The playbook is expansive and ever-changing, Chiefs coach Andy Reid constantly inventing, creating, supplementing. But throughout his tenure in Kansas City, he’s kept one aspect mostly consistent.
He loves to feature the tight ends.
Sure, Travis Kelce has led the Chiefs in both targets and receptions for three straight seasons, but the group behind him has consistently factored into the offense, too.
Which leads us to this: Who will comprise that supporting cast in 2019?
The tight ends group has been defined by its offseason turnover, a bevy of incoming players trying to carve out a spot on the roster and then move up the pecking order.
“We have a great opportunity here,” said tight end Blake Bell, a Wichita native in his first season in Kansas City. “We’re out there competing every day. I’m excited to keep working with this group.”
That internal competition is among the most intriguing in the Chiefs’ preseason camp — even if it’s not for the No. 1 job but rather the men who will occupy the depth chart behind Kelce.
The first glimpse of it — Saturday’s 38-17 preseason victory against the Bengals — offered a clue into the present-day order. Bell ran almost exclusively with the first-team offense, though it’s still four weeks before the Chiefs travel to Jacksonville for a game that will actually tally toward the record.
Deon Yelder did some of his work early in the first quarter, too, yet he played deep into the fourth. Yelder led all offensive players in snaps in the preseason opener. John Lovett made an impressive catch before departing early with a shoulder separation, the severity of which isn’t yet known. He missed practice Monday. Nick Keizer led the team with three catches, playing with quarterback Chase Litton.
“I like the competition there. We’re going to keep it going,” Reid said. “I don’t think anybody has separated themselves at that second spot. I thought they all did a pretty good job — at the line of scrimmage and in the pass game. So I think just a matter of playing more is important.”
Demetrius Harris vacated the No. 2 role in favor of an offseason agreement with the Browns. He averaged 30 targets per season over the last three years and caught three touchdown passes in 2018.
It’s not light work, in other words. In fact, for much of 2018, Kelce and Harris were the lone tight ends on the 53-man roster. Yelder played seven snaps over the middle of the season. Bell, nicknamed the “Belldozer,” has the most career experience among the bunch, with 30 career receptions in four years split among the 49ers, Vikings and Jaguars.
The unfamiliarity didn’t change the offensive plan Saturday. Reid called four plays for his tight ends in the opening drive of Saturday’s win. Three different targeted players, too.
Mahomes threw a dime to Kelce for 36 yards to begin the drive. Two plays later, he found Bell in the flat on a run-pass option, which Bell took upfield for 23 yards. And then Mahomes aired an incompletion over the middle to Yelder near the goal line.
All part of the opening-drive script.
“Pat (Mahomes) obviously does what he does and made a great play,” Bell said of his reception. “When you get on those long drives, it’s kinda fun. You’re practicing all week and doing it against your own team. It’s kinda fun to get out there and do it against another team.”
There’s more to the job than the pass-catching and blocking. Whoever wins the opportunity figures to factors into special teams. They all played on those units Saturday. Yelder and Keizer recovered fumbles on punt returns.
“You gotta be ready for your team whenever it is — special teams, offense, whatever,” Bell said. “It’s been good. Just have to put your head down and keep grinding at it.”