There are only 10 more days until the Kansas City Chiefs kick off the regular season in Jacksonville, and the last hurdle to get over is the preseason finale against the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night.
The 53-man roster needs to be finalized by Saturday. These five players have one last opportunity to earn the role they have been chasing all offseason:
When the NFL Draft began, most Chiefs fans assume a cornerback would be taken with one of the team’s first picks. Instead, the organization waited until the sixth round, when they selected cornerback Rashad Fenton.
Fenton was touted as a physical, press-man corner in college. The Chiefs have taken that skill and put it into the slot corner position — where he has played 65 snaps compared to only 13 snaps on the boundary this preseason, according to Pro Football Focus. He appears to be the second-string slot corner behind starter Kendall Fuller.
I doubt Fuller will be active on Thursday, so Fenton will get a ton of playing time. He has yet to make a significant play in the preseason. He’ll need to change that and give the coaching staff a reason to keep him. Teams rarely move on from draft picks this quickly, but others are making their case to take the spot.
Third-year undrafted free agent receiver Rashard Davis is the consequence of great depth in the Chiefs’ wide receiver room. There was never a true chance for him to make the roster with all the talent in front of him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t stand out.
Davis is among the smallest players on the team. His stature forces him to win with speed and quickness. He impressed a few times early in training camp — including a contested catch on a jump ball over starting cornerback Beshaud Breeland. I picked him to be a preseason standout before Week 1, but he’s only accumulated three receptions for seven yards on seven targets in three games.
The Chiefs may hold their top four or five wide receivers out of this game. That leaves plenty of targets to share for the rest of the pass-catchers. Davis may not make the Chiefs roster, but a good showing against the Packers may find him an opportunity elsewhere. Uncle Dave Toub has already said Davis would “be a starting punt returner on a lot of (NFL) teams.”
If the Chiefs put together a highlight reel of all the plays the cornerbacks have made this offseason, undrafted rookie cornerback Mark Fields would constantly show up. During training camp, Fields popped out with tight coverage and pass breakups. His performance compared to the other corners would indicate that he would be toward the top of the reserves, but that’s not how it’s shaken out to this point.
Fields seems to be behind teammates Herb Miller, Rashad Fenton and D’Montre Wade on the depth chart. Miller and Fenton have more snaps than him this preseason. He hasn’t fared any better than the others in coverage statistics, but he has allowed only four yards after the catch on the five receptions he’s allowed. That stat speaks to his ability to stay in tight coverage on his man.
His college days were up and down. Team rule violations and rumors of not cooperating with coaches may have something to do with his position with the Chiefs. If he can ball out on Thursday, he’ll make the decision to keep or cut him even tougher.
Similar to the wide receiver group, the defensive line is a talented and deep position group. They have versatile players that can fill multiple roles along the line. The plan for the regular-season rotation has become clear.
Third-year defensive end Joey Ivie is not a part of that plan. He spent all last season on the practice squad. The first weekend of training camp was the first time I’ve ever heard of him. That being said, he has been getting in with the second-team defense — and in some instances, playing before rookie third-round pick Khalen Saunders.
Because of draft position alone, Saunders doesn’t need to worry about his spot. Ivie has just shown some potential in spurts, and he’s bound to get a ton of playing time in Green Bay. Look for defensive line penetration from him.
The Chiefs have a track record for turning late-round draft choices into contributors — especially versatile interior offensive linemen. Rookie seventh-round selection Nick Allegretti fits the bill and has already been making progress this offseason.
Allegretti has mostly played center this training camp and preseason, but he can work both guard spots as well and is listed as the second-string left guard on the depth chart. He’s played the second-most game snaps out of any lineman on the Chiefs and has only allowed one pressure in those 101 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Chiefs’ recent acquisition of veteran lineman Jeff Allen could be a bad sign for Allegretti. They brought Allen in for a reason. Allegretti needs to have a strong game in the preseason finale to retain his spot in the line rotation.