With the NFL’s final cutdown coming on Saturday, Matt Stagner spent Sunday looking at which Kansas City Chiefs were trending up and trending down — and a few we just weren’t sure about.
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.
On Monday, we got a shocker: a report that unnoticed defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton was very likely going to make the Chiefs’ roster.
The 6-foot-4, 255-pound Wharton — a native of University City, Missouri — was definitely a standout defensive end for the Miners during his college career in Rolla. In his junior and senior seasons, he played in 21 games, collecting 105 tackles (60 solo and 25 for loss), along with 15 sacks, five forced fumbles, a pair of passes defensed and a touchdown return.
That’s the kind of résumé that can definitely get you a shot at making an NFL roster. But when it comes from playing in Division II, it can still be a tough hill to climb. Palmer’s report would indicate that despite the lack of buzz around him during training camp, Wharton has climbed it well.
On Tuesday, the free-agent tight end — now on this third NFL team — explained how Chiefs practices are different than the other NFL practices he’s experienced.
“We go fast,” Seals-Jones marveled. “When we first started off, it was a hard practice to me — and the guys were like, ‘Oh this is nothing.’ We probably ran 150 plays and they were like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s nothing.’
“The speed of how we play and how we go, it’s something that you can’t really tell someone, you just have to be here... I don’t think you can game plan for it As fast as we go and how many plays we do, it’s incredible how they do things here. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
On Tuesday, the Chiefs officially announced that because the season opener will take place on a Thursday (it’s nice to be the Super Bowl champions, isn’t it?) the annual Red Friday event before the season opener would be this Wednesday. As always, fans will be able to buy Chiefs flags — which this year, will commemorate the team’s league championship.
The flags will be sold for a minimum donation of $5 at more than 135 Kansas City and St. Joseph-area McDonald’s restaurants. Proceeds from flag sales benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City. Chiefs Kingdom flags will also be available at Kansas City-area Hy-Vee stores and CommunityAmerica Credit Union branches.
The team has noted that to minimize contact between individuals during cash transactions, no change will be given. Fans are encouraged to use exactly $5 cash per flag or be willing to make a donation above $5 if they use larger bills.
And yes... if you live outside Kansas City, you can order them online (on Wednesday) at shop.chiefs.com
On Wednesday, we brought you some of the highlights from Tuesday night’s ring ceremony at Arrowhead Stadium, including a detailed look at the rings themselves — and moments like this one.
On Wednesday’s Arrowhead Pride Laboratory podcast, the AP Nerd Squad considered some players who were “on the bubble” as the final cutdown approached.
Wide receiver No. 6
We anticipate the Chiefs will keep six receivers, and it’s likely that Gehrig Dieter, Marcus Kemp and Jody Fortson are competing for that final spot. Five receivers — Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle — are locks or near locks for the roster.
That potential sixth receiver is up for grabs. Dieter has the most experience in the offense, Kemp is a favorite of special teams coach Dave Toub and Fortson has had a strong showing a camp by all indications. It’s going to be interesting to see what player ultimately prevails. Keep an eye on return specialist Justice Shelton-Mosley as a dark horse candidate.
On Thursday, we learned that a Chiefs great from the 1990s had received a Super Bowl LIV ring from the organization — and then we found out that it went a lot deeper than that.
The rings are being distributed to Chiefs Ambassadors, Chiefs Cheerleaders and Chiefs Red Coaters. We know of one former player — former Kansas City Chiefs running back Christian Okoye (and member of the Chiefs Ring of Honor) — who tweeted on Thursday that he had received a ring from the organization.
Okoye’s ring is very likely a “replica” Super Bowl ring. Language in the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement allows the production of these replica rings for practice-squad players and other members of the organization — although the franchise has to foot the bill for them. Just the same, this is a grand gesture the Chiefs have made for a Ring of Honor player like Okoye, who played for the team from 1987 through 1992.
With 24 hours remaining until the final cutdown, we released our projection of the Chiefs’ roster. As always happens, we got some things right... and some things wrong.
Defensive tackles (4): Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Khalen Saunders, Tershawn Wharton
The potential surprise here is Wharton, who bulked up and stepped in on the interior, apparently drawing rave reviews from the coaching staff. If he doesn’t make the 53, he’s sure to get an offer to join the practice squad. Or — more likely — he could be the guy that makes the active roster until Mike Pennel’s suspension ends, and then joins the practice squad.
Defensive ends (6): Frank Clark, Alex Okafor, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Taco Charlton, Mike Danna, Breeland Speaks
We think the top four EDGE players are pretty solid here after Steve Spagnuolo mentioned Charlton as a “three down player”. The final spots come down to Danna, Speaks and Tim Ward. For the initial roster, we’re predicting spots go to the two guys in whom the Chiefs have invested draft capital.
Also on Friday, we learned of new NFL rules that will be enforced at every stadium — even if fans are in attendance.
Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Chiefs are among only five teams that will begin the season with fans in their stadiums — in the case of Kansas City, somewhere between 16,000 and 17,000 — but according to NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero, there will be one new guest in every NFL stadium this year: piped-in crowd noise.
So an idea once considered scandalous at NFL games — prerecorded crowd noise — will be standard operating procedure during the topsy-turvy 2020 season. The league is providing a stadium-specific recording of crowd noise to every team — and this recording must be played at a required level of 70 dB throughout every game, except during injury timeouts, quarter, halftime and commercial breaks.
And then Saturday finally came. We tracked the news of Chiefs waivers and releases with our cutdown tracker, also giving some instant analysis about the release of wide reciever Gehrig Dieter and then covering how the Chiefs could handle running back depth following the release of DeAndre Washington.
Tight ends (4): Travis Kelce, Nick Keizer, Deon Yelder, Ricky Seals-Jones
The Chiefs have only started with four tight ends on the initial 53-man roster once in Reid’s tenure as head coach. There are a mix of skillsets behind the All-Pro Kelce. Keizer has emerged as the second tight end used most often for blocking roles. Yelder proved himself as a capable receiver and special teams piece in 2019, while newcomer Seals-Jones must have shown enough as a pass-catcher in camp to make up for his lack of blocking skills or special teams ability.
Yelder has been hurt since the beginning of padded practices, so there could be a move made once he has fully recovered.