It's been a rocky season thus far, but your Kansas City Chiefs are poised to get back on track against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Amid the struggles, plenty of bullish trends can be found for some key young players on this team. The bears are obvious, too — we'll see if the coaching staff eventually agrees and makes changes.
The matchup with the Eagles should be a good one for the Chiefs, and coming off of two straight losses, they should be as motivated as we've ever seen them.
Here are a few Chiefs that are trending prior to a huge opportunity to get the 2021 season back on track:
L'Jarius Sneed: The best cornerback on the roster can do it all, from forcing turnovers to sacking the quarterback and making plays against the run. This season he's been relatively quiet but has made some big tackles and has quietly been solid in coverage. This could be the week that he changes a game. Steve Spagnuolo should feel more comfortable dialing up blitzes versus the Eagles than he was against the Baltimore Ravens, and Hurts probably won't be getting the ball out as quickly as Justin Herbert last week. I could see an interception and a sack this week from Sneed.
Chris Jones: Many are down on Jones after the last couple of weeks, but I think there's an upward trend developing for the Chiefs' best defender. He started the season strong with two sacks against the Cleveland Browns' Baker Mayfield, who plays the position in a similar fashion to the Eagles' Jaylen Hurts. Both are mobile but may not be fully developed as passers. The Ravens game might have just been a bad matchup, as Jones showed some positive signs against the Chargers, even if he didn't fill up the box score. The Eagles' offensive line is banged up, and Hurts appears to not be too comfortable in the pocket. Watch for Jones to make him really uncomfortable this week and remind everyone that he's still an elite defensive lineman.
Mecole Hardman: Another player that is a constant target of criticism seems to be settling into a role and doing some of the little things that could lead to a successful season. Against the Ravens, Hardman moved the chains with some short-to-intermediate routes. Against the Chargers, he played the offensive weapon role again showing his speed and quickness running through traffic and finding the endzone. Keep expectations in check for Hardman, he's still a complementary player. But the Chiefs are still determined to give him a handfull of touches each week, and he can take advantage when the focus is elsewhere.
Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith: The more we see of the Chiefs' offensive line, the more encouraged we should be. There have been some growing pains, but the progress has been evident, and these guys are trending towards being a real wall upfront. Watching them work together and finish in the run game has been a breath of fresh air compared to previous Chiefs' lines. They're also creating solid pockets for Patrick Mahomes to step into, but it's clear that the quarterback doesn't quite trust the protection just yet. This week will be a good challenge against some really good Eagles interior defensive linemen. Watch as the trust and chemistry continues to develop between these guys and the playmakers. It could be a big week for Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Mahomes, with these three helping pave the way.
Others trending in the right direction this week: Edwards-Helaire, Mike Danna, Harrison Butker, Blake Bell
Jarran Reed: We shouldn't give up on Reed yet, but in the brief time he's been a Chief, he has yet to be noticeable on the field. His goal was to "create havoc" in offensive backfields, but he hasn't recorded a sack, tackle for loss or other impact play. It's a long season, but if the Chiefs defense is going to turn the corner and be part of the solution, they'll need Reed and his longtime teammate Frank Clark to get on the field and behind the line of scrimmage.
Daniel Sorensen: We've all seen the same things on the field: missed tackles, struggles in coverage, then the inevitable clutch play when the team needs it the most. The "Daniel Sorensen experience" is, in many ways, the Chiefs' defensive experience. But it doesn't have to be that way. There is another safety waiting for his chance to take on an increase role. Eventually, Juan Thornhill will work through whatever is going on and see the field more. This week would be a good time to start that process against an Eagles team that rarely runs the ball.
Others trending in the wrong direction this week: Marcus Kemp, Demarcus Robinson, Ben Niemann, Jerick McKinnon, Derrick Nnadi, Frank Clark
Value (Sleeper) Pick
Jody Fortson: It seems wrong to call him a sleeper at this point, given the excitement among local media and fans all offseason. But he's gradually finding ways to get involved on the field. After his first catch two weeks ago and his first touchdown last week, you have to wonder if the Chiefs coaching staff will give him more opportunities as the season moves along. They're looking for secondary targets that can get open and take advantage when defenses focus on Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. We've all been waiting for wide receivers to step into that role, but perhaps the young tight ends can be part of the solution as soon as this week. The Eagles game would be the perfect time for Fortson and Noah Gray to make themselves known before another big target gets called up in the next few weeks...
Fair to say most of us will be bullish on him.