What Chiefs receiver Kadarius Toney is doing to make amends after costly drops in opener
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — His first game as the Kansas City Chiefs’ No. 1 receiver was disastrous. Kadarius Toney was one of the first players to leave the field and then the locker room after the Chiefs’ season-opening loss to the Detroit Lions last week.
Toney knew he was one of the biggest factors in the Chiefs’ loss. He dropped four catchable passes, a statistic he leads the NFL in after Week 1.
When the Chiefs returned to their training facility Monday, Toney felt one of his most important tasks was to apologize to his teammates, in particular coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“Both of those guys have trust and faith in me,” Toney said before Wednesday’s practice. “(They) count on me to make certain plays, and I’ve got to be there to do that. There’s no excuse. There’s nothing you can blame it on.”
Reid, though, also apologized to Toney. Known as a players’ coach, Reid often takes responsibility for a player’s mistakes rather than criticize them.
— Aaron Ladd (@aaronladdtv) September 8, 2023
With the Chiefs offense forced to operate without All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, who missed the opener because of a hyperextended right knee, Reid decided to employ Toney, who missed training camp and the preseason while recovering from knee surgery. Toney was on the field for 16 snaps (25 percent) and was targeted five times, tied for the team high.
Early in the third quarter, Mahomes threw a perfect pass to Toney, who was open while running a crossing route. Instead of catching the ball, Toney let it go through his hands and right to Lions rookie safety Brian Branch, who returned the interception 50 yards for a touchdown to tie the score 14-14. The Lions’ win probability increased from 16 percent to 39 percent as a result, according to Next Gen Stats.
“I’m not worried about him,” Reid said of Toney. “He’s a competitive kid, a heck of a player and I kind of put him in a position that’s tough. But he had to get in there to get caught up to the speed when he had no training camp.”
Right place, right time @BrianBB_1
— NFL (@NFL) September 8, 2023
The lone positive from Thursday’s game for Toney was that he was the Chiefs receiver who created the most separation while running his routes. The issue, however, is that the Chiefs’ film sessions showed Toney and Mahomes need plenty of repetitions during practice this week to help restore their chemistry, timing and post-snap adjustments to get back into sync.
The most notable example in the opener occurred during the Chiefs’ final possession. Trailing by one point with less than three minutes left, the Chiefs had the perfect play called against the Lions’ zone coverage. Running a deep over route, Toney was wide open for what would’ve been at least a 25-yard completion, a connection that likely would’ve put the Chiefs in position for a game-winning field goal. Mahomes threw his pass a few inches behind Toney, thinking his receiver was going to slow down to stay between multiple defenders. Toney, in the middle of his route, took his eyes off the ball to locate defenders. That led to his most egregious drop.
“We didn’t execute at a high enough level, me included,” Mahomes said. “You have to keep building. I’ll try to do what I can to make it easier on (the receivers) and they’ll make the plays happen.”
Before entering the Chiefs’ facility Monday, Toney used his Instagram account to make fun of the fans of the New York Giants, who were blown out 40-0 by the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. Toney wrote, “Na Don’t get quiet now…” on his Instagram story. The former Giants receiver was clapping back after many New York fans made jokes at his expense following his poor performance against the Lions.
Chiefs WR Kadarius Toney returned to IG after the Giants were shutout on SNF 😳
The former Giant deleted his IG after dropping three passes in the season opener. pic.twitter.com/Lg5GC7uc9F
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) September 11, 2023
“It’s not an obsession,” Toney said, smiling. “They troll me, I troll them back. I’m just focusing on what I’ve got going on now. I’m not really sweating that.”
Toney understands the best way for him to regain his on-field confidence and to help his teammates is through his diligence in preparing for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He vowed to spend at least 30 minutes after each practice this week catching extra passes, whether from a Jugs machine or Mahomes.
He also emphasized that the Chiefs, whether against the Jaguars or any other opponent, don’t need him to be a superhero.
“Just make plays when there’s time to make it,” he said. “It’s more of me finding my routine and me getting back to the player that I am.”
(Photo: Denny Medley / USA Today)
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