NFL training camp is about assembling as many talented players as possible — and then letting them fight to become one of the team’s 53 players.
1. Wide receiver Justyn Ross
I can’t remember a time when there was this much excitement about a second-year undrafted free agent who has never played an NFL snap. Aside from a handful of truly exciting highlight-reel plays released by the Chiefs' social media team, the last time Justyn Ross looked like an elite football player was when he was a Clemson sophomore in 2019.
You’re welcome, Chiefs Kingdom. pic.twitter.com/G0KbxLKplm— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) August 4, 2023
At 6 feet 4 and 205 pounds, Ross is a prototypical outside X receiver who has the ball skills and catch radius to consistently win contested catches. But after enduring back-to-back foot surgeries and a congenital fusion in his spine that nearly ended his career, how much juice does he still have — and can his body hold up to the pounding it’s going to take in the NFL?
Dominating in practice is awesome. But it’s not a live game; the hits aren’t real. While I’m becoming a believer, we still need to see it in real action.
2. Running back Deneric Prince
Speaking of undrafted players who are getting people excited...
It started during the offseason program, when Chiefs’ special teams coordinator Dave Toub made it pretty clear that Prince was already penciled in as a kick returner for the coming season.
“He reminds me so much — if you guys remember Knile Davis — he reminds me of Knile,” said Toub in early June. “He has the same number. [He] didn’t do it in college, but he’s showing traits right now that remind me so much of Knile [that] it’s kind of scary.”
As starting running back Isiah Pacheco has been recovering from injuries during training camp, the rookie from Tulsa has been getting opportunities to show what he can do with the starters.
“He can catch the ball in the backfield,” said quarterback Patrick Mahomes last week. “He can run the ball really well — and he’s getting better and better with the protection stuff — so I think they’re just continuing to get him reps.
“We’re going to have a deep running back room.”
Notice that Mahomes was speaking in future tense. It’s insane that in early August, he would be talking about an undrafted free agent rookie running back like he is a lock to make the roster. But Prince has been turning heads all summer.
Against the Saints, Prince is sure to have ample opportunities to prove himself.
3. Defensive lineman Charles Omenihu
Let’s get the ugly part out of the way: Omenihu is facing a six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. The Chiefs knew this was a possibility when they signed him as a free agent earlier this year.
Aside from offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, the former San Francisco 49ers’ defensive lineman was the team’s biggest offseason acquisition. It’s always fun to see the team’s shiny new players in action — especially when they are tackling the opposing quarterback.
But now, it’s very important for Omenihu to have a good preseason. He needs to be as ready as he can be for when he returns.
4. Defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah
With defensive tackle Chris Jones’ contract situation — which remains unresolved at this writing — and Omenihu’s suspension — there is an increased expectation on 2023’s first-round draft pick.
Previously, we thought that Anudike-Uzomah would have time to get his feet wet in the league before the full burden of being a starting pass rusher was thrust upon him.
To an extent, that might still be possible. Things could change very rapidly. Jones and the Chiefs could agree on a contract — or Jones could simply report to camp. Kansas City could bring in a veteran pass rusher.
But as things currently stand, the Chiefs will need the Kansas State product to turn in meaningful reps.
Whether he is up to the task remains to be seen. After missing practice time in the offseason program with an injury, Anudike-Uzomah has received mixed reviews in training camp — and has struggled to break through to the first-team defense.
We need to see what he can do in a in a game.
5. Wide receiver Skyy Moore
Have the Chiefs ever had a unit with more boom-or-bust potential than 2023’s wide receivers? The group could have three Pro Bowl-caliber receivers — or all of them could wash out.
There was a lot of excitement surrounding Moore when Kansas City selected him in the 2022’s second round — especially with regard to his ability to create separation at the line of scrimmage.
By Moore’s own admission — and like many rookie receivers in head coach Andy Reid’s system — he struggled to grasp the offense in his rookie season. His struggles with fielding punts didn’t help.
But this is a new year — and by all accounts, Moore is turning heads in training camp. This week, veteran teammate Justin Watson complimented Moore.
“Skyy has taken a huge step,” he said. “It’s been really cool to see him build on that confidence that we saw at the end of last season. So I think you just see a guy that’s starting to understand defenses [and] really has a good feel for our concepts.”
I want to see Moore of this against the Saints.
What Chiefs players are you most looking forward to watching against the Saints? Weigh in below!