Conventional wisdom suggests that the cream always rises to the top. Linguistically, it's a metaphor that implies that the most talented people ultimately achieve success. The Kansas City Chiefs edged the Jacksonville Jaguars 17-9 on Sunday afternoon, but some might say in rather unimpressive fashion. On the day, Kansas City turned the ball over twice on offense, was just 2-of-4 in the red zone and 4-of-13 on third down. The team's first four drives went as follows: punt-punt-fumble-interception. The Chiefs would add two more punts in five second-half possessions.
I'm sure we're all tempted to believe this is a blip on the radar and has no real impact on the team's 2023 trajectory. That side of the football is comprised of Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes, and Travis Kelce (among others). There are good reasons to believe they'll figure it out. Though, I'd argue that figuring it out in this context seems to pre-suppose their core problem is execution. I'm not convinced at this stage. There's a very real reason to wonder if the offensive miscues are a by-product of talent deficiency at the wide receiver position.
The word talent can be quite the misnomer in professional sports. That term in the NFL tends to conjure up an image of athleticism and physical tools. Given that connotation, the Chiefs do have a talented receiver room. For me, talent is more than just a toolbag of physical gifts. It's also an amalgam that encompasses skill, football acumen, and a consistent ability to execute when called upon. From that vantage point, it's worth revisiting the talent level of the receiving corps in Kansas City.
There are still a few reasons to be concerned about the Chiefs' offensive performance through two weeks.
Think of it this way: In a 3rd-and-7 situation, with an important conference game on the line, who do you trust to convert if Travis Kelce is neutralized by bracket coverage? You might have a candidate in mind who you believe could be relied upon at that moment. Ask yourself what evidence you have to support said claim. Make no mistake, this receiving group is largely made up of inexperienced, young players with room to grow. It's for that reason, I think it's fair to reserve judgment about what they can become in 2023 and beyond.
In fairness to one of them, Skyy Moore appeared to grow up a bit in Sunday's game with the Jaguars. His 54-yard reception on a 3rd-and-6 play, on the north side of the two-minute warning, helped the Chiefs ice the game. The key to that play was continuing to work with Mahomes under duress. It initially appeared no one was open as Jacksonville linebacker Foye Oluokun bore down on Patrick Mahomes. He eventually bought himself enough time to find Moore who had worked himself into an open spot up the right boundary. Earlier in the game, Moore ran a beautiful route into the end zone where Mahomes found him on a nine-yard, back-shoulder throw for a touchdown.
It's also worth noting that Kadarius Toney had a bit of redemption in his own right on Sunday. He snared five passes for 35 yards on the day. Three of those receptions came in a promising first-quarter possession that was ultimately snuffed out by a Donovan Smith holding penalty. This was a better outing for the tandem of Moore and Toney in Week 2. The pair combined for eight receptions, 105 receiving yards, and 1 touchdown. If that continues, there are reasons to believe in this offense stabilizing the ship as the season wears on.
There are positive signs, but this is worth keeping an eye on for Kansas City. Travis Kelce wasn't quite himself on Sunday, but the offense will need to find ways to produce on those off days for the eight-time Pro Bowler. 2023 hopeful Justyn Ross was quiet again in Week 2 and rookie receiver Rashee Rice was only targeted twice (though, he did catch both balls for 20 yards). There are always growing pains involved when relying upon young players to mature and produce. It's fair to have some patience with them, but it's also reasonable to consider how high the floor is for offensive skill position players not named Travis Kelce.
Next week, with the Chicago Bears coming to town, the Chiefs will have a chance to put their first solid offensive performance together. It's as close to a get-well game as they'll get in this league. The Bears are coming off a Week 2 performance where they surrendered three scores to a Tampa Bay offense led by Baker Mayfield. Next Sunday should be a great platform for this new-look Chiefs offense to build some momentum with its young receivers.