Given the potential of missing Tyreek Hill in the lineup for at least a few games, the Kansas City Chiefs are seeing Sammy Watkins step up his game.
It didn’t take long for Chiefs Kingdom to notice the difference.
When Sammy Watkins is on the field, the Kansas City Chiefs offense is able to clearly move at a different pace. That’s quite a statement for an offense that’s already dangerous with Pro Bowl playmakers at several other positions, but Watkins’ presence allowed exactly what general manager Brett Veach envisioned. The Chiefs offense moved from great to historically great with Watkins in the mix.
What’s also true, then is that Chiefs fans also saw what happens when Watkins is removed. Once Watkins suffered a foot injury that lingered for nearly half the season in the second half, the offense was clearly a step below what it was in the early going. Patrick Mahomes was still the league’s MVP. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce both set franchise records. The running game was still dynamic despite the turnover there with Kareem Hunt’s release. But it never quite equalled the dynamism exhibited when all the pieces are in place—namely Sammy Watkins.
Now that Watkins is back and healthy, the Chiefs are excited to once again load up on the offensive side. The good news is that Watkins might be even better than last year. Given the fact that Hill is not allowed to participate in team activities at this point, Watkins has moved into his spot as the team’s top wide receiver and he’s living up to those expectations.
“Being used to the program—he was here the whole offseason—and then used to the offense, he was able to play faster,” said Andy Reid to reporters on Thursday. “He’s in great shape and did a heckuva job. He had a nice camp. He got a lot of reps, obviously, and wanted those. Overall, again, I just thought he did a very nice job.”
Watkins had 40 catches for 519 yards and 3 touchdowns last season in what amounted to little more than a half-season. Extrapolated over a full 16 games, Watkins would have just crossed the 1,000 yard mark, which would have given K.C. three different players to hit that threshold. Watkins in particular gives the Chiefs another player to create mismatches in the passing game, especially one who is most dangerous after the catch. Watkins’ ability to mimic an agile running back with the ball in his hands makes him a physical yet elusive target for defensive backs to try and bring down, often resulting in extra yardage due to missed tackles.
If the Chiefs can get Watkins running at a different level this season and allow his natural instincts to take over even more, this offense could potentially become even better than it was. For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, that’s exactly what they want to hear.