With the Kansas City Chiefs idle on the weekend of their bye week, Matt Stagner spent Sunday figuring out the team’s best (and worst) values at midseason.
Top 3: best value on the roster
L’Jarius Sneed: Anytime a rookie on a fourth-round contract is arguably your team’s best player at a premium position, that’s a great value. When that position is also one where the team is notably thin, it’s massive. For this Chiefs team to become a dynasty, it will need great value at some positions where they aren’t able to invest significant assets. From what we’ve seen so far of Sneed, assuming he returns to the field after the bye and keeps on his current trajectory, he has the best value on the entire roster.
Tershawn Wharton: A close second when it comes to relative value is undrafted free agent-turned-defensive line stud, Turk Wharton. Wharton is showing an explosive first step when rushing the passer and grown-man strength when playing the run. Coming from a small school and stepping right into a difficult position is a remarkable feat. The Chiefs clearly got a steal in Wharton.
After the Las Vegas Raiders defeated the Chiefs in Week 5, reports emerged that the Raiders had asked their bus driver to take a lap around Arrowhead in celebration — and on Monday, both head coaches were asked about it as they prepared for Sunday’s rematch.
“Listen, they won the game, so they can do anything they want to do,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said when asked about the gesture during his Monday Zoom press conference. “They ended up winning the game. That’s not our style, but we’ll get ourselves back, ready to play. That’s where we’re at.”
As to be expected by now, Reid downplayed any added motivation to beat the Raiders other than it being a division game.
“I think it’s two good football teams playing each other,” he said. “I don’t think probably either team likes each other that much as they stated before, so we get ourselves ready to play against a good football team. I think that’s most important.”
Then John Dixon took our first look at the Chiefs 2020 postseason outlook.
This is the time of year where we would normally say that a team with an 8-1 record controls its own destiny to land a postseason bye — that is, if they win the rest of their games, they’ll be assured of a week off to begin the postseason. But since the NFL’s expanded playoff format now allows only one team to get a bye — and the Pittsburgh Steelers now stand 9-0 after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday — it’s not that simple.
Should the Chiefs take care of business — finishing the season 7-0 — they’ll have a 91% chance to land the #1 seed. Given that 7-0 finish, Steelers losses to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12 (or the Buffalo Bills in Week 14) would clinch a Chiefs bye. Of course, other Steelers losses would improve the Chiefs’ chance to claim the top spot — but by themselves, only losses to the Ravens or Bills (combined with a Chiefs 7-0 finish) would clinch it.
if there’s one thing we know about Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, it’s that he loves to find a way to get former first-round picks on the team without expending much capital. On Tuesday, we got another example of just such a move.
The #Chiefs are expected to sign former #Giants CB DeAndre Baker to their practice squad in the coming days, source says. The 2019 first-round pick is headed there for a visit, as @NYPost_Schwartz noted. That’s the only planned visit and, barring a snag, he’ll be a Chief.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) November 18, 2020
Garafolo added that Baker’s stay on the practice squad is expected to be short-lived. Once he “gets up to speed,” he will be activated to the 53-man roster. We first learned earlier on Tuesday that Baker would be “heading to Kansas City” to meet with the Chiefs — according to a report from the New York Post.
Then Ron Kopp Jr. took a look at some of the Chiefs who are in the final season of their contracts in 2020.
Sorensen has the fourth-most defensive snaps on the team. That tells you how often they are in nickel — where safety Tyrann Mathieu becomes the slot cornerback and Sorensen comes in at strong safety, paired with free safety Juan Thornhill. Sorensen is trusted to be the deep safety at times, but 46% of his snaps come inside the box for a reason.
Sorensen is uniquely explosive and coordinated enough to turn that into effective open-field tackling. In the 2014 NFL Draft process, Sorensen ran a 6.47 second 3-cone drill — putting him in the 98th percentile of safeties at the combine all-time. You’ve especially seen it this year in his play against the run, which has led to him being the team’s leading tackler.
Wednesday’s bad news for the Raiders was good news for the Chiefs.
Rapoport added that some Raiders will be cleared by Saturday and others by Sunday, as long as they continue to test negatively. Here are the six Raiders who were added to the list (starters italicized):
Defensive back Jonathan Abram
Defensive tackle Maliek Collins
Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins
Defensive back Isaiah Johnson
Defensive end Arden Key
Defensive tackle Kendal Vickers
Practice squad defensive end David Irving was also placed on the list.
Rapoport noting that these contacts being characterized as “high-risk” is key. “High-risk” close contacts need to be isolated from the team for five days, with the clock beginning the day after his exposure to the positive subject.
As he often does when primary kick returners are unavailable to play, Dave Toub waved his Tyreek Hill Card on Thursday.
“Tyreek Hill — obviously — is a pretty good option for us,” Chiefs special-teams coordinator Dave Toub told reporters on Thursday. “We would use that option if we needed it. Like I’ve said before, we have other guys. Demarcus Robinson could do it. Rashad Fenton can play it. We have a number of guys that could do it. Byron Pringle could play.”
In fact, Pringle has returned four kickoffs in 2020 — one of them a 102-yard touchdown against the Denver Broncos in Week 7. Robinson has also had a kickoff return this year — along with safety Armani Watts — but this far, Fenton has not had either a kickoff or punt return.
And that’s the way Toub wants it. Based on past experience, it’s clear that he likes to put other special-teams units on the defensive by sending out a returner they’re not necessarily prepared to see.
On Monday, the Chiefs had place three offensive linemen on their reserve/COVID-19 list. Three days later, two of them came off the list.
The team made some personnel announcements.
Offensive linemen Mitch Schwartz and Eric Fisher would be back with the team, though Schwartz would be held out of practice and Fisher would practice. Running back Darrel Williams would not practice due to an illness.
Thursday’s NFL transaction report showed that Fisher and Schwartz have been removed from the team’s reserve/COVID list, on which they were placed on Monday. This makes them eligible to play in Sunday night’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders. Reports at the time indicated that neither of them tested positive for the virus but were placed on the list after being in close contact with an infected person.
After the Chiefs were reported to be signing Townsend to their practice squad on Tuesday, there was confusion about why the Chiefs would sign their punter’s older brother. On Friday, we brought you Dave Toub’s explanation.
“It was a really good idea by Brett Veach to bring a guy in — just in case the COVID thing hits us,” Toub explained to reporters on Thursday. “[If it] hits one of our guys, we have a guy that’s in the building — tested — that we can just plug in there and plug and play.
“[Johnny Townsend] is a guy that can come in and punt for us — [or] be a holder. If Harrison Butker went down with COVID — if he was out — then we would probably kick with Tommy and then Johnny would be the holder. They’re interchangeable parts; one guy can do a lot of things and that’s why we have him here. It’s a pretty good idea by Veach.”
After several players had missed practice with illnesses — and others had jumped back and forth between full and limited practices — the Chiefs ended the week with two players out and two more questionable.
The Chiefs have ruled two players out — right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (back) and defensive end Taco Charlton (fractured ankle).
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid noted that Alex Okafor (ankle) returned to practice on Wednesday. Both Okafor and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed (shoulder) don’t appear on the injury report, as Kansas City has yet to activate them from injured reserve. But it sounds like as least Sneed will make his return on Sunday night.
Offensive lineman Mike Remmers (rib) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (hamstring) are officially questionable — though Remmers seems more likely than Watkins to play. Remmers built up to a full participation on Friday, while Watkins was full on Wednesday, then limited the rest of the week.