KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Through Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s years in the NFL, a narrative has developed that his playbook is notoriously difficult for wide receivers to learn and digest.
Kadarius Toney, who the Chiefs acquired via trade with the New York Giants at the NFL trade deadline, is bucking conventional wisdom.
Toney — a speedster and former star at the University of Florida, who was picked 20th in the 2021 NFL Draft — had four catches for 57 yards, including his first career touchdown, and added two carries for 33 more yards.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes agreed with Reid’s assessment that Toney “is a smart guy” and added that he “plays hard.”
Mahomes believes Toney’s transition has been hastened by playing for former Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka in New York.
The Giants hired Kafka as offensive coordinator during the offseason, so Toney had some familiarity with the schemes and terminology used by Andy Reid and his staff before the trade.
Kansas City’s star quarterback also has noticed Toney’s work ethic.
“Ever since he’s been here, he’s got to be in that facility just as much as I have,” Mahomes said.
The payoff Sunday was Toney’s first career touchdown during Kansas City’s 27-17 victory against Jacksonville at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
“I don’t think it’s still registered with me yet,” said Toney, who caught a short pass in the flats and turned upfield near the sideline, hopping on one leg for a 6-yard touchdown to open the scoring.
“As I was still hopping,” Toney said, “I was just sitting there thinking, ‘What did I do to be in this position? How can I thank God anymore to be here and do what I can?’”
Toney developed a reputation as a mercurial player, injury-prone and temperamental, during his rookie season with the Giants, but he’s been a fine fit in his first two weeks with the Chiefs.
“I feel like I’m right where I need to be,” Toney said.
He had nothing bad to say about his time in New York but acknowledged that he feels more comfortable here in Kansas City.
“I don’t want to throw no salt, but yeah,” Toney said when asked if he feels like he fits in better in KC than he ever did with the New York Giants.
Toney said he was grateful for the opportunity in New York and characterized it as “a learning experience.”
In addition to the touchdown, Toney had a 32-yard run on a sweep and made a leaping catch against double coverage while staring back into the sun along with visiting the sideline during the second half.
Toney’s contribution was magnified by the fact that Kansas City was shorthanded at wide receiver with Mecole Hardman Jr. (abdomen) unavailable and after JuJu Smith-Schuster was knocked from the game with a concussion.
“I was hyped up for him,” Mahomes said of the touchdown, but that’s not how he expected Toney to get his first TD.
“It’s funny because we had some plays designed for him to score,” Mahomes said. “But if you would have told me one play I didn’t think he was going to score on, it was that one. But it was cool to see and everybody was excited for him.”
Toney was Mahomes’ fifth read on the play, but when he found himself uncovered in the flats, he started hollering.
“I actually heard him as the route was going on, going, ‘Hey, hey, hey,’ because he was so wide open,” Mahomes said. “That actually helped me out quite a bit.”
Mahomes’ curiosity piqued by the commotion Toney was making, he peeked to the right and saw his newest receiver all alone.
“He was the last read in that play, but in this offense, that last read might be open,” Mahomes said. “You’ve got to stay ready for it sometimes.”
Toney did Sunday and may play a pivotal role for Kansas City moving forward.
Want more insight about the Kansas City Chiefs? The “4th & 1” podcast is the twice-weekly, Chiefs-centric podcast from KSHB 41 News, the official broadcast “Home of the Chiefs.” Analyst Nick Jacobs and host Tod Palmer analyze and breakdown the Chiefs’ opponent and performance for pre- and post-game episodes — available on iTunes, Spotify, Omny or your preferred podcast platform — each week during the season.