the slot and 8% starting from the backfield. His speed is exceptional, electric and dominant. We saw him come out the backfield (even playing wildcats), return punts / kicks or move around the field to look for medium or deep routes, and this is where I will elaborate.
Now, after Maclin's release, Kansas City still has Tyreek Hill to stretch the defense vertically and leave the defenses clear to take advantage of Kelce, or another teammate, on underneath routes. The small receiver is very difficult to defend. If you play in man to man, pressing with the jam, it's very likely that his quick feet get the release to win separation. On the contrary, if you give him space in off-man, his vertical release eats (literally) that cushion before the cornerback has time to react and follow his route. Andy Reid has found his DeSean Jackson and wants to use it in the same way.

In my opinion, Tyreek Hill can not be the WR1. All that versatility I spoke to you may be detrimental to him. I will explain it. Hill, besides being a weapon on the offense, also participates on special teams as a returner, being, at the moment, one of the most dangerous of all in the NFL. This, in a player who is physically small, and somewhat fragile, can end up being a problem. Too many hits, too much time on the field and too much risk for Reid to be left without such a valuable weapon and that supposes so much to him. A WR1 must play all possible snaps when his team has the ball, but overloading Hill can be counterproductive. Last year, still being one of his best players, Andy Reid already took care of him giving him more rest than the Chiefs demanded. Of the 991 snaps played by Kansas City, Hill participated in 401, 40% of the total. No doubt, in 2017 he will have more snaps, but not those that a WR1 should have. Kelce and Hill are the two playmakers needed to make Reid's West Coast Offense not as predictable. They are the ones who create mismatches and those who can give the quality leap into the receivers' crop. They are in charge of making the passing game dangerous.


Reid's WCO allows his players to be open in the route scheme created by the coach. This scheme looks for the weaknesses of the defensive coverage without needing a great one on one by his wide receivers. All those bunch formations to look for routes in traffic, the screens or mixture of concepts for short and fast routes, allows to operate well to wide receivers as possession's receivers. Of course, without the variations given by the playmakers, this scheme would be somewhat lame. Maclin's natural replacement, in this type of game, has to be Chris Conley. Former Georgia Bulldog, drafted in the third round of 2015, has been taking more snaps over the last two years, ending 2016 with 44 receptions for 530 yards, but with no touchdowns on his box-score (he has only one touchdown and he got it in his rookie year). Conley plays very well the comeback route when he's defended in off-man. Good cuts, ball location and, above all, his turn to get some extra yards after the reception, make him be a good target for the quarterback in first or second down.

Conley has good speed, so he will be deployed, along with Hill, to go deep. It was customary, in 2016, to see him play fade routes outside the numbers looking for deep throws. He has to improve his release versus press, and he must refine his speed cuts a little more to look for doubles moves. I'm sure Andy Reid has a lot of confidence in him and in the progression he's been making since joining the team, although Alex Smith targeted him for only 12'9% of the routes he ran. The rest of the wide receivers that have options to make the final roster will come from the list of Abert Wilson, De'Anthony Thomas, Demarcus Robinson, Seantavius ​​Jones and rookie Jehu Chesson. Wilson is a good slot receiver. He's a good route runner in underneath zones to gain separation and give a clear target to his quarterback. Demarcus Robinson play has gained attention in the off-season. The staff is delighted with the second-year player after playing only six snaps with the offensive team in 2016. He played every game of last year, but did so in special teams like gunner and, right now, is the top favorite to occupy the spot that Jeremy Maclin left free on the roster. Thomas's case is different. His speed makes it dangerous in trick plays or in different situations such as screens, but his protagonism is falling as time passes.

Finally, and although he is not a wide receiver, I want to name a player who creates me some interest, tight end Demetrius Harris. I have noticed, in the games that I've analyzed, how the Chiefs were introducing this boy as the year progressed. Reid moved Kelce all over the field while using Harris in-line to block, playing with 12 personnel many times. Harris entered the passing game step by step, and showed a very interesting progression in his route running. If Reid manages to implement the passing game with two tight ends formations, the offense will have more facility to move the chains. Keep an eye on him.


I'm not the smartest guy in the class if I tell you that you can not attack by air without a decent ground game. Unless you have Aaron Rodgers commanding the offense, that can not be done. And the 2016 Chiefs did not have a established running game. Spencer Ware is their starting running back, but injuries unable him to reach his full potential. I really like this guy and I think the tandem he can make with Kareem Hunt will give another dimension to the Chiefs' running game. Obviously, the offensive line has to accompany his runners. Not that they were bad or played poorly, but there were situations in which you saw them issues. We could see how physically and power wise lacked in their game. This was more noticeable when the offense was in short yardage plays. The push at the point of attack was not the right one, and it was common to see rival defensive lines dominating the trenches. In 2016 there was a lot of action from the backfield and that hid the little consistency that had the ground game. His performance should be much higher in 2017 if they want to make their passing game more reliable.

In addition to this, and after Maclin's cut, it will also be important the running back's passing game. Ware already showed that he can adapt to almost any route coming out of the backfield, and that he can also move in motion to look for the mismatch against linebackers.

Kareem Hunt has the right skills to shine in this offense. That offensive line can benefit from the footwork and explosiveness that characterize the rookie. But, also, he has good hands to receive some throws. In his college days at Toledo, we have been able to see him playing checkdowns and routes to the flat from the backfield, The RB screens that so much, and so well, play the Chiefs, adapt very well to Hunt's virtues. In the open field, he is extremely dangerous given his speed and elusiveness. Undoubtedly, the performance of these two runners is vital to alleviate Maclin's loss and to give consistency to the offense. Andy Reid must recover the running game to be able to develop the passing game.

If you ask me if the Chiefs are better without Maclin than with him, my answer is no. If you ask me if they are worse, I could not tell you that either. Maclin was clearly underutilized in a system that did not suit him. These Chiefs have a very recognizable trademark, which characterizes them over all other teams. They are a compact squad and they know very well how they play, trust that and die with their ideas. Jeremy Maclin has proved to be an excellent receiver, but he stays somewhat short as WR1 in a team that doesn't risk in the situations that can best suit him or in a system where it is not extremely necessary that type of wide receiver. This, on the other hand, is contradictory with Patrick Mahomes' pick at the most recent draft. The former Texas Tech quarterback was chosen to flip the offense and be more aggressive in the deep game, so the Maclin's loss is not much understood in this regard. However, the Chiefs' stars are fairly well defined in the names of Kelce and Hill and, along with that group of work-man like receivers, make a neat offensive team and very versatile if those pieces stay healthy.

In short, I have the feeling that the Chiefs decided to shed their best wide receiver, but not their essence. That way they have managed to be a respected and, to some extent, fearsome team, and that is what will make them again among the candidates to play in the post season. 

Rubén Ibeas @rubenibg