Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster says he sees improvement in the team’s offensive chemistry as the weeks go on.
While the results weren’t what anyone in Chiefs Kingdom wanted to see, there were heartening moments from the team’s loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at Arrowhead in Week 6. One of those was the emergence of wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster with his first 100-yard game.
This offseason, the Chiefs made some major renovations to their offense with the trade of Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins. Instead of leaning on the same two pillars who had delivered historic results for this franchise, the Chiefs sent Hill packing to Florida and instead imported a few new options who could round out the receiving corps.
In response to Hill’s absence, the Chiefs drafted Western Michigan receiver Skyy Moore with a second-round pick and signed former Packers receiver Marquez Valdez-Scantling as well as Smith-Schuster, who’d been with the Steelers for the last five seasons. For Smith-Schuster, it was his second offseason being courted by the Chiefs, and this time it worked.
Together with holdovers like wideout Mecole Hardman and tight end Travis Kelce, the Chiefs had a deeper room than ever before. The primary problem, however, was that the Chiefs had lost more than the game-breaking dynamism Hill brought to the field; they also lost several years’ worth of offensive chemistry with quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the process.
Coming into this offseason, Smith-Schuster was part of the cadre of players who were determined to develop that chemistry as soon as possible by working with Mahomes. That was a great first step, but even Smith-Schuster would likely admit it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the well-oiled machine that’s been in place in K.C. for some time.
On Sunday, fans got their first look at a breakout effort from one of the newer faces. While Valdes-Scantling and Moore have each had their moments since the beginning of the season, none of the team’s newest players had yet to feature a 100-yard performance—a pretty normal occurrence for Hill at the position. Against the Bills, however, Smith-Schuster rang up 72 first-half yards on his way to a final stat line of 5 catches for 113 yards and 1 touchdown.
Smith-Schuster would certainly trade those stats for a team win, but there’s at least something here to celebrate nonetheless. The former Steelers’ receiver played a greater share of the offensive snaps than ever before in Week 6 and the results spoke for themselves. After the game, JSS spoke about his hopes of developing close chemistry with Mahomes.
“I feel like I’ve been building that chemistry with him. I’ve seen that with him and Trav and how they work and every single day I’m trying to get that point. We’re all trying to get to that point where the ball is being thrown in the air and he trusts us.”
Smith-Schuster’s biggest moment against the Bills also provided his first touchdown at Arrowhead, a 53-yard touchdown largely of his own making.
“With that play, I had an under route, and they were clearing git out, so I knew that the middle linebacker was going to get out, so I knew I had the middle for the work. Obviously, I’ve been here for quite some time now working with Pat, so I know a play never ends. Running across the field, Pat sees me wide open and throws me the ball. Me just being a physical player that I am, I spun out of it and took it to the house.”
The box score tells the tale of the growing chemistry and Smith-Schuster has to take some comfort in knowing he’s finding his footing in K.C. After all, he just put up the most receiving yards in a single game since the winter of 2018. For a receiver that played through injuries and Ben Roethlisberger’s end-of-career decline, playing with the Chiefs’ offense has to be very refreshing. And Smith-Schuster is hopeful for more.
“Honestly, it’s just time,” said Smith-Schuster about offensive improvement. “This is only our sixth game on. As time goes on, we just keep building that chemistry and keep moving forward. I’ve noticed that coming into Week 1 and Week 2 and now it’s Week 7, I feel like we’re getting there.”