In the Kansas City Chiefs' Week 1 victory over the Cleveland Browns, no wide receiver not named Tyreek Hill managed to stand out — at least in a positive manner.
Until further notice, get used to that being the case.
Hill, for one, was fantastic. His 11 receptions and 197 yards led the team en route to a thrilling comeback win. Outside of him, all eyes were on Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson. In April, Robinson declared that he wanted to show the world that he's capable of posting a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season. As the preseason drew closer, the Chiefs made Hardman their leading candidate for the team's No. 2 receiver role. Conner Christopherson of Arrowhead Report joined me on today's Roughing the Kicker podcast to discuss the early returns for each player.
First and foremost, let's address the numbers. For Robinson, his Week 1 saw him haul in one pass for a nine-yard gain. Hardman registered three catches in the ballgame, gaining 19 yards in the process. A combined four catches for the team's second and third receivers is less than ideal, and 28 total yards is very underwhelming. From a statistical standpoint, it's hard to not expect more out of both players.
When factoring in situational football, it gets even worse. Robinson, as he's done numerous times in the past, moved horizontally and failed to get upfield after his catch. On that play, he cost the Chiefs what almost surely would have been a first down. One of Hardman's catch-and-run instances ended with him running out of bounds short of the first-down marker. Neither cost the team the game, but both made things more difficult than they needed to be.
This is what the Chiefs agreed to miss when they let Sammy Watkins depart via free agency. Not only did he open things up for others, but he was a veteran presence. He knew where the sticks were. He had reliable hands. His football IQ was extremely high. Watkins wasn't perfect, but he was a good player (when healthy). In their non-Hill wideouts, the Chiefs don't have those traits.
Logically speaking, it makes sense to say that Robinson is what he is at this point. He's in his sixth year with the team and despite catching criticism from his own coaching staff, he's repeating the same mistakes in-game. Hardman, on the other hand, still has a chance to improve. He's young, he's willing to work and the Chiefs clearly believe in him. They're in it for the long haul with him, regardless of whether it works out or not.
Over the next few weeks, get used to some growing pains from Hardman. If nothing changes by the end of the season, then we can talk about them not being "growing pains" per se. For now, hold on to the hope you have left in regards to him. It's okay to wave the metaphorical white flag with Robinson, but get used to these frustrating moments. There will likely be more coming.