On Saturday, we will see the 2022 Kansas City Chiefs take the field for the first time. While the game will be a dress rehearsal for the starters, who will likely not play much outside of the first quarter, for the rest of the training camp roster it is a chance to show that they belong on the roster and can compete at the highest level.
The battle for the Chiefs’ 5th and 6th wide receiver spot is getting more interesting by the day, especially since it seems that Powell has started to make progress in the offense as camp has progressed. Although he has shown flashes in practice, these next three pre-season games are where he will have a chance to show that he belongs. Justin Watson, Daurice Fountain, and Josh Gordon will also be competing for the 5th and 6th spots on the roster, with Watson seeming to be a lock due to his special team’s ability. This will leave work to do for Powell, but with Fountain missing practice due to a groin injury, and Gordon’s continued struggles it has left a real chance for Powell to make the roster. With a strong preseason performance, Powell will have a chance to crack the active 53, but the odds are likely stacked against him. It will likely come down to his ability to contribute to special teams to make the roster.
What he must show: The most important thing for Powell to show will be that he can create separation in his routes and be a reliable pass catcher. He may not have many opportunities given the depth at the WR position so he must take advantage of his chances. If he can show some special team ability then it will help his chances immensely.
After basically redshirting during his rookie season Kaindoh entered the 2022 season with more questions than answers. His athletic ability got him to the NFL, but now his development as a player will decide whether he remains on the Chiefs roster or is ultimately released. After playing in the opener against Cleveland last season he was put on the IR, which ended his season. The offseason saw the Chiefs draft George Karlaftis, and then in camp sign Carlos Dunlap, to go along with Frank Clark, Mike Danna, and Josh Kaindoh. This puts five true defensive ends on the roster, with Tershawn Wharton and Malik Herring both able to play a hybrid role between edge and defensive tackle. The competition is getting tighter, and if Kaindoh wants to make this roster he must show production this preseason, starting in Chicago.
What he must show: Kaindoh must show some development of pass rush moves during the three games this preseason. This is a position unit that the Chiefs do not have time for “projects” on the defensive line. They need production. If Kaindoh wants to maintain his spot on the roster he must come up with a go-to pass rush move, and play more stout in his run defense.
Many are projecting the Chiefs to have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL heading into the 2022 season, and they rightfully should, given the immense talent the unit possesses. Even with the solid performances in 2021, the right tackle season was still up in the air heading into training camp. Many, including myself, expected the competition to be between returner and long-time Chiefs Andrew Wylie and rookie 5th round pick Darrian Kinnard, as well as Lucas Niang if he was healthy. Wylie opened up camp as the starter, and as time has progressed he still seems to be the favorite, with Kinnard fading out of the starting lineup, and Niagn still on the PUP list. The only wrinkle in that mix has been Geron Christian who may be getting ready to take on a role similar to what we saw from Mike Remmers the past couple of seasons as the teams swing tackle. Andy Reid is not shy about playing the best five linemen possible, and if they think Christain can produce the best he will get a chance to start. This preseason is critical for him to get comfortable in the offense and see where he can earn more playing time.
What he must show: Excelling at pass protecting is important for the Chiefs, and helps Christian’s case to start the season as the man at right tackle. If he can show above-average run blocking, but also the ability to block outside zone and look good in the screen game he will have a real shot to win the job.
Back in early June, I Tweeted some observations from the Chiefs Mini Camp practice I was fortunate enough to be able to attend and the most notable thing I saw was that Isiah Pacheco, at least in my eyes looked like a serious contender to make the 53 man roster.
Fast forward two months and the Pacheco hype train is out of control. It started with Dave Toub pretty much naming Pacheco the starting kick-off returner in week one of camp, which would mean he was making the 53. It since then has evolved into jaw-dropping glimpses of his speed, acceleration, running, and pass-catching ability. The talent is there, but is the hype justified? We will find out soon enough. The Chiefs running back room is deep, with three players likely to see the field over Pacheco in the preseason, but if the rookie shows enough flash and consistency through the three preseason games he will likely get to see the field sooner than we think in the regular season.
What he must show: Despite the hype, we will see Pacheco return kickoffs for the Chiefs, but the preseason will be important because if he can continue to work on his vision between the tackles as well as ball security he could be setting himself up for a nice rookie season.
The first three years of former third-round pick Khalen Saunders’s career have been filled with injury and a lack of playing time, and that has been enough to put him on the roster bubble. The preseason has become even more crucial for Saunders as the Chiefs signed Danny Shelton on Tuesday, who will be directly competing with Saunders for playing time. We have yet to see Saunders play for an extended period of time, but for him to make the roster he will need to be consistent against the run, and if he could show some ability to rush the passer he could steal away reps and find himself on the roster. Tershawn Wharton has himself in a good spot to be a designated pass rusher from the interior, and with Nnadi being stellar against the run Saunders will need to flash to find the field.
What he must show: Saunders will need to show a consistent ability to stuff the run, as well as extend off of blockers in one on one situations. If he can play consistently on run downs he will find a spot on the roster.
The Chiefs’ backup quarterback situation could get interesting if Buechele has a good preseason. Chad Henne has been the incumbent backup to Patrick Mahomes for the past three seasons and has faced very little competition. This could change with a good reliable camp from Buechele. Last year Buechele found himself on the practice squad, but his combination of athletic ability and pocket mobility almost make him a great backup for Mahomes. He would also be a cheaper backup option with more upside for a potential trade down the line.
What he must show: For Buechele, it will be all about showing pocket presence and making good decisions. For him to be a reliable backup he needs to be able to complete the routine pass, and not look to give it away. He will need to drastically improve upon his three interceptions last preseason, and show he can lead drives down the field while playing within the system.