The 2022 NFL season is finally here, and it feels like everyone has been waiting for this moment forever. This year’s campaign officially kicks off in Los Angeles while on the Kansas City Chiefs’ end, they will be preparing for their Week 1 game against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Chiefs hope to start and finish their season in the same stadium but before they do that, here are a few bold predictions about individual players for this season.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire breaks 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career
The offseason has included a lot of chatter about the Chiefs’ running back room, primarily due to the questions surrounding Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Whenever a team spends a first-round pick on a player, that player is expected to perform at a high level. When that player is a running back, the expectations are even more significant. Edwards-Helaire hasn’t lived up to that expectation during his first two seasons, but is this the turning point?
For starters, Edwards-Helaire will finally enter a season fully healthy and as the clear primary running back. With a 17-game season, the third-year man only needs about 59 rushing yards per game to break the 1,000-yard mark. He averaged 61 rushing yards per game in his rookie season but didn’t play enough games to get to 1,000. Assuming Edwards-Helaire stays healthy for the entire 2022 season, he will have his first 1,000-yard campaign as an NFL running back.
Travis Kelce has 200 receiving yards in a game
Travis Kelce has had some monstrous performances during his career, but he’s never broken that 200-yard clip in a single contest. That’s honestly a bit surprising for a player of his caliber who also sees the target volume to match. In years past, the Chiefs have lacked multiple guys who could consistently win against man coverage on the outside. In the offseason, Kansas City added many receivers who can do such.
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These additions will allow the Chiefs to hide Kelce and let him play off the line so he can get more free releases. There will be games where the sole focus of the defense is to stop him but eventually, opponents will have to worry about the Chiefs’ other weapons beating them. Kelce should be in for some great performances once that time rolls around. As a player who doesn’t look like he’s slowing down, one of those performances will set a career-high for the future Hall of Famer.
Willie Gay Jr. outperforms Nick Bolton this season
Nick Bolton is the hometown darling for Chiefs fans and has even caught the eye of national media member Peter Schrager. Schrager had Bolton as number two on his list of 2022 breakout players. While Bolton should take a step forward, Willie Gay Jr. is the linebacker who will take the exponential leap to stardom and outperform his counterpart this season.
Coming out of college, Gay was seen as a project with high upside. He didn’t have many snaps, but all the physical and athletic tools were there nonetheless. After two years in the league, he’s ready to have his breakout season. Towards the end of last year, Gay was one of the league’s best linebackers in coverage. He had his best career performance in the AFC Championship Game, flying all over the field and making plays on the ball. By training camp and preseason accounts, Gay has taken a step forward in understanding run fits and rounding out his game. He’s now a complete player in his third season and ready to wreak havoc on the league.
Justin Reid makes the Pro Bowl for the first time
The Chiefs spent big on one free agent this offseason: Justin Reid, who reminded many of the Tyrann Mathieu signing in the 2019 offseason. Mathieu went on to have two All-Pro seasons in Kansas City before departing for New Orleans. Reid may not be able to replicate those accolades, but he could be on the path to his first Pro Bowl nod. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo moves his safeties all over the field, allowing them to get around the ball. Mathieu is evidence of this, as he racked up 13 interceptions during his three years in Kansas City — the best three-year stretch of his career.
Reid will be in a position to have interceptions and be a league leader among all safeties. Another statistical advantage Spagnuolo gives his defensive players is sacks. He brings defensive backs on blitzes a lot, and Reid will almost surely be a part of that. However, stats are only half the battle. Players also have to have some popularity. Between his new big contract and rising fame for being a part-time kicker, as well as looming team success, Reid will finally have enough recognition to be voted into the Pro Bowl. He’ll be one of many Chiefs who turns heads in 2022.