Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 1:08 am.

QB Mahomes creates buzz around Chiefs offense

The Kansas City Chiefs face many questions entering the 2018 season, but when it comes to the readiness of quarterback Patrick Mahomes to assume command of the team’s offense, head coach Andy Reid has no doubts.

“I like his approach to the game,” Reid said. “He’s given himself an opportunity to be successful is what he’s doing, and he’s just got to go do it.”

All eyes should focus on Mahomes in Week 1 as the Chiefs travel to Los Angeles to face the Chargers. The matchup of the top two contenders for the AFC West title provides the winner with a crucial leg up in a battle that came down to Week 16 a year ago.

Mahomes started one game last season, an otherwise meaningless finale against the Denver Broncos. He staked the Chiefs to a 24-10 lead before exiting, but after Denver rallied to tie the game, Mahomes returned and led the offense to a game-winning field-goal drive. He finished 22-of-35 passing for 284 yards with a touchdown.

That game instilled enough confidence in the Chiefs to trade Alex Smith to Washington and hand the reins to Mahomes. Reid loves the leadership ability of his young quarterback and sees a young player ready to handle the challenges of leading an NFL offense both on and off the field.

“He’s got a ton of room to grow, you’ll see that for the next couple of years,” Reid said. “You’ll see improvement as the more he does it.”

The Chiefs have surrounded him with plenty of options on the field. Running back Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing a year ago and both receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce topped 1,000 yards. That’s just the fifth time in league history a team pulled off that trifecta. With wide receiver Sammy Watkins added to the group of playmakers, Mahomes should have plenty of offensive firepower.

He may need it, too. The defense ranked 29th against the pass and 25th against the run a year ago. A poor performance from the secondary in the preseason prompted the Chiefs to sign free-agent cornerback Orlando Scandrick. The club also placed safety Daniel Sorensen on injured reserve. Strong safety Eric Berry, who hasn’t practiced since Aug. 11, remains day-to-day with a sore heel.

Reid should get a gauge immediately on his retooled secondary against the Chargers and quarterback Philip Rivers.

“He loves football,” Reid said. “And he’s been blessed, he’s got talent. He grew up with it with his dad being a coach and he just kind of knows where everybody’s at and keeps himself in good shape and plays. And he’s fearless in there.”

The Chiefs also have questions at linebacker, particularly with their inside duo of Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland. Injuries kept the two from working together much of training camp, and they only lined up together for one preseason game against the Bears.

“But they’re back now and we had a little get together yesterday and ran around a little bit,” Reid said. “I thought they moved around pretty good so I would expect them to play. The Chicago game was a good game for them too.”

Sunday’s game marks Reid’s 20th season opener as a NFL head coach, yet the coach still finds himself eager for what lies ahead.

“I get excited,” Reid said. “I’m fired up every day I have a chance to do this. I get older, but the players stay the same.”

SERIES HISTORY: 116th regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead series, 60-54-1. The Chiefs swept the Chargers last season and own an eight-game winning streak in the series. Kareem Hunt rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown in the team’s last meeting, a 30-13 Chiefs victory in Kansas City in Week 15. Tyreek Hill added a 64-yard touchdown reception.