Make Travis Kelce A Non-Factor
Oakland’s troubles covering opposing tight ends is well chronicled. And it’s a weakness opposing teams continue to exploit – and one they’ll continue exploiting until the Raiders figure out a way to stop it. And in the Chiefs, they’ll be facing another above average tight end who Smith relies on for offensive success.
Travis Kelce is the Chiefs’ leading receiver with 22 receptions for 220 yards and a pair of scores on the year. He’s a big factor in Kansas City’s offensive game planning and he’s Smith’s personal security blanket.
Oakland needs to find a way to shut him down, make him a non-factor, and take away one of Smith’s favorite weapons.
Ben Heeney struggled in pass coverage as has Malcolm Smith. With Heeney done for the year after an injury and Smith slowed by an injury, you have to figure Andy Reid and the Chiefs will be attacking the middle range of the field relentlessly.
Newcomer Perry Riley Jr. provided a spark last week – a mere five days after the team signed him. Despite that though, San Diego’s tight ends – Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry – still combined for seven receptions for 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Riley seems to have a high upside and more time in DC Ken Norton Jr.’s system will only help him improve. But will he improve enough – and quickly enough – to help shore up one of Oakland’s most glaring weaknesses?
Adding Riley to an incredibly thin inside linebackers group seems to provide a lot of help. But he can’t do it alone. Malcolm Smith, Darren Bates, and company are going to have to step up and play large. They’re going to have to find a way to take away the middle of the field and defend the short range pass – something that Smith excels at.