Football 101: Defending Travis Kelce




When it comes to offensive explosiveness, there may not be a scarier offensive weapon in the NFL than Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles. Ask teams throughout the league and gauge their assessment of that KC offense. Most will say that it begins and ends with Charles. Now, most won't take into account the addition of former Philadelphia wide receiver Jeremy Maclin but most will remain steadfast that it's Charles stirring the drink.

Trust me, Charles is worrisome to say the least but one guy that gives me a headache to think about is third year tight end Travis Kelce. He missed his entire rookie campaign after having microfracture surgery on his knee. But, he returned in 2014 and had a banner season, as essentially a rookie. Kelce's 67 receptions, 862 yards and five touchdowns led the Chiefs in every receiving category.

The Chiefs will use him in a number of different ways as he's part receiver, part h-back and part tight end, but he's 100% nuclear weapon regardless of where he is in the formation. He'll line up as a slot receiver. He'll line up as a true Y. He's an accounting nightmare, in that a defense has to account for him on every play. How you cover him and who you decide to cover him with is something I'm sure the Texans have put high up on the to-do list this week.

As mentioned above, the Chiefs found a multitude of ways to get him involved in the passing game last season. Here's one way that they did it late in the 2014 season and it can be problematic for a number of different reasons. Now, keep in mind, I'm well aware that #99 plays for the Texans so nothing will be easy against that defense either, but they need to know where Kelce is and how to slow him down to have ultimate success on Sunday.

Against the Chargers in last year's season finale, the Chiefs were backed up in their own territory. They aligned in a three by one formation with three receivers to the top of the screen and a tight split WR to the bottom. QB Chase Daniel was in the shotgun with Jamaal Charles to his right. Kelce was the number two receiver to the right hand side, in the slot, in the circle (number two receiver - count from outside in - furthest outside is No. 1, next to him moving to the inside is number two)


On the snap, Daniel put the ball into Charles' belly as he rode him into the line of scrimmage to the left side. The OL blocked as if it was a zone run that way, but it was fancy, college style play action.


Kelce, at the snap, bubbled out to his right, away from the run action. So, as all action followed Charles into the line, Daniel looked out to his right and spied Kelce wide open. The Chargers were in man coverage on the number one wide receiver, which made this play truly go.


The Chargers defensive back followed the outside receiver down inside. As instructed in man coverage, he tracked the wide receiver as the pass catcher ran an slant route. The wideout wasn't going to block the linebacker but he created a rub/pick for the Chargers outside linebacker. As the defensive back followed and the linebacker was picked off, Daniel had a clear, easy throwing lane to a wide open receiver - Kelce.


As soon as he caught it, Kelce sprinted up field like a receiver, not a tight end for a 20 yard gain.

This type of play is seen more so in college, but it works with a RB like Charles and a player like Kelce. Teams often sell out to stop Charles and it puts Kelce in major advantageous situations in the passing game. The Chargers played it straight with a linebacker on Kelce and lost.

The very next play, Kelce lined up as the lone receiver to the same right side. He ran an over route through the middle of the field vs. zone coverage for another 14 yard gain.

Two completely different pass routes, two consecutive plays, one target. The one target that many may not realize is as important to this Chiefs offense as he actually is.

Travis Kelce, No. 87.

The Texans and Chiefs previous matchups are featured in this Throwback Thursday Slideshow.

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