'Staying creative' with Travis Kelce another way Chiefs can grow offense

A breakout 2016 showed how potent a weapon tight end Travis Kelce, right, can be for Alex Smith and the Chiefs. Scott Halleran/Getty Images

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Travis Kelce had his breakout season in 2016, leading all NFL tight ends in yardage with 1,125 and finishing second in receptions with 85.

It still feels as though the Kansas City Chiefs haven’t reached the top of what they can reasonably expect from Kelce. He had six games last season with 100-plus receiving yards but also six with fewer than 40. He had a career-low four touchdowns after scoring five times in each of his first two full NFL seasons.

The Chiefs have talked this offseason about expanding their offense by getting more from Tyreek Hill, mainly by playing him more. Hill was a part-time player as a rookie last season.

They can’t reasonably play Kelce much more. He was already in their offensive lineup for more than 86 percent of the plays, compared to less than 50 percent for Hill.

But the Chiefs can get more from Kelce by using him in different ways.

“Every year you’ll see him probably get a little bit more here and there, different things," coach Andy Reid said. “He plays a lot, so it’s not going be [increased] play time, necessarily. But it’s just variations on the passing game. He can basically do everything a wide receiver can do. He gives you some flexibility there."

The Chiefs put Kelce’s versatility to good use last season. Of those 85 catches, 26 happened when he was lined up as a wide receiver and 40 as a slot receiver. Kelce had just 19 receptions when he was lined up as a tight end.

The Chiefs can make better use of Kelce as they near the opponent’s goal line. He caught a pass on fewer than 11 percent of the routes he ran when the Chiefs were inside the 20. He was at least at 15 percent in every other 20-yard segment of the field.

“He’s pretty good in there," Reid said. “We can use him even a little bit more and keep staying creative with it."

Offseason shoulder surgery kept Kelce out of practice until this week, when he participated in the first two days of drills during rookie camp and reported no ill effects. Reid said that Kelce would get the final minicamp practice off Thursday, but that’s due to his veteran status and not because of problems with his shoulder.

“We’re rolling," Kelce said. “It feels great. I haven’t had any problems with it for these first two days in camp.

“I’m just happy to be out there with the guys. It gets old being in the locker room and in the meeting rooms with everybody. Just to get out here and be a leader on the field for everybody and show them more so how to do it than speak [about] it when I’m on the sideline and can’t necessarily play. ... It’s just good to be out there, get in the motions, catch a few balls from Alex [Smith] and go to work."