Well that didn't turn out as I expected.
The Kansas City Chiefs preseason was a perfect one, at least in the standings. To be honest, it wasn't that far off away from the wins and losses. Every team deals with injuries both small and significant, and the fact that the two worst injuries were handle-able (not a word) -- Travis Kelce could play if needed and Dontari Poe is expected to return within a few weeks -- is a good thing. If I was presented with the present injury scenario in late July and said, "Take this or take your chances," I'm taking this every time.
Even more, there have been so many positives. We've also avoided a lot of negatives. What do I mean? This is hardly all-encompassing, but here are six surprising story lines (for me) from the Chiefs preseason:
1. A Berry Good Return
Eric Berry. What else can be written about one of the bravest men and comebacks in recent sports history. A beautiful story that's inspirational on so many levels. Even more, if you'd have told me that the Chiefs safety would return to the field this preseason after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma just last December, I would have taken you to mean that he would be brought out at midfield for a nice reception from the fans. That he's actually playing... unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. Every Chiefs fan should own a Berry jersey (and I'm purchasing mine right now).
2. The Lack of Kushlash
Jerry McGuire jokes aside, I thought the Chiefs center battle would take the entire preseason to sort out. The Chiefs let starting center Rodney Hudson walk this offseason to make the big bucks on the free agent market, and John Dorsey let that same market settle without finding a replacement. The inference, bolstered by quotes from the staff and front office, was that Eric Kush looked ready to compete for the role after backing up Hudson for two years. For a former small-school prospect and sixth-round choice, that was a nice story. It was also a bit of a reach.
Most teams drafting a center as high as the second round will likely expect that player to start, but that wasn't the story on Mitch Morse -- at least not early on. The Mizzou product was hailed for his versatility and athleticism and that his transition to the pro level (and a specific position) might take some time. Apparently that timeline was shorter than some of us were led to believe. Morse settled into the middle of the first team unit fairly early in the preseason, and Kush has been released. Who knew?
3. Marcus Peters!
It's too early to proclaim Peters as difference-maker in the secondary given that he's yet to play a single meaningful rep of professional football. Yet given the amount of red flags being waved by every draftnik when the Chiefs made Peters their first-round selection, it's been a pleasant surprise to see Peters only generating headlines for his on-field ability. As Sean Smith comes back and this secondary continues to settle and develop, the Chiefs are going to be very, very good as a unit.
4. DJ & DeVito
This sounds like a quick plot line for Twins 2. However, it's not quite fair that Eric Berry garners the complete spotlight for strong and unexpected returns. The fact that Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito, two important defensive starters, have both returned for a full preseason of work after such tough season-ending injuries (especially given that they are not 22-year-old rookies) is truly amazing. A return was likely but the fact that both men suited up so quickly is a nice surprise.
5. Depth for days
If you were selected by the Chiefs in the last three rounds (besides TE), you're likely not making a big impact this year. That's no shade on D.J. Alexander, Rakeem Nunez-Roches or DaRon Brown. It just means the Chiefs are deeper than they've been in several years. The team is going to let several players go who excel on special teams and/or could develop into solid on-field contributors. That's a win for other teams, but it's also a nice win for a Chiefs staff who truly have a problem choosing among such unexpected riches.
6. Kelce and then ...?
While most fans would point to the right side of the offensive line as the primary point of concern on the roster, I'm not budging from my worries about the steep drop off at tight end. Besides Rob Gronkowski, there's not a single tight end in the NFL I'd want more than Travis Kelce. That said, there's not a single free agent I would ignore to serve as my No. 2.
Okay that's an overstatement for sure, but given the reality that Kelce has missed a season already and just suffered another recent injury shows how easily things can change at the position. James O'Shaughnessy and waiver wire claim Brian Parker could all be fine third options at tight end, but somehow I'm missing Anthony Fasano much more than a man is supposed to.