Kansas City Chiefs

Chiefs Make Pair of Defensive Roster Moves

Chiefs Make Pair of Defensive Roster Moves

The Kansas City Chiefs have made a pair of defensive roster moves that could impact the team's front-seven.

The Kansas City Chiefs made two roster moves on Tuesday, waiving linebacker Elijah Lee from the 53-man roster and adding defensive tackle Cortez Broughton to the practice squad.

As reported by Charles Goldman of Chiefs Wire, these moves shortly follow the team's release of much-maligned fill-in kicker Matt Ammendola, who was released from the practice squad on Monday. As of Tuesday's moves, the Chiefs have not added another kicker while Harrison Butker recovers from his ankle injury, and no corresponding 53-man roster move was reported.

Lee started the year on the Chiefs' practice squad, was elevated ahead of the team's opener, then was later signed to the active roster. As noted by Goldman, Lee is a vested veteran, which means he does not have to pass through waivers and can choose where to sign next — including the possibility of returning to the Chiefs' practice squad.

Broughton, at 26 years old, has entered his fourth NFL season after being a seventh-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He spent time with the Chiefs in 2021, including one in-game appearance when he took three defensive snaps.

With Ammendola out and without another kicker on the roster, what is the Chiefs' plan for Sunday night in the kicking game?

For an optimist, these moves coming without the addition of a new kicker could indicate that Butker is tracking to heal up in time for the Buccaneers on Sunday Night Football. For a pessimist, perhaps the team is unhappy with its current options on the market. For anyone somewhere in between, it's still too soon to know for sure.

So, what if Butker can't go? Jordan Foote of Arrowhead Report took a closer look at KC's options:

Revisit the kicking derby market for a new face

This may be Plan B to the Plan A of Butker being healthy. When it was reported that the Chiefs would be signing Ammendola to their practice squad on Sept. 12, it was the result of a six-man kicker derby that the team hosted to determine who would be filling in for Butker. Ammendola won the derby by a pretty significant margin, prompting him to be the man for the job. While that option didn't end up working out, could Kansas City simply go back to the list of players who participated in the derby and sign one of them for a week or two?

Multiple derby members are still on the open market, including Cameron Dicker and Cody Parkey. Elliott Fry, who played for the Chiefs in a pinch last season and has some familiarity with how Toub runs things in Kansas City, is the third name of that group to be available. Many speculated when Butker initially got hurt that Fry could perhaps be the club's player of choice — could that come to fruition now? The logic is certainly there for one of them, or even someone else. 

For more on the Chiefs' Plan A, B and C at kicker in Week 4, click here.

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Examining Chiefs’ Options at Kicker Without Matt Ammendola

Examining Chiefs’ Options at Kicker Without Matt Ammendola

Kansas City has some choices to make now that Ammendola is out of the picture at kicker.

Following an embarrassing Sunday Week 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts that saw an unreasonable amount of special teams mistakes be made, the Kansas City Chiefs wasted little time moving forward. On Monday, the club released kicker Matt Ammendola from the practice squad following a performance in which he missed an extra point and a field goal.

In the aftermath of the brief Ammendola era in Kansas City, the team now has some decisions to make at the kicker position. With a Sunday Night Football matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looming, the Chiefs desperately need to be as close to full strength as possible in an effort to steal a win against a very formidable opponent. Rising to 3-1 on the year looks a lot better than dropping to 2-2, and special teams coordinator Dave Toub will be working hard throughout the week to ensure that his unit doesn't repeat last week's performance.

With that in mind, the kicker position remains a question mark and a critical position of focus for Kansas City this week. Let's take a look at three potential avenues the team can take to fix its lack of a healthy full-time kicker for the time being. 

Hope that Harrison Butker is healthy for Week 4

This option is clearly Plan A for the Chiefs, as Harrison Butker is one of the very best in the NFL at his craft and would be a massive boost for the club's special teams abilities this week and beyond. With that said, Butker has missed plenty of practice over the last couple of weeks and didn't seem remotely close to playing in last Sunday's game before ultimately being ruled out. As of the publishing of this article, it remains to be seen exactly where Butker is in his rehab from a Week 1 ankle sprain. That leaves plenty of uncertainty still up in the air.

