On Thursday night, the Kansas City Chiefs capped their 2022 preseason with a 17-10 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Arrowhead Stadium. Here are five things we learned from the game:
1. Len Dawson will never be forgotten
When Kansas City icon and Chiefs Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson passed away on Wednesday at age of 87, it triggered an outpouring of love and admiration on a level that is only reserved for the best of us.
My favorite — and possibly the most poignant — statement that I heard this week came from Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, who called Dawson his “first sports hero.”
“As a child, I just remember being on the Chiefs field and looking up to Len,” said Hunt.
We’re talking about the billionaire owner of one of the most successful sports franchises in North America — and Dawson was his hero.
But then again, “Lenny the Cool” was a hero to all of us.
I don’t think there is a single person in Kansas City whose childhood memories are not filled with ones about Dawson.
I vividly remember those Sundays after church, when my older brother and I would steal the keys to the family van out of my mom's purse so we could rush out to the vehicle and turn on the radio before kickoff.
I can still hear Dawson sighing in frustration each time the Chiefs quarterback would throw the ball short of the sticks on third down, “You can’t throw the ball short of the first down marker there,” he would say. “You have to run your route past the marker.”
Then he would take a deep breath and compose himself. Len was passionate about the Chiefs because he was a fan. He was one of us. But he composed himself because he was a pro.
The Chiefs honored Dawson at the start of Thursday’s game by recreating Dawson’s famous choir huddle with Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the Chiefs’ offensive starters.
Just amazing for No. 16 ❤️ pic.twitter.com/bNQxnjYFoc— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) August 26, 2022
It was a classy way for the team to pay its respects.
This is — and always will be — Dawson’s team and Dawson’s city. He was everything that’s wonderful about Kansas City. He was a reminder to all of us that you can achieve greatness — and still be kind to people.
Rest in peace, No. 16. We will always continue to carry your passion and love for this city — and this team.
2. Joshua Williams is still learning
There were always going to be some growing pains for the fourth-round draft pick who came out of Division II’s Fayetteville State. In his entire collegiate career, Williams did not face a single Power Five conference team — and frankly, it shows.
At times, watching him can be frustrating. On the majority of the receptions he concedes, he’s in the receiver's hip pocket. He needs to work on his body positioning and timing; it’s just not enough to simply be in the right place at the right time. This is the NFL, where wide receivers are expected to make contested catches. Williams has to find a way to get his hands on the ball and break up those passes.
Williams did have a nice near-interception in the first half — but like a lot of other instances we’ve seen, he was unable to finish the play and come down with the ball.
It’s easy to see why the coaching staff is excited about him. You can’t teach the sort of length he brings to the table — but he is still inexperienced; he needs more reps.
Unfortunately, this means there are going to be some mistakes along the way.
3. Darius Harris is good at playing football
The offseason is long. Every now and then, a little thought finds a way to burrow itself into your brain, laying little fear eggs that hatch and occupy your thoughts for the better part of the summer. In late June, I woke up one morning and thought to myself, “What are the Chiefs going to do if Nick Bolton gets injured?”
All offseason, I shuddered at the thought of Darius Harris playing meaningful snaps as Kansas City’s MIKE linebacker. But on Thursday night, that changed. Harris was a force of nature, racking up three tackles on a single series.
He looked every bit the part of the player the Chiefs need: a decisive enforcer in the middle of the field. Nick Bolton is one of the NFL’s best young linebackers — but if he goes down, Harris is looks like a pretty great insurance policy.
4. The Chiefs are letting Bryan Cook man the back end
One of the hallmarks of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's scheme is that he likes to run a lot of three-safety sets in his nickel and dime defenses. Generally, two of the safeties will man the back end, while the third safety plays closer to the line of scrimmage to provide run support and slot coverage.
Cook is a natural thumper who seems like a player that is tailor-made to play close to the line. But as my colleague Ron Kopp Jr. pointed out on Thursday night, Spagnuolo has been opting to play Justin Reid near the line of scrimmage — while letting Cook and Thornhill man the back end.
I feel like that was the first time we’ve seen the starting #Chiefs Dime defense this preseason— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) August 26, 2022
Justin Reid plays up, with Cook and Thornhill roaming behind. Reid and Bolton playing on the second level together
So far this preseason, it’s been Reid — not Cook — who has played closer to the line of scrimmage.
I think this says more about Reid’s cerebral processing than it does about Cook. Playing Reid close to the line frees Cook to roam in the back end, playing the opportunistic football that allows him to make plays on the ball — just as he did with his interception on Thursday night.
5. There are roster spots that are still up in the air
Who is going to be Kansas City’s backup quarterback?
Will Andy Reid go with the savvy veteran Chad Henne? Or will he roll the dice and choose the young gunslinger Shane Buechele? What if Reid bucks his own trend of only carrying two quarterbacks, carrying three to start the season? What would be the trickle-down effect on the rest of the roster?
Here’s another question that seems to have actually grown murkier on Thursday night: now that Blake Bell has been injured, what are the Chiefs going to do at tight end? With Matt Bushman also injured, are the Chiefs content to enter the season with only three tight ends on their roster? Is this where they will find the extra roster spot to carry a third quarterback?
Which Chiefs wide receiver will win the sixth and final roster spot? Will it be Daurice Fountain or Corey Coleman? Or will the Chiefs make a deal for a wideout like Denzel Mims, who has asked the New York Jets to trade him?
It’s a wild time of year. But thankfully, all of these questions will be answered soon. Kansas City must trim its roster to 53 players by 3 p.m. Arrowhead Time on Tuesday.
As a reward for enduring all of this insanity, soon we’ll get to watch football that actually matters.