It wasn’t all bad. Given snap counts and on-field performances — and when that information is put in context of the offseason and training camp — we certainly got some bits of information.
But now that training camp has officially wrapped up, let’s take another look at who is trending in the right direction — and who isn’t.
Mecole Hardman: Even though he had just scored his first NFL touchdown, we listed the dynamic rookie in Stock Flat last week because he hadn’t shown enough as a traditional wide receiver. That’s still true after the Pittsburgh game. But after another impressive touchdown, he’s clearly trending in the right direction overall. At this point, Hardman is probably as good a receiver as Tyreek Hill was during his rookie season — the one where he scored nine offensive touchdowns. While we can’t put those kinds of expectations on Hardman, it’s fair to assume he’s going to be a playmaker for this team. So far, he’s proved that much.
Blake Bell: The prohibitive favorite for the second tight end spot has been a pretty consistent performer in camp and in the two preseason games. He’s got the athleticism to do some of what Travis Kelce does, and he’s in line to be a staple on special teams. Bell’s main competition — Deon Yelder — went down with an injury this week, so if there were any doubt he will be the second tight end, it might be fading now. Barring anything unexpected, we’ll be seeing The Belldozer when the games count.
Kendall Fuller: We’ve been critical of Fuller for most of training camp, so it’s only fair to recognize that he’s making plays during (very) limited action in preseason games. Even if it’s in the slot, he’ll be one of the starters at a position where the Chiefs need help. The coaches mentioned Fuller has been dealing with a nagging injury in camp, so perhaps he’s just getting more comfortable now. If he’s able to be counted upon — and can force some turnovers — he’ll be among the most important Chiefs defenders.
Herb Miller: It wasn’t always a dominant performance, but Miller played another pretty good game against the Steelers and appears to be moving up the cornerback depth chart. Miller has made plays each week. He’s also tied for the most special teams snaps on the team — indicating that he might have moved himself onto the roster bubble. That’s a positive step for a rookie free agent.
Cody Thompson: The undrafted free agent has consistently run good routes, showed good hands and displayed some special teams ability. Almost from the moment he arrived, Thompson has been on the radar as a guy who could make the 53-man roster. All he needed was the opportunity — and the unfortunate injury to Marcus Kemp might have provided it. With Gehrig Dieter not playing — and Kemp now done for the season — Thompson took the bulk of the snaps and targets on Saturday. He responded with a seven-catch, 69 yard performance. Watch to see if the Chiefs start to pare back his snaps as the preseason goes on. It could be a sign that he’s locked up a role.
Frank Clark, Chris Jones and Alex Okafor: The Chiefs’ real stars on the defensive front haven’t played enough in the preseason to make much of an impact. But on the one play against the Steelers where Okafor got a sack, you could see the problems that having multiple threats on the front four — guys that can win with power or speed — can present for offenses. Blockers will have some tough choices to make when facing the Chiefs this season. If this play is any indication, it might be unwise for offenses focus too much on Clark and Jones; Okafor might be able to take advantage.
Honorable mention: Marcus Kemp: It started the final week in St. Joseph; coaches and reporters couldn’t ignore Kemp’s performance. Then we heard from special teams coordinator Dave Toub: Kemp was developing more on offense. Kemp was on his way to the 53-man roster — and potentially a larger role than expected. But then he reportedly tore his ACL and MCL against Pittsburgh — and that’s a real shame. He makes our Stock Up list as an honorable mention because he was certainly trending in the right direction prior to his injury. Hopefully he will have a chance to pick up where he left off.
Others trending in a bullish direction: Bashaud Breeland, Darron Lee, Mark Fields, Ben Niemann, Darwin Thompson
Rashad Fenton: Perhaps the only Chiefs draft pick that we haven’t discussed very much, Fenton has been playing as the second-string nickel corner on a team desperate for answers at the position. On the one hand, it’s sometimes a great sign if a corner doesn’t get noticed; it could mean he’s not getting beat. But on the other hand, you’d like to see a late-round rookie making plays in the preseason. As it stands so far, he’s being outplayed by Mark Fields and Herb Miller. We have to consider the possibility that Fenton might not make the 53-man roster.
Tremon Smith: If a player is changing positions and trying to earn a roster spot, preseason is the time to get snaps and put some improvement on film. Over the Chiefs’ first two preseason games, the defensive-back-turned-running-back has appeared in a total of five offensive snaps — including none this week against the Steelers. Dave Toub is also bringing back De’Anthony Thomas — one of his favorite special teams players — who has been the team’s kick returner in the past. So with more options on special teams — and no apparent role on offense or defense — I’m not sure how Smith stays on the roster.
Cameron Erving: We hate to pick on Cam, but let’s just say he’s not impressing at the tackle position thus far. Versatility is his calling card — but if he’s ineffective, that can only get him so far.
Kahlil McKenzie: The second-team offensive line appeared to struggle against the Steelers — partially due to the aforementioned Erving — but also because of McKenzie. The signing of Jeff Allen could suggest that McKenzie isn’t ready for primetime yet. We don’t think the Chiefs are ready to give up on their conversion project just yet, but if you’re expecting McKenzie to push for playing time this year, it doesn’t appear to be in the cards.
Others trending in a bearish direction: Khalen Saunders, D’Montre Wade, Justin Hamilton, Byron Pringle
Carlos Hyde: The good news: Hyde had some solid runs with the first team offense. The bad news? Then he fumbled. We should have been prepared for the idea that Hyde wouldn’t be an exciting player to watch in camp, because he’s not as dynamic as other backs like Darwin Thompson. There still should be a place on the team for Hyde — likely as the the number two running back due to his pass protection ability and veteran presence. Keep your expectations for Hyde low — but don’t assume he gets cut.
Dorian O’Daniel: O’Daniel actually appeared to play well this week, but for whatever reason, he doesn’t seem to have the trust of the defensive coaching staff. He’s getting plenty of special teams work, though — which could keep him on the roster while he works on whatever skills he needs to develop to become a defensive contributor.
Emmanuel Ogbah: Is Ogbah already the forgotten man along the revitalized Chiefs defensive front? The big defensive end with a knack for knocking down passes is coming off a career year in Cleveland but has been dealing with an oblique injury in camp. He didn’t play against the Bengals, and logged 14 snaps against Pittsburgh. For now, Ogbah remains on the third string. But he figures to get plenty of chances to be part of the rotation as the team gets closer to the regular season.
Charvarius Ward: Perhaps inconsistency is what we should expect from Ward as he develops during his second year. The Chiefs continue to give him significant snaps; he’ll likely be the number three cornerback this season. This week, Ward had a great pass breakup to end the Steelers’ first drive and a big interception return — but he also got picked on a bit in coverage. Your view of Ward is largely dependent upon your expectations. If you expect him to be a top-tier starter, he’ll be very frustrating to watch this season. But if you temper our expectations, you might see that he’s a valuable depth corner.
Others who are who we thought they were: Breeland Speaks, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Darrel Williams, Damien Wilson, Chris Jones, Rob McCray