With the Kansas City Chiefs slated to face the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at high noon, training camp is winding down. Some names blossomed a year ago, but with such a young team, some players keep raising eyebrows as possible contributors for this season.
It’s highly unlikely Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach, Andy Reid will play his starters more than a series or two Sunday against the Saints in New Orleans. Still, there are some interesting roster spots up for grabs, and as we saw last year, some young pups are going to get their cleats thrown into the fire.
DE George Karlaftis has been a stellar performer in camp. He’s showing no signs of slowing down from the end of last season. Normally rookies hit the wall in November, but Karlaftis was the opposite. In the off-season, he worked with former Chiefs great, Tamba Hali. That one-on-one tutelage appears to have paid off. Karlaftis has a newly founded burst and I expect he’ll be a double-digit sack machine this year.
LB Drew Tranquill had two choices in the off-season, resign with the Los Angeles Chargers or join the Chiefs. In a recent interview with the NFL Network, he stated that Andy Reid told him to come to Kansas City to win Super Bowls. In camp, he’s been dealing with a neck injury, but when he’s on the field, Tranquill is the Chiefs best pass defender at the linebacker position. It’s hard to imagine a better stat line a year ago for the Chargers, 95 solo tackles, five sacks, and one interception. If he duplicates that in Kansas City, he’s going to get a contract extension.
CB Nic Jones came to the Chiefs via the 2023 NFL Draft. Though he too suffered a few bumps and bruises in the early stages of camp, he clearly is going to earn a roster spot this season. Yes, he has talent, that needs to be cultivated much like the team did a year ago with Bryan Cook, Joshua Williams, and Jaylen Watson. With the injury to 2022 draft pick, Nazeeh Johnson, Jones has shown he can win a few balls facing Patrick Mahomes.
RB Deneric Prince might be the most talked about player in training camp. The undrafted rookie from Tulsa possesses similar skills to last year’s breakout offensive star, Isiah Pacheco. In camp, he’s shown the ability to run the ball, show off his pass-catching skills, and he’s not afraid to get his shoulder pads dirty protecting his quarterback. It’s still early, and you know how I feel about training camp stars, but Prince was highly coveted as an undrafted free agent, and he could become the perfect complement to both Pacheco and Jerrick McKinnon.
DT Keondre Coburn brings incredible energy to the Chiefs defensive line. Whenever Chris Jones signs his new contract with KC, I can’t wait to see him work side-by-side with Jones. Coburn certainly should have been picked much earlier in the NFL Draft, but thankfully he landed in KC. Short term, he’ll split time with DT, Derrick Nnadi. Long term he’ll be the team’s starting defensive tackle in 2024. He has so much talent, that 31 other teams will lament they passed on him.
WR Nikko Remigio will likely end up on the Chiefs practice squad. However, with the injury to Kararius Toney, and some talented young receivers ahead of him, he’s likely to get some playing time in the preseason. He could be a factor in special teams as a return man or a gunner, but make no mistake about it, he can catch the ball and run solid routes. Before the veteran receivers showed up for camp, he got a lot of reps with the quarterbacks, and he’s been turning heads ever since.
TE Matt Bushman was a star in camp last year. However, he suffered a pre-season knee injury that shelved his 2023 campaign. Prior to the injury he caught everything in sight, ran great routes, and earned high praise from All-Pro Tight End, Travis Kelce. So far this summer, he appears faster and has a much larger grasp of KC’s offense. With the injury to Jody Fortson, Bushman has a legit shot of making the final roster. He’s a long shot but I’d find a spot for him.
LB Leo Chenal came on strong in the latter stages of the regular season and made some nice plays in the postseason. This year, he has a chance to be more than a backup to Willie Gay. In fact, he might be the future, should the Chiefs be unable to sign Gay after this season, when he’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Of all the rookies drafted a year ago that made their way onto the field for productive minutes, Chenal was one of my favorite prospects. However, he started slow, but in the NFL it’s all about how you finish.