We are two weeks into Kansas City Chiefs training camp, which means it’s time for preseason football. The Chiefs will host the Cincinnati Bengals this Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium for their first matchup. The starters should play for a drive or two, but the bulk of the game will consist of backups and players fighting for the few available roster spots.
It’s easy to tune out once that part of the game begins — but the players don’t.
In recent years, there have been examples of preseason standouts emerging to become a legitimate contributor for their teams.
Former New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz comes to mind. As an undrafted free agent rookie in 2010, he exploded for six catches, 145 yards and three scores in their third preseason game. He started 53 games over a six-year career with the Giants.
The Chiefs have even had their own success story with undrafted free agent wide receiver Albert Wilson, who went from a speedy special teams player that flashed in preseason to a legitimate receiving threat. Wilson started 29 games over four seasons with the Chiefs, and even earned a three-year, $24 million contract with the Miami Dolphins after the 2017 season.
Remember the guys we were excited about, but who were unable to translate their preseason moments into a legitimate career? If you’ve been a Chiefs fan for the past decade or so, you will probably recognize these names.
Preseason starts this week! It's the time of year for little-known players to make big plays and get their fan base rooting for them. #Chiefs fans will remember some of these guys, like...— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) August 6, 2019
Casey Printers pic.twitter.com/ebdENPzQjf
We’ll start with a quarterback. Casey Printers came from the Canadian Football League in 2006 — only two years removed from a season in which he accumulated 5,777 total yards and 44 total touchdowns en route to a Most Outstanding Player award.
He was brought in to compete with veteran Damon Huard and rookie Brodie Croyle for the backup spot behind starting quarterback Trent Green. He struggled in his preseason action, but still stuck around long enough to eventually be promoted to the active roster after time on the practice squad.
His Chiefs career famously came to a close during training camp in 2007. With the Hard Knocks cameras rolling, he expressed his frustration with Chiefs director of player personnel Ray Farmer after he learned he was being cut.
Printers never made a big impact on a football field again, but he was a fun player to get excited about during the 2006 preseason.
Wide receivers have good opportunities to show out in preseason action. Bobby Sippio sure did when he got his shot.
After an illustrious Arena Football League career — including a season featuring 125 catches, 1742 yards and 53 touchdowns — Sippio was brought in during the 2007 preseason, but didn’t immediately do much. He was able to maintain a spot through the 2008 preseason — where he did shine by leading all Chiefs receivers in yards and touchdowns during the four-game span. He was cut before the regular season and returned to the AFL — where he continued to put up mind blowing statistics.
Nate Eachus was a preseason stud pic.twitter.com/cjqXX6iWsz— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) August 6, 2019
Eachus was a preseason star. After signing as an undrafted free agent rookie in 2012, he ranked third among running backs in total rushing yards with an incredible 6.1 yards per carry on 34 attempts during the preseason. He earned a role in the offense as a fullback, blocking for star tailback Jamaal Charles. He was cut after the 2012 season and never got back on an NFL roster.
This Kansas State alumnus signed with Kansas City after going undrafted in 2012, playing well enough in the preseason to earn legitimate playing time; he recorded three passes defensed in two games as a starter in the regular season.
His statistics were even better in the 2013 preseason when he led the team in total tackles, earned half a sack, and picked off a pass. But it wasn’t enough to keep his roster spot — and that was it for his NFL career.
Another wide receiver that showed out in multiple preseasons. Williams was a D-II prospect that turned to the Arena League after going undrafted in 2011. A couple of impressive seasons there got him a training camp spot with the Chiefs in 2014.
After being put on the practice squad, he came out in the 2015 preseason and led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. His performance wasn’t enough for the Chiefs to activate him to the 53-man roster, and he was cut before the 2016 season.
Linebacker/Fullback Boomer Grigsby (2005-2007)
Quarterback Alex Tanney (2012)
Wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. (2013-2015)
Running back Darrin Reaves (2015-2016)
My pick for this year’s standout is... Rashard Davis
With all these examples of past players flashing in the preseason, it’s safe to assume there will be one this year.
My bet is on third-year undrafted wide receiver Rashard Davis. He is the lightest player on the team in terms of weight, but he hasn’t let that stop him from performing well in camp. He’s made contested catches and showed off his speed and shiftiness.
The initial depth chart release has him as the seventh or eighth wide receiver, so he needs to shine in his game opportunities to make the team. Look for Davis to make a few big plays when the backups are in.
We will all overreact to a player’s preseason performance — whether good or bad. It’s human nature.
Just remember: the in-game play doesn’t show the entire picture. Whether we like it or not, we ultimately have to trust Andy Reid and his staff — the ones who have been spent the previous four months working with these players — to make the correct decisions.
After all... there will be more camp crushes to enjoy next season.