Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens: QB Chad Kelly’s Preseason Debut

Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens examines Broncos QB Chad Kelly’s preseason debut against the Minnesota Vikings. 

I’ve been eagerly anticipating Chad Kelly’s first game exposure since last year because he’s an intense, decisive, and aggressive football player. His game lacks fear. I know, this doesn’t sound like hard-hitting analysis, but it is.

Football is a performance craft. Performing requires comfort in the performance environment — whether it’s a studio, a stage, when the camera rolls, or on the field in game conditions with a crowd.

Performance conditions can create a tendency to overreact to the surrounding stimuli and it can generate self-conscious, tentative, and cautious behavior. Quarterbacks who act this way, second-guess decisions, hesitate when they read an open look and deliver inaccurate targets, or lack the necessary aggressive mindset to take appropriate chances.

The best performers thrive in these moments. They have good reactions to the energy. They lock in and let their tools flow. They’re aggressive, decisive, creative, and when they make mistakes they don’t dwell on them and let it impact their performance.

I could tell you about Chad Kelly’s arm, accuracy, reading of the field, pocket presence, and mobility, but it’s his ability to thrive on stage as described above that ties all of his physical, technical, and tactical skills together in a promising way. Pat Mahomes as the same underlying quality and Andy Reid and Chiefs GM Brett Veach know it, which is why they’re not concerned about him making mistakes in practice and Veach literally said that he’s anticipating that Mahomes will make “head-scratching” mistakes this year.

They know they have a quarterback with the right mentality; one they can feed the information, coaching what to do, and get out of the way and let him learn from mistakes without micromanaging his development and stifling him.

Kelly has this potential and there are a few plays from this game that gives a small taste of it.

His second touchdown of the game is a good example of his looking right, and coming back to his left because of the open space he knows will be there based on the developments in the middle of the field. He also shows the poise, and off-platform adjustment to lead his receiver in stride with the throw while hit in the face by the defensive end.

On the same video above is also a small example of his underrated burst as a runner. In case you weren’t aware, Kelly was a dual-threat quarterback recruited by Clemson. If he wasn’t so immature as a freshman, he might have kept Deshaun Watson on the bench for a little while.

The next play comes after Kelly throws an interception in the right flat. Kelly scrambled to his right, saw the intermediate target crossing the middle to the right flat and decides not to check-down but go for the big play. The trailing defender undercuts the off-target throw off the scramble for an interception.

This is a typical mistake for Kelly when he errs because it’s rooted in him being too aggressive. He has to learn to pull back a little bit as a situational decision maker and learn his boundaries. He actually had another three passes in this game that should have been picked off.

However, what I like about Kelly is his willingness not to let the mistakes dissuade him from aggressive decisions that should be made. This is a good read and throw to start the following drive.

And Kelly gets Denver inside the five on this drive, delivering two pinpoint targets that his receivers dropped in the end zone. Overall, I was pleased with what I saw from Kelly. Like any aggressive-minded player on the NFL stage his first time, it’s understandable that he lacked the maturity for when to be cautious.

I’m hopeful that he earns a shot to play ahead of Paxton Lynch against second-team defenders in Week 2. We’ll see if the Broncos think he earned that opportunity.

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