On the other hand, Butker did re-enter that Week 1 game and kick. With a few weeks that have passed for his swelling to decrease and his pain to subside a bit, could the Chiefs trot out a less-than-100% Butker against Tampa Bay for field goal and extra point duties? Toub mentioned as recently as last week that even a hobbled Butker is better than plenty of kickers, and safety Justin Reid appears to have a strong grasp on booting kickoffs through the back of the end zone. The ideal scenario for the Chiefs is that Butker progresses enough to be back in full capacity this week, but there's also a bit of wiggle room there if the team doesn't want to go with option two, which is...

Revisit the kicking derby market for a new face

This may be Plan B to the Plan A of Butker being healthy. When it was reported that the Chiefs would be signing Ammendola to their practice squad on Sept. 12, it was the result of a six-man kicker derby that the team hosted to determine who would be filling in for Butker. Ammendola won the derby by a pretty significant margin, prompting him to be the man for the job. While that option didn't end up working out, could Kansas City simply go back to the list of players who participated in the derby and sign one of them for a week or two?

Multiple derby members are still on the open market, including Cameron Dicker and Cody Parkey. Elliott Fry, who played for the Chiefs in a pinch last season and has some familiarity with how Toub runs things in Kansas City, is the third name of that group to be available. Many speculated when Butker initially got hurt that Fry could perhaps be the club's player of choice — could that come to fruition now? The logic is certainly there for one of them, or even someone else. 

Rely on Justin Reid to fill in

The fun option comes last and while it's the one that would be easily the most exciting for the Chiefs, their fans and everyone else to watch, it also seems to be a pipe dream. Reid is an integral part of Steve Spagnuolo's defense and while he's capable of making a field goal or extra point every once in a while, neither remains a particular specialty of his. When combining that with the added injury risk of playing special teams snaps, it's unlikely that the Chiefs would rely on Reid heading into a game if they didn't absolutely have to.

Kickoff duty is one thing, and it's something Reid seemed to legitimately thrive at in Week 1, but the idea of him doubling as the club's leading safety and placekicker as this Week 4 outing arrives isn't greatly feasible. The remote possibility is always there, though, even if it isn't realistic. Reid can get the job done when his name is called, so he deserves to at least be mentioned here.  

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Three Chiefs Week 3 Snap Count Trends That Stand Out

Three Chiefs Week 3 Snap Count Trends That Stand Out

Multiple things jumped off the snap count page from the Chiefs' Week 3 loss to the Colts.

The Kansas City Chiefs fought hard but in the end, a multitude of mistakes at just about every level cost the team a game and the Indianapolis Colts pulled off a Week 3 upset by a final score of 20-17. 

Not much was going right for the Chiefs against the Colts, and it started from the very onset of the game. Special teams errors and offensive struggles dug Kansas City into a hole early on and despite taking a lead later in the game, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Chris Jones allowed Indianapolis to continue its game-winning drive and ultimately cap things off with a touchdown. Sunday's performance was hands-down the least inspiring one from the Chiefs thus far in the 2022 campaign. 

Now that snap counts have been released (courtesy of the NFL Game Statistics & Information System), what jumped off the page? Let's take a look at three notable takeaways from another week of Chiefs football. 

1. Mecole Hardman's injury didn't open up anything at wide receiver

Wide receiver Mecole Hardman injured his heel against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2 and while he did briefly exit the game, it didn't prove to be severe enough to hold him out of practice in the following days. The fourth-year man was a limited participant early in the week before progressing to full capacity on Friday, and his hefty dosage of 43 snaps (68%) against the Colts despite him being clearly hobbled was a testament to the Chiefs wanting to keep him involved. Even with being on the field so much, however, Hardman logged just one reception on one target for two yards.

Usually when Hardman is struggling to make an impact, someone else would be counted on to make plays behind him on the depth chart. While JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling had solid games, neither rookie Skyy Moore nor veteran Justin Watson stepped up. Part of that is on Kansas City for not conceding some of Hardman's snaps (Watson played 10 snaps on offense and Moore logged eight) when he was ineffective, but it's also partially on both of them for failing to capitalize. Moving forward, especially if Hardman isn't rolling, the Chiefs will need their depth to show up. That simply wasn't the case in Indy. 

