Things have not worked out as planned, however, and the Georgia product has yet to surpass 560 receiving yards in a single season playing in one of the most explosive offenses in football. In 2021, Hardman has 424 yards through the air so far and 36 on the ground with two total touchdowns.
He’s been losing more and more offensive snaps of late with wide receivers like Byron Pringle and Josh Gordon emerging as more reliable options for Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes — and now it appears he’s lost his other featured role.
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Hardman Replaced as Primary Punt Returner
If things weren’t bad enough for the third-year playmaker, special teams coordinator Dave Toub told the media that Hardman is no longer the starting punt returner.
Herbie Teope of The KC Star tweeted : “Chiefs ST coordinator Dave Toub said CB Mike Hughes will continue in the role of primary punt returner going forward. Hughes took over the role from Mecole Hardman in Week 11 against the Cowboys.”
On three Week 11 returns, Hughes averaged 18.3 yards per attempt . Hardman only averaged 10.8 yards per attempt on the season.
Based on those results alone, it’s not surprising that Hughes is getting a longer look as the first-stringer. Pringle has also solidified himself as the primary kick returner in 2021.
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Hardman Also Being Phased out on Offense
Despite having the third-most receiving yards on the season behind Hill and Travis Kelce, Hardman was only awarded 12 offensive snaps against the Cowboys — eight of which were passing snaps according to Pro Football Focus .
Pringle, Gordon and Demarcus Robinson were all utilized more.
This trend actually began in Week 10, when Hardman plummeted down to 24 offensive snaps . With that number dropping lower one week after, it’s hard to believe that the speed demon will retake his role as the second-highest wide receiver snap count after Hill anytime soon.
The main man that has stolen the workload has been Pringle, who’s become a favorite of Reid’s . The Kansas State product was on the field for 40 snaps in Week 11 but only caught one of two targets for 37 yards. Against the Raiders, Pringle was better with four receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Gordon was next with 29 snaps, although the former All-Pro has only recorded two catches for 18 yards on the season off six targets. It’s unclear why Hardman has fallen so far down on the Chiefs’ depth chart of late.
After all, his average yards after catch numbers rank third for all wide receivers at 7.5 per reception according to Dave Kluge of Fantasy Pros . Only Deebo Samuel and rookie Rondale Moore average a higher amount.
It will be interesting to see if Hardman’s offensive workload increases at all in Week 13 against the Denver Broncos.