Travis Kelce, Targets, And The Reality Of Getting Beat


Travis Kelce is one of the most dynamic players on the Kansas City Chiefs offense. He’s second on the team in catches and receiving yards, and ranks first in receiving touchdowns. Those numbers you would think would justify seeing more targets on a week to week basis but that isn’t how things have worked out for parts of the season.

For instance, why did Kelce receive only two targets in Sunday’s win against the Buffalo Bills? Fortunately for Chiefs fans, Terez A. Paylor is on the case and has an excellent piece up today on the different factors that contribute to Kelce’s target rate.

Here’s a sample:

"Smith said the fact Kelce only got two targets Sunday was more of a collective deal.“They were playing good defense and a little lack of execution on our part,” Smith said. “(We) failed to execute a little bit, but certainly he is a guy you’d like to get the ball to — a playmaker for us like a lot of the other guys.”Kelce, however, still has room to grow as a player. Reid’s playbook is complicated, and he sees himself (correctly) as a hybrid player, meaning he lines up all over the field. The Chiefs like to use him split out wide, attached to the line, as a h-back and as a slot receiver, and the responsibilities for each differ, depending on the play.“The variety of things you could possibly do in this offense isn’t really like every single offense out there,” Kelce said."

I highly encourage you to read Paylor’s full article. Tons of great stuff in there including a few GIFs and other nuggets. It is truly a must-read.

Paylor brings up several things in his article but there are two things in the snip above that I think we should all consider when making projections for young players and while watching games in general.

First, when it comes to skill positions players in Andy Reid’s offense, it is going to take some time digesting Reid’s playbook. There were a few interesting quotes from Kelce at the end of this piece talking about all of the things he has to consider for each play. Being able to grasp Reid’s offense and put it into practice on the field is going to require some time before it can be applied on the field. This effects answers to questions like ‘Should we pick up Santonio Holmes’ or ‘Can Donald Stephenson play left guard’ or ‘Why don’t Kelce and De’Anthony Thomas get more targets.’ It’s one thing to be able to physically play the position and another thing to mentally understand what it is a player is supposed to be doing.

Could the Chiefs kick the tires on Holmes? Sure, but is he going to be able to grasp enough of the offense quickly enough to be worth anything more than Donnie Avery? With seven weeks left, probably not.

Kelce suggests he has a better grasp on the offense, and I believe him. But we have to remember that he is essentially still a rookie after missing all of last season with an injury, and rookies take time to not only learn the offense but gain experience on the field. A year from now I would expect Kelce’s production to take a serious leap forward.

Second, there is something to the ‘take what the defense gives you’ idea that is very true.

Dwayne Bowe is one of the players who is seriously hurt by opposing defenses choosing to take him away via their scheme and daring the Chiefs to beat them in the air with Avery, A.J. Jenkins, and Junior Hemingway. Fortunately, the Chiefs have been able to build an offense that can still be successful without a ton of production from Bowe, so it hasn’t hurt them too much. But it has hurt the way Chiefs fans perceive Bowe.

Opposing teams are building up for a match-up against the Chiefs completely clueless on what the Chiefs like to do. They know very well how dangerous Jamaal Charles can be, that Bowe is the only wide receiver threat they have, and that Kelce can beat you in the middle of the field in the right match-up. So teams try to use their own strengths to take those things away.

In Buffalo’s case, they used their insane defensive line to create pressure to allow them to drop seven or eight guys back in coverage. Buffalo’s defensive line crushed the Chiefs’ offensive line, and that was their plan to take way big plays in the passing game and with Charles.

Smith argues there were some execution problems there, and I’m sure there’s some element of true there. The reality is that it’s hard to get much going in the passing game when the quarterback gets sacked six times and is running for his life another 12. That’s a maximum of 18 plays – at least six – where they Chiefs couldn’t get the ball to Kelce, Charles, or Bowe. That’s not on Andy Reid’s play calling or Alex Smith or  the receivers, that’s on the offensive line being awful.

I’d imagine Reid goes into most weeks wanting to get the ball to Charles, Kelce, Bowe, and Thomas as often as he can, but he’s also aware the opponent is going to do their best to prevent that from happening. Sometimes you just get beat – the way the offensive line did against Buffalo – and you have to find other ways to move the ball. Fortunately for the Chiefs on Sunday they were able to make that happen.