2. Clyde Edwards-Helaire continues to have a limited role

In one of the weirdest statistical games for a running back in recent memory, Clyde Edwards-Helaire toted the ball seven times on the ground and scored a touchdown but came away with zero yards. He remained a threat as a receiver, hauling in five passes for 39 yards, but his lack of production on the ground was a big change from what the Chiefs had gotten out of him earlier in the year. His limited snap count continued to be a glaring development, as he logged 40% of available offensive snaps against the Colts after recording 39% in Week 1 and 44% in Week 2. This isn't a fluke anymore — it's a trend.

Edwards-Helaire is never going to live up to the workload or standard that comes with being a first-round pick at running back. The sooner people accept that, as well as the fact that Kansas City is truly going with a by-committee approach in the backfield, the better. Jerick McKinnon paced all Chiefs running backs in the snap count department with 33 (52%), with rookie Isiah Pacheco logging just five snaps on offense. How the Chiefs divvy up their reps at the position is always worth watching, but it's safe to say at this point that Edwards-Helaire's role as a featured piece from a carry-split standpoint is more of a pipe dream than anything else. 

3. Khalen Saunders made the most of his playing time

Other than the negatives that came with the Chiefs losing in such a crushing fashion, the most unexpected development in Sunday's game may have been the play of defensive tackle Khalen Saunders. The 2019 third-round pick didn't see a major increase in playing time against the Colts (21 defensive snaps for the second week in a row), but he sure made the most of his opportunities in Week 3. Saunders recorded a whopping eight tackles in Indianapolis, including three solo efforts and also a pair of quarterback hits. For reference, he had eight tackles in seven games last season. 

Some personnel groupings and opposing offensive lines call for different deployments of players. That much is obvious, and Saunders won't always have a 30% workload on defense with the likes of Tershawn Wharton, Derrick Nnadi and even Mike Danna (once he returns from injury) working along the interior of Steve Spagnuolo's defensive line. With that said, Saunders was able to make a significant impact in a reserve role against the Colts. That's something that hasn't been said enough about him throughout his career in Kansas City and in a contract year, he'll need more games like that in order to justify sticking around long-term. The Chiefs' defense put up one heck of an effort on Sunday, and Saunders was a serious part of that. 

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It’s Too Early to Hit the Panic Button on the Chiefs

It’s Too Early to Hit the Panic Button on the Chiefs

The 2022 Chiefs signed up for moments and games like they had on Sunday against the Colts.

The Kansas City Chiefs aren't in the business of moral victories. They are, however, in the business of seeing their players and coaches embark on a journey that takes several months to complete. They're in the business of context and processes meaning plenty, in addition to the results they get.

In Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts, neither the process nor the result was favorable. With that said, it's far too early to hit the panic button on this year's Kansas City squad.

For starters, simply think about everything that went wrong for the Chiefs to lose by just a mere three points. Multiple punt and kickoff return mishaps, poor kicking efficiency, a botched fake field goal attempt, lackluster play-calling and execution on offense, a dropped Travis Kelce touchdown pass, a Chris Jones unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a bad case of timeout management late in the game all led to the loss. That's a laundry list of unfavorable events in one single game. 

The odds of that happening again in a game are relatively low. That isn't to say that the Chiefs can't sabotage themselves more down the road, but special teams single-handedly derailing a game and then having it be paired with untimely mistakes on offense, defense and in the coaching staff is a perfect storm. If the Chiefs commit one fewer error or simply have kicker Harrison Butker healthy for the Colts game, they win. From that point of view, there isn't much reason to panic. Bad games happen, and respectable opponents will make even the best teams in the league pay for their mistakes if enough of them are made.

Secondly, remember the 2021 Chiefs? The team that started the season 1-2 and then was 3-4 and coming off an embarrassing blowout loss on October 24? That team took quite some time to figure things out. After losing Tyreek Hill and swapping out countless other pieces for new faces during the offseason, didn't Kansas City sign up for growing pains and rookie mistakes (literally, especially from Skyy Moore and Isiah Pacheco on Sunday) early in this season? A 2-1 start, even with some less-than-stellar play in Weeks 2 and 3, isn't the end of the world. Considering the new-look Chiefs' long-term hopes crushed would be foolish at this juncture. 

