KANSAS CITY, Mo. – There is arguably a short list of athletic tight ends around the NFL having their number called for bubble screens.
The play is designed to get an athletic player quickly in space, and tight ends capable of thriving on the outside include the likes of Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints, Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots and Julius Thomas of the Denver Broncos.
Add second-year Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce to the list.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid has a philosophy of putting the ball in his playmakers’ hands. And that includes Kelce, who was on the receiving end of at least two bubble screen plays against the St. Louis Rams during Sunday’s 34-7 win.
The 6-5, 260-pound Kelce said he appreciates the faith the coaching staff has to put him in those positions to make plays.
“I know if I get one-on-one with a guy in space,” Kelce said, “I feel like I’m at the advantage. That’s just how confident I am in what I can do.”
He displayed the ability to beat an opponent during an attention-grabbing 17-yard play in Sunday’s 34-7 win.
Kelce caught a short pass on third-and-7 from quarterback Alex Smith with his back to the defense and gave a shoulder shake to his left with cornerback E.J. Gaines rapidly closing in.
Gaines bit on the fake, and Kelce pivoted and quickly spun out of reach to leave Gaines reaching for air.
While the Rams stopped Kelce short of the end zone, Kelce’s move looked similar to what a post player does on basketball court with his back to the basket before drop stepping.
“I do have a basketball background,” Kelce said with a grin, “but those were just instincts.”
Still, Kelce’s shake-and-bake move to get free impressed a Chiefs player who played power forward in college.
“A fake half spin,” tight end Demetrius Harris said, “It was just a great move, a great play to know the corner was outside and give him a fake outside, and then come back in. That was just good awareness by Kelce.”
As further proof of Kelce’s athleticism on the field, Harris gave Kelce a perfect rating for a move that appeared basketball-like.
“I’d give him a 10 because he can play (basketball), too,” Harris said. “He can play. He reminds me of a basketball player. He can play on the court, too.”
Kelce, who finished the game with four catches for 45 yards on six targets, currently leads the Chiefs in receptions (28), yards receiving (352) and receiving touchdowns (3).