The Kansas City Chiefs have a well-rounded roster, and it’s difficult to find a weakness on either offense or defense. However, their Week 1 opponent, the Cleveland Browns, has the talent to go toe-to-toe with them and spoil their regular-season debut. In particular, their wide receiver unit, led by Odell Beckham Jr., could give the Chiefs secondary fits.
WHAT SHOULD THE KANSAS CITY CHIEFS EXPECT SUNDAY?
Beckham has been somewhat inconsistent over the last few seasons. But he has the speed and explosiveness to do serious damage if he’s on his game. Last year, the 2014 first-round pick suffered a torn ACL in Week 7 that cut his season short. Beckham finished the year with 23 receptions for 319 yards and three touchdowns. He hyped up his recovery throughout his offseason and looks “all systems go,” according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
He just looks like one of the guys. It looks like he never even came off of a torn ACL, he’s out there running fast catching passes cutting out a dime, and I really think he’s gonna play in Kansas City. They’ll keep an eye on him. They’ll make sure that he doesn’t overdo it, but it looks like all systems go to me.
Then again, Beckham’s status for Sunday’s matchup is uncertain. He was limited on practice on both Wednesday and Thursday. Still, Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo told the local media Thursday he sees the former LSU Tiger as the ultimate game wrecker.
Number 13 changes a lot of things. I know that firsthand, going against him every day in practice. So that’s a big challenge, along with the tight ends, [Jarvis] Landry, and those two running backs. You’re looking at an offense right out of the gate that’s going to be a huge challenge for our guys.
The case could be made the Brown expected more from Beckham when they pulled a blockbuster trade to acquire him in 2019. Whether injuries or inconsistency, Beckham hasn’t performed like the player who earned three Pro Bowl selections early in his NFL career. He may or may not play Sunday, but the Chiefs must prepare as if he’s at full strength, even if he isn’t. But he isn’t the only Browns wide receiver the Chiefs must account for.
THE CHIEFS CAN’T SLEEP ON JARVIS LANDRY
Regardless of if Beckham suits up in Week 1, the Chiefs will need to contain Jarvis Landy. He might not be as flashy but he has been more consistent over the last seven years. The 2014 second-round pick caught 72 passes for 840 yards with three touchdowns last year. He was targeted a team-high 101 times, a trend that could continue in 2021 if Beckham struggles.
Also, Rashard Higgins could see significant time on the field. He torched Kansas City’s secondary for five receptions in the divisional round of last year’s NFL playoffs. Although he only had logged 37 receptions last season, he averaged 16.5 yards per catch and had four trips to the end zone. He’s the kind of player who can stretch the field in the blink of an eye and one Spagnuolo’s unit can’t afford to take lightly.
Then, there’s tight end Austin Hooper. He wasn’t as successful in Cleveland’s playoff game versus the Chiefs, catching two passes for 18 yards. But he’s someone Mayfield will often trust, finishing the 2020 season with 70 targets, the second-most in the team.
THE CHIEFS AREN’T LACKING FIREPOWER IN THE SECONDARy
As good as the Browns wide receiver corps looks ahead of Week 1 — even without Beckham — there’s a reason why they were able to keep Cleveland’s passing game in check in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs. Kansas City has the personnel to match up against the Browns’ skill-position players. When it comes to playmakers, Tyrann Mathieu is second to none. He earned his third First-Team All-Pro designation in 2020 and the second one in as many years. As long as he’s healthy, the Chiefs defense will have a fighting chance.
Both Charvarius Ward and L’Jarius Sneed won’t be confused with a shutdown corner anytime soon, but they both can hold their own. As long as they avoid giving up big plays, they should be alright. Free safety Daniel Sorensen allowed two receptions for 29 yards in last year’s playoffs but he played well more often than not.
The Kansas City Chiefs have the personnel to contain the Browns’ passing attack but they need to be ready in case the season opener turns into a shootout.