Preseason Week 2 is upon us, and there are plenty of changes in the Market Movers Kansas City Chiefs rankings. After last week’s performance against the San Francisco 49ers, plenty of young players are making their case for the roster and larger roles, while a few veterans are struggling to stay healthy and keep starting jobs.
Here are a few of the movers to watch this week when the Chiefs face the Arizona Cardinals:
Mike Hughes: Hughes had a slow start to his Chiefs career in OTAs and minicamp, so he was low on the Market Movers rankings before St. Joseph. But he was given the first crack at the third cornerback job — and he has done nothing but strengthen his hold since. Hughes was great against San Francisco on both defense and special teams as a returner, moving off of the roster bubble into the solid depth area of the team. Hughes and DeAndre Baker are both showing the ability that got them drafted early, and that made the Chiefs feel comfortable without bigger investments at the position. If they continue that momentum this week, it may not even be a competition; the Chiefs will have plenty of talented corners to rotate and match up all season.
Prince Tega Wanogo: The only member of the Chiefs team that actually has his own Kingdom (he’s an actual Prince from Nigeria), Wanogo is starting to assert himself as a potential backup offensive tackle. He’s got the size and athleticism and appears to be a natural fit at left tackle, where the Chiefs need depth. Last week, the dropoff in offensive line play seemed to fall on backup tackles (Witzmann and Miller). If Prince continues his strong preseason, the team may have another difficult decision to make in a very deep group of offensive linemen.
Willie Gay Jr.: One of the best players on the field for much of camp was second-year linebacker Willie Gay Jr. He was in the concussion protocol for the last week or so, but he appears to have a good chance to make his 2021 debut against the Cardinals. Gay has the speed and athletic ability to be a difference-maker. Now, with a year in the system, he seems to have mastered the playbook enough to play faster. Hopefully, his ascension towards Pro Bowl-level play starts on Friday.
Others trending in the right direction this week: DeAndre Baker, Chris Jones, Trey Smith, Lucas Niang, Tershawn Wharton, Creed Humphrey, Anthony Hitchens, Mike Danna, Jerrick McKinnon, Khalen Saunders
Taco Charlton and Alex Okafor: Both veterans returned from hamstring injuries for a light week of practice heading into Friday night’s game. But they might start feeling the pressure because the rest of the Chiefs' defensive front stole the show last week. Young players like Mike Danna and Tershawn Wharton spent their evening in the offensive backfield, and Tim Ward registered two sacks. The more these guys step up, the less the team may need to lean on Charlton and Okafor. It may come down to a roster decision between a young player with multiple years left on a rookie deal against a veteran on a cheap one-year contract.
Mike Remmers: Remmers also returned from injury this week and worked almost exclusively as the second-team left tackle. Lucas Niang’s strong debut last week and his continued hold on the starting right tackle reps indicate that the competition with Remmers may be over. If Remmers is depth, that’s generally good news for the team, but now he may face a different competition with the aforementioned Wanogo.
Others trending in the wrong direction this week: Wyatt Miller, Bryan Witzmann, Dorian O’Daniel, Will Parks
Hold (need more info)
Joshua Kaindoh: As we discussed on the Out of Structure podcast this week, Kaindoh led all defenders in snaps last week, as the team gives him maximum opportunity to learn on the job. The results were mixed; he showed some of the pass rush athleticism that got him drafted but struggled to set the edge. His role this season is still to be determined, but he’s one to watch in the remaining preseason games.
Devon Key: Another player with mixed results last week is the star of the undrafted free agent class this year. Key has impressed in camp with lots of first-team reps and showing the versatility to play all over the field. We’re assuming that he finds his way onto the 53-man roster, but we probably shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves in assuming that he’ll have a big role. Key should get significant snaps again this week, with an opportunity to lock up a roster spot and prove he belongs.
Noah Gray: Gray remains a “hold” this week until he gets more in-game opportunities. The exciting rookie’s first target last week was a little behind him and resulted in an interception. Look for the team to give him multiple targets and an extended look this week to further solidify his role.
Others we need to see more to know more: Darwin Thompson, Austin Blythe, Daurice Fountain
Value (sleeper) pick
Darrius Shepherd: Daurice Fountain led the wide receivers in production and snaps last week, leading many to wonder if he was making a late charge to win the sixth wide receiver job. But there’s another player that has some NFL experience and a skill set the Chiefs could use. Shepherd has the talent to make the team exclusively as a returner if given a chance. But watch to see if the team gives Shepherd more run on offense and a real chance to enter the competition for a roster spot.
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