KC Chiefs remain top offense without Sammy Watkins’ replacement

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 20: Sammy Watkins #14 of the Kansas City Chiefs catches a pass against Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots in the third quarter during the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 20: Sammy Watkins #14 of the Kansas City Chiefs catches a pass against Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots in the third quarter during the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Sammy Watkins leaves for Baltimore, but the Chiefs offense remains one of the best even without replacing him in 2021.

Heading into the 2021 NFL offseason, one of the positional needs associated with the K.C. Chiefs was wide receiver. The discussions on how the team would replace Sammy Watkins started over a year ago. While most of us were expecting general manager Brett Veach to bring in a big name via free agency or the draft, the team decided it wasn’t as big of need as some of us thought.

Looking back over the offseason to this point, we can paint a picture of what the team envisions for 2021. The brutal Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers being the final game made the offensive line’s struggles stand out far ahead of any other need. Watching Patrick Mahomes run for his life the entire game stamped on that group being the biggest need in the offseason.

While it might be surprising that the Chiefs didn’t sign or draft a top name at wide receiver, it’s not for lack of trying. At the start of free agency, rumors were coming out about trying to acquire players like JuJu Smith-Schuster, T.Y. Hilton, Corey Davis, and Josh Reynolds, to name a few. Most of the top names in free agency either chose to return to their respective teams or take a higher paying deal that would come with less competition for targets.

Their pursuit of some of these top receiver targets in free agency shows they want a proven veteran to play that second receiver role opposite of Tyreek Hill. Behind Hill, the wide receiver room is thin when it comes to proven talent in the NFL. Looking back at the last two seasons when Watkins missed time due to injuries, players like Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, and others failed to step up and fill the void.

In 2020, Watkins missed weeks 6-11 during the regular season. During that time, the only time the team didn’t put up 30 plus points was against the Buffalo Bills in an odd rain game where Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran the ball for 161 yards. However, the other games consisted of the Denver Broncos, New York Jets, Las Vegas Raiders, and the Carolina Panthers.

In the playoffs, the Chiefs held off the Cleveland Browns while being without Mahomes for most of the second half. Kansas City had no trouble scoring against Buffalo in the AFC Championship, scoring 38 points. When Watkins wasn’t on the field, the Chiefs offense leaned heavily on Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.

As of right now, it looks like the team will rely on the receivers they have in-house for the 2021 season. Prior to free agency, Veach made comments about being confident in their younger receivers like Hardman and Byron Pringle, but the coaching staff hasn’t shown much confidence in those guys taking on bigger roles.

One addition that has received recent hype is the fifth-round pick, Cornell Powell. The former Clemson receiver certainly fits the style of receiver to replace Watkins’ role within the offense. He brings a physical style of play with smooth body control and strong hands. Most of his work will likely come in the short to intermediate areas of the field, which is where Watkins patrolled previously.

Another addition that could add to the mix is Antonio Callaway. Drafted by the Browns in 2018, Callaway has struggled with substance abuse and an overall lack of maturity to this point in his career. He was released by the Browns in 2019 after being benched for being late to practice and meetings. After a short stint in the XFL, the young receiver would serve another suspension playing for the Miami Dolphins. It will be something to keep an eye on through training camp and preseason whether or not he can earn the trust of the team.

To be honest, the Chiefs don’t need top talent to be their third receiver in 2021. Watkins made up for 421 yards and two touchdowns last season and the offense still ranked number one in yards per game and sixth in points per game at 29.6. While no single receiver made a significant impact, the combination of several players proved enough to keep the offense as one of the best in the league.

Other contributors that will help are the running backs and tight ends. Reid has been known for utilizing his running backs heavily in the passing game over his career. He got away from that in 2020 likely due to Clyde Edwards-Helaire being a rookie and the offensive line struggling. With a revamped offensive line, a pass-catching back entering his second season, and the addition of Jerick McKinnon will bring more options when utilizing the running backs in both the running and passing game.

Protecting Mahomes was easily the biggest offseason job and it’s clear the team views that as what kept them from winning a second consecutive Super Bowl in 2020. Overhauling the entire offensive line, will provide Mahomes more time, open up the playbook for Andy Reid, and allow the running backs to get more involved. It will also bring more value to the overall offense than a single wide receiver.

With Hill and Kelce leading the way for the pass catchers, the Chiefs are still expected to be a top-flight offense in 2021. The real question is what will Kansas City do if one of those two-star playmakers suffers an injury? The depth behind either of those players is where things get uncomfortable.

Next. Returning to Andy Reid's vintage offensive ways. dark