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Rashee Rice needs more reps at WR1!

It’s time for Rice to get more chances.

(Photo by: Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports)

The Kansas City Chiefs are 5-1! The Chiefs defeated their rival Denver Broncos on Thursday night, 19-8. Patrick Mahomes completed 30 of 40 passes for 306 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Travis Kelce was his favorite target, catching nine passes for 124 yards despite his ankle injury. The one that stepped up was rookie receiver Rashee Rice who looked solid in that game, catching seven passes for a career-high 72 yards. At first, after drafting the receiver in the second round of this year’s past draft, the Chiefs were counting on big things from Rice. 

Some say that rookie wide receivers will have to go through the gauntlet when working under Andy Reid’s scheme. Skyy Moore only had 6 catches for 100 yards in his first 6 games as a rookie. Some thought that Rice would go through the same situation. Rice in preseason was technically still a raw receiver and needed to develop areas of his game like his release and hand technique when positioning for the ball. Yet, he has made significant strides from preseason since fans wanted to bring up his 4 drops. JaMarr Chase had 4 drops to begin his career in preseason.

Rice is looking like the WR1 of the future for Mahomes and Co. Through his first 6 games, Rice already has 21 catches for 245 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. Rice is best coming out of the slot where most of his successful results come from but registered a 41” vertical at the combine so he can go up and get the ball if needed. When you compare those numbers to rookie receivers under Andy Reid, Rice is right up there with some of the best players who have performed under expectations and then had great careers afterward.

I made an X post last night. It highlights the most catches in the first 6 games by an Andy Reid rookie receiver. DeSean Jackson (2008) had 8 more than Rice having 29 catches in his first 6. Rice is second on that list over Mecole Hardman (2019) and Jeremy Maclin (2009) who both had 16 catches in these first 6 games and lastly, Rice has 8 more than what Tyreek Hill (2016) did in his first 6 games as a rookie. That’s saying a lot because if Rice keeps this pace going, he could have one of the best seasons for an Andy Reid rookie pass catcher. 

Rice finished second in receiving yards on this past Thursday night for the Chiefs with a figure that was also his best over the first six games of his career. The star rookie has been consistent in a passing game with limited opportunities, recording at least three receptions in all but one contest and snagging a pair of touchdowns. Rice has logged five or more targets on four occasions as well, giving him plenty of momentum going into the Week 7 home divisional battle versus the Chargers.

An example of why Rice needs more reps is this play against the Vikings in Week 5 where Rice is lined up to the left in the slot and runs a slant route against Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy who is in a press man alignment:

He uses the stutter step at the line of scrimmage to evade the jam before cutting to the inside. Once the DB tried to jam him, Rice uses a subtle swim move with his left arm gaining separation on the movement to score. He was criticized for not getting open against man coverage coming out of SMU. I do believe since being drafted by the Chiefs, his footwork at the line of scrimmage against press coverage is becoming more efficient and continues to set the rookie up for separation on his routes. From there, the ability to use his strength and speed after the catch allows Rice to tack on additional yardage on most receptions. 

The former SMU product looks to be an excellent, reliable option working the slot and moving the chains as a possession-style receiver just like JuJu Smith-Schuster did last season for the Chiefs. Yet he also demonstrated, even when the ball was not thrown his way, an ability to get open in deeper parts of the field. Sure, the offense evolves around Travis Kelce. Yet Rice has impressed the coaching staff this far. He ran routes crisply and gained sufficient depth behind linebackers on that game-clinching 28-yard catch.

As a run blocker, he displays excellent footwork and technique. As a receiver, he creates a lot of separation with his explosion and crafty route running. He does benefit from being on the same team as Kelce, as teams pay more attention to Kelce in the Chiefs 11 personnel (3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 RB) set, but it also means Kelce takes away from his numbers. But he still has an impressive 245 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

The Chiefs are doing a very good job of getting players open for Patrick Mahomes since Kelce’s Week 2 return. Kelce and Rice have appeared to be his favorite targets, they are open often and reliable. They are also responsible for being excellent 3rd down and short-yardage targets to move the chains. In the Chiefs’ offense, with Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the other side and Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney in the slot, there are only so many targets to go around. But with the ability that Rashee Rice has shown so far, he will see more than a fair share of them going forward.

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