The veteran tight end is taking advantage of defenses in the ways that the changes this offseason allow him to.
With so much changing scenery around him in the Kansas City Chiefs’ receiving corps this offseason, tight end Travis Kelce is still the unstoppable weapon he always has been. He’s as productive as ever, doing it seemingly in the same fashion he has been in the era of quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
He’s been as reliable and consistent as any elite pass catcher in recent NFL history, but that level of consistency can feel monotonous or repetitive. Kelce doesn’t come across as a guy that needs external help with getting juiced up, but that comes in more on game day.
In the week of preparation leading up to the weekend’s game, Kelce does lean on the coaching staff to lay the foundation of that week’s objective. “Coach Reid presents us with a challenge every Tuesday,” Kelce shared with reporters during a press conference on Friday. “From there, we go about our work week accordingly. It’s been that way since I’ve been here, and every single week is a new challenge. “
“This week, we have to match the physicality that (Titans head coach) [Mike] Vrabel brings with every single defense that he has; it’s kind of the mentality that he played with. On top of that, we have to take care of the football. On the other side of the ball, we know they have a tough, hard-nosed running game — and we have to stop one of the best running backs to ever play the game.”
The chess match that is each week’s game plan is part of the fun for Kelce. At this point in his career, he knows how to use that to maximize his performance in a game. “I get excited for a new game plan more than anything,” Kelce revealed. “How are we going to attack these guys, how can I visualize how I’m going to attack my opponent all week long… That’s what you get fired up for, that’s what fuels my excitement for every Sunday, every game day is that ability to get excited for the plays. Not just for me, but everybody on the field.”
Kelce is obviously in the perfect place for someone who loves detailed game plans, but the creativity and unpredictability was naturally enhanced this year without wide receiver Tyreek Hill on the team. The more spread out receiving distribution is recognized as an asset by Kelce.
“The element of surprise, the element of something new, you can’t really scheme it up,” Kelce pointed out. “That’s definitely helped us out, along with Patrick [Mahomes] playing his tail off, understanding where to go with the ball even more so than he was in years prior. He just keeps getting better every single week. I think defenses are still trying to figure out exactly how we’re using all these pieces, knowing that we got a bunch of new pieces. I think that’s helping us.”
It also helps that the receivers in their first season with the team are gelling so quickly with Mahomes — and that isn’t a surprise to Kelce.
“Patrick Mahomes is special for a reason: because he makes guys around him better,” Kelce asserted. “The more reps that he gets with you, the more communication he has with you, the better we are off as a team cause we’re on the same page. I think you’ll slowly see everybody rising to the occasion, keep emerging in this offense.”
Kelce has the most reps of anybody with Mahomes, and that pays off nearly every time the two connect. That’s also been helped by Kelce’s incredible durability; he has only missed two regular-season games since he began playing, and one of those was Week 17 rest.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be as healthy as I’ve been over the course of my career,” Kelce recognized. “This is a game that can put you in some tough situations — so I’ve been fortunate to put these pads on for the amount of time I have been out there. With that comes a lot of preparation, a lot of working with the trainers in this building… there are so many people and variables that go into that, it’s hard to just pinpoint one. I’ve just been very fortunate to always be able to go to work.”
The Chiefs are very fortunate for that as well. His staple presence in a transition year has been the primary reason that his teammates at wide receiver have been able to find success. Even if Hill saw more targets than him last year, it was the case most of the time as well.
No matter what his offense looks like, or what the opposing defense can bring, Kelce loves to be ready for anything — and that’s what makes him so great.