Advertisement

This Hollywood Brown trait has impressed Mahomes. It fits the Chiefs’ biggest need

The Patrick Mahomes pass must have traveled 50 yards in the air, but it would quickly be overshadowed by the play on the other end.

Marquise Brown, referred to almost exclusively as Hollywood, required only one hand to reel in the pass in the back of the end zone — securing the football while on a dead sprint and then holding on despite falling to the ground.

A remarkable play, really.

But it’s the time elapsed between the two — the throw and the catch — that caught the attention of the three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback who threw the pass and the offensive coordinator who called it reminiscent of another player he once coached: Tyreek Hill.

Put aside the speed and size combination — I’ll always argue Hill is in a class of his own on the former — because the comparison is about a singular trait.

“He tracks the ball well,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said. “He really does.”

Mahomes had thrown that football to an open space in the secondary — a space that required Brown to make an adjustment on his route to find it.

He’s typically keen to given players chances this time of year — to test limits — but during his previously-held minicamp in Texas, Mahomes picked up on Brown’s ability to track the football. He even told people of the trait when he first returned to the practice facility this month.

“I remember the first day, I told guys like Drue (Tranquill), ‘He tracks them down the field well. He can really go,’” Mahomes said. “I’m giving him chances downfield.”

Him.

And others.

See, this sequence during organized team activities (OTAs) would be notable even without the receiving end of the play. Or even with a different receiver.

The Chiefs have emphasized their deep passing game during the offseason — from the moment the coaches gathered to evaluate the previous year. And allow me to quicken that evaluation:

They stunk.

Mahomes beat teams with short chunks, not deep shots. He had the shortest average depth of target in the NFL.

And get this: He was the worst-rated quarterback in football on passes that traveled 20-plus yards downfield, according to data on PFF. That’s not a misprint. The best quarterback in the league was its worst on deep passes.

The explanation? A few things. As I mentioned, the staff has looked internally, digging into its own scheme. Travis Kelce mentioned on his podcast this week that Andy Reid has arrived at OTAs with more than 100 new plays. Some of those ought to be focused on prying open some deep receivers, even as the next sentence is true:

Across the league, teams are defending deep shots more than ever, testing the patience of quarterbacks — none more than Mahomes.

Other teams have found a way to make plays anyway — all more than Mahomes.

“We always think with the mindset of making sure that we have that aggressive mindset of going downfield,” Nagy said. “But then there are different reasons for whether you hit them or not, and obviously we didn’t. That was a struggle, and it has been for the last couple of years.”

Let me offer one other reason that returns this conversation to Marquise Brown.

Personnel.

At some point, the receivers on the field have to make the plays, even if there are fewer opportunities to make them.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling made a living out of running wind sprints last year. You know how many of those resulted in receptions over the 17-game regular season? Three. And he was one of only two players on the team with more than one deep catch. (Justin Watson had eight.)

Valdes-Scantling is not short on speed to get past the defense. Nor is Mecole Hardman.

So what was the problem? Neither are particularly adept at tracking or adjusting to the ball while it’s in the air. They require either a plethora of space or a perfect pass — and I probably don’t need to remind you that even that didn’t always prompt a reception.

Which is why that very attribute — tracking the deep ball — has stood out most during the introduction to the newest receiver, Brown.

Every May football story should probably include the caveat that it’s early. Heck, in two months it will be early. It’s practice. It’s practice without pads.

It’s not a time for conclusions.

It can be, however, a time for some signs.

“I’ve seen it the entire offseason — from working in Texas until here,” Mahomes said.

Tracking the football is merely part of the equation within their control that will be tested much more fully during training camp, then preseason and then actual games. The Chiefs provide their receivers options, dependent on how a defensive secondary responds to individual routes. It requires that a quarterback and receiver see the play identically.

There were instances a year ago — one pass to Watson in particular — in which Mahomes threw to space on the back end of the secondary, and his receiver ran in a different direction.

“When you run down field and run routes, it’s usually not a straight line,” Nagy said. “At some point, there’s a break point where you flatten it or you run a corner route. So it’s having a feel for knowing when you’re going to break it off.”

That’s the to-be-determined element in the puzzle, or the most glaring element. But the Chiefs are rushing toward the determination.

During an OTA practice this week, the Chiefs began several phases of drills with deep throws. Skyy Moore came open twice, though Mahomes threw it just out of his reach each time. Rashee Rice had a step on Trent McDuffie, and Mahomes perfectly placed the ball in his hands.

A refreshing change.

In May.

The offense could use the change in September.