Again, context must be taken into account. If the Chiefs pull off a win against the Colts, the near-consensus is that an ugly win is a win nonetheless. The negatives from the game are largely ignored, just as they were once Patrick Mahomes and company came back to defeat the Chargers. Since they lost, emotions are riding high and very few folks can keep in mind the season-long view the team itself still has front and center. Despite the need for quality processes, the nature of a result-oriented game makes discussing narrow losses and wins fairly a difficult task.

What's the common denominator from the last two weeks, regardless of win or loss? The Chiefs need to be better, and they have plenty of time to get better. Concerns about the receiving corps not jelling together and the club's offensive tackle play are legitimate, as are minor worries about whether or not the Andy Reid-Eric Bieniemy duo is losing some of its edge. It's fine to keep an eye on the special teams unit after such a damning performance. At the end of the day, though, the Chiefs are beating themselves right now. That's a much better spot to be in than simply being an inferior opponent. Don't panic.

Mark Van Sickle of Arrowhead Report joined me on Monday's Roughing the Kicker podcast to discuss everything related to the Chiefs' Week 3 loss against the Colts. For our complete analysis and thoughts on the game, check out the full episode below.

For more Kansas City Chiefs coverage and analysis, be sure to subscribe to the 'Roughing the Kicker' podcast. RTK is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you listen to your favorite programs.

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Chris Jones Accepts Blame for Late Penalty Against Colts

Chris Jones Accepts Blame for Late Penalty Against Colts

Jones knows he made a mistake that contributed to Kansas City losing its Week 3 outing.

One could write out a laundry list of reasons why the Kansas City Chiefs were defeated by the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday afternoon, so blaming one particular development or one player wouldn't be fair. With that said, a major contributing factor in the loss was a mishap by defensive tackle Chris Jones late in Kansas City's Week 3 loss.

With Indianapolis having 5:06 left in the game and needing a touchdown in order to take the lead on the Chiefs, Colts quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked by linebacker Nick Bolton for a loss of eight yards on a third-and-6 play. In the immediate aftermath of the play in real-time, it appeared to be a massive letdown for the Colts and something that could've possibly preserved the game for the Chiefs. After a few moments had passed, however, reality struck in the form of a penalty. 

Defensive tackle Chris Jones was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play, which was a 15-yard improvement for Indianapolis and an automatic first down regardless of the distance. Jones was spotted on replay seemingly exchanging words with Ryan, which was something that referee Shawn Smith described after the game as "abusive language towards an opponent." Jones said to the media postgame that he had never been flagged for words before and viewed it as more of a conversation with Ryan, but he took the blame for his actions nonetheless. 

"It sucks, man, because I blame myself for that," Jones said. "It was third down, we got off the field, the defense fought hard. I kind of put us in a position to get back on the field, we got scored on, and that sums up the game. I'll take that one. It was my fault, it was definitely my fault. As a veteran player on this team, I've got to be better with those types of things, especially in those situations. But it won't happen again for me, I take full blame and apologize to my team for putting us in that type of situation." 

Jones knows that his best option would have been to simply stay quiet following the sack, and his mistake ended up getting the Colts' offense back on the field and later in the end zone to take the lead. The Chiefs' offense was unable to respond in enough time to complete a late comeback, making the Jones flag Kansas City's most pivotal fourth-quarter error in a frame filled with them. When asked about what advice he'd give Jones moving forward, head coach Andy Reid was brief: 

"I didn't see any pushing or shoving," Reid said. "I'm not exactly sure — there were two guys talking to each other, I know that. It seemed like Chris got called on that, so I guess the best advice would be 'don't talk.'"

Safety Justin Reid was also asked about the Jones incident. The veteran safety said Jones knows where he and the rest of the team need to be better, and Jones's postgame comments indicate that he learned from his in-game transgression. With a huge game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — a team with plenty of recent history against the Chiefs — arriving next Sunday, Jones and his teammates will need to be more disciplined at crucial points in the game in order to get back to their winning ways. 

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Reid, Mahomes Explain Halftime Spat Involving Eric Bieniemy

Reid, Mahomes Explain Halftime Spat Involving Eric Bieniemy

The Chiefs' head coach and quarterback tell their versions of a popular Sunday halftime story.

The Kansas City Chiefs' 20-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday featured plenty of difficult moments, and the team's inability to put some additional points up on the board heading into the halftime break led to one of them.

