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Chiefs-Jaguars Instabreakdown: Watkins evolves, taking over an excessively chippy game

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Instant reaction from the Chiefs’ final preseason game, courtesy of the Arrowhead Pride Nerd Squad.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Final Score: Kansas City Chiefs 40, Jacksonville Jaguars 26

In an overly physical game — both between and after the whistles — both teams saw their fair share of injuries and chippy moments. During the first quarter, both Tyreek Hill and Nick Foles exited the game for good with injuries — while in the second quarter, Patrick Mahomes suffered a major scare with a lower leg injury. Mahomes, however, was able to continue to play. The Chiefs gained an early lead with offensive brilliance and never really let the Jaguars get back in the game.

Offense

Sammy Watkins spent this offseason getting into better shape and changing his training routine. A storyline making waves during camp was how different and refreshed he looked — and it didn’t take long for that to bear out. Watkins had a monster first half with 178 yards and two touchdowns. He was especially explosive after the catch — breaking tackles, making guys miss, and running away from nearly everyone. Watkins continued his dominance in the second half, beating AJ Bouye, Jalen Ramsey — and anyone else in front of him — snagging another touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Mahomes started the game looking extremely sharp; he was nearly perfect in the early going, finding Watkins and Travis Kelce early and often. He did attempt a no-look pass — one that probably wasn’t necessary — to a wide open Kelce in the end zone. The pass missed its target.

Mahomes had a huge scare in the second quarter when Josh Allen rolled up on his ankle and Mahomes had to limp off to the injury tent. He was able to return on the next play (after a delay following on-field fight), but appeared visibly hobbled the rest of the half.

Tyreek Hill looked as fast as ever before leaving the game with a shoulder injury. Kelce looked like his old self, putting cornerbacks and linebackers through route-running blenders. The other receivers for the Chiefs stayed relatively quiet during the game as the Chiefs played to control the clock — and get out of Jacksonville with the win and no more injuries; the second half saw a lot of short, quick passes.

The three running backs we expected to see all saw some snaps, with Damien Williams leading the way — followed by LeSean McCoy and some specific uses and plays for Darwin Thompson. Williams found the end zone on a short run, but with his vision and patience, McCoy may have been the sharpest-looking of the bunch . Both Williams and McCoy looked incredibly dangerous any time they got into space, and were difficult to take down in the open field.

As a whole, the offensive line really struggled for most of the game. They didn’t open a lot of holes in the run game — and struggled to protect Mahomes far too often for comfort. The communication on stunts was a major weakness. On the zone runs, a lot of guys were stepping on each other while trying to block on different levels. The Jaguars were able to shoot these gaps and get between the blockers with ease. Even Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher — the two stalwarts of the offensive line — had some difficulty holding off a strong Jaguars pass rush.

Defense

NFL: SEP 08 Chiefs at Jaguars Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Going into the game, it was thought that in the trenches, the Chiefs would dominate the banged-up Jaguars offensive line.

Frank Clark was lining up across from a first-time left tackle — and as one would expect — was often facing multiple blockers; Clark saw a barrage of chips and tight ends staying in to help block him.

As a whole, the defensive line played with energy — and wasn’t about to get pushed around — but the pass rush was definitely a step down from what most were expecting. The lone sack came from Emmanuel Ogbah when turned the corner on a nice power club.

With Reggie Ragland being inactive for the game — leading us to wonder how the lineup would shake out — the linebacker group made some noise. Early on, it appeared Damien Wilson would be playing as the SAM, Anthony Hitchens the MIKE, and Darron Lee the WILL. Meanwhile, the nickel defense remained the same as what we saw in the preseason; Hitchens and Wilson stayed on the field.

The group saw the field much more cleanly than last year — and really laid into opposing players; their tackling was much better and more physical. While in coverage, Wilson forced a nice fumble on a short pass — but there were other plays where the limited athleticism of the nickel linebackers was a liability.

The secondary had its ups and downs, so we should start with the good. Bashaud Breeland broke up an early pass and wasn’t targeted again until the late fourth quarter on what looked like a coverage mix-up; apparently he thought he had help over the top. He may benefit from a lack of targets this season, but he looked very good at the catch point.

Kendall Fuller had the opposite result but similar process; he was rarely targeted but was beaten at the catch point a couple of times — once for a touchdown. This was something that was a problem for Fuller last year, too — especially when playing vertically.

Charvarius Ward struggled all around — whether it was against hard-breaking or vertical routes, or staying assignment-sound in zone. Juan Thornhill got the start at safety next to Tyrann Mathieu and was all over the field making tackles. He stopped a few moderate Jaguars gains from being big ones.