With the Chiefs winning their final preseason game, Kansas City has to start making cuts to reach the final 53-man roster, so who proved themselves?
The Chiefs finished off their 2022 preseason with a 17-10 victory on Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers. The game started with a touching tribute to Hall of Fame Quarterback Len Dawson who recently passed away. The offense huddled in the famous choir huddle and took the delay of game penalty. The Chiefs also announced they will be playing the season with “16” stickers on their helmet to remember the Chiefs legend.
Some quick notes offensively include Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce did not take a snap with the first-team offense. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdez-Scantling were not suited up, as they are both battling injuries, and it seems like they should be healthy for the start of the season.
Defensively, all the starters suited up and started the game and they still looked fast and physical. The interesting note on defense was rookie George Karlaftis starting opposite Frank Clark on the edge where Mike Danna has started all preseason. Also, Jaylen Watson starting on the outside in nickel instead of playing in the slot like usual.
3 players trending up
1. Ronald Jones
Jones has been on the bubble of this roster for weeks now, most people, including me, basically thought he was not going to make this roster. He still might not but, last night he played a lot and played really well. This could end up being a Carlos Hyde situation, where the Chiefs trade him before cuts are made. However, with the Blake Bell injury, the Chiefs could keep four runningbacks and he would be the fourth. Jones is a major piece of the puzzle when it comes to figuring out the 53.
2. Shane Buechele
Buechele has had a really good preseason and capped it off last night with another great performance. He was able to throw two touchdowns- each to tight Matt Bushman (more on him later in the piece). I have been beating the Buechele for QB2 drum for a few weeks now, even though I don’t think he gets it over veteran Chad Henne. I also don’t see how the Chiefs keep him on the practice squad if they don’t keep him on the 53. He has played too well, and expect the Giants offensive coordinator and former Chiefs QB coach to get him if he’s cut.
Will the Chiefs try to trade him? Do they keep 3 QBs? Does he have a mysterious injury that puts him on IR? We will soon see. Whichever it is, Buechele has balled out and deserves to be on an NFL roster.
3a. Darius Harris
It was extremely difficult deciding which defender to lead off with here, I decided to go with Darius Harris, who continues to stack good games together. Against the Packers, he looked like the best defensive player on the field at times. We saw him make 3 straight plays, where anyone watching knew that he locked up his position on the roster right there. He is also a four-team special teams guy, and I would be floored if he wasn’t on the 53-man roster.
3b. Jaylen Watson
The buzz in the secondary this off-season hasn’t been first-round rookie Trent McDuffie, it has been later-round picks Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson. Watson has emerged as the corner on the outside in nickel (five defensive back) situations and had another great game against the Packers. He has shown that he is sticky in coverage and is willing to come up in tackle in the run game. He went from a 7th-round pick with an outside chance of making the 53, to almost a lock at this point.
3 players trending down
1. Josh Gordon
Gordon has basically been non-existent this off-season and the trend continued in Kansas City on Thursday. We saw Daurice Fountain have a nice run after the catch, Corey Coleman has shown juice in the return game, and Josh Gordon, do basically nothing. Unfortunately, I think his time in KC is over, I hope he can get on with another team somewhere and figure it out.
2. Jermaine Carter
The Chiefs signed Carter this off-season with the hope of him being the depth guy in the linebacker room. He has completely been outplayed by Darius Harris this off-season. He also got steamrolled on the Packers touchdown last night.
Go look up the clip, it wasn’t good. I don’t see a way the Chiefs can keep him on the 53, even with the possibility of having to eat some of his salary.
3. Back-up tackles
While I think Prince Tega Wanogho and Geron Christian played better, they still weren’t great. I believe there is a chance Chiefs try to add a veteran tackle once cuts are made. Behind Orlando Brown, the tackle play has been very shaky this preseason, Andrew Wylie was called for another hold on a good run by Clyde Edwards Helaire. His play has been average at best as a starter. We will see what the Chiefs do moving forward, but it is definitely a position they could benefit to upgrade.
One player I really wanted to add to the trending portion of this article is tight end Matt Bushman. Bushman had two touchdowns and looked great, unfortunately, he broke his clavicle late in the game. He is someone I hope the Chiefs find a way to keep around.
The unfortunate reality for a very large portion of these guys is they are about to no longer be employed in the NFL. It is a tough business. It will be interesting to see where the Chiefs are going to place value on those bottom roster spots. The Blake Bell injury has really opened things open to a variety of combinations.
If you want to see more on my 53-man roster prediction you can find it on ArrowheadLive.