Before the Kansas City Chiefs moved on to New England, there was an eventful week of roster cuts, trades and a dominating performance of the Chiefs backups against the Titans. Here’s a quick look at who is trending in the right (and wrong) direction going into the regular season.
Note: Some of these are based on longer term trends, and the construction of the roster, rather just than the preseason game last Thursday.
WR Demarcus Robinson: I’m not sure if he would have actually been cut without a breakout performance against the Titans, but he went out and impressed anyway. If we consider the makeup of the Chiefs WR position group, Robinson may play an important role. He can be one of the deep threats the Chiefs need to keep defenses honest. Robinson has shown he can be a valuable on special teams coverage units as well. By showing big play ability, he’s taken the first step towards contributing this season. We’ll see if he’s active on game days and included in the game plan against New England.
QB Patrick Mahomes: Mahomes made a couple of throws that could have been picked off this past week, but was otherwise nothing short of spectacular. He finished the preseason without an interception, and amassed a highlight reel full of franchise QB throws. He’ll go into the season as a backup, but it’s clear that his future is extremely bright.
TE Ross Travis: The Chiefs brought in two challengers for the No. 3 tight end position that would otherwise have belonged to Travis. After roster cuts, Travis is the one still standing as Gavin Escobar failed to make the roster and Orson Charles joined the practice squad. Travis is a long term project at the position, but the Chiefs clearly see something worth working with.
CB Phillip Gaines: There was a time when I doubted whether he would even make the Chiefs roster. Now with Steven Nelson on IR, Gaines will likely play a crucial role against Tom Brady and the Super Bowl Champs on Thursday. Gaines has shown good speed and a stickiness in man coverage that can make him a valuable cornerback in the past. But injuries and ineffectiveness have kept him from helping the team. Perhaps he can get his career back on track starting this week. The Chiefs appear to be pleased with his preseason performances, and are counting on him going forward.
“But all of our guys have progressed and made improvements,” Chiefs GM Brett Veach said last week. “I think you saw that from Phillip Gaines this offseason, I think we were all excited about his rookie year and then he had the knee. But him coming back this year and really putting out some good tape, we’re excited about that. We’re excited about where we are at that position.”
LB Tanoh Kpassagnon: One of the only interesting notes from this week’s depth chart update: Kpassagnon is listed at outside linebacker, not defensive line. #TeamGiantEdge appears to be an important cog in the Chiefs pass rush plans. Tamba Hali will start the season on PUP, so the rotation on the edge is down a proven performer. Tanoh’s physical ability and potential are off the charts, but many thought he’d be a year or two away from contributing. He could now find himself in the rotation behind Dee Ford and Justin Houston.
GM Brett Veach: The Chiefs new GM was aggressive and successful in building his first 53-man roster and 10-man practice squad. He kept the core of the team intact, bringing back 43 of 53 players from last season, and addressed each major need (with the exception of CB). The Chiefs draft class looks strong so far, with five members on the roster with very bright futures ahead, and one late round pick (McQuay) on the practice squad. Veach appears to have found an immediate upgrade of the ILB depth by trading DJ Alexander for Kevin Peirre-Louis. He also has given the position two other players with significant upside by trading for Reggie Ragland and drafting Ukeme Eligwe. Veach was able to replenish draft capital by getting conditional picks for two players likely to be cut (David King and Isaiah Battle). The trade for Cameron Erving looks questionable based on his performance, but Veach has already earned patience with his own performance as a talent evaluator.
Others trending upward this week: Jehu Chesson, Ukeme Eligwe, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Alex Smith, Bryan Witzmann
LB Tamba Hali and CB Steven Nelson: It was clear that neither was perfectly healthy, but I think we all assumed that both of these guys would be important contributors to the Chiefs defense sooner or later. Well, it seems we’re now left hoping for later, as both guys are slated to miss the first half of the season. I don’t blame the player for being injured, but it’s disappointing to be without these two at critical positions heading into New England.
WR Seantavius Jones: I’m not sure Jones could have been expected to do more this offseason. He made plays every day in camp, contributed on special teams, and didn’t make big mistakes. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to crack the initial 53 man roster and apparently isn’t eligible for the practice squad. Hopefully, Stretch catches on somewhere. Or, even better, he is available in case the Chiefs have an injury and need him later on.
QB Tyler Bray: I’m also not sure what else we should have expected from Tyler Bray this offseason. He didn’t play poorly, and even made a few big plays in preseason action. But it’s clear the Chiefs have a QBoTF on the roster, and it isn’t Bray. Mahomes will be the backup, and he’s progressing at a fast enough rate that would lead us to believe that there likely won’t be any reason for Bray to see the field going forward.
Others trending downward: Everyone else who got cut this past week- wish them all the best
RB CJ Spiller: It’s been a roller coaster for Spiller and his fans this week. We all assumed he had secured an important role on this team after a strong preseason and an injury to Spencer Ware. Everyone was surprised to see him on the list of cuts, and wondered where the Chiefs would find a third RB. Then Spiller was re-signed and all seems right again.
CBS DJ White and Kenneth Acker: Both guys are back on the Chiefs roster again this season, and could end up seeing the field on special teams and in certain situations on defense. Neither looked significantly improved or different from last season, so they may just be what they are going to be. The Chiefs expect a lot from their cornerbacks, and are down a starter for the first half of the season. White and Acker are now the primary depth at the position, for better or worse.
K Cairo Santos: He came back this week, and shook the rust off by missing a PAT, and hitting a 40-plus yard field goal. He’s back and healthy, and should resume being a consistent kicker for the Chiefs this season.
UDFAs: The undrafted players that proved they belonged, and showed upside, many ended up on the Chiefs practice squad. With a strong, deep 53-man roster, we shouldn’t have expected many to make it. None did, but eight of the best from Chiefs camp will continue with the team on the practice squad, with chances to develop and earn a promotion.
Others who are who we thought they were: The Chiefs starters still look like a 12 win team, but the first true test comes quickly this week.