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The biggest surprises we’ve seen in the Chiefs’ preseason

On Wednesday’s Out of Structure podcast, we identified which players have pleasantly surprised us — and which have let us down.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday’s mailbag edition of Arrowhead Pride’s Out of Structure podcast, Matt Stagner and I fielded a question about which Kansas City Chiefs players have surprised us in a good way during the preseason — along with those who have let us down.

Both of us picked one of each.

Matt’s pleasant surprise: Jody Fortson

I’m finally coming around on Fortson. I’ve always thought of him as a great practice squad and preseason player — but one who was just not ready for primetime. Part of my hang-up with him was that he was a one-trick pony: a big guy who could jump and make spectacular catches, but hadn’t showed out in all of the other ways.

But now, special teams coordinator Dave Toub has said that through the first two preseason games, Fortson is the one guy who has increased his special-teams value the most. He’s also blocking at a really high level — at least compared to our expectations of him.

If he can block and contribute on special teams, I’m all-in on Fortson.

Ron’s pleasant surprise: Khalen Saunders

Saunders has bounced back from some bad luck last year. He was injured in Week 1, didn’t return until Week 7 and was then was a healthy scratch for the remainder of the season’s meaningful games. Even after he returned, the elbow injury impacted his on-field ability.

But he has played really well this offseason and preseason. Before the exhibition games started, he was someone who stood out to me during training camp. He made a few big plays against the run and looked good in his pass-rushing one-on-ones against the offensive linemen.

The emergence of Saunders — alongside the electric play of Tershawn Wharton — will give the Chiefs quality depth at a very important position.

Matt’s letdown: Cornell Powell

Powell is someone for whom I still have a lot of hope — but he just hasn’t gotten there yet. He hasn’t had his chance — and hasn’t really forced the team’s hand to give him a shot with either the first or second-team offense.

He had some drops in training camp, but did show some good things in the team’s first preseason game. That said, we didn’t expect to see other young receivers like Marcus Kemp and Daurice Fountain playing ahead of him.

Ron’s letdown: Taco Charlton

I really thought that when the team wanted its best pass-rushing foursome on the field this season, Charlton was going to be the defensive end opposite Frank Clark; they’d move Chris Jones inside with Jarran Reed and have Charlton on the edge. I thought that would be the go-to pass-rushing lineup.

His ankle injury likely had something to do with his release. As disappointing as it was, it should remind us that the coaching staff is confident in the younger players at the position.


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