K.C. Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman had himself an effective outing against the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday evening. The third-year wide receiver out of the University of Georgia was one of the most targeted players on the night, commanding eight targets through only two quarters of action.
While Tyreek Hill was held out of the contest, and thus one could assume Hardman was the primary benefactor, it was still an outing of note. In his first two seasons, Hardman has only met or surpassed that number of targets twice—with both times coming in 2020.
What’s more, through 38 games, Hardman has averaged just a shade over six targets. He had more than that in one half on Saturday night, but it wasn’t just the sheer number of targets that made the game interesting.
Can Mecole Hardman be a real focal point for the Chiefs in 2021?
Through the first and early part of the second quarter Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes were practically force-feeding the ball to Hardman. From all appearances, with Hill out of the game, the coaching staff wanted to “make or break” Hardman in that situation. This was after Hardman was basically non-existent in the first preseason game, dropping his only target early in the first quarter.
While the Chiefs can maintain an effective offense against the majority of NFL defenses with one or both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, there will be days like Super Bowl LV where the team needs a third receiver to fill the void.
Hardman, despite the consternation he’s faced in his time in Kansas City, has all the talent needed to fill that void. As the fourth or even fifth option on some days, over the past two seasons, Hardman has a total of 1,000 yards on only 67 catches. His primary problem has always been consistency and, seemingly, focus.
One of the biggest positives from Saturday night was Hardman’s impressive touchdown reception in the second quarter. Sprinting down the field Hardman was able to turn, track the ball, and grab it with his fingertips just before it hit the ground. He was able to do all of this while falling backwards out of the end zone.
It’s easy to forget, just looking at the stat sheet, how impressive this catch was. It’s that level of focus, if Hardman can maintain it, that will make him a formidable second or third option in the Chiefs 2021 passing game.
It’s clear from Saturday night’s game plan the Chiefs coaching staff will be giving Hardman every opportunity to succeed Sammy Watkins in 2021. We’ll know fairly soon if he’s up for the task, but Saturday should give Hardman and Chiefs Kingdom some confidence that he is.