3 - Chris Jones
Kansas City Chiefs · DE
Steve Spagnuolo’s aforementioned plan to utilize Jones inside and outside on the front line could help the sixth-year veteran take his game up a notch in 2021, but the 6-foot-6, 310-pound pass rusher is an absolute load wherever he lines up. The Chiefs clearly know what a special talent they have in No. 95, having just given him a four-year, $85 million extension last offseason. Players across the league appreciate his beastly skill set, too. In the wake of his breakout 2018 campaign, Jones was ranked as the 36th-best NFL player by his peers in the Top 100 Players of 2019. While he dropped a bit to No. 52 in last year’s voting — despite racking up nine sacks in 13 regular-season games and then playing a major role in K.C.’s Super Bowl LIV triumph — he shot back up to No. 34 this year. If he takes his game to another level in 2021, AP voters will be forced to take notice.
With the blessing of Paylor’s family, Mayor Quinton Lucas announced the proclamation “to honor the life, work, and service of Mr. Paylor.”
“I’m grateful to Mayor Lucas for honoring Terez’s work and contributions in the Kansas City area,” Paylor’s fiancée, Ebony Reed, said in a statement from the mayor’s office. “Terez so loved Kansas City, he said we’d never live in any other city. He had a passion for covering sports in Missouri and ultimately on the national stage. Terez was deeply concerned about community issues — gun violence, the racial wealth gap, and social justice. Today, we honor Terez as a community.”
Kelce is slightly playing both sides here — understandable given that without access to different timelines in the multiverse, we’ll have no way of truly answering the hypothetical — but it’s clear he thinks Mahomes would have been a star with or without the year of tutoring.
“But at the same time, when you’re talking about “needed,” I don’t know, man, I think Patrick Mahomes has something about him,” Kelce continued. “He was going to find a way. It might not have been early, as fast as the 50 touchdowns his first season starting. It might not have been something like that. But I think he would still have found success.”
Reception committee. Patrick Mahomes leading long touchdown drives in the two series that he played could be expected. It was how he did it that was intriguing. The all-world QB connected with six receivers, and only three of his eight completions went to All-Pros Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. It’s been unclear who will emerge as Kansas City’s No. 3 target, but Friday offered more evidence that the receiving corps might be deep. That wasn’t the case down the stretch in 2020, particularly during the playoffs, as the passing offense became overly reliant on its aforementioned duo. A pair of first-down completions to Demarcus Robinson and a touchdown toss to Blake Bell, versus a Vikings defense playing half its starters, demonstrated how Mahomes’ rapport with his receivers is growing. It’s a scary thought.
NFL Research: Patrick Mahomes set preseason career highs with an 88.9 completion percentage (8-9 passing) and a 158.3 passer rating, joining Ben Roethlisberger (Week 2 vs Lions) as the only QBs with perfect passer ratings in a game this preseason.
3 - Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · QB
Mahomes would have been the runaway favorite to top this list if the Chiefs had won another Super Bowl. Which I understand is a little unfair because it’s not his fault the offensive line was an injury-riddled sieve in the title bout, while his receivers were out there setting — not catching — the ball like Misty May-Treanor. But you can’t ignore that Mahomes is 38-8 as the Chiefs’ starter. He’s been to back-to-back Super Bowls. He also led the NFL with 316.0 passing yards per game. He was second only to Aaron Rodgers in touchdown-to-interception ratio last year, and four of his six picks came in the final three games — which, by the way, were still all wins. He’s pretty good.
CB: Kyle Fuller (DEN), Bryce Callahan (DEN), L’Jarius Sneed (KC)
SAF: Tyrann Mathieu (KC), Derwin James (LAC)
FLEX: Justin Simmons (DEN)
Fuller is reuniting with Vic Fangio in Denver, and given his age he should be able to get back to the top level of play he demonstrated when they were together with the Bears. Callahan followed Fangio to Denver already, and had another excellent year in the slot. There’s no real reason not to expect that to continue. Sneed turned into a tremendous find in the fourth round for the Chiefs, allowing a passer rating of just 53.4 on throws in his direction, per Pro Football Focus. He should take a step forward as a surefire starter this year.
This division is loaded at the safety spot, with three of the very best making the roster. Mathieu and James bring nearly unmatched versatility at the position, as they are able to play in the box, up high, in the slot, or even out wide. Simmons is not quite that versatile, but he has been excellent on the back end of the Denver defense.
