The season opener is in the books for the Kansas City Chiefs, and what a start it was to the 2019 season. The Chiefs traveled to Jacksonville to take on one of the best defenses in the league and hung 40 points on the Jaguars to come away with a 14-point win.
The fallout, of course, was pair of injuries that the team will need to address going forward. Star quarterback Patrick Mahomes sprained an ankle, which should not affect the player or team long term, but I would not be surprised to see a run-heavy game plan for this Sunday’s matchup with the familiar Oakland Raiders. Much like we saw in the second half of the Jacksonville game, expect to see the team attack their AFC West foe with quick passes that keep Mahomes upright, along with a higher volume of work for running backs Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy.
The other injury was a dislocated collar bone for wideout Tyreek Hill, which has the potential to be a lengthier ordeal. Four-to-six weeks is the initial prognosis, with team trainers calling Hill’s condition week-to-week. While Hill’s absence will be felt, the team’s massive collection of speed and talent at skill positions should lessen the blow. Rookie Mecole Hardman, after a silent week one outing, will get the lion’s share of Hill’s reps, both in practice and the game, while D’Anthony Thomas returns this week from his one-game suspension, and DeMarcus Robinson will be expected to step up, as well. Of course the team will be counting on Sammy Watkins extending his week-one dominance and truly becoming the player the team believed they were getting as a free agent a year ago.
After knocking Jags starter Nick Foles out of the game after an incredible touchdown pass, the defense struggled to stop unheralded rookie backup Gardner Minshew, as the state of the defense became a renewed concern for many Chiefs fans. Personally, I do not believe the performance was as bad as some thought. The pass rush was not effective, which is a bit concerning, but while the Jaguars did move the ball well through the air, it seemed more to me that Minshew was on-point, delivering balls in tough spaces—in short, I think it was just one of those surprise performances out of an unexpected player that happen from time to time. That said, the general reaction to the game, as well as the Patriots addition of Antonio Brown, has been that the Chiefs need to trade for a top corner—and I agree with this—the time is now. Another upshot on the defense, the tackling was much improved over what we have seen in recent years—look for that to continue to improve as the players gain confidence in the system.
Looking ahead, as I said, I expect an offense that may not fly quite as high as week one, but will still produce yards and points quicker than the Raiders will be able to answer. I also look for a few more big plays out of the defense. Despite a heavy run game, I expect Andy Reid to get Hardman involved early and often this week—look for the rookie to have over a hundred yards and hopefully a score, as the coaching staff tries to build up his confidence. Look for a win on Sunday, though it will likely not be as pretty as we would have expected against Oakland before the season began.