Getting the ball back at their own 46 with 34 seconds left in the opening half of the game, Kansas City ran just two plays and ended up losing four net yards in the process. It was apparent during the in-game broadcast that quarterback Patrick Mahomes wanted to push for a shot at a touchdown via a big play, but the duo of head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy opted against it. 

The Chiefs instead took a conservative approach in order to preserve its 14-10 halftime lead, prompting the following exchange between Mahomes and Bieniemy that led to Reid separating them a bit: 

It's unclear exactly what was said between Mahomes and Bieniemy (or Reid) heading into the locker room at halftime, but Mahomes was visibly frustrated with something stemming from the club's final offensive possession. Kansas City's offense continued to struggle to click down the stretch, scoring just three points over the next 30 minutes of game time. After the game, Reid was asked about the development between his quarterback and right-hand man but downplayed the situation. 

"I'm sure that how that looked, but there really wasn't [a confrontation]," Reid said. "He (Mahomes) wanted to go for it, obviously. Not a Mail Mary, something else that we have in the plan, but I thought it was best to not do it. He's a competitive kid, he wants to take advantage of every opportunity. I thought it was best to just let that ride there. Really, if you heard the words, I don't know how it looked to you guys but that wasn't a confrontation at all."

Mahomes also gave his version of what happened, following in Reid's footsteps by explaining that things weren't nearly as heated as they appeared to be on the broadcast. 

"I mean, at the end of the day, I wanted to go try to score," Mahomes said. "That's just who I am. We were in a tough situation, I believe it was second or third-and-20 or something like that, and probably the smart decision was to just take it [and know] we got the ball out of the half, let's just go into halftime. But I'm always going to be wanting to score and I pretty much just said, 'Let me have a chance at it.' He was just like, 'Let's just get back in our locker room and we'll get something going for the next half.' I don't know if that's an altercation, but that was the end of the conversation."

Mahomes's insistence on playing an aggressive style of football is well documented, as evidenced by a fourth-down play in the second half where he appeared to keep the offense on the field in an effort to keep the Chiefs' drive going. That mindset doesn't always perfectly align with those of his head coach or offensive coordinator but judging by everyone's postgame comments, there was nothing more to it. As Kansas City now shifts its focus to a Week 4 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, everyone will look to stay on the same page moving forward. 

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Four Takeaways From the Chiefs' 20-17 Loss to the Colts

Four Takeaways From the Chiefs' 20-17 Loss to the Colts

Here are four takeaways from the Chiefs' third game of the 2022 regular season.

Throughout the week, many expected the Kansas City Chiefs to come out firing against the Indianapolis Colts and jump out to an early lead. In dramatic fashion, however, things got off to a rocky start and didn't recover all the way.  

Special teams errors and a lack of sharp execution on offense (more on that later) limited Kansas City early in the game, and things never truly seemed to click in the first half. Nothing was going in half No. 2, either, and Andy Reid's team didn't do enough in the end to buckle down and secure a victory on the road. Despite a strong defensive performance, the Chiefs ended up losing by a final score of 20-17. 

Here are four takeaways from Sunday's game.

1. Special teams: not so special

In the first quarter alone, the Chiefs made five mistakes that cost them field position, points and everything in between. Whether it was Skyy Moore's muffed punt and uncertain second showing, Isiah Pacheco's lackluster decision-making on his first kickoff return, Chris Lammons overplaying a punt or Matt Ammendola missing an extra point attempt, Dave Toub's unit had arguably its worst act in years. 

Aside from Tommy Townsend, Kansas City made things way more difficult than needed and not much improved throughout the game. A botched fake field goal attempt and a missed Ammendola field goal down the stretch also proved to be costly. That was far and away the biggest note from the game, and the Chiefs can rest assured knowing that they'll be placing plenty of focus on special teams this upcoming week.

2. No Willie, no (big) problem

Without linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (suspension), discussions about how much the Chiefs' linebacker room would struggle this week ran wild. On the contrary, though, the duo of Darius Harris and Nick Bolton played genuinely solid football on Sunday. Bolton made two splash plays in the second half and was reliable as usual, and Harris flew around the field while making his presence felt as a sure tackler. Things aren't going to get easier for Kansas City's defense moving forward but in a game with plenty of bright spots, Harris' No. 47 jersey jumped off the screen in a good way multiple times and his running mate kept up his consistent level of play. Thus far, the loss of Gay isn't proving to be detrimental. Unlike the rest of the team, the entire Chiefs defense put up an admirable effort in Indianapolis. 

