The Kansas City Chiefs have made it a priority to feature third-year wide receiver Mecole Hardman more in the offense. In the team's second preseason game, that was certainly the case.
Hardman was targeted eight times on Friday night, recording four catches for 39 yards and a touchdown. The score was a beautiful catch on a pass from backup quarterback Chad Henne, but Patrick Mahomes was the primary driving force behind Hardman's increased target share. The two have been trying to develop some chemistry as of late and once Hardman learned that Tyreek Hill would miss the game, he made the most of his opportunities.
"No, I didn't," Hardman said when asked about whether he knew Hill was going to be out. "We didn't know Tyreek wasn't playing until the game started so it was, like, 'what are we doing?' I didn't know we were going to play the whole first half, but it was cool to get a lot of reps out there and get some targets and some catches."
Hardman was expected to take a leap forward last season, but his statistical production failed to improve. After wideout Sammy Watkins departed in free agency earlier this year, the attention once again shifted back to the speedy Hardman. He and Mahomes struggled to get on the same page against the Arizona Cardinals and according to Mahomes, they can both do better.
"The first end zone play, I've got to throw the ball probably with a little bit more touch," Mahomes said. "I threw it a little hard and tried to really rip it in there and it was a little high for him to kind of get both of his hands on. The second one, where he kind of ran across the field, it's the play you always see us run with Tyreek. We've just got to work on that timing and find the right spot because he has the speed to beat that guy across the field ... I thought he had a good game."
Mahomes emphasized being able to string together plays on long drives as another major takeaway from the preseason contest. He's aware that scoring in short order is fun but when things aren't aligning for that type of possession, being able to control the clock and be methodical is important. He alluded to the fact that the entire offense is working on improving, and that is no different for a player like Hardman.
"I think the best thing with Mecole is he doesn't make the same mistake twice," Mahomes said. "He really has learned a lot being behind Tyreek and learning how to play that position."
As the Chiefs gear up for their final preseason game of 2021, it remains to be seen whether head coach Andy Reid will play his starters. He hasn't done so in the fourth game in the past but this year, the three-game setup leaves the door cracked for a shift in philosophy. Assuming Mahomes and Hardman don't play, though, they've still managed to lay the foundation for what should be an up-and-coming mutual understanding on offense.