Kansas City Chiefs: DE Charles Omenihu
The Chiefs’ biggest X factors are the two defensive linemen who are not yet playing: DT Chris Jones and edge rusher Charles Omenihu. Operating on the assumption that Jones comes back to the team and plays games this year (an assumption on which I am less than 100 percent certain), Omenihu will be the biggest X factor for the Chiefs. They have made some gambles on first rounders in George Karlaftis and Felix Anudike-Uzomah, but Omenihu (who is suspended six games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy) was a flashy, versatile rusher with the Niners whom the Chiefs paid to be a veteran starter. If Omenihu doesn’t hit, the Chiefs will likely spend another season trusting nobody but Jones to rush the passer.
‘We never had that much fear for Alex Smith’
Chris Harris played for the Broncos in Mahomes’ first game. He was eager to get a look at the rookie quarterback coming into the AFC West and wondering whether he would make the Chiefs a more difficult opponent.
“He was coming into our division, so you pay attention when he got drafted,” Harris said. “We knew Alex Smith was good, but we never thought he was one of the top guys in the league. We never had that much fear for Alex Smith.
“Then Mahomes came in, and in that game against us he showed off his scrambling ability and his throwing ability. His arm talent was off the charts. You could see it from that first throw to Harris. Then his scrambling ability, he was a different kind of scrambler. He was really smart with it and was always looking to throw when he did. We almost came back, and then Mahomes closed the game out for them. He showed right then he was a winner. From then on, we knew he was going to be hard to deal with. You could see he had the talent to be able to succeed in the league.”
Detroit Lions at Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5)
This is a big-time prove-it game for the Lions. Are they for real? We will know a lot more about that after this one. The defending-champion Chiefs have some new players, but Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid are still around. That’s why they are the favorites again. Even if Travis Kelce isn’t playing and Chris Jones is still sitting, look for Mahomes to carry the Chiefs as the Lions find out the preseason expectations are a bit over the top.
Pick: Chiefs 33, Lions 23
4 - Travis Kelce
Kansas City Chiefs · TE
Travis Kelce continues to set a high bar, posting 1,000-plus receiving yards in seven straight seasons — the longest such streak of all time among tight ends. The chemistry he’s found with Mahomes over the last five seasons has allowed the Chiefs to shuffle through wide receivers and still have one of the best offenses in the league. Let’s hope the hyperextended knee he sustained Tuesday doesn’t sideline him for long — if at all.
We should probably start by addressing the 6-foot-6, 300-pound elephant in the room: Just how much does the absence of defensive tackle Chris Jones impact this defense, and more specifically, do the Chiefs have a player who can at least replicate some of the stuff Jones does and that they want to be able to do defensively as a unit?
“Never has a story taken so long to build up but then go on to escalate so quickly. Just a week or so ago, I was still convinced that Chris Jones would show up for Week 1. Call it naivety on my part, but the old man in me thinks a player should mostly honor a contract—especially when said contract is paying him $20M plus. But que sera, this is where we are at in Chiefs Kingdom now—and frankly put: I hate it.
“Optimists around believe that the Chiefs can have a functioning defense without Chris Jones, but I just don’t see where the Chiefs will generate a pass rush from?! No doubt Spags [defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo] will dial up blitzes that will have positive results, but it’s on the downs when the Chiefs have to rely on one of four guys getting home that scares me. Chris Jones was the only player on the defensive line that I would categorize as a difference-maker. The other guys like Turk Wharton, Derrick Nnadi, etc. are good role players—but it’s the presence of Jones that takes the group up a notch or two.
“Ben Johnson will be licking his lips at the thought of Jones not playing.”
6. Chris Jones, DT, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs’ Super Bowl window remains wide open, and under normal circumstances, it would be foolish for them to consider trading star defensive lineman Chris Jones.
However, Jones is entering the final year of his contract, wants a substantial raise and continues to hold out for a new deal. Kansas City is forging ahead without him for the time being.
“At this point, you kind of just prepare to play the game with the guys that are in the building and let the front office handle that,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said, per NFL.com’s Kevin Patra.
Kansas City would prefer to have Jones this season, but if it learns it can win without him, the 29-year-old could become available.
The Browns, who have loaded up for a 2023 run this offseason, have the cap space ($33 million) to make a run at Jones. Without a 2024 first-round pick, though, Cleveland would have to get creative with its trade offer.
The Detroit Lions would be a sensible landing spot for Jones as they look to reload a defense that ranked last in yards allowed last season.
With Detroit heading to Kansas City on Thursday, the Chiefs, hypothetically, could deal Jones to the Lions and ensure they don’t face him this season barring a rematch in Super Bowl LVIII.
Potential Landing Spots: Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions
Around the NFL
Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon continues to refuse to publicly name his starting quarterback. When asked Wednesday if he might announce who will take the first snaps at the most important position in the sport, Gannon remained defiant.
“I ain’t telling you anything,” he told reporters.
Arizona began its training camp with a choice to make between veteran Colt McCoy, who won one of his three starts made in place of the injured Kyler Murray last season, and rookie Clayton Tune. By the time the preseason neared its end, general manager Monti Ossenfort decided to shake up the order of the Cardinals’ quarterbacks room, acquiring Browns backup Josh Dobbs via trade and releasing McCoy a few days later.
The reigning AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year has agreed to a five-year, $170 million extension with the 49ers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Wednesday. Rapoport added that the contract includes $122.5 million in guarantees and San Francisco will waive all fines Bosa incurred during his holdout.
Bosa is now the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history with an average per year salary of $34 million, besting Aaron Donald’s $31.7 million with the Rams.
Outside linebacker Carl Nassib, who in 2021 became the first openly gay active player in the NFL, announced his retirement Wednesday.
Nassib addressed his decision in an Instagram post, calling his retirement a “bittersweet moment.”
“It really feels like just yesterday starting out as a walk-on at Penn State,” Nassib wrote. “Football has given me more than I ever could have imagined. I can truly hang up my helmet for the last time knowing I gave it everything I had.”
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Wide receiver Skyy Moore: There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about Moore this season: he appears to be poised for a second-year jump, he may get the lion’s share of the targets that went to JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2022 and he appears to have the trust of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. On top of that, he may be leaned upon more heavily if tight end Travis Kelce misses Thursday’s game. The Chiefs should get him involved early and often on slant and crossing routes. Moore could start moving the chains right away.
“Smash-mouth football” is the only way to describe the Lions’ running game. Fullback Jason Cabinda is just as much a part of the equation as the offensive line. He is the team’s tone-setter.
The Lions running the ball out of 22. OL blocks zone left, the backside TEs slam and seal the edge + shallow box defenders. As 56 starts to read the run, flow to the outside. A big kickout block from the FB opens up a seam and it's a walk-in touchdown. pic.twitter.com/23Ip4dnIn4— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) September 3, 2023
Detroit runs a high percentage of 22 personnel — two running backs and two tight ends — which allows it to dominate box numbers and put its blockers in man-on-man situations. They primarily use zone, power and counter-running plays — but have also thrown in some trap and duo concepts. Against Kansas City, they could run any series of plays — and do so out of multiple formations and looks.