It’s been a strange and quiet Kansas City Chiefs training camp. It’s taken place without the usual trips to St. Joseph, the first-hand accounts of every practice — or even preseason games. It’s difficult to gauge where many players stand with the team; we’re simply operating in a low-information environment. But the regular season is approaching anyway — and what few reports we do get seem to be pretty consistent. So we’ll do our best to capture what we think we know.
So let’s look at are the bulls and bears of the preseason — along with a bonus list of some guys whose status is really up in the air.
This preseason’s Bulls
Nick Keizer: There is a clear front runner for the No. 2 tight end job — and it might not be the guy we expected. “He’s much better in the passing game — down the field.” said tight ends coach Tom Melvin. “He’s pretty good on the end of the line of scrimmage. We’re really happy with the amount of experience that he’s getting now — especially with the ones to run against a number one defense.”
Clyde Edwards-Helaire: Though many would’ve preferred not to draft a running back with the 32nd pick, there was an instant consensus that Edwards-Helaire and the Chiefs were a match made in football heaven. When presumptive starter Damien Williams opted out for 2020, the rookie’s stock went through the roof. All Edwards-Helaire has done thus far is prove that he can grasp the playbook and that his physical gifts are as advertised. Reports have praised his vision, along with change-of-direction, pass-catching and run-between-the-tackles ability. He’s going to be a star in this offense — and on our fantasy football teams.
Willie Gay Jr.: There might be a rookie that outshines the Chiefs first-round pick — and he plays a position that is in desperate need of a playmaker. Gay has been turning heads with his ability to run and cover. He’s learning the SAM and BUCK linebacker spots for now, but the sky is the limit for a linebacker with his talent.
L’Jarius Sneed: The speedy rookie — at least in the practice we could see — has the opportunity to step right in as a starter in place of Bashaud Breeland. Publicly, the team says he has a lot to work on, which led us to speculate that Rashad Fenton or Antonio Hamilton would be the early-season starters. But actions speak louder than words; Sneed was the guy on the field with the first team on Saturday, while Fenton and Hamilton rotated in the slot.
Jody Fortson: It seems like we fall for it every season. A tall, athletic receiver makes spectacular catches all over training camp — and we’re sold. For 2020, it’s Fortson — now in his second season — who is turning heads. He’s massive — borderline tight-end-sized — and he’s going head-to-head with the Chiefs’ best defenders.
Me & Jody Went at it yesterday. He caught a one hander on me then looked at me... he know me, he know I’m trying one up him. Proud of that kid! He getting better & Tougher!— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) August 24, 2020
We’ll see if he makes the roster and gets on the field; he could bring a skill set that the Chiefs don’t currently have. But in the final practice on Saturday, Fortson was nowhere to be found. Could the Chiefs be trying to slow down the hype train — perhaps to make sure he’s not poached from the practice squad?
Ben Niemann: A guy who quietly contributed in a limited role last season might be in line for a much bigger opportunity in 2020. Niemann has been spotted lining up as the starting WILL linebacker — and is staying on the field in dime packages. It’s possible he’s just holding the spot until Gay takes over one of the three starting jobs. But early on, it sure looks like Niemann has earned the trust of the coaching staff.
Others trending in the right direction: Tanoh Kpassagnon, Darrel Williams, Andrew Wylie, Mike Danna, Antonio Hamilton, Khalen Saunders, Mecole Hardman
This preseason’s Bears
Mike Pennel: In the second half of 2019. the big guy showed he is a key to the Chiefs’ run defense; Chiefs signs nearly universally applauded his re-signing for 2020. But once again, we’ll have to wait to see his impact on the field; he’ll serve a two game suspension to start the season. His absence could give Khalen Saunders the opportunity to show he’s progressed enough to be ready for a bigger role in the defense.
Bashaud Breeland: A more significant starter who is facing a four-game suspension, Breeland will be a bit harder to replace. Breeland was very good for the Chiefs last year; he was expected to get paid this offseason. Instead, the pending suspension apparently forced him a one year deal back with the Chiefs. Facing the start of the season without one of their top two corners will require the Chiefs to get creative, speeding up the development of some young players. The team did add Antonio Hamilton to give them a veteran option, but the future is in guys like L’Jarius Sneed and BoPete Keyes. If they are able to help fill the void during Breeland’s suspension, their future could come sooner — which could hurt Breeland’s chances of cashing in on a contract year.
Dorian O’Daniel: Many of us had high hopes for the speedy young linebacker, but the Chiefs still seem to be doing whatever they can to keep him off the field in Spagnuolo’s defense. From drafting Gay to giving Niemann significant snaps, all signs still point to O’Daniel as only a special-teams player. If that’s the case, the team is also developing several other core-four options. O’Daniel could be a player on the bubble.
Nick Allegretti: This promising young player also appears to be getting passed over. The team added a couple of veteran offensive linemen this offseason — but most notably signed veteran center Daniel Kilgore in the past week. Kilgore gives the team another option to back up Austin Reiter, which could push Allegretti further down the depth chart.
Others trending in the wrong direction: Armani Watts,
Breeland Speaks: He appears to have come into camp in better shape this year — but that’s literally all we know. We think this could be the last chance for Speaks to earn a role on the team, but we will have to wait and see what roster cuts and the regular season bring.
Alex Okafor: He took a pay cut to stay with the team, which tells us two things: he wants to be here, and the Chiefs didn’t think his contributions matched his contract. We’ve heard basically nothing about him in camp thus far — other than missing a number of the team’s final practices with a calf injury. He could be the starter, a rotational player or even a backup this season.
DeAndre Washington: He’s got the skillset to play in this offense — along with experience with Mahomes at texas tech — but it sounds like Darrel Williams has the inside track to become the No. 2 running back.
If you want a complete look behind the curtain, here’s a link to the full Market Movers database.