As the week began, John Dixon gave his third prediction of which players the Kansas City Chiefs will start on their offensive line as the season begins — and while it was unchanged, he thought players on the right side were becoming less and less certain.
So in this third projection, I’m still picking the same five players. But as time has passed, I’ve become more certain of the three linemen on the left — and less certain of the two linemen on the right. As we discuss this topic on the Arrowhead Pride Editors Show podcast, Pete Sweeney continues to remind me that he believes Andrew Wylie is a dark horse in this competition — and he has a solid point.
That said — whatever else happens this season — I think both Smith and Niang will have the inside track to be the starters at right guard and right tackle in 2022. In addition, even if either fails to win a starting job in September, one (or both) will be likely to see playing time this season; it’s hard to imagine that the Chiefs will get through the season without some injuries on the offensive line.
Then we noted how the Chiefs quarterback’s belief that the team’s offense could be substantially better this season was being received across the league.
The idea that the Chiefs — who led the league with 415.8 yards in 2020 — could be better in 2021 led to a topic of discussion for a panel on ESPN’s “Get Up.”
“Winning multiple Super Bowls?” suggested ESPN contributor Kimberley Martin, as to how the Chiefs may be even better. “They’re pretty damn good, right? But to me, looking at last year’s Super Bowl, the Chiefs’ O-line was the biggest issue. That was the biggest factor, so Mahomes can say all he wants — ‘I have to make better decisions.’ But... Mahomes’ 29 pressures during the Super Bowl — most in Super Bowl history. 29 pressures. It’s all about the O-line, so they upgraded that, so the Chiefs, they should be ready to roll. But it’s interesting — he’s young, and he’s already been to two Super Bowls. That’s pretty damn impressive.”
But before the day ended, we had serious news from the West Coast.
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark was arrested for felony illegal possession of a firearm on Sunday in Los Angeles, as first reported by TMZ.
NFL star pass rusher Frank Clark — one of the best defensive players in the league — was arrested Sunday after cops say he had an Uzi in his Lambo SUV ... TMZ Sports has learned.
Law enforcement sources tell us Clark was pulled over for a routine traffic stop Sunday evening in Los Angeles ... when cops say they noticed an open duffle bag in his ride.
Our sources say officers saw the firearm inside the bag ... and arrested the 28-year-old for felony illegal possession of a firearm.
During Tuesday’s Arrowhead Pride Editors Show podcast, Pete Sweeney and John Dixon each picked a 2020 Chiefs player who wouldn’t make the team — and an undrafted free agent rookie who would.
Pete: I’m going with Western Kentucky defensive back Devon Key, who had been confirmed to get additional snaps as Chiefs minicamp went on. We know the Chiefs’ top three safeties will be Tyrann Mathieu, Juan Thornhill and Daniel Sorensen, with the fourth option projecting to be a battle between Armani Watts, Will Parks, Rodney Clemons and Key. Key stands at 6 feet at 208 pounds and profiles as an energy-giver, a trait we know Reid loves. He crosses off the Uncle Dave special teams box, given his experience as a gunner and protector in punt coverage. A former high school outfielder means he should come with built-in ball-tracking ability (he had six college picks). He is durable, having at one point started 43 straight games during his college career and was a two-time captain.
Then we reported on NFL.com analyst Nick Shook naming Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed as one of the league’s top young players.
Even outside of Kansas City, Sneed — who was selected in the fourth round (138th overall) — is widely seen as one of the steals of the 2020 NFL Draft. So his appearance on this particular all-star team isn’t that surprising. And in the coming season — in which the Chiefs are expected to move Sneed from slot cornerback to outside cornerback at least some of the time — he will have a greater challenge than he faced in 2020.
Still... he should be up for it. Shook failed to mention the most impressive thing about his rookie season: he accumulated those statistics in just nine games.
On Wednesday’s Arrowhead Pride Out of Structure podcast, Ron Kopp and Matt Stagner talked about three Kansas City players who might not be ready to play in Week 1 — and what that could mean.
Cornerback Deandre Baker
According to the Kansas City Star’s Sam McDowell, Baker was one player who attended mandatory minicamp but did not participate in practice.
As he recovers from last season’s broken leg, Baker could be a player who isn’t ready to contribute right away in 2021. If he is unable to practice, that would leave an already thinned-out position even more undermanned.
No one truly benefits from the Chiefs being thin at an important position, but last year’s seventh-round pick BoPete Keyes could be the biggest beneficiary. In my current projection, I have him outside the 53-man roster — but if Baker is unavailable, he’d be the next man up.
Thursday brought news that just like in 2020, NFL players would have the option to sit out the season.
As reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the league and the NFLPA have now agreed that players will have that option again in 2021 — but there are a few key differences.
Like last year, players with medical conditions that put them at higher risk from COVID-19 infections will be able to collect a $350,000 stipend while their NFL contracts are pushed back one season. Players without such conditions — who would therefore be voluntarily electing to sit out the season — will still have their contracts deferred one year, but will not be able to collect the $150,000 stipend that was available to them in 2020.
All three Chiefs players who opted out of 2020 did so voluntarily.
Then we covered some remarks made by the former Kansas City running back about the opening week rematch of last year’s Divisional Round game between the Chiefs and Cleveland Browns.
Like Kansas City tight end (and Cleveland native) Travis Kelce — who said that the two teams would be “neck and neck” in the coming season, Hunt acknowledged that it would be a tough game.
“That’s a very good test,” he admitted. “That’s a great team, a great program, and I can’t wait to play some of my old teammates and brothers. We’re excited. It’s a game we believe we should have won last year, and now we’ve got another chance to get back out there Week 1.”
Himself a Cleveland native, Hunt is happy to be with the team he idolized as a kid, saying would do anything to help the Browns reach (and win) their first Super Bowl, which would mark the team’s first NFL championship since 1964.
“If they told me to go rush off the edge and sack Patrick Mahomes, I’m going to try to do that, too,” he said. “It’s whatever they ask me to do. I just love the game of football. I’m a competitive person and always trying to win.”
Then on Friday, Pro Football Focus released the final section of their ranking of the NFL’s top 50 players — with Mahomes in second place, Kelce in third, wide receiver Tyreek Hill in 18th and defensive tackle Chris Jones in 19th.
As you might expect, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald tops PFF’s ranking. Obviously, Mahomes and Kelce are ranked above all others at their positions. Hill is behind wide receivers Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers (5th) and DeAndre Hopkins of the Arizona Cardinals (17th) — while among defensive tackles, Jones is next behind Donald.
You can argue about these specific rankings — but it’s noteworthy that in this top 50 list, the Chiefs have four in the top 20. So do the Green Bay Packers: Adams, quarterback Aaron Rodgers (10th), cornerback Jaire Alexander (14th) and left tackle Davis Bahktiari (15th). Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have just one: quarterback Tom Brady (7th). In fact, Tampa Bay has just one more player among the top 50: linebacker Lavonte David (49th).
So based on PFF star power, the Chiefs appear to the class of the AFC, while the Packers seem to top the NFC. And the Buccaneers’ fortunes would seem to be tied to their aging quarterback. That seems about right.