Sure, three's company, but four may be the magic number for the Kansas City Chiefs at tight end this season.
In the Chiefs' preseason finale, a 28-25 win over the Minnesota Vikings, the team's four tight ends played a major role in the victory. The quartet of Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, Noah Gray and Jody Fortson combined for nine targets, seven receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Kelce was the star of the show with the first team, performing like his usual self by finding soft spots in Minnesota's defense. Bell caught one of two total touchdowns that quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw on Friday night on a five-yard play deep in Vikings territory. Gray and Fortson, the youngest players among the Chiefs' tight ends, each had their moments as the game went on. It truly was a team effort.
Some of the biggest questions throughout the offseason and into training camp — and even now, after three preseason games — revolve around the final roster. How many tight ends will the Chiefs be able to keep? How many do they want to keep? Whose job is safe besides Kelce's? While Mahomes doesn't have the answers to those questions, he did tell the media on Friday that opposing defenses have their work cut out for them when facing this group.
"Having those tight ends on the field that can run block and they can catch, and then the offensive line we've built here and how they've been able to really run the ball, I think it's going to put defenses in some very tough positions," Mahomes said. "They either have to put a lot of big people on the field to stop the run, or they have to find a way to stop those guys like Noah (Gray), Blake (Bell), Travis (Kelce) and Jody (Fortson) who can all catch the ball like a receiver."
The Chiefs' tight end room is such a weapon that against Minnesota, the offense successfully dialed up a play that saw all four big men on the field at once. That 14-personnel formation was, believe it or not, the touchdown to Bell. It remains to be seen whether that type of look would ever be replicated in a regular season environment, but the mere fact that it exists within the Chiefs' playbook is remarkable.
Keeping four tight ends on the final roster would call for a necessary sacrifice elsewhere. Could that be at wide receiver or running back? Possibly. What about along the offensive line? Sure. Regardless of what the Chiefs end up doing, Mahomes feels good about the talent at that position. So good, in fact, that the team may not be able to part ways with a single one of the bunch.