3. It was a bad day for Chiefs running backs 

Pacheco's aforementioned special teams struggles were obvious, but he also failed to make much of an impact on offense. The same can be said about backup Jerick McKinnon, who was apparently even yelling at his teammates at times during the game. Aside from a couple of nice plays, Clyde Edwards-Helaire couldn't get out of his own way and failed to make the impact Kansas City had seen earlier in the season. The main postgame takeaway surrounding the Chiefs' running backs after Weeks 1 and 2 was about how dynamic the group can be this season, but it was anything but that against the Colts. 

4. Little mistakes add up over time

A lot of this applies primarily to special teams, but the Chiefs had shortcomings in other areas that also cost them the game. Chris Jones had a pivotal penalty on the Colts' final touchdown drive that led to Kansas City facing a deficit again, Andy Reid's late-game clock management with timeouts was poor, Travis Kelce dropped a fourth-quarter touchdown and Eric Bieniemy's contributions on play-calling duties were lackluster. When that's combined with a mediocre Patrick Mahomes game and even more mistakes elsewhere, the Chiefs will end up losing more often than not. They deserved to get beat by the Colts, and better opponents wouldn't have made it that close of a game in the end.

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Chiefs at Colts Inactives: Who's In, Who's Out?

Chiefs at Colts Inactives: Who's In, Who's Out?

Both Kansas City and Indianapolis will be missing some contributors in Sunday's Week 3 matchup.

After a huge win in Week 1 over the Arizona Cardinals and a comeback thriller against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2, the Kansas City Chiefs are 2-0 on the year. On Sunday, Andy Reid's team will be looking to make that record 3-0 with a win over the Indianapolis Colts. 

While the Chiefs come riding into Indianapolis with plenty of momentum on their side, the Colts' home opener at Lucas Oil Stadium is an extremely important game for them as well. Frank Reich's bunch looking to secure its first win of the 2022 season, and dropping to 0-2-1 with three AFC losses (and two AFC South losses) would be a catastrophic start to the year. Neither team enters Sunday's game with a clean bill of health, however, which will pose different challenges to each club. 

Ahead of their Week 3 game on the road, the Chiefs' list of inactive players has been released:

The good news for Kansas City is that in addition to receivers Justin Watson, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman was a full participant in practice on Friday and is active for the Chiefs on Sunday against the Colts. Hardman injured his heel in Week 2's win over the Chargers but returned to the game and progressed from being a limited participant in practice earlier in the week to being deemed good to go as this week's matchup drew nearer. On Friday, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid ruled out kicker Harrison Butker (ankle) and defensive lineman Mike Danna (calf) due to their respective injuries. 

Elsewhere on the Chiefs' inactives, there are plenty of returners to the list. The likes of quarterback Shane Buechele, running back Ronald Jones and offensive lineman Darian Kinnard have been routine healthy scratches thus far in the season. New acquisition Benton Whitley, a defensive end who was recently signed off the Los Angeles Rams' practice squad, is also inactive on Sunday. Defensive end Joshua Kaindoh was expected by some to possibly get some work in without Danna in the picture, but Malik Herring is instead the Chiefs' pass-rusher of choice on Sunday. Kaindoh is inactive.

The Colts' inactives have also been released:

Indianapolis had a spotty injury report throughout the week, as the status of both wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (quad) and linebacker Shaquille Leonard (back) loomed large over the team's week of practice. On Friday, Reich delivered a mixed bag of news when he ruled Leonard and offensive lineman Bernhard Raimann (ankle) out but added that Pittman would be good to go. 

Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (back) carried a questionable status into Sunday's pregame warmups with him and after giving it a go, on Sunday morning, Indianapolis is going to let him carry that into the afternoon as he is officially active. That's a major plus for the Colts' pass rush, as it was going to need as much help as possible going up against Patrick Mahomes and company. 

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Chiefs at Colts: Week 3 Preview and Predictions

Chiefs at Colts: Week 3 Preview and Predictions

The Arrowhead Report crew predicts whether the Chiefs will secure a 3-0 record with a win in Indy.

