Through five games, Patrick Mahomes hasn’t been himself, and there’s some reasons for concern.
First, let’s all acknowledge the elephant in the room. Patrick Mahomes is an elite quarterback and is on a Hall of Fame pace. If the NFL had a redraft, Mahomes would more than likely be the number one overall pick. His worst season in the NFL was when he went to overtime of the AFC Championship against the GOAT. Mahomes, for all intents and purposes, is “fine.”
However, when you start to evaluate Mahomes’ performance on a game-by-game basis, there is something that has just seemed off about his season so far. Sure, we’ve seen some big games from him, but Mahomes, but it hasn’t been Mahomes this season.
Lack Of Explosion
What is it that feels off? When looking at the numbers, Mahomes still ranks among the top in most counting and rate stats. But when you ask a Chiefs fan, they might tell you that he’s having a down year. Everything seems difficult not only for him but the entire Chiefs offense. It’s well documented that the Chiefs are facing an incredible amount of 2 high safety looks, forcing the Chiefs’ offense to methodically work down the field rather than their traditional chunk plays. When Mahomes took over as the Chiefs starter, he completely changed the offense from a horizontal scheme to a vertical attack. However, now it almost feels like the offense needs to go back to a little bit of the Alex Smith ways.
When it comes to a QB, you never want to take away their ability to look downfield. However, it’s almost like Mahomes is looking downfield so much that he’s missing what is right in front of him. It’s easy to ridicule Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s production in the passing game, but Mahomes simply isn’t throwing him the ball. If the defense is going to run seven men backward the moment the ball is snapped, KC should be able to feast on dump-offs and passes in the flat. Instead, we get plays like below where Mahomes locks in on a read and misses an open Tyreek Hill for an easy dump-off.
Comfort In The Pocket
It’s no secret that the offensive line was a significant problem for the Chiefs in 2020, and they spent all off-season trying to fix it. The results have been impressive. Creed Humphrey currently ranks as the top-rated center in the NFL, and Trey Smith and Joe Thuney tied for 12th in rankings for guards. While the tackles have struggled occasionally, they are still providing what most would consider average protection on the edges. The Chiefs’ offensive line woes are fixed. Are they perfect? of course not. But they are not to blame for Mahomes’ struggles.
At times Patrick has not looked comfortable stepping up or standing in the pocket. Orlando Brown and Lucas Niang are completely different tackles than what KC had for the last three years. Mahomes cannot drift back further in the pocket, which he often likes to do to avoid pressure. Likewise, when Mahomes does step up in the pocket, he seems to have difficulty keeping his throwing platform to fire the ball accurately. It feels like there is never a snap where Mahomes can drop back in the pocket and fire the ball within the pocket. At times, as the elite of a passer, Mahomes manufactures his pressure by dumping out of clean pockets or scrambling into pressure. None of this is helping the turnovers, either.
What Does This Mean Going Forward?
When it comes to Mahomes’ 2021 season thus far, it is the tale of the tape and knowing him as a player. I think most fans who would look at his raw stats would conclude he’s playing just fine and throwing more picks than last year. For those of us who hang onto every snap he takes, there is something different about this season.
Sure, you can look at the offensive rankings and conclude that it’s all the defense’s fault for the three losses. However, almost all of the three losses are directly correlated to the Chiefs’ offensive turnovers. Mahomes has seven of the 11 turnovers for the team. He ranks as PFF’s 14th overall QB, which is not terrible but undoubtedly disappointing for Mahomes.
As we advance, the Chiefs offense as a whole has to embrace what teams are giving them. Mahomes has to settle down in the pocket and recognize when the time to push the ball downfield. There is zero doubt that the defensive woes are part of what is causing Mahomes’ turnovers. He has to realize sometimes it’s better to punt the ball 45 yards rather than throwing a pick on the 50-yard line. Mahomes is still poised for a great season; heck, he might even be MVP given his raw numbers. However, there is room for growth with his accuracy and poise.