The 2018 Kansas City Chiefs are just the third team in NFL history to average more than 35 points per game for an entire season. But with the element of surprise harder to attain in Patrick Mahomes' second season as a full-time starter, there's naturally been speculation that the high-powered Chiefs could regress. However, there are also clues that Kansas City could continue to ascend in 2019.
Mahomes can't possibly be much better after an MVP season, and you have to imagine top offensive weapons Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are close to their respective peaks coming off All-Pro campaigns, but the Chiefs offense was unstoppable regardless of who was in the game when the team kicked off its preseason Saturday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Mahomes was a perfect 4-of-4 for 66 yards while adding 10 yards on a rush during his only series of the night, one that resulted in a touchdown. But after he departed, we saw some magic from two new weapons who could help put the Chiefs over the top this year.
There's rookie second-round pick Mecole Hardman, who on Saturday turned a seemingly harmless toss behind the line of scrimmage into a jaw-dropping 17-yard touchdown.
The Georgia product might be as fast as Hill, and he showed there how his unbelievable speed can be a game-changer. Hardman and Hill together on the field at the same time is almost unfair. It'd be hard to find even a few football players on the planet with that kind of game speed.
Later, he proved he's more than a speed demon by breaking several tackles to gain a chunk of extra yardage on a 14-yard reception.
And there's also rookie sixth-round pick Darwin Thompson, who gained 51 yards on six touches in his inaugural preseason affair Saturday. The Utah State alum had an impressive 16-yard run in the red zone wiped out by a holding penalty, but he then immediately ripped through the Cincinnati defense on a 29-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
At another point, he showed off his superb play strength by turning what looked like a two-yard gain into a nine-yard pickup thanks to about 27 broken tackles.
Oh, and there was this:
Prior to the preseason, Thompson was already generating buzz while drawing comparisons to 2018 rookie sensation Phillip Lindsay. He likely won't be the lead dog right away, but Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has already made it clear there'll be a committee in the offensive backfield.
Reid is one of the best offensive minds in the game. He's been doing this 36 years, and he's pretty much mastered it. He's a football sensei, and now he's got one of the most striking arsenals in NFL history to work with.
Mahomes is just 23, Hill 25, Hardman 21, Thompson 23. They're all rising. The elder statesman of the offense is the 29-year-old Kelce. No projected starter is older than 30.
But they don't lack experience, either. Sammy Watkins has 232 catches in five NFL seasons. Kelce's been to four Pro Bowls. All-Pro right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is an eight-year veteran.
The team should also benefit from Laurent Duvernay-Tardif's return after the well-established right guard missed all but five games with a serious leg injury in 2018.
They're sitting pretty. They weathered the midseason loss of Pro Bowl back Kareem Hunt, averaging nearly 32 points per game without Hunt in a seven-game stretch that included two tough playoff outings and difficult December matchups with the Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers and Seattle Seahawks. Veteran back Damien Williams, who came into his own with a series of strong performances during that run, is expected to lead the running back committee this fall.
And whether or not you agree with the NFL's decision not to suspend Hill after an audio recording was released in which his fiancee accuses the three-time Pro Bowler of abusing the couple's three-year-old son, that development is good football news for the Chiefs and their fans.
Kelce's over an ankle injury; Hill's over a quad injury. Both are on track for elite seasons again, and there won't be much opposing defenses can do because Reid and Mahomes have so many other options.
So long as Mahomes avoids a second-year-starter slump and Kelce and Hill remain healthy, the Chiefs should again push that 35-points-per-game barrier in 2019. But if Watkins can stay on the field and Hardman and Thompson can deliver, this Chiefs offense might be even better this year than it was in 2018.
With all of those toys and Reid at the helm, it might be unstoppable.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.