It is easy to get caught up in the hype train when your team makes a large investment in a player, especially when it comes in the form of a former first-round draft pick. While it can be a fun ride, sometimes the best expectations are tempered ones.
Fortunately, and unfortunately, the Kardarius Toney situation is looking all too familiar to Chiefs Kingdom. While we all adored Sammy Watkins and his time in Kansas City, we were also always unsettled about his constant absence.
The fortunate part is both players played very vital roles in helping Kansas City hoist a Lombardi. The more unfortunate part is we may never get to see the tantalizing Toney talent come to full fruition, much like Watkins.
While the sample size with Toney is short, there are plenty of similarities between the two. In three years with Kansas City, Watkins missed a total of 14 games. You have to factor in switching teams in a middle of a season and learning a new playbook, but Toney has already missed 15 games in his first two seasons in the league.
The relationship between the Kansas City Chiefs and Kadarius Toney is looking very familiar.
It is too early to draw any conclusions, but many Chiefs fans hoped that an off-season with the Chiefs Training Staff could help keep Toney healthy. That narrative did not get off to a great start after he suffered an apparent knee injury before the first practice of training camp even began.
There have been reports all summer long that the Chiefs believe Toney could be their number-one receiver after Juju Smith-Schuster took his talents to New England in March. They doubled down on that notion by only adding SMU receiver Rashee Rice and another former New York Giant in Ritchie James rather than signing DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr.
All is not lost and the Chiefs should not feel sorry about giving up draft capital to get Toney. According to reports, he did not suffer a season-ending knee injury. While he did not say it with the most confidence in the world, Andy Reid did say there is a chance he is back for week one after undergoing a knee procedure. He might just be a guy that is constantly nicked up like Watkins was.
Again, winning Super Bowls means you do not have to say sorry in regard to questionable investments. Toney caught a touchdown in the Super Bowl and had the longest punt return in Super Bowl history, all while only playing six offensive snaps and two special teams snaps. It is rather incredible if you think about it, which is precisely why Chiefs Kingdom was so excited about him this offseason.
,If he can do all of that on eight snaps, imagine what he can do with 40 snaps. In the Super Bowl 54 playoff run, Sammy Watkins went for 76, 114 and 98 yards. In this Chiefs era where all that matters is the playoffs, Toney can get away with just realizing his talent when it matters most like he did last year.
Contrary to popular belief, the Chiefs do not need Toney to be a number-one wide receiver. Travis Kelce is that guy. Since 2018 when Patrick Mahomes took over, Kelce only trails Devante Adams and Tyreek Hill in receiving yards, even as a tight end.
There should be no panicking unless Kelce is not healthy. All the Chiefs have to do is replace Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman's production, which was 1,230 yards in 2022. With Mahomes at quarterback, I do not see that as unrealistic when you consider some combination of elevated play of Skyy Moore, Richie James adding some juice, and then a sprinkle of elite Toney play.
The reality is the third and sixth-round pick given up to receive Toney is a sunk cost that already helped buy a Super Bowl ring. The only question now is if he can reverse the Sammy Watkins-type narrative and string together enough starts to turn it into the Chiefs picking up a 5th-year option or a second contract.
While I have my doubts about that happening, with Mahomes as your quarterback, you feel good about your chances to keep winning in January and February. You can temper your expectations of Toney without tempering them on the team.