There are very few brilliant tight ends still working in the NFL. Rob Gronkowski is an injury-riddled husk of the beast he once was. Jimmy Graham hasn’t been the same since leaving New Orleans. Antonio Gates and his 112 touchdowns are heading for retirement soon, and so is Jason Witten.
As the old guard of tight ends age out and get worn down, it leaves some room for new names and new faces to emerge. With the likes of Evan Engram, OJ Howard, and David Njoku entering the league this season, and a few other young guns like Austin Hooper and Hunter Henry around there is an exciting new generation of tight end ready to take over, led by Travis Kelce.
As talented as they come
Kelce entered the league as a third-round pick in the 2013 Draft, but saw virtually no action due to requiring microfracture surgery in his right knee. It’s a tough procedure, and one that took a long time to return from. Kelce didn’t really get his mojo back until 2015, but when he did he started playing like a man possessed. Without many outside options, Kelce soon became the Chiefs best receiving option, leading the team in targets (117), receptions (85), and receiving yards (1,125) last season.
2017 has started off with a bang for Kelce as well, catching 13 of his 17 targets for 143 yards and a score in the first two weeks. He was also named a team captain. However, for all his talents on the field, Kelce has a big problem.
Kelce has an attitude problem, and it manifests in the worst possible way for a team, in needless, pointless, penalties.
Kelce’s temper is always near boiling point, and while that competitive fire is part of what makes him such a good player, it’s also hurting both the team and his own status within the league.
His passion makes him better, better at blocking, better at gaining yards after the catch and better at beating defenders. But when he starts to get frustrated or feels the world is against him then things go wrong.
However, it’s not just as the team struggles that he makes things worse. This season the Chiefs are 2-0 and looking like the class of the NFL in September. They have topped our power rankings for two weeks in a row and in both games, Kelce has been flagged for taunting.
The first one was for shoving the ball in Kyle Van Noy’s crotch after a play, which is a pretty unique way to taunt someone. Last week he drew a flag after Kareem Hunt’s 53-yard touchdown near the end of the third quarter. For a moment it looked like the score would come off the board, but fortunately for Kelce it stood.
Every time Kelce commits one of these dumb penalties Andy Reid grabs him and gives him a talking to. Unfortunately, it’s clearly not getting through to him. His ejection against the Jaguars was stupid, and including last year’s playoffs he has been needlessly flagged in three straight games now.
Any other player would be on the bench quicker than a Tom Coughlin running back who fumbles, but this is Travis Kelce, and Travis Kelce can do this...
Building around him
Outside of Kareem Hunt’s impressive play, the most notable thing about the Chiefs offense this year is that they are building around Travis Kelce’s talents more than ever.
In Week 1 he took a snap and ran the option, but it is the read-option shovel pass that has been the devastating factor so far this season.
Against New England it was a play that consistently kept the chains moving, and against the Eagles they added another wrinkle with a fake jet to Tyreek Hill and a fake to Kareem Hunt, the fakes shifted the defense and widened the front, and Kelce rampaged his way for a touchdown.
You simply can’t bench a player who is so vital to your offense, even if he is making childish mistakes. You just have to hope that the next lapse of judgment doesn’t cost the Chiefs in a big moment.
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