The Chiefs could be without one of their top players for Thursday’s 2023 NFL season opener, with tight end Travis Kelce hyperextending his knee at practice Tuesday. Kelce’s status for Week 1 against the Lions is uncertain, according to head coach Andy Reid, which raises the all-important question: who is Kelce’s backup at tight end?
That would be Noah Gray, a third-year veteran out of Duke. Originally a fifth-round draft pick in 2021, Gray has appeared in all but one game for the Chiefs in two NFL seasons, logging eight starts in 2022 while playing alongside Kelce.
In the Chiefs’ offense, it’s much likelier that wide receivers will pick up the slack in the passing game if Kelce sits out. Kansas City has a particularly deep room there, with young targets like Skyy Moore, Justin Watson and Justyn Ross expected to see expanded roles behind veteran Marquez Valdes-Scantling and 2022 trade acquisition Kadarius Toney. Third-down running back Jerick McKinnon is another favorite outlet for quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Behind Gray, the Chiefs also have ninth-year veteran Blake Bell at the TE position. A fourth-round pick of the 49ers back in 2015, he’s on his second stint with Kansas City, though his role in the passing game has been more limited. In three different seasons with the Chiefs, the ex-Cowboys backup has totaled 19 catches for 174 yards and one score.
Beyond the two TEs on the active roster, the Chiefs also have Matt Bushman and Gerrit Prince on the practice squad. They could be promoted to the game-day roster in the event Kelce is ruled out for Thursday’s game.