It's time for Rashee Rice to become the Kansas City Chiefs' next star player

Rashee Rice has flashed great upside and now this game against the Eagles is the perfect time to make him a focal point in this offense.
Kansas City Chiefs Rashee Rice
Kansas City Chiefs Rashee Rice / David Berding/GettyImages

When the Kansas City Chiefs take the field on Monday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles the entire NFL world will be watching. It's a rematch of the Super Bowl. It's the Kelce brothers going head-to-head again at the height of their popularity. It's two of the NFL's top quarterbacks facing off in Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts. It also happens to be the perfect setup for Rashee Rice to have his official coming out party as K.C.'s next star player.

Before I get into the details of why this breakout should happen, let me say that I understand that this is a lot to put on the shoulders of a rookie wide receiver, especially in an Andy Reid offense that typically has not favored rookie pass catchers. Even if Rice were to just maintain his production from the first half of the season, it would be one of the more productive rookie receiver seasons in Andy Reid's coaching career. I'm here to tell you that the stars are aligned for something even bigger than that.

Through nine games Rice has 32 receptions for 378 yards and 4 touchdowns. That puts him on pace for 60 receptions, 714 yards, and 7 to 8 touchdowns. I think most Chiefs fans would have happily signed up for that before the season started. However, when you factor in these two seemingly contradictory statements, you see the potential for much more: 1.) Rashee Rice has clearly been the Chiefs' most productive receiver this season, and 2.) Rashee Rice has not been a major focal point of the Chiefs' passing attack this season.

It is understandable that the Chiefs wouldn't want to overload Rice at the beginning of his rookie season. Reid's offense is notoriously difficult for rookies to pick up and Patrick Mahomes has shown a tendency to favor pass catchers he feels like he can trust. The problem with keeping the training wheels on Rice coming out of the bye is that K.C.'s other wideouts simply haven't stepped up thus far and it's left a void in the Chiefs' offense. That's why Rice becoming a bigger focus of the offense was one of the key points in my piece on shifting K.C.'s offensive priorities last week. Emphasizing Rice was also one of Stacy Smith's four pivots the Chiefs need to make to secure the number one seed in the AFC. If it's this obvious to us that Rice needs to see his role increased, you have to imagine Andy Reid is thinking the same thing.

There is a long history of rookie wideouts breaking out in the second half of their rookie seasons. Justin Jefferson, arguably the NFL's top wide receiver, averaged 5.5 targets per game in his first 8 games (Rice is averaging 4.5), but then averaged 10.1 targets per game in the second half of the season. Another of the NFL's best young wideouts, Amon-Ra St. Brown, averaged 5.2 targets per game over his first 10 games and then averaged 11.2 targets over the last six games of his rookie season. Increased production for rookie wideouts in their final first-year games has become a regular occurrence in the NFL.

Rashee Rice has flashed great upside and now this game against the Eagles is the perfect time to make him a focal point in this offense.

While not a wide receiver, just last season we saw a rookie's role in the Chiefs' offense greatly increase in the second half. Running back Isiah Pacheco averaged 5.9 offensive touches in the first 8 games of the season and then it jumped up to 15.1 touches per game in the second half of the season. The bye week is the perfect time for teams to assess what they need to do better. Kansas City needs better production from the wide receiver position. Rashee Rice has flashed great upside and now this game against the Eagles is the perfect time to make him a focal point in this offense.

The Eagles boast the NFL's best run defense. Their interior defensive front is far and away the most dominant in the NFL. While I'm in favor of the Chiefs continuing to try and find a solid running game down the stretch, this isn't the game for it. The weakness of this Eagles' defense so far has been their pass coverage, and while Travis Kelce is still going to continue to be Kansas City's top target, this game is a fantastic opportunity for the Chiefs to make a concerted effort to get Rice heavily involved.

With Rice's explosiveness with the ball in his hands, Patrick Mahomes' elite quarterback play, Andy Reid's offensive play-calling prowess with an extra week to prepare, and the Eagles' defense struggling against the pass and focusing on trying to take away Travis Kelce, you couldn't write a better script for a breakout game. If the Chiefs truly wanted to make Rice a priority in this offense, there isn't any reason this couldn't be his first career 100-yard receiving game.

Over the Eagles' last five games, the opposing team's top wide receiver has averaged 9.2 receptions and 119 yards per game. While you can make an argument that Travis Kelce is K.C.'s top receiver, the Eagles needing to focus on trying to contain him is all the more reason that Kansas City should be ready to capitalize on that and feed Rice the football.

Everything is set up perfectly for Rashee Rice to break out on Monday Night Football in front of a huge national audience and establish himself as the next young star of the Kansas City Chiefs. He's shown the potential. The Chiefs have a need for more wide receiver production. They are coming off the bye and entering the second half of the season where they have a chance to make this kind of shift in their focus. The Eagles' defense is hard to run against and should be attacked through the air. Other wideouts have found success against them and they will likely be primarily focused on stopping Travis Kelce.

Here's to hoping the Chiefs make getting Rashee Rice the ball a priority and that the rookie takes full advantage of his chances if they do. If so, we (along with the entire NFL community) could very well be watching the coming out party of the next star player for the Kansas City Chiefs.

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