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If you weren’t paying attention to the Kansas City Chiefs this off-season, they said goodbye to Tyrann Mathieu, Charvarius Ward, and a group of veteran offensive players.
2021 ended in disappointment as the Kansas City Chiefs blew a 21-3 lead in the AFC Championship game to the Cincinnati Bengals.
In 2021, Mahomes and the offense had to completely change their game-plan, it didn’t click like it should have in the biggest moments, at least in the latter half of that specific AFC Championship game.
The Road to the Super Bowl…
Patrick Mahomes enters the 2022 season looking for redemption, especially after a rough second half in the AFC Championship game that included multiple bad sacks, miscommunications, three points, and a game ending interception. Gone were the deep passes, in was a short passing offense.
The 2022 offseason ended up becoming a reset for the team as the Chiefs traded away star Wide Receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, Tyreek Hill had the most receptions in his career, meanwhile Hill averaged the least YPC in 2021.
The Chiefs used the 2022 offseason to hit reset on their roster by adding youth and athleticism, Justin Reid, Trent McDuffie, and Bryan Cook were added to reinvigorate the secondary, while on the opposite side of the ball JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Skyy Moore make up the new set of pass catchers for Patrick Mahomes.
The additions of JuJu and MVS provide the Chiefs with more size and production than receivers, such as Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson. Tight End Jody Fortson returns from injury as potential red zone option for the Chiefs.
The biggest change on offense may be in the Running Back room. The additions of Isiah Pacheco and Ronald Jones, along with the return of Jerrick McKinnon, places Clyde Edwards-Helaire under a spotlight this season.
The Chiefs have viable secondary options on every down that they didn’t have last year. Pacheco took preseason snaps with the first team. Pacheco, a 7th round pick out of Rutgers, ran a 4.37 in his 40 yard dash. Pacheco seems to have earned the confidence of the Chiefs offensive and special teams coaches. Isiah Pacheco is a name to watch as a strong start could lead to extended playing time for the rookie RB. Jerrick McKinnon looks to be third down RB, while Jones adds veteran experience and can play early downs.
McKinnon has struggled with injuries, but his playoff run showed that he could be viable, if healthy. Ronald Jones seemed to have a rough preseason, but has shown the ability to be durable. Jones has been a capable, early down RB the last few years, which is important when considering the durability concerns of McKinnon and CEH. CEH needs a productive and healthy season to keep his starting position. It’s not hyperbole to say that injuries and a lack of production could lead to this being the last season of CEH in KC.
Kansas City returns all four of their Tight Ends from 2021, with future Hall of Famer, Travis Kelce returning as the definitive number one option of Patrick Mahomes.
Jody Fortson returns from an achilles injury that ended his 2021 season. Mahomes showed confidence in Fortson as a red zone target as the TE caught two TDs against Washington in the 2nd preseason game. Noah Gray enters his 2nd year with the team, as he seemed to gain the confidence of the coaching staff, towards the end of the 2021. The Chiefs favorite blocking TE, Blake Bell, enters the season on Injured Reserve, but could return at some point in 2022. Bell is recovering from hip surgery, following an injury in the preseason.
Now, we reach the offensive line, the best starting unit on the team, other than QB. The offensive line returns all five starters, from the end of the season. Kansas City has the best in iterior of any offensive line with Trey Smith, Joe Thuney, and Creed Humphrey. Orlando Brown Jr. looks to be in great shape and could be set up for big payday, with a strong 2022.
Andrew Wylie is th biggest question mark at Right Tackle, but showed that he was capable, towards the end of 2021. Lucas Niang starts the season PUP (physically unable to perform), which means he’ll miss at least the first 4 weeks of the season. Niang is recovering from a late 2021 knee injury. A secondary problem for the offensive line could be their depth.
Nick Allegretti looks to be the only viable backup, at least to start the 2022 season. Geron Christian is most likely the next veteran option, who improved towards the end of preseason. The other two backups are Prince Tega Wanogho, who has had injury concerns, and rookie 5th round pick Darian Kinnard, who had struggles in the preseason.
Patrick Mahomes is tasked with leading a new groups of players deep into the season. The Kansas City Chiefs offense will look different in 2022, but the changes they made were a necessity. The Chiefs had two elite playmakers with Kelce and Hill, but the other players were hit or miss. The Chiefs will have a less dangerous set of weapons, but could be exponentially more dynamic. Mahomes and an OL headed into its 2nd year together, will lead to a more efficient and better offense for 2022.
The key to the offense is going to be patience. Most teams will probably play the Chiefs the same, despite not having Tyreek Hill. This will require the Chiefs to be efficient early in the season. If KC can be efficient, the big passing plays will come back because the Chiefs receiving core is more dynamic as a unit, than in had been in previous years.
Kansas City enters 2022 with a completely revamped secondary. The Chiefs signed Justin Reid to replace the departing Tyrann Mathieu.
Brett Veach shocked everyone by trading up and drafting CB Trent McDuffie of Washington. McDuffie looks to be day one contributor as the third CB, behind L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton. Bryan Cook was drafted in the 2nd round to replace Dan Sorenson and most likely Juan Thornhill in 2023.
Joshua Williams is an impressive 4th round CB from Fayetteville State. Williams had a strong camp, but struggled a bit, in the Chiefs final preseason game. Williams looks to be the next man up, if any injury to a CB were to occur.
The next option is Jaylen Watson, a rookie CB from Washington State. Watson had a strong preseason and may have even surpassed Joshua Williams, if one were to watch the Chiefs preseason finale. Watson may have been a bubble player, but quickly showed enough that the Chiefs were willing to cut Deandre Baker and Lonnie Johnson, during the first cuts of preseason.
The Linebackers are one of the most improved groups on the team. Nick Bolton and Willy Gay add speed and athleticism that the Chiefs have been missing, since prime Derrick Johnson. Bolton and Gay are line for more snaps, which should result in a more productive group.
Kansas City drafted Leo Chenal in the 3rd round, a LB that is explosive as a run stopper and blitzer. Chenal may have a limited role to begin the season as looks to improve in pass coverage. Darius Harris and the possible elevation of Elijah Lee (due to the Blake Bell Injury), round out a solid and improved group.
Lastly, we get to the Defensive Line. This group is pretty much the same as it has been the last couple years. The two biggest additions are rookie 1st round pick George Karlaftis and Carlos Dunlap.
The team returns with veterans Chris Jones and Frank Clark, among others. The key to the Defensive Line is health, if they can stay healthy, the Chiefs pass rush can be good enough. History would tell us that Jones and Dunlap will provide the Chiefs will solid production as pass rushers. The key to the pass rush and possibly the entire season is Frank Clark and/or George Karlaftis.
Kansas City needs one or both to be have a threatening pass rush and if they can get production from one or both, this defense a a chance to be as good or better than the defense in 2019.
The Kansas City Chiefs have revamped their roster with younger, more athletic players. They will need to rely on their veterans to start the season, but if the rookies can improve through the course of the season, the Chiefs will once again be in contention to win a championship.