The Kansas City Chiefs may have made the biggest move of the 2018 offseason before it even began. In the days leading up to the Super Bowl they traded quarterback Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins for a 3rd round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller.
Smith had been the quarterback for the Chiefs for the past five years since he arrived from San Francisco via trade. He turned the Chiefs into a routine playoff contender and won at least 11 games in three of his seasons as a starter. The writing was on the was on the wall for Smith, though. Kansas City were set to enter the offseason with -$8 million in cap space and needed to clear out space if they wanted to be active at all in free agency and the draft.
Kansas City traded up in the first round of the 2017 draft to take Patrick Mahomes 10th overall out of Texas Tech. He sat behind Smith for the 2017 season, as his senior quarterback was named to a pro bowl and even was in the MVP discussion early in the year. With the AFC West having been wrapped up already he was given the nod to start the Chiefs final game of the season against the Denver Broncos in week 17.
The week 17 match up was the first game action Mahomes had seen since preseason, and he showed some development after spending a year on the bench. Kansas City was not scared to give him the reigns of the offense, letting him throw 35 times. He completed 22 of his attempts (completed 62.9% of his passes) for 284 yards and threw an interception.
Coming out of Texas Tech, Mahomes was most well known for his arm strength. He has a cannon attached to his right shoulder, and can fire off bullet passes even when while draped with defenders.
On this play against the Broncos he used his great core strength to swing off a defender coming in for a sack. As he attempts to regain his balance and step up in the pocket he see’s a receiver break open up field, and fires a bullet pass towards him.
Mahomes was never able to reset his feet, so all of the power that was put into this pass was from his arm. Throwing a pass that hard, that fast and that accurately off of your arm is not something that many quarterbacks can do.
Arm strength alone is not the only important part of these incredible off balance passes Mahomes let fly with ease. His footwork and navigational skill from within the pocket is better than you would expect from a rookie.
On this play, the Denver pass rush gets through the initial pass protection with a stunt. As the defenders burst into the backfield Mahomes remains calm. He quickly sidesteps the first rusher and treads towards his left. As the second rusher comes for him on that side he deke’s back towards the middle and gets off a pass before the rushers can converge on him.
The most impressive part about this play is what Mahomes does with his eyes. His eyes stay down field the entire time. He still goes through his progressions and manages to spot the open man. The Texas Tech product manages to extend the play without having to leave the pocket, and still delivers a great bullet pass, perfectly placed for his receiver.
His arm strength and ability to throw off balance combined with his great navigation in the pocket allows him to make high level throws.
Kansas City runs a play action on this play. The two edge rushers come flying around the sides of the pocket, and both have a step and a path to Mahomes. The quarterback senses the pressure coming from both sides and slides up into the pocket. He again keeps his eyes down field while doing so and spots an open receiver. Mahomes puts an off balance pass on a rope, and hits his receiver throwing off of one foot.
One issue that does arise in his game, though, is his ball placement when he does get the ball to his receiver. Mahomes does not lead receivers well and usually aims his passes in a straight line between him and the receiver. Every single one of the above passes forced the receiver to turn their back fully towards the end zone to make a catch, and when they caught it their momentum was carrying them backwards. This play near the end zone is another great example.
This pass was supposed to be a quick out to the receiver, where he could potentially follow a blocker into the end zone and dive towards the pylon for a touchdown. Instead, Mahomes throws the ball behind the receiver. He is forced to turn around in order to catch the ball, and the defensive back on that side is able to get behind the blocker and take him down for minimal gain.
Mahomes should have thrown this pass towards the sideline and slightly in front of the receiver. This would allow him to make a catch on the run and still have a chance to align himself behind his lead blocker. The poor throw might as well have been an incompletion.
Mahomes has potential to a be special talent for the Kansas City Chiefs, though. He made this throw early in the game which should have every fan excited.
This ball is perfectly placed between the defenders and his receiver comes down with a great catch. Mahomes made a few of these tight window throws against Denver, and his accuracy has already shown great improvements from his college days as a Red Raider.
It is time for a new era in Kansas City football. Trading Smith was not the only tough decision they will have to make this offseason, and many of their older veterans on the defensive side of the ball may find themselves looking for a new home this spring as well. The Chiefs became one of the pioneers of the new age, college style offense last season and have a wealth of young budding talent including Tyreek Hill and rookie rushing champion Kareem Hunt. Mahomes will now be the new leader of what has potential to be a revolutionary offense in the KC.
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