Kansas City Chiefs
The most interesting decisions are on the offensive line, where the Chiefs added eight strong roster candidates who weren’t with the team last year. So they might keep extras there or look to deal one or more of the backups. Adam Teicher’s final 53-man roster projection
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“I think he’s making a bit of a statement now, but I have nothing for you to update,” coach Pete Carroll said Friday. “He deserves to do that.”
The 28-year-old player is set to make $5.95 million in base salary in 2021, the final year of the contract the Seahawks inherited when they acquired him in a 2019 trade with the Detroit Lions. He had a $100,000 offseason workout bonus and can make another $100,000 in per-game roster bonuses this year.
“Can’t deny me what I deserve,” Diggs tweeted Thursday.
Dallas converted $8.6 million of Elliott’s $9.6 million base salary for the ‘21 campaign into a signing bonus, which clears $6.88 million in cap space, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported, per sources informed of the situation.
The restructuring maneuver is a normal one every team does to free up cap space. It’s become particularly prevalent in COVID seasons as clubs kick the can down the road. The accounting solution spreads the bonus over the remaining years of the contract to lower the cap number in the present.
The restructuring provides the Cowboys with $12 million in cap space for 2021, which is plenty to get through the normal yearly transactions. It could also offer cushion if there is a higher-priced player that Dallas wants to chase via trade at any point during the season. Or the Cowboys could be planning ahead and looking to rollover cap space into next season when it’s still not expected to fully rebound to pre-COVID expectations.
It will be Winston’s first start since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to move on from him following the 2019 season. And it will be a chance for the former Heisman Trophy winner and 2015 No. 1 overall draft choice to revive his career after he was derailed by turnovers in Tampa.
Meanwhile, the Saints will be trying to prove they can remain a playoff contender in the wake of Drew Brees’ retirement. This will be the first time in 16 years that someone other than Brees has entered the season as New Orleans’ starting QB.
“I would love to carry that torch from him,” Winston said earlier this year when he got emotional while talking about how much it meant to him to spend last season as Brees’ backup. “I would love to be able to provide the excitement and joy and resilience that he provided for this city.”
Why the Jets tied
Again, let’s go with the good stuff first: James Morgan, for all his unnecessary throws, did not give up and showcased his cannon of an arm, putting a laser on the Hail Mary TD to Yeboah. Early on, veteran journeyman Josh Johnson was efficient in limited action, going 7-of-8 for 73 yards and a TD as the official starter, with Zach Wilson and backup Mike White resting. On the ground, Adams and Johnson both looked worthy of roster spots, combining for 115 yards. The bad? Morgan was wildly inaccurate and/or risky for much of his time vying for the No. 3 QB job, going 13-of-23 through the air with a pick. Hardly any receivers stood out. And the defense was at least a step behind the Eagles’ backups to open the game, despite Robert Saleh’s supervision. With a more aggressive start to the game, or a more reliable finish, they could’ve easily stolen the victory.
Jadeveon Clowney — a veteran pass-rusher whom the Browns signed this offseason — spoke with the media this week about playing in harmony with fellow No. 1 overall pick, Myles Garrett. When speaking about playing multiple positions — which included being utilized alongside Garrett as a defensive tackle — Clowney took a shot at all offensive guards in the NFL.
“We love that matchup,” Clowney said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “We feel like they’re the unathletic guys. That guard position, they’re not real athletes down there. So they’re just physical and maulers. But we try to get in there and create those matchups for certain guys, and hopefully we get some wins.”
In case you missed it
2. The Chiefs defense is starting to look like the one Steve Spagnuolo wants
We shouldn’t be surprised that — season after season — the Kansas City offense runs on all cylinders.
The quarterback who runs it is obviously one of its biggest drivers. But another big factor is that the Chiefs are going into their ninth season with one of the league’s best offensive minds collecting the players he wants — and designing an offense to suit them. The remarkable stability of Reid’s offensive staff through this period is a factor, too.
Now entering his third season as the team’s defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo is starting to see the same thing happen with his unit. He did a remarkable job to turn it around in 2019 — but now, he’s in a position to make incremental improvements on a year-by-year basis, collecting the players he wants and designing a defense that best fits their particular skills.
During the preseason, that’s clearly been on display. The Vikings managed to score 25 points on the Chiefs — the most of any team in the exhibition season. But at halftime — when the final first-team players left the field — the Chiefs led 21-3. Both offense and defense were manhandling the Vikings.
We expect to see the Chiefs field a dominant offense. But if this is the kind of defensive performance we can expect to see in 2021, Kansas City will be a very difficult team to beat.
A tweet to make you think
Watching this never gets old pic.twitter.com/JJnsUsrvdP— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) August 28, 2021