Preseason Game #2 – Chiefs at Cardinals: Game Observations

The stakes are raised for those players getting their second opportunity to audition for a 2021 Kansas City Chiefs roster spot. With five more cuts due by Tuesday, the chance to impress has never been more pressing for some players on the cusp. With the starters taking the majority of the first half reps, the pressure is on some fringe players to make the most of their reps.

First Half

  • The first team defense forced the Cardinal starters into three 3 and outs to start the game. Sneed showed some attitude with the first two tackles of the game. His cross-field counterpart Charvarius Ward also brought some ‘tude. Mike Hughes continues his path to being a solid contributor as the Chiefs secondary is looking at quietly becoming quite formidable.
  • Hughes had a magnificent pass breakup right before the half, Chiefs kingdom should be impressed with this Brett Veach pick-up. Perhaps Bashaud Breeland’s departure might not be as problematic as initially presumed.
  • How about that impressive interception by in-and-out of the doghouse Juan Thornhill? Thornhill was running with the 3rd string early this week, he needed that athletic pick on tape for his own confidence as well as the coaching staff. Oh, and Chris Jone….yeah he is a bad man.
  • Andy Reid called the half as a coach should during the preseason. Stayed simple, go for it on 4th down and get your starters some work. Andy Reid cannot be necessarily happy about the performance of the first-team offense, the offensive line being the exception, the running game struggled until Darwin Thompson took over in the 2nd quarter.
  • Thompson tallied 5 carries for 28 yards in the 2nd quarter. Jerick McKinnon wasn’t showcased quite like in the first preseason game but did have two nice catches for 16 yards. Although, the timing of the first-string passing game was certainly nothing to be touted.
  • The effort is appreciated but, Patrick Mahomes should not run for 1st downs in the preseason, ever, much less twice. Mahomes would end the game going 10-18 for 78 yards and an interception. There was a sigh of relief after Mahomes found the bench midway through the 2nd quarter. Oh, and Trey Smith….yeah he is a bad man and the steal of the draft.
  • Many were tough on Mecole Hardman after his one drop on one target in last week’s game. Clearly, Hardman was a big part of the game plan with Tyreek Hill planted on the sidelines. Hardman had multiple targets on the first drive. Chiefs have high expectations for Hardman who seems to be firmly the front-runner for the #2 WR role with Sammy Watkins now donning a Baltimore Ravens uniform. Although, the early returns have proved that he and Mahomes certainly had timing issues in the first half.
  • Byron Pringle, however, looked like some true competition for Hardman grabbing 4 catches for 63 yards including a beautiful 40-yard catch on a nice throw from Chad Henne. Hardman must have felt the heat and followed up that play with a great catch on an underthrown ball for the only touchdown of the first half. That catch could possibly keep a little pressure off as Pringle continues to look solid.
  • The returner carousel continued in the first half of preseason game #2 with Demarcus Robinson returning the first two punts of the game followed by two by Mike Hughes then Darrius Shepherd late in the 2nd quarter. Dave Toub is clearly running a deep audition into who he has available for the ’21 return game. Punter Tommy Townsend did not, however, continue last week’s impressive performance with several short punts. Townsend averaged only 38.5 yards per punt, a far cry from the 53.4 yards he averaged last week.

Second Half

  • Daurice Fountain started off the half with two nice catches and followed it up with a huge catch for 41 yards late in the 3rd quarter. He continues to impress and should be one of the first players on the Chiefs practice squad. Fountain would finish the game with 3 catches for 54 yards.  
  • Marcus Kemp should be put on notice by Fountain’s rise and responded with a nice run route that ended up as a 36-yard gain. That would be Kemp’s only catch of the night.
  • Jerick Mckinnon showed up as kick returner to start the half, Jet continued his presence in the passing game with a touchdown catch on a swing pass. He would finish the night with 3 catches for 21 yards, 3 carries for 4 yards, and 1 kick return for 22 yards. The Chiefs have not been shy about moving him around and testing his versatility, which is what he will have to show to grab a roster spot from his main competition Darwin Thompson. Speaking of…..
  • Darwin Thompson continued to get opportunities and showed a much more composed effort than in the San Francisco game. Toub didn’t leave Thompson out of the endless kick-return-a-rama game, allowing him to be the 5th returner to get a chance on the night. Thompson would finish the game going 8 carries for 49 yards which was certainly a bounce-back effort compared to last week. He added 2 catches for 7 yards in the passing game.
  • 4th round pick Josh Kaindoh got fooled on a read-option late in the 3rd quarter only to come back two plays later and have a great read and a tackle for a loss. Kaindoh continued to play disciplined football throughout the 2nd half. Kaindoh certainly is in a developmental role and would be credited with 2 tackles. The final preseason game next week should allow him some additional snaps to prove his worth.
  • Shane Buechele continued to impress and should find, at least, a role on an NFL team practice squad. The former Texas QB has looked impressive against both the 49ers and Cardinals back-ups even with the pick at the end of the 3rd quarter. When the receiver falls down, that will happen. Speaking of falling down, with Fountain continuing to impress, Gehrig Dieter may find himself falling off the roster in a crowded battle to land a spot in the Chiefs receiver room.
  • Some additional observations on the evening: Dicaprio Bootle’s sack off an edge blitz, curious for Spags to run that blitz twice in a row. 2nd round pick Nick Bolton showed some flashes, he was credited with 2 tackles and an assist. Deandre Baker looked solid in coverage in the 2nd half getting credited with a team-high 4 tackles. Devon Key certainly took a step backward from last week after being beaten on a corner fade for a touchdown to Ross Travis. From the first step Key was behind and after not registering a tackle will need the final preseason game to be something special if he has any hope of finding a roster spot.
  • Speaking of finding a roster spot, the Chiefs have four tight ends in a position group they typically would only keep two. Noah Grey made an appearance late in the game grabbing 3 catches for 22 yards. Meanwhile, Jody Fortson, quickly becoming a fan favorite, only had one catch for 6 yards, however, it was a solid catch for a first down. Equally important for Fortson was his performance blocking in the run game. If there is a way to make this team as a tight end, it is showing you can block and Fortson did just that mauling several defenders on the Chiefs final drive.

There certainly will be some decisions for the Chiefs brain trust moving forward. Ffrench, Powell, and Dieter failed to put on eye-catching performances in the desert. With the starters most likely sitting out next week’s Friday night preseason finale against Minnesota at Arrowhead, there short be no shortage of opportunities available for some of these players to prove themselves. Regardless, the Chiefs will ultimately have to cut some quality depth players, no doubt we will see some of these names on the practice squad, but even that will be a tough place to land without balling out next week.