Even following the draft, expectations were high for the rookie tight end. With his first career start behind him, how did Noah Gray look on the field?
Kansas City Chiefs rookie tight end Noah Gray was abruptly thrust into the starting role against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 16. Both Travis Kelce and Blake Bell landed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, leaving Gray the only tight end healthy on the depth chart. Naturally, head coach Andy Reid tabbed Gray as the starter. The Chiefs did protect practice squad member Nakia Griffin-Stewart to be safe, but Reid expressed confidence in Gray ahead of the Dec. 26 game.
“We’ve put him in games here, so we trust him,” Reid said. “He’s been in quite a little bit, actually, so if he ends up being the guy in there, at least he’s got a few plays under his belt. We have a lot of trust in him, so we’ll just see how that rolls if way.”
Entering the game, Gray was hardly a stat-stuffing backup for the Chiefs. He only had seven targets this season, catching four for 18 yards and a touchdown. Still, most of those targets and that touchdown came since Week 10, with his offensive snap count increasing as well. Gray had never been on the field for most of the offensive plays in a single game but did play in 46% of Kansas City’s offensive plays against Washington. Gray has proven he can pull double-duty at the tight end position. Early in the season, Gray led Kansas City’s tight ends in run blocking, according to PFF.
The table was set for Gray to succeed in his first career start. He succeeded before at doing the dirty work, while the coaching staff’s confidence in him had grown. Bell returned to the team but missed the majority of practice that week. There was no doubt that Gray was TE1 for Kansas City.