It's happening, Kansas City Chiefs fans!
We've made it through the long offseason, and it's finally time for the team's first preseason game. On Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs will play the Chicago Bears for the first small taste of both the new offense and new defense.
After significant turnover on the roster this year – assistant general Manager Mike Borgonzi stated earlier in the week that the Chiefs have brought in 50 new players this offseason – there are still some position battles brewing.
Here are the ones that I'll be watching this weekend:
It looks like Andrew Wylie has secured the right tackle spot opposite Orlando Brown Jr., at least right now. The starting right tackle battle we predicted hasn't truly materialized, with Wylie being solid after dedicating his entire offseason to preparing for the role.
But the backup tackle roles are more intriguing. In free agency, veteran Geron Christian was signed to a one-year deal. Christian brings starting experience and has played in 38 games in his five-year career.
While Brown was away, Roderick Johnson took the first-team snaps at left tackle. While being a placeholder for Brown, Johnson got valuable snaps in camp, showing the staff what he could offer. It's been up and down for Johnson – stonewalling defensive Carlos Dunlap on one play and then stepping on Patrick Mahomes the next. Johnson will need a good preseason to really state his case.
Rookie Darian Kinnard had all the expectations placed upon him to come in and battle Wylie for a starting role. Since the start of camp, Kinnard has been primarily with the third-team offensive line. He is a cost-controlled asset with a lot of talent but may require a redshirt year on the active roster.
Prince Tega Wanogho is working right tackle with the second team. I think he’s a sneaky dark horse candidate to watch.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) August 11, 2022
Lastly, Prince Tega Wanogho has been the forgotten man after starting the offseason on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. He was on the active roster last year and has had time to learn under offensive line coach Andy Heck. Health has been a concern for him throughout his career, but the talent has always been there.
Traditionally, the Chiefs have kept four to five backup offensive linemen. I would expect them to keep four this year with the number of tight ends, wide receivers and running backs retained. That would leave two backup tackle spots remaining, and the battle between Christian, Johnson, Kinnard and Wanogho is still up in the air.
The Chiefs have historically kept 10 defensive backs on the active roster. After the offseason roster churn, only three from last year are locks to make the team this year in safety Juan Thornhill and corners L'Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton. Four other locks include the Chiefs' marquee free-agent acquisition, safety Justin Reid, and rookie draft picks Trent McDuffie, Bryan Cook and Joshua Williams. Williams has spent the majority of camp taking snaps with the first-team defense in Fenton's absence.
That leaves three spots open for a group that brought in a lot of competition.
CB Jaylen Watson getting some reps with the 1’s in team drills. Covered MVS on a deep route.— Harold R. Kuntz (@HaroldRKuntz3) August 11, 2022
Karlaftis is ready for Saturday .. already dropping back in coverage and popping receivers.
Nazeeh Johnson also forcing a fumble on Jordan Franks.
Chris Lammons, Dicaprio Bootle and Zayne Anderson all bring special teams value and were on the active roster at some point last year. Rookies Jaylen Watson and Nazeeh Johnson both have the athletic profiles that the coaching staff desires for the secondary and have both taken reps at outside corner in the first-team defense at some point during camp.
And then there is Lonnie Johnson Jr. and Deon Bush — both brought in from other teams this offseason to compete for a major role in the defense but after the draft see themselves fighting for a roster spot.
The starting linebacker looks locked in with Nick Bolton, Willie Gay Jr. and Elijah Lee all having good camps. Third-round draft pick Leo Chenal looks to be No. 4 – and I literally cannot wait to watch him be physical in actual games. But after that – I have no idea what the linebacker room looks like.
Darius Harris looks to be the backup MIKE linebacker, but he's going into his fourth year after not being able to beat out Dorian O'Daniel or Ben Niemann in previous years. Jermaine Carter Jr. was brought in from Carolina after starting every game for them last season to make a push for playing time, but he's been quiet this preseason.
Cochrane is 6'3" and 236 pounds, pretty tall for a traditional LB. That said, he appears to stay pretty low when sifting through the box, which allows him to move horizontally quickly and make effective, low tackles pic.twitter.com/ejcl4jGKsK— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) June 21, 2022
Undrafted rookies Mike Rose and Jack Cochrane are intriguing players to watch on Saturday. Both are pretty tall and with good length and feel in coverage but haven't been able to show that in training camp, where you can't really hit, wrap and tackle offensive players to the ground. Both have the ability to play special teams and will need to see how they do in their opportunities there as well.
The bottom line
Head coach Andy Reid isn't going to bring out anything fun on Saturday to get us excited about, but the players will have the opportunity to fight for roster spots.
We will get real football and that alone is something I'm excited about. We've made it Chiefs, fans. Let's have some fun.