The deadline for NFL teams to cut down their rosters to 53 players is 3 p.m. Arrowhead Time on Saturday. With that in mind, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid took questions from the local Kansas City media via conference call on Friday.
Here are five notes to know from the call:
1. Reid said running back usage in the preseason was by design.
Running backs Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams did not play offense in the preseason finale against the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night.
Veteran Carlos Hyde did, recording 25 snaps before checking out of the game.
“I tried to rotate all the backs to give them a shot early in games,” Reid said. “Carlos, for whatever [reason], whether it was the RPO game where we threw the ball, he didn’t get the carries. And so I go, ‘OK, he got short-changed on this whole plan that we had as far as carries,’ so I threw him in and gave him a shot. And I explained it all to them—I kept those guys abreast of what we were doing. And I told him, ‘I’m going to try to get you some carries early, so we get your numbers up on that and then get you out, so that’s how we roll...he got enough carries where you got a good look at him.”
Reid explained that headed into the final preseason game, Darrel and Thompson both had ample carries, so his intention was to get Hyde’s rush-attempt numbers up. Looking at the numbers, Hyde came into the game with eight on the preseason and finished with 16. Thompson had 12 and Darrel had 11. Damien had just one carry on the preseason.
“That’s a good situation we have right there,” Reid added, “whether you keep four or however many others there, you’ve got a pretty good situation right there.”
Reid said the numbers the Chiefs keep at tight end and fullback would directly impact the final number of running backs.
2. Reid also called the tight end room a “good situation.”
Entering training camp, the Chiefs were not sure who their tight end behind Travis Kelce would be. But during the past month, Blake Bell emerged. Now it is a matter of figuring out who else, if anyone, the Chiefs keep on Saturday.
“I liked what (Deon) Yelder did in Pittsburgh before he got hurt,” said Reid, referencing Yelder’s night that included a 27-yard catch from Chad Henne. “I liked what Bell’s done also, and (Nick) Keizer went out and had a nice night last night, so that’s a pretty good situation right there.”
With all three top tight ends sitting, Keizer had five receptions for 33 yards and a score, and that effort could push him to the 53-man roster. Keizer’s case is helped by Yelder’s sprained ankle. Reid wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Yelder lands on the injured reserve list.
3. Tyreek Hill is still the starting punt returner.
Tyreek Hill’s increased use and importance in Andy Reid’s offense has translated to the lingering question of this: At what point the Chiefs remove him from his punt-return duties?
The answer is no time soon, per Reid.
“I’m good with that,” Reid said of Hill who has four career punt-return touchdowns and a career average of 12 yards a return. “I mean we have other guys that can do it too, so like last year, we can mix and match however we want to go with that. We have flexibility and (special teams coordinator) Dave (Toub) has flexibility there with Tyreek.”
If rookie wide receiver Mecole Hardman has made enough of a case that he is ready for kick-return duties (he did catch 376 balls at training camp, after all), making the roster becomes tougher for Tremon Smith, the Chiefs 2018 kick returner.
The Chiefs have made every effort to keep Smith by moving him to a flex position on offense.
“There’s an initial value of him as a returner,” Reid said of Smith. “Then you look at the flexibility that he can give you at the other spots. That was the idea going in. I thought we got enough of a look at it.”
Smith returned 33 kicks for 886 yards (26.8 yards per return) in 2018.
4. Reid did not sound exactly optimistic about the young options at cornerback.
Asked specifically about cornerbacks Mark Fields, Herb Miller and D’Montre Wade, Reid left their futures with the club a bit hazy.
“They all have their strengths and they’re all a little different,” he said. “We’ll have to sit down and go through all that here later today. You have to be really smart when you evaluate those guys because they are young, and you have to project a little bit in there.”
5. Matt Moore will be the backup for the Chiefs Week 1, and the team will likely not keep a younger QB on their 53-man roster.
As I noted in Friday morning’s final 53-man roster projection, the Chiefs will need to keep veteran Chad Henne on the initial roster in order to designate him as a return candidate from injured reserve. Every team in the NFL is allowed two return players per season, as long as they were on the Week 1 roster.
Matt Moore arrived to Kansas City less than a week ago, with the game in Jacksonville set for nine days from Friday. But that fact is not forcing Reid into keeping either Kyle Shurmur or Chase Litton on the initial 53.
“I think he is going to be OK whether we [keep a young QB] or not,” Reid explained. “I think he’s going to be OK. He’s a sharp guy, he’s been doing this a long time and he kind of gets it. This is what you have to understand, we put in all these plays during training camp, but once you get in the game week, you cut it way back.
“It’s a little easier to digest than when you look at that full training camp sheet, you look at that and think my goodness, how am I going to get that figured out? This will be a little more job-specific for the Jags and I think he will be fine.”