The Kansas City Chiefs are down after two frustrating losses to the AFC South’s best teams. The only question is whether this will be a temporary correction or an actual bear market. The answer will come quickly on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos.
This week’s edition of Market Movers has more bears than bulls. From the top to the bottom of the roster, there have been many players who have been under-performing their expectations.
Without overreacting — or causing a panic — let’s take a look at some of the trending players and make some quick observations and predictions for the Broncos game.
This week’s Bulls
Juan Thornhill: This week, the Chiefs’ best rookie said that the game is slowing down for him. That much is clear from his play on the field. He’s getting better each week, displaying all the tools of a stud free safety. It’s amazing to see the on-field speed he displays both in deep coverage and in closing on ball carriers. He has a chance to be a star.
Charvarius Ward: The cornerback about whom everyone was most concerned has quietly been playing pretty well in coverage. He’s not without issues, but he moves up in this week’s rankings in recognition of his improving performance.
Martinas Rankin: We thought the Houston game would be Rankin’s best chance to get on the field — but it was inexplicably at left guard instead of left tackle. So this week, the newly-acquired lineman moves up into the depth category from the roster bubble classification. The Chiefs need better play out of their offensive line. Rankin has a chance to be part of the solution; we’re just not sure what part he could play.
This week’s Bears
Damien Wilson: As well as Wilson had played early in the season, he’s certainly struggled in the past couple of weeks — along with the rest of the defense. Wilson missed some tackles and guessed wrong on some gaps in run defense. Linebackers could be a big problem in Kansas City.
Austin Reiter: The protection issues can often start right in the middle: that is, with the first-year starting center who makes the calls. Reiter wasn’t as visible as Erving or Hunter in his struggles, but upon closer review looks like part of the problem. Could there eventually be a competition with Nick Allegretti?
Darron Lee: Another linebacker who isn’t executing — whether it’s because of a gap discipline issue or simply not showing enough aggression. Lee isn’t flying around the field like we hoped he might, isn’t tackling well, and hasn’t excelled in coverage the way we thought he should.
Alex Okafor: Expected to be a stalwart against the run who can also win with some pass-rush ability, Okafor has been inconsistent. Teams have had far too much success running to his side — or leaving him one-on-one against tackles. At this point, he’s looking more like a role player than a locked-in starter.
Observations and Predictions:
- Linebackers continue to be a problem. New coaches Matt House and Britt Reid (new to the position) need to get their guys in spots where they can win. It appears that the issues at linebacker are mostly mental: focus, aggression and motivation. That starts with the coaching staff.
- Cornerback is going to be scary again against Denver. The run defense has been the subject of more concern, which has taken some heat off the corners. But with Kendall Fuller out — and maybe Bashaud Breeland, too — the Chiefs will be even more shorthanded at a critical position. Look for them to call up Alex Brown from the practice squad — just to have enough bodies to finish the game.
- Solutions start up front. With the news that the Chiefs worked out a couple of free agents, the defensive line is still in flux — and thin. If they don’t add anyone else, it might be that Joey Ivie has a chance to return to the active roster. Either way, they need to get more stout on the defensive front four. On offense, they have plenty of candidates to shuffle around until Fisher and Wylie return; they just haven’t found the right combination. There isn’t a clear answer just yet, but the long week after a Thursday game is a good time to make changes.
- The Broncos will move the ball, but the Chiefs will make more plays. The yardage won’t be pretty — and it could be more of a shootout than it should be — but the Chiefs have a chance to get right on the road by finding ways to make plays. With this coach and quarterback, the Chiefs are too talented to lose to Denver.
- Mecole Hardman is due. He hasn’t scored since Week 3, but his development is right on track. Look for Patrick Mahomes to target Hardman and Tyreek Hill for yards after catch. Getting the offense back on track is going to require the playmakers to get the ball in space.
If you want a complete look behind the curtain, here’s a link to the full Market Movers database.