For the most part NFL preseason games mean very little to the common fan. However, to the Die-Hard base, these games seem to mean more. On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs let a sure win slip through their fingertips giving the New Orleans Saints a 26-24 victory. Yet, despite the final score, some questions were answered, including a few surprises.
If you listened to our post-game show on the Chiefs Blitz YouTube Channel last night, we were pleasantly surprised at the depth of this roster. With the starters having an off night, and just a series or two, they appeared to be shaking off the rust of a hectic off-season.
However, when Head Coach Andy Reid, turned the game over to the second and third teams, they erased a 17-0 deficit and held the lead until the last minute of the game, when a turnover thwarted their comeback.
So, who stood out?
WR Justyn Ross did something he hadn’t accomplished in over 20 months; he caught a touchdown pass in a live football game. The former Clemson star showed some of the hype that’s been building up since training camp began. He was targeted five times, and two of those passes were poorly thrown by backup quarterback, Shane Buechele, but his 15-yard strike to Ross in the third quarter, made up for those errant throws. Next up for Ross, catching passes from Patrick Mahomes next weekend in Arizona.
WR Ritchie James was another standout. His work with Quarterback, Blaine Gabbert was just what this offense needed to wake up. His 43-yard completion was a combination of a perfect pass and a terrific route. For me, James was a key free agent signing. After bouncing between the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants, he has the look of becoming Reid’s primary slot option this season.
WR Nikko Remigio came up huge in the fourth quarter with several key third conversions. His addition to the wide receiver room, which also includes fellow rookie Rashee Rice, is going to pose a big problem for Reid and Offensive Coordinator, Matt Nagy. Since camp opened, Remigio has been a standout, and based on his performance on Sunday, he might not slip onto the practice squad. If he continues to excel with his minutes, he has a shot to be the Chiefs seventh receiver on the 53-man roster.
CB Kahlef Hailassie turned in the defensive gem of the game. His interception in the second half. His diving execution on the sidelines to secure the errant throw was impressive. The Western Kentucky standout signed as a post-draft free agent, and with the injury to Cornerback, Nic Jones (multiple finger fractures), his long shot to making the final 53 increased just enough to hope.
DT Danny Shelton is hard to miss when he’s on the football field. Injured a year ago, and with no place on the game-day roster once healthy, Shelton wants to prove he can make an impact on KC’s defense this season. His sack of Jameis Winston was pure beauty. He showed off his speed in catching him, and his reach in forcing a sack. The Chiefs could use more depth along the interior of the defensive line, and I think Shelton could be an asset to KC’s defense this season.
LB Drew Tranquill certainly didn’t hurt his reputation one bit against the Saints. He had three tackles and a big-time sack, that sparked a turnaround by KC’s second-team defense. Further, there was no sign that the neck injury he sustained in camp, carried over into the game. I’m still shocked the Los Angeles Chargers let him walk, but I’m thankful he’s a Chief now.
CB Chamarri Conner had a terrific afternoon. He was solid in coverage and showed off his skills by blitzing the quarterback. He has the type of speed, and athleticism, that reminds me of L’Jarius Sneed. Conner and Nic Jones were likely drafted for their overall skillset, but one of them could be the successor to Sneed if the team fails to sign him to a new contract at season’s end.
LB Cole Christiansen ended the game with two tackles and five assists. He was a bright spot on the defense, and he certainly made the most of his chances. The second-year defender from Army remains a long shot to make the final 53, but he could make the team as a special teams guy.