In this new weekly series I’m starting for Arrowhead Pride, I’ll ask one big question about the Kansas City Chiefs’ season every week. Last week, I wrote about Chris Jones’s holdout and the impact on the entire team.
This week, we’re talking about two Chiefs receivers who struggled in Week 1: Skyy Moore and KaDarius Toney.
How long of a leash do Skyy Moore and KaDarius Toney receive?
During the offseason, all Chiefs fans wanted to talk about was what the team was doing at wide receiver. One offseason removed from trading superstar Tyreek Hill (Hill reminded us on Sunday why he’s so special), the Chiefs wide receiver room was even younger and inexperienced compared to where it was after Hill was traded. Wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman departed — and to replace them, the Chiefs were trusting internal development and youth at the position.
The players under the most spotlight for this shift were Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore. This offseason, I wrote about Toney and Moore multiple times. At one point, I defined Toney’s potential breakout as the key to the offense reaching its ceiling, but Moore’s leap was what would raise the floor of the offense.
Everyone was excited to see how those two would perform in more significant roles and with more volume given to them as wide receivers. How did that look in Week 1? Not great, Doc!
Moore and Toney couldn’t have had more dreadful games. Patrick Mahomes targeted them a combined eight times. On those eight targets, they produced one reception for a single yard. If we extrapolated that for the course of the season, Moore and Toney would put up numbers of 136 targets, 18 catches and 18 yards.
Nothing was going right for either player — and particularly Toney. I don’t want to dog him too much, as it was an incredibly frustrating game for everyone. It was evident early that his head wasn’t in the game. He was running the wrong routes, didn’t seem to understand the playcalls and had the agonizing drops everyone saw. I’ll never say one player was the reason you lost a game, but this was an embarrassing performance from Toney that I hope he’s able to overcome.
Moore didn’t have the eye-popping mistakes Toney had, but his performance threw cold water onto fans who were expecting a big breakout performance from Moore. With tight end Travis Kelce not playing, I was expecting Moore to be the guy to step up and take the volume of targets in the passing offense. Unfortunately, that just didn’t happen.
Moore only received three targets and didn’t bring any of them in. Mahomes didn’t appear to be looking for Moore ever within the structure of a play — even when Moore was wide open. When Mahomes did end up throwing the ball to Moore, the passes were difficult to bring in.
Toney and Moore should be allowed to have bad performances. They’re young players who need to have these experiences to grow as players. I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but the Chiefs were asking a lot out of young players to be a Super Bowl-caliber wide receiver group immediately. Playing with Mahomes, Kelce and Andy Reid is a massive advantage to getting into favorable positions, but they also needed to be ready to compete at the highest levels. For any young player, that’s incredibly challenging.
Unfortunately, that’s the NFL.
You can’t pick the circumstances for your development. The Chiefs were going to throw these guys into the fire, and they either would come out of it alive or not. It’s only been one week, so it’s impossible to say whether they will get out of the fire, but they’re 0-1 right now because of the fact that their other receivers weren’t up to snuff to win a football game.
And this raises the critical question: How long can the Chiefs wait?
Moore and Toney need as many reps as possible to try and accelerate their developments, but the Chiefs can’t afford a performance anywhere close to what they got Thursday again. Even with Kelce’s impending return, the defenses they will face will only get better. Moore and Toney are going to have to find a way to contribute — or we’re going to have to face serious questions about what the organization was doing at wide receiver this offseason.
So, how long of a leash do Toney and Moore get? Are they going to be allowed to make mistakes? How long until the Chiefs start to dwindle their opportunities in favor of veterans that Mahomes trusts? It’s premature to say that any opportunity should be diminished now, but if these mistakes keep popping up six weeks from now, then what?
This is a unique territory for Mahomes. Throughout his career, he’s always had a ton of trust in the receivers he’s had and for rightful reasons. When his career first started, he had lots of reps to build chemistry with Hill, Kelce, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, etc. Last year, he had veterans such as Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Smith-Schuster and Justin Watson he could rely on.
In 2023, he doesn’t have that built-in chemistry or veterans he can trust as much. He will have to try and make it work with players he’s not super familiar with. If his trust erodes in Moore and Toney, the offense doesn’t have many options to help him. He’s going to have to keep firing at these guys as much as possible in order to try and get them going.
Regardless of what Mahomes and Reid do to help these guys, it’s on Moore and Toney to improve. Week 1 was unacceptable, and they know that. There’s nothing more I’d love to see that both have a major bounceback against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Chiefs need them to be as good as they can be as quickly as possible — otherwise, we might be having uncomfortable conversations about getting other receivers snaps.