In their second preseason game of 2023, the Kansas City Chiefs returned to the scene of their Super Bowl LVII victory to take on on the lowly Arizona Cardinals. The main goal was to escape the game healthy — which they did successfully— but they also thumped Arizona 38-10.
Here are five things we learned from the game.
1. When the Chiefs needed a first down, they went to Skyy Moore
For the second straight week, the Kansas City offense started flat, beginning the game with back-to-back stalled drives. Rashee Rice and Travis Kelce each had costly drops. Justin Watson saw a large gain called back for offensive pass interference. It looked like quarterback Patrick Mahomes might once again leave the game without conducting a scoring drive.
On first down of the third drive, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran for seven yards. Then Mahomes threw an incomplete pass to wide receiver Justyn Ross. It was third-and-3 — and the Chiefs needed a first down.
Then head coach Andy Reid dialed up second-year wideout Skyy Moore on a short crossing pattern, which resulted in a six-yard completion and a first down. That did it. The Chiefs finished that drive with a touchdown — and scored on every drive after that.
It’s not inconsequential that when the Chiefs needed it most, Reid turned to Moore.
2. Deneric Prince is bound for the practice squad
At one point, it seemed like the former Tulsa running back was destined to make this team — that he would be the latest diamond in the rough discovered by Kansas City general manager Brett Veach and his personnel department. Back in July, our own Pete Sweeney said that Prince’s name “should be written in ink” on the team’s initial 53-man roster.
Deneric Prince should be written in ink on the Chiefs’ 53. Locked in as the kick returner and does not drop a pass. Player to watch in the first preseason game on 8/13— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) July 30, 2023
With starting running back Isiah Pacheco still working his way back from two offseason surgeries, the table was set for Prince to have a big night. But for the second straight week, Prince delivered a pedestrian performance, averaging only 3.3 yards per carry.
To compound this, it appears that receiver Richie James has passed Prince on the depth chart as a kick returner. The opportunity was there, but it’s starting to look like Prince failed to seize it.
3. Clyde Edwards-Helaire isn’t going anywhere
In Pacheco’s absence, Edwards-Helaire got the bulk of Saturday night’s work with the first-team offense. And to be completely honest, he didn’t do a lot with that chance. He gained just 10 yards on four carries — and was called for a costly holding penalty.
After the preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints, there was speculation that the Chiefs were showcasing Edwards-Helaire for a potential trade — but I don’t buy it. This coaching staff likes him — and despite Saturday’s game, they trust him as Pacheco’s backup.
Now that some of the shine has worn off of Prince — and with Edwards-Helaire playing with the first team in the first two preseason games — I think it we should expect him to remain on the team in 2023.
4. The QB2 battle is on
After the preseason opener in New Orleans, I said that Andy Reid should have a position battle on his hands behind Patrick Mahomes. On Saturday, Reid may have fired the first shot by giving Shane Buechele the second-team snaps.
On the surface, this isn’t anything out of the ordinary. Reid usually doesn’t play his backup quarterback in the second preseason game (For reference, Reid sat backup Chad Henne in last season’s second preseason game against the Washington Commanders). In his postgame press conference, Reid said he had planned on giving Blaine Gabbert the night off.
So why did Gabbert come into the game?
Was it because Buechele is playing so well that Reid is considering flipping them on the depth chart? If so, Gabbert might have come in to reduce the injury risk for Buechele.
If that was an audition to make this an actual battle for the backup quarterback, Shane Buechele just nailed it.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) August 20, 2023
Or maybe Reid wanted to give Gabbert a chance to defend his spot on the roster.
Or maybe he just changed his mind.
To his credit, Gabbert played very well. He threw eight passes for 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Considering that Gabbert wasn’t even expecting to play, that was especially impressive.
Regardless of who wins, this battle is going to be fun to watch. In the famous words of Effie Trinket, “Happy Hunger Games — and may the odds be ever in your favor.”
5. The Chiefs might have something in Felix Anudike-Uzomah
Pro Football Focus gave the Chiefs’ first-round rookie an 80.1 grade in last week's preseason opener, crediting Anudike-Uzomah with three total pressures on 34 snaps. This means that the former Kansas State pass rusher pressured the quarterback on 8.8% of his plays. For reference, Kansas City’s star defensive tackle Chris Jones pressured the quarterback on 8.4% of his plays in 2022.
This is not to suggest that Anudike-Uzomah and Jones are even in the same stratosphere. But it does suggest that the Chiefs’ rookie defensive end played well in New Orleans — and followed it up with another good game in Phoenix.
Anudike-Uzomah was in the quarterback’s face on multiple snaps, giving the Cardinals' offensive tackles fits all night. If he can keep stacking good reps like that, they are eventually going to turn into sacks.