The Kansas City Chiefs' 2022 season is still young, but there's already plenty to be optimistic about in regards to this year's team.

After destroying the Arizona Cardinals in a Week 1 blowout win, Kansas City returned home to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium and battled the Los Angeles Chargers in a comeback victory that may set the tone for the rest of the season. It's worth arguing that last year's Chiefs team doesn't claw its way back to win that game, and the heart they displayed on the Thursday Night Football stage was impressive.

Now, the Chiefs are back on the road and will be looking to keep their perfect record intact against an Indianapolis Colts team still searching for its first win of the season. After a tie against the Houston Texans and an embarrassing loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Frank Reich's squad is digging itself into a hole of sorts to begin the year. Indianapolis will have plenty to prove on Sunday, but a very tough opponent awaits nonetheless.

How will today's game unfold? The Arrowhead Report crew makes their predictions.

Joshua Brisco: Call it a trap game if you're worried, but the Chiefs can't afford to overlook the Colts. I'm not concerned that the Chiefs will gloss over a legitimate NFL opponent, just as I'm not concerned that the Colts will solve their struggles against KC. The Chiefs are rolling while the Colts are reeling, and great teams don't let lesser teams stick around in games like this.

Prediction: Chiefs 31, Colts 17

Jordan Foote: I've said throughout the week that this very well could be a trap game for the Chiefs, but siding with the Colts simply because of the possibility of them "being due" would be foolish. Kansas City is clearly a better team than Indianapolis and while the Colts should figure some things out and may even dig out of an 0-2-1 hole to win the AFC South come January, things will look even more dire for them after Sunday. Expect a Chiefs cover and win behind a rebound performance from Patrick Mahomes. 

Prediction: Chiefs 30, Colts 17

Mark Van Sickle: The Chiefs are coming off a tough divisional game but they had a few extra days to prepare for this one since their last game was played on a Thursday night. Andy Reid typically enjoys success coming off extended breaks and even if it is just a couple of days, that still matters. The Colts have been underwhelming to start the season but their offense should be better this week with wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. set to return to action. I think Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense, however, will continue to play at a high level and score plenty of points to keep the Colts at bay. Chiefs by double digits in this one.

Prediction: Chiefs 34, Colts 20

Conner Christopherson: A once scary-looking game has subsided in fear as the Colts have floundered in their first two games against the Jaguars and Texans. The Colts' offense looked completely out of sorts last week against the Jaguars' defense and even Jonathan Taylor was not able to overcome the ineptitude. Whether the Chiefs are able to contain Taylor will be a key to this game and without Willie Gay Jr., it could be a difficult challenge. The side to watch in this game, however, is the Chiefs' offense against the Colts' defense. Without Shaquille Leonard at linebacker and with Gus Bradley at defensive coordinator, the Chiefs' offense is primed for a huge day. Which of the Chiefs' weapons get involved — and how they get involved — will be interesting to monitor, but there should be fireworks from the first snap either way.

Prediction: Chiefs 34, Colts 23

Zack Eisen: Coming into the season, the Colts had high expectations. They brought in former MVP Matt Ryan and hoped that he would lead them to a division title. Unfortunately, things haven’t gone as planned for them. They are a desperate team playing in their home opener with their back against the wall — do the Colts come out swinging? I think Indianapolis gets back on track eventually, but they are playing the wrong team this week. The Chiefs will be down key defensive starters, although Patrick Mahomes and the offense will be fired up after a subpar performance in Week 2. I expect the Chiefs’ defense to key in on Jonathan Taylor and dare Ryan to beat them. Between getting pressure on the quarterback and forcing multiple turnovers, the Chiefs have a comfortable Week 3 victory here.

Prediction: Chiefs 38, Colts 17

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How to Watch Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts

How to Watch Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts

Here's how you can follow along as the Chiefs look to secure their third win of the 2022 season.

The Kansas City Chiefs are off to a 2-0 start, and they'll be looking to keep their winning ways going against the Indianapolis Colts on the road on Sunday.

Last Thursday, Kansas City completed a double-digit comeback against the Los Angeles Chargers in a Week 2 thriller that saw the offense start off a bit slow. Once things got rolling, though, both sides of the ball did well enough to put the game away and keep the Chiefs' undefeated record alive. A 10-day gap between games after opening the season with two outings in a five-day span may be just what the doctor ordered rest-wise for Andy Reid's squad.

