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Chiefs defenders expect to see a lot of rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs Thursday

Kansas City’s defense will be tasked with stopping a player never seen on NFL game film — and an at times dominant quarterback.

Super Bowl LVII - Kansas City Chiefs v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

When the Detroit Lions were announced as the “banner night” opponent for the Kansas City Chiefs to open the season, they initially appeared to be an underwhelming foe for the prime time slot.

A 9-8 squad that missed last season’s playoffs hardly seems a fitting matchup for the defending Super Bowl champions. However, a closer analysis of last season’s Lions tells a different story.

After a disappointing 1-6 start to the season, the Lions won eight of their final 10 games. From Week 9 on, Detroit averaged 28 points a game — bolstered by 128 yards per game on the ground by one of the league's best rushing attacks.

That rushing attack may be more deadly on Thursday. Though last season’s Lions rushing leader Jamaal Williams now plays for the New Orleans Saints, Detroit is set to replace him with rookie Jahmyr Gibbs. The Lions selected Gibbs — one of the most explosive players in the country last season with Alabama — with the 12th selection in April’s NFL Draft.

New York Giants v Detroit Lions Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

After Sunday practice, Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton acknowledged that it would be difficult to prepare for a player with no professional game film. Kansas City’s leading tackler from last season expects to see a lot of Gibbs from the opening drive on Thursday.

“You’ve kind of just got to go off of the little bit of tape you have from college [and] a little bit of preseason,” Bolton stated. “When you watch the tape, obviously you can tell he’s dynamic — speed is definitely his friend. When he’s able to get the ball, he gets up field, make one cut, and then it can be a house call. So, we understand the challenge up ahead of us.

“Again, there’s not much tape out there, so we don’t know how he’s going to be used or how they plan on using him early. So, they’ll have to get him a bunch of touches early, get him involved, and see what he can do with the football.”

Safety Justin Reid also expects the defense to have its hands full with Gibbs, based on talking to colleagues from the New York Giants, who had joint practices with the Lions last month. The veteran also highlighted wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Kalif Raymond — plus rookie tight end Sam LaPorta — as players that make Detroit dangerous while praising their overall toughness.

“I really like the rookie Jahmar Gibbs that they brought in, Reid observed speaking to media on Sunday. “Very dynamic player — I actually know some guys that play for New York that did the joint practice against him. They had a lot of good things to say about him — about how explosive he is making plays in space.

“The rookie tight end that they brought in too — [he’s] a good pass catcher. Of course, St. Brown...he’s a very talented player. And I like no. 11 [Raymond] for them, too. All in all, [a] well-coached football team. Coach Dan Campbell does a great job with them. You can see that in their mentality — and in their offensive line — that they want to be a physical football team, and we want to go out there and match that.”

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Scott Varley/Digital First Media/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images

The Chiefs last saw Lions quarterback Jared Goff in 2018, when he was a member of the Los Angeles Rams. Goff torched Kansas City for 413 yards and four touchdowns as he outdueled Patrick Mahomes to hand the Chiefs a 54-51 loss.

While the first overall pick from the 2016 draft’s career has stalled at times since, the Chiefs expect to see him at his best on Thursday. Defensive end George Karlaftis, speaking from the locker room after Sunday’s practice, shared his thoughts on Goff.

“He’s a great player,” the second-year pass rusher declared. “He can really do it all. He’s one of those elite guys — one of those elite quarterbacks. We’ve got a lot of respect for him. He can make all the throws. He’s good on his feet. He’s one of those guys that doesn’t get sacked a lot. So, we’ve got to be ready for him.”

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