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Chiefs-Bengals Instabreakdown: Mahomes is perfect, first-team cornerbacks struggle

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Instant reaction of the Chiefs’ first preseason game, courtesy of the Arrowhead Pride Nerd Squad

Come join Kent, Matt, and Craig for the post-game livestream!

Final Score - Chiefs 38, Bengals 17

After the Cincinnati Bengals scored on their opening possession, the Kansas City Chiefs scored 24 unanswered, including Patrick Mahomes leading an opening scoring drive before bowing out for the night. Scores by rookies Mecole Hardman and Darwin Thompson extended the lead, and the Chiefs defense was able to close things out to finish the game.

Offense

The Chiefs worked the flats and wheel routes with their tight ends early, with Patrick Mahomes hitting Kelce on 36-yard wheel on the offense’s opening play. Blake Bell and Deon Yelder both got some early run in 12 personnel, and it looks like there still might be a wide-open competition for the TE2 position. Mahomes was a perfect 4-for-4 for 66 yards in the opening drive.

Andy Reid got out his usual “vanilla” bag of tricks — jet motion, fly sweeps and plenty of Y-Iso — for preseason Week 1. Rookie Mecole Hardman scored on a jet sweep touch pass for his first touch of the game, showcasing his speed to get to the edge. Hardman was lined up off the line of scrimmage often, giving him a free release early in his career. In contrast, Byron Pringle was often lined up as the X receiver on the line of scrimmage and had to beat press-man coverage more often.

The Chiefs were without starting running back Damien Williams, and Carlos Hyde got the early reps with the first team. Darrell Williams followed Hyde — catching a single pass — and Darwin Thompson then got major run with the second team. Thompson had a highlight-reel pass block, upending a free rusher at the line of scrimmage. He showed great speed and burst on a touchdown catch in the third quarter, catching the pass with soft hands and showcasing a little bit of contact balance to stay upright into the end zone.

Rookie Nick Allegretti got second-team reps at left guard, holding his own in pass protection fairly well before switching positions with Jimmy Murray and becoming the second-team center. That versatility will be key as a depth offensive lineman this year. The other second-team guard spot went to second-year man Khalil McKenzie, showcasing good athleticism and good anchor against bull rushes. Cameron Erving was the backup swing tackle — as he has been throughout camp — and he was a little bit of a mixed bag. Chad Henne and Kyle Shurmur had quite a bit of pressure from Erving’s side of the line.

Nerd Squad Player of the Game (Offense)

RB Darwin Thompson - Thompson made it easy this week, showing great acceleration, hands and showing up a little bit in pass protection. Thompson was one of the most fun players in this Chiefs draft class for us, and his performance on the field tonight showed why.

NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Defense

The Chiefs opened in the nickel with Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson at the two linebacker positions — not wholly surprising in an early-down situation where a little more run support is desired. Quick rotation of players after an overturned fumble saw Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Jones, Hitchens and Wilson get the rest of the night off. We’ll see in the next couple weeks what the actual nickel rotation may look like.

Speaking of linebackers, Reggie Ragland appears to be the second-string SAM linebacker ahead of Jeremiah Attaochu in addition to his starting MIKE linebacker role. Ben Niemann is currently the backup MIKE with Darron Lee as the backup WILL linebacker. Lee looked particularly quick getting downhill and had a great stop at the goal line in the Bengals opening drive.

A small peek at what may be to come with the first team—Steve Spagnuolo utilized Attaochu as a defensive end and moved Breeland Speaks inside to rush the passer on third-and-long. It’s a look into how Spagnuolo might mix up his rushers when he has his full complement of defensive ends. Speaks had a nice double-hand swipe to get around the tackle for a sack just after Tanoh Kpassagnon registered one as well. Both players got quite a bit of run with Frank Clark, Alex Okafor and Emmanuel Ogbah out.

Charvarius Ward was targeted in crucial situations with the first-team defense. He gave up two big conversions and struggled to get downhill on a running back screen on another third down. He’s still transitioning from a press-man cornerback role to Spagnuolo’s zone-heavy scheme. Bashaud Breeland blew an early coverage rep as well, but an underthrown ball by Andy Dalton allowed Breeland to catch up for the breakup.

The Chiefs safety grouping saw Armani Watts early replacing Mathieu. Watts flashed on several occasions, making his presence known while getting downhill. Moving to a split-safety role appears to suit him better than the box safety role he played last year.

Nerd Squad Player of the Game (Defense)

LB Darron Lee - It was a tight race between several players this week, but Lee flashed a few times against better competition. A goal-line stuff was his highlight, but good coverage — outside of an illegal contact penalty early — and a quick downhill trigger should give Chiefs fans a little hope for more competent linebacker play in 2019.