It was hot at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday as the Kansas City Chiefs‘ first-string offense and defense again looked dominant in a 24-14 win over the Washington Commanders. But unlike that of the team 19-14 loss to the Chicago Bears a week ago, the team’s backup players also made enough plays to secure a preseason win — for whatever that’s worth.
There were many standouts on both sides of the ball. While some players fought for roster spots, others showed that they are not only locks to make the squad, but could also be difference makers in the regular season.
Here are a few that caught our eye on Saturday.
Note: Applying the labels “winners” and “losers” is not intended to be a judgment on the talent or character of any of these players. It’s just a simple way to grade their performance in a single game. No disrespect is intended.
Jody Fortson: Who else would you expect to lead this list? #FortsonSZN is in full effect as he scored both of the first team touchdowns. In recent years, his back-shoulder throw and contested-catching skills have been something that has been sorely lacking from this Chiefs offense. To the extent that he can stay healthy, he will be a huge difference maker.
George Karlaftis: Two professional games – and two bags for the promising rookie pass. Is there anyone still concerned about whether Karlaftis’ skill set will translate to the NFL? He still doesn’t have the dominant one-one-one speed ability that teams traditionally value. But he does what he does best — and it works. If he can continue to fight and work for a sack in every game in the regular season, he will be the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Oh… and him improved his sack partytoo.
Khalen Saunders: Locked in a battle for his job, Saunders is responding with a strong preseason. On Saturday, had a sack and another quarterback hit along with an impressive tackle for loss a week ago. For guys who are on the roster, making nice plays every week is a pretty good way to get noticed.
Jaylen Watson: Watson might be the one player who benefited the most from the team’s youth movement — and might be the biggest reason the Chiefs felt comfortable. moving on from Lonnie Johnson. He continued to prove himself with another strong overall performance. Sticky in coverage and physical as a tackler, Watson was outstanding in extended action. His pass in the end zone — and a tackle after disengaging a blocker — were two of Saturday’s better defensive plays.
Justin Watson: The other Watson also continued to excel. He again led the team in receiving yards. His 39-yard gain on third-and-10 (as free blitz closed in on Patrick Mahomes) made it clear that he is not only locked up roster, but also built a relationship with his quarterback.
Chris Lammons: Many 53-man roster projections featured Lammons as a special teams standout — but until Saturday, he hadn’t really excelled on defense. His second-half pass prevented a huge play and forced a punt — and then he did collected the team’s first interception of the preseason. Expect to hear fans and media say his name more often.
Patrick Mahomes: In two preseason games, the superstar quarterback was nearly flawless. The newly inducted member of the Texas Tech Ring of Honor spread the ball around (eight receivers on Saturday, six a week ago) and scored touchdowns on every drive. With Mahomes playing like the MVP version of himself, the new-look offense is humming. It will be a good season.
Dicaprio Bootle: The second-year defensive back got behind Cam Sims in coverage, leading to an easy touchdown. We can’t judge him based on just one play – but through two weeks of preseason play, it looks like he’s been less than impressive.
Geron Christian: Through two weeks, most of the backups on the offensive line have struggled, so it may be unfair to lump Christian together. But when he was smartly beaten on a rush against the Commanders, the play stood out. He likely remains the leader in the team’s search for a swing offensive tackle — but perhaps, as rosters roll around the league, that search will continue.
Zayn Anderson: It’s been a quiet offseason process for a 2021 UDFA safety who likely expected to have a more defined role this season. Anderson has had to watch as the Chiefs have invested heavily in the secondary – and so far, he doesn’t seem to have been able to outperform the competition. Against Washington, I noticed Anderson miss an open-field tackle that led to a big play. He may be hoping for a practice squad job again.
The running game: The Chiefs’ ground attack did not get off to a strong start. Against Washington, it averaged less than two yards per carry — and the longest non-quarterback carry was just six yards. Over the last two seasons, teams have dared the Chiefs to run. We all hope that this season, the team will be able to take advantage of those opportunities. But for all the excitement about what Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco could do, the results just weren’t there.