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'Legion of Zoom': Speed of Chiefs' pass-catchers 'unstoppable'

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Veteran fullback Anthony Sherman pulled up to training camp this summer in Clint Bowyer's NASCAR racer -- an outrageous prop but also fitting for the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs.

After climbing out, Sherman claimed the car would be necessary to keep up with an offense blessed by plenty of speed.

"The only way I'm going to keep up with these young kids is to ride in this," Sherman said.

Opponents might feel that way this year, too. The Chiefs had one of the fastest receiver groups last season, led by Tyreek Hill (4.24 40 at his Pro Day when coming out for the draft) and Sammy Watkins (4.43 40 at the 2014 scouting combine).

According to the NFL's Next Gen stats, the average top speed of their wide receivers after catching a pass was 15.3 mph, second only to the Rams. Hill, who simply goes by Cheetah on social media, had 16 plays in which his top speed hit at least 20 mph last season. That was was twice as many as any other player in the league.

Veteran safety Tyrann Mathieu, who joined the Chiefs this year as a free agent, said he's never seen an offense as fast as the Chiefs.

"I had Bruce Arians in Arizona," Mathieu said of his former coach with the Cardinals. "He loved fast guys. But I've never quite played on a team or against a team [like this]. ... In my opinion, this is probably the best 7-on-7 football team ever, just with all the talent they have on offense. There's a lot of guys you have to account for. ... They have a plethora of guys that can get it done.

"You add to it with a great quarterback, a guy that can put the ball anywhere on the field. He just always seems to find the open guy. Rarely does he throw interceptions. Anytime you can play with a quarterback that takes care of the ball [and] knows where the ball is supposed to be, it's always going to stress the defense."

That kind of speed helped the Chiefs lead the NFL in scoring last year and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, in his first season as a starter, was only the second quarterback in history to throw 50 touchdown passes and more than 5,000 yards.

In 2019 they may be even faster. The Chiefs drafted a pair of speedy skill players in this year's draft: wide receiver Mecole Hardman (4.33 40) in the second round and running back Darwin Thompson (4.50) in the sixth round. The collection of speed in Kansas City has led to some fans calling the Chiefs' pass-catchers "The Legion of Zoom."

"This is probably the best 7-on-7 football team ever." Tyrann Mathieu on the Chiefs

The team is so fast that recently-signed receiver De'Anthony Thomas, a sprinter in college at Oregon, remarked that he felt slow upon joining the Chiefs.

"I do [have] to pick up the pace," Thomas said.

Hardman and Thompson are already putting their speed to good use. Each scored a touchdown in the preseason opener against the Bengals by taking a short pass and outrunning defenders to the end zone.

Tight end Travis Kelce smiled broadly when asked what the Chiefs were capable of doing to an opposing defense because of their fast players.

"Anything we want to do," Kelce said. "You name it. We've got 4.2, 4.3, maybe 4.1. I don't know what Tyreek runs now. Who knows? We've got guys that can absolutely fly all over the field. Speed kills in this game. If you've got it, you're in the advantage.

"We're taking it up a level [from] years past. You can just tell from the coaches' excitement to their attention to detail to how guys are reacting to their coaching. This team is going to be awesome. We're going to have a lot of fun on the offensive side of the ball."

Mahomes has an arm strong enough to take advantage of the speed. He completed a pass to Hill that traveled almost 70 yards in the air last year in a preseason game against the Falcons.

"I can't, honestly," Mahomes said when asked whether he could imagine a faster receiving group. "We've got guys that can roll, guys that really stretch the field. It really makes my job a lot easier. We're able to stretch the field vertically and horizontally. You can either take the deep pass and throw it like that or throw it out in the flat and these guys can all take it 70 yards to the house.

"Adding Mecole and having Sammy back healthy this year is even going to help more. Defenses have to really pick and choose which matchups they want to take. ... We look at the matchups and trust that the receivers are going to win."

The Chiefs last season led the NFL with 52 passes of at least 25 yards, by far the most in the league. Thirteen of Mahomes' touchdown passes went for at least 25 yards, also the highest total in the league.

The Chiefs are looking to top those numbers this year.

"We are the home run team," Watkins said. "We can throw deep. We've got all these track runners, all these thoroughbreds. ... We can possibly be unstoppable."