The level of excitement for Kansas City Chiefs football is off the charts — and we got our first real taste of live game action on Saturday night as the Chiefs defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 38-17 at Arrowhead Stadium.
For a moment, we’ll forget that we tend to completely overreact to preseason games. For a second, let’s ignore that there’s a long history of guys that have shown promise in preseason games — only to fade when the games count.
Let’s attempt to track the trending Chiefs through camp and the first preseason game.
Tanoh Kpassagnon: He’s getting starter reps with some guys out, but got a sack and some pressure. He looks like a giant on the field — more Allen Bailey than Dee Ford, if you will. Both he and Breeland Speaks might be factors inside more than outside. We’re well aware of his limitations, but it appears that the team is giving him every opportunity to carve out a role.
Derrick Nnadi: He’s attacking on the inside and appears to be improving upon his solid rookie season. The gem of the 2018 draft class will be a staple in the Chiefs new defensive front.
Armani Watts: Against the Bengals, Watts batted down a pass — and even looked willing (and able) to tackle. It was the first time we’ve seen him on the field since Week 5 of 2018. He’s buried on the depth chart, but competing to stick on the roster as a backup.
Darron Lee: It looked to me like he’s more of a complete linebacker. He had a couple of big tackles near the line of scrimmage, and can still run in coverage. He seems motivated to get his career on track in Kansas City. Eventually, he might be a bigger part of the defense than we originally thought.
Darwin Thompson: Thompson showed explosive ability and toughness on his inside runs and on a pass protection snap. We’d expect a guy like Darwin to look great in the preseason. Now we’ll see if he’s able to continue that into the regular season. If he does, he’ll be hard to keep off of the field.
Mark Fields: Our AP Nerd Squad spotted the talent early, saying that Fields would only have to earn the trust of the coaching staff by keeping the right attitude off the field. His solid performance in coverage against the Bengals seems to have earned him a Monday-morning promotion on the depth chart.
Blake Bell: The Belldozer made a play right out of the gate that shows he can be a nice complementary receiver at the tight end position. Add Dave Toub’s comments about Bell taking over all of Demetrius Harris’s significant special teams snaps, and it’s looking like a clear front-runner is emerging in the battle to become the second tight end.
Juan Thornhill: The rookie has been dynamite with an interception-a-day in camp — along with flashes of deep coverage ability and speed. He’s now running with the starters in practice and is looking like an absolute steal of a second-round pick.
Nick Allegretti: The Chiefs final draft pick this year appears to have been promoted to second-string center, which is probably going to be his best position. Can he continue his ascent to get playing time in the regular season?
Bashaud Breeland: Breeland made his presence known with some solid tackles and a pass deflection on a play that should have been an easy touchdown. Breeland also appears to be showing out in practice on a daily basis, with a number of recent interceptions. He looks aggressive and physical — and is likely the best of the three starters before Morris Claiborne joins the team.
Others trending in a bullish direction: Damien Wilson, Ben Niemann, Herb Miller, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Marcus Kemp, Cody Thompson
Dorian O’Daniel: Many of us envisioned O’Daniel as a player who could really excel in the new defense — perhaps even in a starting role. Unfortunately, we’re now seeing O’Daniel squarely on the third team and playing deep into the fourth quarter of preseason games. Hopefully he can carve out a role for himself before his spot on the 53-man roster is in jeopardy.
Kendall Fuller: The best cornerback on the Chiefs in 2018 has, by most accounts, struggled thus far in camp. Whether he’s fighting injuries that can be overcome — or there are real questions about who he is as a player — is yet to be determined. He appeared to play a little better against the Bengals, but expectations are higher for Fuller.
Justin Hamilton: The defensive front has changed dramatically in 2019, and Hamilton will have to do more to maintain his roster spot. With the ability to rotate defenders in from the end position — and the presence of Nnadi and Khalen Saunders — Hamilton might be the odd man out.
Charvarius Ward: Ward continues to play just softly enough in coverage for us to say, “He was in good position, but the pass was just perfect.” That can only be true sometimes. Eventually, it’s going to be an issue with the his ability.
Khalen Saunders: Saunders didn’t stand out in his preseason debut. That’s not to say he’s not developing; it could just mean that he yet has a way to go. Saunders will be given plenty of time to improve and contribute. He just might not be a factor until later in his rookie season.
Those trending in a bearish direction: Jack Fox, Xavier Williams, Cameron Erving, Jimmy Murray, Tremon Smith
Mecole Hardman: The second-round pick showed off his speed on his touchdown play against the Bengals — but we already knew he was fast. Hardman will be an exciting part of the Chiefs team in the coming years, but we haven’t yet seen what he can do in a traditional wide receiver role. Route running, beating coverage and making contested catches are what we’ll want to see as the preseason progresses.
D’Montre Wade: When injuries struck in camp, Wade surprised many of us by earning first-team snaps as the first cornerback off the bench; the forgotten man from the biggest position of concern appeared to be on the rise. But in the first preseason game, he was ejected for an unnecessary helmet-to-helmet hit. Coincidentally or not, Mark Fields took what would appear to be Wade’s snaps in the next practice in St. Joseph. With Claiborne coming in, Wade needs to take advantage of every opportunity to prove he belongs.
Byron Pringle: The other guy who was the talk of training camp didn’t record a catch against the Bengals on three targets. He did, however, have a nice 50-yard kick return — showing that he’s a factor on special teams. On a team as loaded with skill players as the Chiefs, it’s going to be an uphill battle for a guy like Pringle to prove he belongs in the wide receiver rotation.
Carlos Hyde: Like it or not, Hyde appears to be the second running back. He’s not looking dynamic at all, which leaves fans wanting more — especially at this time of year. But he might just be a guy who does the little things that the coaching staff demands, and that could win him a job.
John Lovett: Had a couple of catches and a big special teams play, but separated his shoulder. His path to the roster is a narrow one, and any time missed won’t help at all. Many already believe he’s this year’s training-camp-IR candidate that may get a ‘redshirt’ season.
Others who are who we thought they were: Tyrann Mathieu, Darrel Williams, Daniel Sorensen, Deon Yelder, Breeland Speaks