According to Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, fans should expect to see Patrick Mahomes and the top-team offense in the first and second quarters. The twos will follow in the third, and finally the threes and beyond in the fourth.
Last game, we thought we would get a true glimpse at the first-team defense, but projected starters Frank Clark and Alex Okafor did not play, and Chris Jones, Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson and Tyrann Mathieu lasted only two plays apiece. It is likely we’ll see more playing time from all of the above on Saturday night.
That said, all of the starters should be out by the time the third quarter begins. Here are five players I’m looking forward to seeing around that time:
1. WR Cody Thompson (No. 83)
Undrafted free agent Cody Thompson is our first intriguing player to watch entering Saturday’s game against the Steelers. Thompson is coming off a 15-snap game in which he had two catches on two targets for 19 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The final WR spot could very well come down to Cody Thompson vs Marcus Kemp. Thompson's routes are phenomenal, he breaks down CBs consistently and shows solid hands. Receiving upside between him and Kemp slants towards Thompson pretty strongly pic.twitter.com/Jd0bB5RZZN— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) August 11, 2019
The top four wide receivers are written in ink: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson. Unlike Matt in the above tweet, I consider Marcus Kemp a near-lock for the fifth spot considering his experience and special teams. In my opinion—with Gehrig Dieter out of the mix—it is a two-man race between Byron Pringle and Thompson for that sixth wide receiver spot. As Matt notes, Thompson is a good route-runner, and he has been a reliable pass-catcher at training camp. A big game for Thompson Saturday could help his push for the 53-man roster over what feels like a practice squad floor at this point.
2. RB Darrel Williams (No. 31)
In a Chiefs-chatter world that includes frequent discussion about Damien Williams, Carlos Hyde and Darwin Thompson, No. 31 gets a little lost in the shuffle. Whereas Damien, Hyde and Thompson offer similar traits as shifty pass-catchers, Darrel Williams is the between-the-tackles bruiser that provides the Chiefs a change of pace. That is why he continued to get first-team reps in training camp even after Damien returned from an ankle injury that sidelined him for a week and a half. Darrel had just one reception on two targets for 8 yards last game against Cincinnati, but where I’d like to see the Chiefs dial him up is in a short-yardage, goal-line situation. Here is to hoping that opportunity comes in Pittsburgh.
3. CB Mark Fields (No. 26)
When D’Montre Wade could not practice at the beginning of the final week of training camp, Mark Fields received some work at outside cornerback with the second team across from Herb Miller. Fields flashed at times in St. Joseph.
”Mark Fields is doing very well,” cornerbacks coach Sam Madison said earlier this week. “He ran one of the fastest times at the combine. It’s showing. He’s had an opportunity to cover Mecole (Hardman) and 10 (Tyreek Hill) and he’s running stride for stride with these guys. The little, smaller details, being able to transition from man, he’s really good in his man coverages, now we just have to hone him up and tighten him up on his zone coverages and being able to transition from one thing to the next.”
Fields registered two tackles in 22 snaps against the Bengals—and at camp, he has proven he can stick with some of the league’s fastest receivers. If Fields can show the coaching staff he can handle everything it asks of him in zone, he will be a hard player to cut at arguably their weakest position group.
4. LB Dorian O’Daniel (No. 44)
The 2018 third-round pick has been working primarily with the third team at training camp, and at this point, it is probably safe to say he is Chiefs’ sixth and final linebacker on their roster. O’Daniel was an up-and-comer on defense last season before an ankle injury cost him his participation in both of the Chiefs’ playoff games. General manager Brett Veach mentioned O’Daniel as a weak-side linebacker upon the Chiefs’ switch to the 4-3 this offseason. O’Daniel will safely make the team’s roster since, well, he is a former third-round pick and plays special teams. But O’Daniel could afford a big play or two to remind the coaching staff what he offers on defense.
5. S Armani Watts (No. 23)
Armani Watts was the Chiefs’ next selection after O’Daniel in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Watts missed most of his rookie season after core muscle surgery in October, but Veach listed him among players the Chiefs were excited about this past offseason. Watts led the Chiefs with 50 defensive snaps against the Bengals, recording two tackles and one pass defensed—a batted ball at the line of scrimmage.
The Chiefs ran a quarters look this week in practice with seven defensive backs—made up of the top three cornerbacks, the top three safeties and Watts. Mathieu said Watts has been “coming along really well” lately, and I’d agree.
Let’s see how it translates to game two.