According to Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, fans should expect to see Patrick Mahomes and the top-team offense—as well as Tyrann Mathieu and the top-team defense—in the first quarter. The twos will follow in the second, followed by the threes and beyond in the second half.
While there is no doubt reason to be excited about Mahomes and the offseason defensive additions, that will only make up 15 minutes of the evening. Here are five under-the-radar, dark-horse candidates I’ll have my eye on:
1. WR Marcus Kemp (No. 19)
Before training camp began, there was reason to believe the Chiefs could move on from wide receiver Marcus Kemp, who the Chiefs signed as an undrafted free agent back in 2017. Kemp finished third on the team in special-teams snaps last season, and Uncle Dave Toub has always liked his tackling ability. While shorthanded, the Chiefs even practiced Kemp as an emergency safety last October. What has been surprising about Kemp this training camp has been his step forward as an offensive player. Kemp only saw 36 snaps on offense last season, but he looks much improved so far, showcasing an ability to catch the football. I’m ready to see if he stands out in this exhibition game.
2. OL Kahlil McKenzie (No. 66)
It is one thing to show offensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie working out with Pro Football Hall of Famer (and one of the greatest Chiefs of all time) Will Shields; it is another thing that some of that work is appearing to have paid dividends in training camp. For those unfamiliar with McKenzie’s story, he played defensive tackle at Tennessee before Chiefs general manager Brett Veach selected him in the sixth round of last year’s draft. Veach’s plan was for McKenzie to transition to offensive lineman during a “redshirt” season last year. The Chiefs kept him on the active 53-man roster to protect him for 2019—when he now looks like a viable backup guard. Let’s see if McKenzie’s improved footwork and base translates in the game Saturday night, when he should be running with Chad Henne and second team at right guard.
3. LB Darron Lee (No. 50)
The Chiefs traded with the New York Jets for former first-rounder Darron Lee this offseason. Lee looks like he profiles as the fourth linebacker in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense behind base linebackers Damien Wilson, Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens. I see the Chiefs using Lee exclusively in obvious passing downs next to Hitchens during the season, but I wonder if he can make a case for more situations this preseason—starting this Saturday night. Per his Twitter account, Lee is a heavy believer in getting 1% better every day. Let’s see if he’s 11% better (after 11 days of camp) than he was in a Jets uniform against the Bengals.
4. H-back John Lovett (No. 40)
The former Princeton quarterback has worked with the running backs and tight ends this training camp, and the Chiefs listed him as a fullback in their first unofficial depth chart on 2019. The reason I believe Lovett makes the roster is that Reid won’t be able to pass on everything he offers: he can run, catch—and if the situation calls for it, even throw the football. Lovett’s roster life will come down to special teams, and Uncle Dave has already spoke about Lovett on his own without being asked about him. Both on offense and special teams, it is worth paying attention to No. 40 Saturday night.
5. WR Jody Fortson (No. 1)
It will take sticking around to the third quarter to catch a glimpse of the tight end-turned-wide receiver Jody Fortson, but based up on what I have seen in training camp, it will be worth the wait. Fortson has showed an incredible knack for coming down with the football in St. Joseph (I cant recall a drop), and at 6 feet 4 and 226 pounds, should provide Kyle Shurmur and Chase Litton the perfect target as they make their case for the practice-squad QB3 role. Fortson should join one of those players on the practice squad, too—especially if he can continue his camp progress between the white lines in a game setting at Arrowhead.