It's time to put away the Hawaiian shirts and tiki torches — the Kansas City Chiefs' initial 53-man roster is set, which means the offseason is over, and we are just under two weeks away from the Arizona Cardinals matchup in Week 1 of the regular season.
Cutdown week is possibly the least enjoyable aspect of life in the NFL. Some players who were cut from their teams today will end up on the practice squad or catch on somewhere else, but for many of these guys, this is the end of the road for their dreams.
No matter how many hours we spend speculating what the initial 53-man roster is going to look like, the roster never turns out quite as we expect it to — even now, as I type these words, this roster is still in flux. In all likelihood, the Chiefs' roster will look slightly different from Wednesday when they kickoff on September 11.
That being said, I thought it might be fun to discuss five things that stood out about the initial 53-man roster:
1. The Chiefs keep three quarterbacks
It had been speculated for weeks that the Chiefs might keep three quarterbacks. Since acquiring Chad Henne in 2018, head coach Andy Reid has opted to roll into the regular season with only two.
Quarterback Shane Buechele nearly did enough to make this team last year, and he even got a cup of coffee on the 53-man roster late in the year when the aforementioned Cardinals tried to poach him off the Chiefs' practice squad.
By keeping Buechele on the 53-man roster, Reid sent a clear message: the Chiefs value Buechele and see him as the next QB to back up Patrick Mahomes. If the Chiefs thought that Buechele was only good enough to be a third-string quarterback, then they would have let him walk.
This is a more significant vote of confidence in Buechele than it may appear on the surface; it means Reid trusts him to keep the ship afloat in the future if Mahomes and Henne miss time for any reason.
2. Andy Reid still loves the fullback
The NFL is more pass-happy than it's ever been, and 15 of the 32 teams in the league did not even roster a fullback.
There is not a coach alive who likes throwing the ball more than Andy Reid, so why does he insist on continuing to carry a fullback on his roster, as many of his peers have left the position by the wayside?
To answer this, I could probably come up with a statistic about pass protection and completion percentage — or how you have a better run success rate when you have a fullback as a lead blocker.
While both may be true, I think most of all, Reid likes to have a fullback on the roster for a handful of plays each season. Think about when Reid lines his players up in the I-formation and Mahomes hands the ball off to Burton to pick up the first down — or the one or two times he dials up a play action pass to Burton on the wheel route coming out of the backfield.
For Reid, these plays are a chef's kiss in the masterpiece that is his offense.
The last and final reason is that for all the glitz and glamor of Mahomes slinging the ball all over the yard, there are times when you need a guy you can trust to get the distance the hard way on third-and-inches.
Reid believes Burton is that guy.
3. Only keeping five wide receivers
General manager Brett Veach has quietly assembled one of the deepest receiving corps that the Chiefs have had in recent memory. While they may not have the top-heavy star power of Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs entered training camp with seven players who — if given the opportunity — could conceivably go out there and make a play.
The prevailing thought heading into cutdowns was that the Chiefs were going to keep six receivers on their roster. Most analysts figured that given Daurice Fountain's ability to play special teams, he was most likely going to be the guy who made the team, with Corey Coleman serving as the late dark horse candidate to unseat him.
Both of these narratives turned out to be false.
The Chiefs only kept five wide receivers (Juju Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Mecole Hardman and Justin Watson).
While they may be a little light at the position numbers-wise, all five of these guys look to have what it takes to be legitimate playmakers on a consistent basis.
4. Running back Ronald Jones made the team
I'll admit it — I had Ronald Jones written off this roster. Even after a nice performance in the third preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, I still didn't think it would be enough to save him. I was wrong.
Time will tell whether or not Jones sticks on the roster or if he is this year's CJ Spiller, who was cut and re-signed numerous times over the course of the 2017 season.
Even if Jones is on the 53-man roster, it's hard to see a scenario where he dresses for the 48-man active gameday roster. This fact was pointed out to me by fellow staff writer Jared Sapp during a conversation we had yesterday. So long as Clyde Edwards-Helaire is healthy, he will start the season as the team's number one back, followed up by rookie Isiah Pacheco (who also pulls double duty as the teams kick returner) and then Jerick McKinnon, who has value in pass protection as well as a ball carrier.
It is worth remembering that both Edwards-Helaire and McKinnon have a history of missing time due to injury, so there is a good possibility that Jones will get a shot at some point this season. We're just pretty sure it won't be Week 1.
5. What about the right tackle?
I think this might be the most solid roster Veach has constructed from top to bottom in his time as the Chiefs' general manager. Looking at the depth chart, it's hard to find an area of genuine concern.
Sure, some questions need to be answered:
- How will the young secondary perform when the bright lights come on?
- Was "Furious" George Karlaftis' preseason reign of terror all fools gold?
But those questions are different from actual concerns.
A concern is going to bed at night knowing that Ben Niemann is your starting SAM linebacker — that or Demarcus Robinson is your No. 2 wide receiver. As I see it, the Chiefs have one significant position of need heading into the regular season: right tackle.
There is not a single player in the NFL who is more critical to their team's success than Mahomes. The Chiefs have invested heavily in the offensive line, but with Lucas Niang injured, they are still in need of a legitimate starting right tackle.
Andrew Wylie is still a relatively unknown commodity at tackle, Darian Kinnard is not ready to start in the NFL, and Geron Christian is best suited to come in and spot-start in case of injury.
The issue is, if not Wylie, then who?
The free agent market for offensive tackle is pretty bare at the moment — the best options are guys like Eric Fisher and Nate Solder, who are past their prime. None of these options seem better to me than Wylie, so Chiefs fans may just have to cross their fingers and hope for the best on the right side.
What are your thoughts about this the roster heading into the regular season? What questions do you still have? Weigh in below.