After Mahomes leads opening TD drive, KC Chiefs’ rookies get their chance vs. Bears

·5 min read
Nam Y. Huh/AP

Chiefs coach Andy Reid wanted to see some fine-tuned execution in Kansas City’s preseason opener against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

The Chiefs’ players obliged, for the most part, on Saturday.

Defensive tackle Chris Jones notched a sack in limited action; rookie defensive end George Karlaftis had a sack and two quarterback hits; and the first-team offense hummed in its only possession.

The Chiefs jumped on the Bears early before eventually falling 19-14 (the backups couldn’t hold serve down the stretch).

“It was good to get a game in under our belt here,” Reid said. “I thought the ones on both sides did well, the twos did a good job and I thought it was great experience for the threes and the fours to get in there and get some experience under their belts.

“We’ve got plenty to work on there, and we’ll do that, but again, some of those young guys, they had a chance to play today with the ones and the twos (and they) are guys that we’ll be asking to play this season. I was happy with their production there.”

While the Chiefs lost, final scores during the month of August are best approached with caution because the starters aren’t playing full games, and teams are calling vanilla plays — and sometimes experimenting. When it comes to the latter, the Chiefs even sent out safety Justin Reid to attempt an extra point.

Which he made, by the way.

Here are some standout aspects of Saturday’s game:

NO WORRIES ABOUT NO. 15

One of the biggest offseason storylines revolves around the Chiefs’ new-look offense, which experienced transition at the wide receiver position.

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, however, showed on Saturday that he’s already in midseason form.

The star signal-caller made the most of his one series, completing an efficient six of seven passes for 60 yards and a touchdown on the team’s opening drive before exiting the game. He connected with six different receivers, including Mecole Hardman, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Travis Kelce, Michael Burton, Isiah Pacheco and Blake Bell, who capped the drive with a 5-yard scoring grab.

PACHECO RISING

The skill-set of Pacheco, one of the Chiefs’ three seventh-round picks this past spring, is not a secret.

He emerged early in training camp and carried that momentum into Saturday’s game by working with the first-team offense. He collected 6 yards rushing on two carries and one catch for 5 yards.

That’s not head-turning production, but what is notable is that Pacheco — not Ronald Jones — was the third running back behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon. This trend recently began in training camp, and seeing it carry over to a game, regardless of whether that game is played during the preseason or otherwise, could very well provide a view on what the Chiefs are thinking about the running back battle.

Meanwhile, Jones worked with the third-string unit alongside quarterback Shane Buechele.

ALL-ROOKIE RETURNER ROTATION

The Chiefs haven’t officially settled on a punt returner or kick returner for the season, and on Saturday a trio of rookies got their shot to stake a claim to the jobs.

Wide receiver Skyy Moore and cornerback Trent McDuffie each returned a punt, while Moore and Pacheco each returned a kickoff. Pacheco had a team-high 34 yards on his lone return.

SOLIDIFYING SPOTS

The Chiefs’ top four wide receivers are essentially set in stone with Hardman, Valdes-Scantling, Moore and JuJu Smith-Schuster. If the Chiefs end up keeping six on the initial 53-player roster, Justin Watson and Daurice Fountain solidified their positions with good outings against the Bears.

Watson hauled in five catches for 45 yards and a touchdown on six targets, while Fountain recorded three catches for 24 yards.

There are two more preseason games to go, but Watson and Fountain, both of whom can also contribute on special teams, are making it hard for Josh Gordon and even Cornell Powell to move up the depth chart.

Powell finished the game working mostly with the third-string offense, and recorded three catches for 10 yards on four targets. Gordon was targeted three times and didn’t make a catch.

KINNARD WITH 3s

Chiefs rookie tackle Darian Kinnard closed out Saturday’s game working at right tackle with the third- and fourth-team units.

While Kinnard, a fifth-round pick this year, was a player to watch entering training camp, he quickly lost repetitions to veterans Geron Christian and Roderick Johnson.

What the Chiefs do with Kinnard to start the season will be an interesting situation to watch. The Chiefs need to identify a swing tackle, but Kinnard could be a long-shot if he doesn’t use the next two preseason games to close the gap.

INJURIES

Tight end Blake Bell suffered a hip injury on the Chiefs’ second offensive possession. He went down to the turf and trainers had to help him to the sideline, where he received attention before being carted to the locker room. The Chiefs eventually ruled out Bell for the remainder of the game.

Also, running back Derrick Gore suffered a neck injury in the second half of the game.

NOT DRESSED

The Chiefs were without tight end Jody Fortson (quad), cornerback Rashad Fenton (shoulder), wide receiver Gary Jennings (concussion) and safety Zayne Anderson (shoulder). They did not participate in the game.

Fortson and Fenton returned last week from their respective injuries, so the Chiefs could be erring on the side of caution by holding them back for now.

UP NEXT

The Chiefs are off Sunday before returning to practice on Monday for the first of four final practices of training camp in St. Joseph.

The Chiefs will then host the Washington Commanders at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on Aug. 20.