How the Kansas City Chiefs need to shift their offensive priorities

Shifting their priorities in the wide receiver should pay significant dividends for the Chiefs offense in the second half—if they're willing to make the changes.
Kansas City Chiefs Rashee Rice
Kansas City Chiefs Rashee Rice / Ralf Ibing - firo sportphoto/GettyImages

The Kansas City Chiefs entered their bye week 7-2 and with one of the best records in the NFL. They are the defending Super Bowl Champions. They have a future Hall of Famer and offensive mastermind as head coach in Andy Reid. They have a two-time MVP at quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, who is widely viewed as the best player in the NFL. They have arguably the greatest tight end of all time in Travis Kelce, and this season they have the best defense of the Reid/Mahomes era.

When you look at this season through those qualifiers there isn't much to complain about as a Chiefs fan. However, if you polled most KC fans, I think the vast majority would agree that the offense hasn't really found their groove yet this season. The Chiefs are averaging just 23.1 points per game which was ranked 12th in the NFL entering their bye. Their yards per game rank slightly better at 7th overall with 368.7. They're still probably a top-ten offense in the NFL, but throughout the Reid/Mahomes era, they've consistently been better than "just" a borderline top-ten offense.

If the Chiefs want to capitalize on their combination of having both one of the top defenses and quarterbacks in the NFL, they're going to need to make sure that they can be a little more productive on offense in the second half of the season. Once again, if you polled Chiefs fans I think the vast majority would agree the area they would like to see K.C.'s offense be more productive is with their pass catchers.

Shifting their priorities in the wide receiver should pay significant dividends for the Chiefs offense in the second half.

Kelce is putting up very good numbers again this season, and he should continue to be the top pass catcher in this offense. After that, it's been a mess when you look at the production vs playing time of K.C.'s other options. Below are the team's top wide receivers and their offensive snaps, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns so far this season.

  • Marquez Valdes-Scantling - 373 snaps, 14 receptions, 249 yards, 1 TD
  • Skyy Moore - 338 snaps, 16 receptions, 201 yards, 1 TD
  • Rashee Rice - 276 snaps, 32 receptions, 378 yards, 4 TDs
  • Justin Watson - 241 snaps, 14 receptions, 276 yards, 0 TDs
  • Kadarius Toney - 141 snaps, 20 receptions, 127 yards, 1 TD
  • Mecole Hardman - 46 snaps, 6 receptions, 29 yards, 0 TDs

Here's how those numbers translate to snaps per pass reception for each of the Chiefs WRs:

  • Toney - 7.1
  • Hardman - 7.7
  • Rice - 8.6
  • Watson - 17.2
  • Moore - 21.1
  • MVS - 26.6

You can make excuses for Moore and MVS, but the bottom line is that they clearly either aren't getting open and/or Mahomes doesn't trust them enough to throw them the ball when they do. Either way, they can't average a combined 79 snaps per game in the second half of the season. That is just far too many wasted snaps. While Hardman and Toney haven't done much with the targets they've received so far, at least Mahomes has shown he trusts them enough to throw them the ball when they're on the field.

The real standout in these numbers is Rashee Rice, who has both received a lot of targets when on the field and produced in terms of yards and touchdowns when he has received the ball. Rice looks like a lock to be the Mack Lee Hill award winner as KC's top rookie, and he simply has to be the #2 focal point of the passing attack (behind Travis Kelce) for the remainder of the season. The good news is that the Chiefs were at least showing signs of understanding that before their bye. Rice has only been the team leader in wide receiver snaps twice this season, but those two games were their final two games before the bye.

The problem is that even with those increased snaps, the Chiefs haven't always prioritized getting him the ball. In the Dolphins game, he received two early targets (including a touchdown catch) and then wasn't targeted again the rest of the game despite K.C.'s offense struggling to move the ball in the second half. The Chiefs can't let that happen. Rice should be getting between 5-8 targets per game most weeks.

The other mystery the Chiefs have to figure out is what they think Kadarius Toney's role with this team is. Before the season they hyped him as their number one receiver, but he's only topped 30% of the offensive snaps twice this season and those games both came before the Chiefs brought Mecole Hardman back to Kansas City. Mahomes trusts Toney enough to target him at a higher rate than any other receiver when he's on the field, but K.C. doesn't seem to think getting him involved is a priority thus far.

We've seen that Toney can be dangerous with the ball in his hands. We've seen that Mahomes likes to target him when he's on the field. MVS and Skyy Moore each outsnapped him in the first half of the season by almost 200 snaps each, yet they did nothing with that opportunity. The Chiefs need to put Toney on the field more (along with Rice) and see what happens. It's hard to argue that he could do any less with those snaps than MVS and Moore did.

Finally, the Chiefs need to lean into getting Isiah Pacheco more involved in the passing game. Last season Pacheco totaled only 19 combined receptions throughout the regular season and playoffs. This year he already has 24 receptions through 9 games. Andy Reid's running backs have a decades-long tradition of being heavily used in the passing game. K.C. had gotten away from that a little in the last couple of years, but Pacheco has flashed some real promise in this area.

While Pacheco isn't a fantastic pass blocker, he is an explosive weapon in the open field. So the Chiefs need to design more screen plays and checkdown routes to get the ball in his hands more often. Doing so will only open things up more for Kelce in the middle of the field and for deep shots downfield to the wide receivers as the safeties and linebackers have to pay more attention to Pacheco in the passing game.

The Chiefs have a lot of offensive upside in the quartet of Travis Kelce, Rashee Rice, Kadarius Toney, and Isiah Pacheco. Those four need to be the focal points of the passing attack for the rest of the season with just a handful of targets and plays for guys like Hardman, Watson, MVS, and Moore to keep defenses guessing. The Chiefs haven't been as efficient and explosive on offense so far this season, but by prioritizing Kelce, Rice, Toney, and Pacheco as Patrick Mahomes' top targets I think the Chiefs can see their offense get back to their old ways before the playoffs roll around.

So what do you think Chiefs fans? Do you agree that those four need to be the heart and soul of the passing attack going forward? Do you think we'll see that happen in the second half or is this just wishful thinking? The Chiefs offense has been "fine" through nine games, but it feels like they need to be more than that if they want to win another Super Bowl this season. I believe reprioritizing their passing weapons like this is the best way to make that happen.