KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A locker room theme in recent days surrounds the Chiefs returning to basics on the heels of a two-game losing streak.
While there are issues on run defense, the slide on offense arguably could be pointed to an area flying under the radar.
And the solution to the offensive woes may have arrived with the return of tight end Richard Gordon, whom the Chiefs signed Monday after waiving tight end Phillip Supernaw.
Gordon, a fourth-year pro, spent training camp with the Chiefs and his presence permits the deployment of a three-tight end set, a formation that contributed to early success.
“I think a guy like Richard, a veteran guy, he’s a smart guy, he’s been in our system here recently,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “It will allow us to get back to a three-tight end set a little bit. We’ve used (fullback) Anthony Sherman a little bit in that situation, so the more he gets comfortable and the more he hears our offense again, the more we can get him in the ballgame.”
Kansas City is 7-3 on the season when utilizing the three-tight end set, but the Chiefs have leaned from the full use of the formation since Week 10.
Second-year pro Demetrius Harris suffered a season-ending broken foot during pregame warm-ups against the Buffalo Bills, leaving the Chiefs with Travis Kelce and Anthony Fasano for the game.
Fasano hurt his knee against the Bills and missed Week 11, leading to the Chiefs signing Supernaw from the Baltimore Ravens practice squad. Kansas City adjusted by sometimes utilizing the 5-10, 242-pound Sherman in a tight end role.
But with Fasano returning to form with a receiving touchdown in two straight games, the Chiefs offense still hasn’t looked the same from when it dominated time of possession during Weeks 1-8.
Simply put, the absences of Harris and Fasano since Week 10 adversely affected the Chiefs’ ability to utilize the tight end personnel groupings that contributed to wins.
Enter Gordon, who originally joined the Chiefs in late December 2013 and spent the entire offseason with the team prior to being waived on Aug. 31 after surviving the final roster cuts to the 53-man roster the day before.
Gordon said the Chiefs’ playbook is relatively the same from training camp with a few differences in terminology, but he doesn’t anticipate issues with getting fully acclimated.
And his familiarity with the scheme should allow him to contribute in Week 14, especially if he’s called upon to be on the field at the same with Kelce and Fasano.
“I can help in that area,” Gordon said. “Right now, I think Sherman is playing a big role playing that part. As time goes on, I think I can move in and do my part. It’s up to what the coaches want.”
Pederson was impressed with what Gordon retained from the summer, even after the fourth-year pro spent time with the Tennessee Titans this season.
“He came back and picked up things fairly well,” Pederson said. “We’ve changed since he was here in camp and everything, but he’s done a nice job and a lot of retention there. The more he gets out there, the more comfortable he’ll be.”
Meanwhile, the coaching staff could lean to getting Gordon involved immediately given the proven flexibility of the three-tight end set.
“It’s just going to help,” Pederson said of having Gordon. “If you can have three tight ends and what we’ve done early in the season with three tight ends, one, it gives everybody rest, it keeps guys healthy and you can do more things. It just creates some matchups, run and pass, and of course we saw that earlier in the year.”
The two games where the Chiefs didn’t deploy the formation came during losses in Week 1 and Week 13, with Supernaw a healthy inactive for the latter prior to his release.
Kansas City has gained 13 total first downs (10 rushing, three receiving) out of a three-tight end set this year, according to statistics received from the Chiefs.
Additionally, the Chiefs totaled 221 yards (171 rushing, 50 passing) in the 10 games where the team utilized three tight ends on the field.
Gordon, who has four career receptions for 14 yards and a touchdown, won’t light it up in the passing game.
But the 6-4, 265-pound Gordon is the heaviest tight end on the Chiefs roster, outweighing Kelce by five pounds and Fasano by 10 pounds, making Gordon a perfect fit as a blocker in the running game.
“I think Gordon is a great inline tight end,” Pederson said. “He’s powerful, he’s big, he’s strong on the line of scrimmage.”
For his part, Gordon is ready given his experience in the Chiefs’ offensive scheme.
“When my number is called,” Gordon said, “I can hit the ground running.”