JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2023 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
ESPN NFL Nation Kansas City Chiefs writer Adam Teicher on the Chiefs as they enter Sunday's 2023 Week 2 game against the Jaguars at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville.
Question: The defending Super Bowl and AFC West Champion Chiefs are 0-1 entering Sunday, having lost the regular-season opener to the Detroit Lions, 21-20, Thursday. They have two-time NFL Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, but All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce missed the opener with a knee injury and is uncertain for Sunday. All-Pro defensive lineman Chris Jones had been holding out because of a contract issue before signing a one-year deal Monday. What's the mindset of the Chiefs as Week 2 approaches?
Answer: They're looking at all the mistakes they made [against Detroit], the dropped passes and things they didn't take advantage of, and they still lost the game by one point. They were missing a couple of their better players in Jones and Kelce and still almost found a way to get it done. It's not the way they have started a season. They've been very good, particularly on offense, the last few years in season openers. This one was a little different. We'll see just how deep their problems run on Sunday in Jacksonville.
Q: Was the opener attributable to the absence of Jones and Kelce? Is it that simple?
A: They've got a bunch of young receivers, and none of them really is an Alpha guy. There's really not a No. 1 guy in there. One of the players told me he thought everybody was pressing toward the end of the game, that the receivers were kind of pressing to make a play. That's Kelce's stage. That's where he shines. He loves that spotlight. Until you get a guy who's ready to step into that role, they're probably going to struggle in those situations, particularly if Kelce's not there.
Q: And defensively?
A: They actually played pretty well. One of Detroit's touchdowns came on defense, so the Chiefs really gave up 14 points on defense. If you'd asked them before the game, 'You're only going to give up 21 points,' they would've said, 'Yeah, we'll take that.' They're probably in a better place defensively than I thought they'd be to start the season given Jones was out and some other things they had going on. I thought they might be a little bit more of a work in progress. Maybe this will be a better test in Jacksonville on Sunday, but they are a little ahead maybe of where I thought they'd be on defense.
Q: Jones signed Monday. What does he mean to this team and what do you expect from him Sunday?
A: First what he means is a whole lot. The Chiefs were second in the league in sacks last year, and he was a huge part of that. It was tough to see them getting anywhere close to that level without him. They played pretty well against Detroit the other night, but my sense is they could cover for him for a short period of time. The longer they had to live without him, the harder it was going to get. What do I expect from him on Sunday? I expect he will play and might get a decent amount of snaps. I don't know how the Chiefs are going to handle that. They probably don't even know right now themselves. But I would expect at least 15-to-20 snaps, maybe even more than that, depending on how he's doing and how the game's going. I could see that easily. What kind of impact he'll have, we'll have to see.
Q: Without Kelsey, what do they do to be effective or is that something we're still trying to figure out?
A: (Laughing) They put it in Mahomes' lap and hope he can make a play. Mahomes was their leading rusher [in Week 1]. You take away his runs and they were 17 [rushes] for 45 [yards]. They had no impact at all in the running game. Their short-yardage offense is horrible. They had nine plays [in Week 1] where they needed one or two yards for a first down, and they converted three times. They really have been bad in that area. We know about the problems in the pass game [in Week 1]. They weren't catching it very well, but guys weren't getting open a whole lot either. I'm watching for that on Sunday. Can guys get open? There's a little bit of an issue guys getting separation from the defensive backs. They really had nothing to rely on other than Mahomes making a play. There wasn't a lot consistently going on. I can't believe they're going to be as bad this week as they were last week with the dropped passes. That's not something we had seen at [training] camp. Whether they can run better, I don't know, but that's not really an accurate gauge as to where they are offensively. Normally, you've had things from week to week you knew were going to work for the Chiefs. Right now, you just don't know what those things are. Maybe if Kelce comes back, things will turn around a little bit, but right now, you're sort of wondering is there anything they can have on Sunday that can work for him consistently?
Q: The Chiefs for the last half decade have been the NFL's most consistent team. Is this maybe the most uncertain time they have had in a while or is this a Week 1 thing?
A: The Chiefs had won eight straight season openers. They were always ready to go when the season started. Since [Head Coach Andy] Reid has been here [in 2013], there have been a lot of 4-0 starts, 5-0, even one 9-0 start. Here we are in Week 2 and there are some things in disarray. There were inconsistencies on offense and while they have reason to feel better than I thought they would on defense, you still don't know whether that's going to carry over from week to week. I'd say they are still a work in progress right now. This is not a finished product, by any stretch. They're not where they normally are this time of year. I don't know whether they can get back to where they normally are. It's reasonable to think they'll be pretty good. But their receivers were so bad the other night, it's not even funny. It was really ugly. That's going to have to turn around pretty quickly.