We can learn something from this Patrick Mahomes play in KC Chiefs’ preseason opener

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David Banks/AP

Over the course of his first few weeks with the Chiefs, wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling has been asking tight end Travis Kelce a lot of questions.

A few about the offense.

A few about Andy Reid.

But some of his most important queries, he says, are about what isn’t in the playbook.

Improvisation.

See, it didn’t take Valdes-Scantling long to learn of a key component of the Chiefs’ offense: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ has an ability to make something from nothing. An ability to move a defender with his legs, and subsequently create a throwing window.

Kelce has turned it into second nature, to the point of once even being captured on the sideline saying to Mahomes, “I don’t understand how you know what I’m doing.”

So whom better to ask for advice on this?

“Trav has been doing it for a long time,” Valdes-Scantling said, “So, you know, I talk to Trav a lot about that kind of stuff.”

And wouldn’t you know it, one game into his Chiefs tenure, preseason or not, Valdes-Scantling is already putting the education to use. Over the course of the year, particularly early in the season or before Week 1 even arrives, we’ll be analyzing this new crop of receivers. How could we not?

Tyreek Hill, the best outside weapon Mahomes has ever played with, is gone. His replacements will play a bit of a factor in how this all turns out. The preseason statistics might prompt one indication. Specific plays will provide a more accurate one.

Like one particular snap at Soldier Field on Saturday.

On the Chiefs’ opening drive of the afternoon, they faced a third-and-8 at the Bears’ 21-yard line. Valdes-Scantling, who signed with the Chiefs as a free agent this summer after four years in Green Bay, lined up in the slot. The Bears dropped into a zone defense, and cornerback DeAndre Houston-Carson locked onto his short hook route over the middle, which presented Mahomes’ first read.

What now? That improvisation.

Mahomes shuffled to his right, and when he did, Houston-Carlson ever so slightly followed, first with his eyes and then one modest hesitation with his feet.

Valdes-Scantling caught it.

Instead of rolling right along with Mahomes, as might have been the inclination, Valdes-Scantling sensed the crease and cut back to the middle — apparently the move Mahomes was hoping he would make.

“I found an opening,” Valdes-Scantling said. “And he found me.”

The quarterback put the football in the receiver’s hands. The chains moved. And two plays later, Mahomes flicked a screen to Blake Bell for a touchdown.

The read — Mahomes and Valdes-Scantling being on the same page — turned a potential field-goal attempt into a touchdown.

“With Marquez especially, I mean, he’s been with (Packers quarterback) Aaron (Rodgers). I think he’s done a lot of that in his career,” Mahomes said. “So I think it will be an easy transition for him.

“You’ve seen JuJu (Smith-Schuster) in training camp do the same stuff, and obviously guys like Mecole (Hardman) and Trav are always able to do that.”

It’s one play, and one that came in a preseason game, but it’s a positive indication of a connection that will be every bit as important to the Chiefs as the talent. They knew the latter. They hoped for the former.

Mahomes fought for the former, actually, inviting this batch of receivers, Valdes-Scantling among them, to a mini-camp in his native Texas. He’s been leading some training camp film sessions to better build those relationships.

We’ve been asking ourselves frequently how these guys might fit into the Chiefs’ offense. A better question: How will they fit in with Mahomes?

We have a clue.

“I mean, I’m always talking to Pat — you know, just in between plays, or at practice and stuff, to figure out, ‘Hey, what are you thinking here? What do you like? What don’t you like?’” Valdes-Scantling said. “That’s kind of how we get to where we are now, and that hopefully improves throughout the season.”