Even with the shortened, three-game NFL preseason that has existed since last year, it seems that most reporters, analysts and fans already have their sights set on regular-season games by the time the third game rolls around.
But that game matters to those who are inside NFL buildings — and there may be no better proof of that than right here in Kansas City, where the Chiefs defeated the Green Bay Packers 17-10 on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium last Thursday. In that matchup, veteran running back Ronald Jones — who had been written off by nearly everybody that covers this team (including yours truly) — showed that he could provide the Chiefs some value at the back end of his position group.
Jones rushed eight times for 43 yards (5.4 yards per attempt) and caught a four-yard pass.
“I certainly think that last game was important for him,” said general manager Brett Veach via Zoom, speaking to the media on Wednesday after Jones made the 53-man roster. “We have long training camp days and coach [Andy Reid] does an amazing job of getting the most out of that time at St. Joe.
“We are a pass-heavy team, so a lot of St. Joe is dedicated to seven-on-sevens — and sometimes, it feels like we’re out there for hours and hours just doing seven-on-seven. But it’s all about the pass game and refining the quarterback. Every now and then, those days kind of blend together.
“[So] I think that last preseason game was a great reminder of how valuable Ronald Jones can be.”
Jones set the tone for the evening with his first touch of the game, a handoff on second-and-18 where he was met just after the line of scrimmage. Yet Jones powered through the defender for a 9-yard gain.
“I think we can all agree he ran with a lot of authority between the tackles — and we saw flashes of that at training camp,” added Veach. “I think Thursday was a good reminder of how important that role is within our offense — and I certainly think he took advantage of that. So when he got his number called, I think there was a sense of urgency that he ran with — and I think it’s a good springboard for him to continue to work and be a valuable asset for us.”
On the other side of the ball, fourth-year linebacker Darius Harris cracked the roster over fifth-year free-agent veteran Jermaine Carter Jr., whom the team had brought in during the offseason. In 2021, Carter started every regular-season game with the Carolina Panthers.
After working as the backup MIKE to Nick Bolton throughout training camp, Harris recorded three tackles — including one for a loss — in the win against Green Bay.
“Darius was a guy that went out there and earned it,” noted Veach, comparing it to Jones making the roster. “I think that last game, he did a great job. Over the last few years, he’s really developed as a guy that we feel strongly [about] in regard to the backup MIKE position.”
The Chiefs originally signed Harris as an undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee. Harris spent 2019 recovering from a college shoulder injury. He began developing on Kansas City’s 2020 practice squad.
“I think from where he started — and bouncing around different linebacker positions to growing into some MIKE roles (the roles and responsibilities of that position) — I think he’s demonstrated that,” said Veach. “Like Ronald, when he had that opportunity presented to himself that last preseason game, he just took it and ran with it... we’re excited about that development.”
For fans and media, that third and final preseason game isn’t all that exciting. But for players on the field like Jones and Harris, it has to be.
And thanks to their performances in it, they have made the 2022 Chiefs.