The regular season (finally) begins this weekend with the Kansas City Chiefs on the road against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon.
By all indications, this team is coming off as healthy (and just as dark) as any squad in recent memory. General Manager Brett Veitch and head coach Andy Reid have assembled a 69-player roster (53 on the active roster plus 16 on the practice squad) Which gives them options over options.
On Sunday, we’ll finally see the plans for an entire off-season unfold. We’ll learn more about how they intend to turn the offense without wide receiver Tyrek Hill – and how they can redesign the defense around three rookie starters.
We’ll also learn about some of the players we think are headed in the right direction – or in some cases, in the wrong direction. Here are some of the major ones we think could be trending this week.
Sky Moore: The Chiefs kept only five receivers, including this year’s second-round pick. Expectations have been low for Moore, who lines up for goal behind tight end Travis Kelce and fellow wideouts JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling – and perhaps Mecole Hardman. But the fact that the team feels comfortable with five receivers on the active roster speaks to their faith in Moore. In limited preseason action, we saw Kansas City trying to get the ball to it in a number of ways – including end-arounds, toe-tapping catches on the sideline, and deep targets. On Sunday, watch Moore live up to expectations with some drama.
George Karloftis: I’m still going to argue that we need to manage our expectations for first-round rookie defensive tackles. But I’m also willing to admit that those expectations (like Moore’s) may have risen a bit during the season. furious george He may never bend the edge or take double-digit sacks, but it appears his best qualities translate to the NFL—and he’s learning quickly. With effort and strength alone, it now looks like eight or nine sacks are on the way for them in 2022. That’s good – because the team will lean on him for production more than any other major. Frank Clark is sick again, Carlos Dunlop is battling a serious injury and the guys down the roster haven’t shown much so far. As a rookie, Karlaftis could lead the defensive end in both snaps. And sacks
Jodi Fortson: It seems that the past two years have reached this moment. He has been injured and has recovered more than once. He earned a practice-team job and was then called up. In 2022, he comfortably made Kansas City’s starting 53-man roster. When he was on the field in preseason games, the results were often spectacular – especially in the red zone. It appears it may finally be time for Fortsson to take shots at key snaps – and maybe even double-digit touchdowns.
Others are headed in the right direction: Wide receivers Justin Watson and JuJu Smith-Schuster are trailing Ronald Jones and Isiah Pacheco, cornerback Jaylen Watson, linebacker Leo Chanel and fullback Michael Burton.
Andrew Wiley: It is clear that the weakest link in this Chiefs offensive line is handling it right. Going into the off-season, we thought there would be a lot of competition in the position – but Wylie’s got the job done from day one. Here’s the question: Did he have a job by default? With Lucas Niang on PUP (physically disabled-to-execute) List and fifth-round rookie Darien Kinard failed to impress in the camp, was anyone really pushing for Wylie’s starting job? With AFC West’s improved pass rushing, both tackles will be tested in pass safety on a weekly basis – and in Week 1, JJ Watts and Marcus will try to expose the Golden Wylie. We will see how he responds.
Joshua Williams: This is not Williams’ long-term indictment. In fact, he should be a factor in this secondary for years to come. But in the short term, they showed they needed some development. During the preseason, he was in a position to make a lot of big plays – but when the ball was in the air, he often went short. Williams seems to have been passed over by fellow rookie Jaylen Watson, which has been a pleasant surprise so far. This weekend, it’s possible Williams will be inactive for a game-day while he continues to grow for the foreseeable future.
Others are headed in the wrong direction: Darien Kinnard tackle and defensive ends Frank Clarke and Carlos Dunlop
Value (Sleeper) Pick: Brian Cook
We’ve seen some glimpses of what got the chiefs so excited about their rookie defenses; His size/speed combination (and hitting ability) was evident from the time the pads arrived. But it was the interception against the Green Bay Packers that showed what he could be capable of. In defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system, Cook’s ability to close the football (and make a play in coverage) could make him an exciting third safety. Cook really needs to be a capable player—that is, one who will not target opposing quarterbacks in the defensive sub-package. But it’s possible he could be much more than that: a dynamic, versatile playwright who can spin around to keep Kansas City’s defense unpredictable. Keep an eye on all the ways that leaders use to cook on Sundays. In coverage, on run support and blitz, he just might be an impact player – one few people have seen yet.