This week, the Chiefs are in Indianapolis for the Colts' 2022 home opener. Frank Reich's group is still searching for its first win of the year after recording a tie in Week 1 against the Houston Texans and suffering a shutout loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars a week ago. The Colts are 7-3 against the Chiefs in the last 10 meetings between these two teams, although Kansas City has a 2-1 advantage in the last three. With both teams having plenty to play for at this early stage in the season, Sunday's matchup is shaping up to be a good one. 

Here's how you can follow along with the Chiefs as they play today.

Time: 12:00 p.m. CT

TV Channel: CBS (KCTV-5 in local market)

Live Stream: fuboTV (start your free trial)

Listen: WDAF (106.5 FM) Chiefs Radio Network

Line: Chiefs -5.5 per Sports Illustrated Sportsbook

The Sunday afternoon broadcast will feature the duo of Jim Nantz (play-by-play) and Tony Romo (color analyst) in the booth with Tracy Wolfson working the sidelines. Shawn Smith and crew will officiate the matchup.

For updates throughout the game and after the action has concluded, including plenty of postgame content, keep it locked in right here at Arrowhead Report and follow us on Twitter @ArrowheadReport for additional coverage, commentary and more!

Read More: Patrick Mahomes Is Poised for a Huge Game Against the Colts

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Clyde Edwards-Helaire Is Starting to Find His Groove

Clyde Edwards-Helaire Is Starting to Find His Groove

After being written off, Edwards-Helaire is riding the wave of support from the Chiefs and belief in himself all the way to success.

For many in Chiefs Kingdom, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was written off before he ever took his first snap with the team. It had nothing to do with him as a person or player, but rather everything to do with the position he plays and the point in which he was taken at the end of the first round during the 2020 NFL Draft.

There were a few running backs who were taken shortly after Edwards-Helaire (including Jonathan Taylor, who the Chiefs will see this weekend) and have had much better starts to their careers. That happens every year, however, so it’s not worth driving down that road. Edwards-Helaire is here to stay and he appears to be a big part of the team’s plans for the near future. Despite a few injuries over his first few seasons, Edwards-Helaire has been a generally solid running back. 

Before this season, the biggest knock on Edwards-Helaire — other than staying healthy — was his lack of explosiveness or big-play ability. During the 2021 season, he didn’t have a single run of 20 yards or more. The ability to break through tackles was there, but accelerating and breaking off big runs never materialized. Many folks wondered why he didn’t have an expanded role in the passing game, too, as it was something he excelled at in college, getting mismatches against linebackers and making them pay in the open field.

Entering 2022, some thought this could be the end of the road for Edwards-Helaire. With the additions of free agent Ronald Jones and rookie seventh-rounder Isiah Pacheco and the re-signing of Jerrick McKinnon, the running back room certainly was getting crowded. On the contrary, the trio of head coach Andy Reid, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Edwards-Helaire himself had other plans. During the preseason, it was noticeable that coaches wanted to keep him as healthy as possible while letting the newer backs on the team get a majority of the touches.

Through two regular season games, the plan seems to be working well. To the surprise of many, the Chiefs decided to ground and pound early in their game against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1. Edwards-Helaire looked fresh, breaking off chunk play after chunk play on the opening drive.

One thing that seems like an obvious move from the coaching staff is they don’t want to overwork Edwards-Helaire. Utilizing McKinnon and Pacheco throughout the game will remain important. There’s no doubt about who the starting running back will be, but having the options right behind Edwards-Helaire to keep him fresh will be critical to the team’s success at the position.

It’s still a small sample size, but the Chiefs seem to be targeting Edwards-Helaire a bit more in the passing game. Going into the season, it was well known that quarterback Patrick Mahomes would be spreading the ball around more than he had in the past due to the departure of Tyreek Hill. Those 100-plus targets needed to go somewhere, after all, and Edwards-Helaire is an early beneficiary of some of those targets. In Week 1, he received three targets and caught them all for 32 yards while logging two touchdowns in the red zone. In a closer and more competitive game in Week 2, he was targeted four times and recorded 44 receiving yards.

Getting out in space and finding mismatches seems to be something Reid wants to utilize more with Edwards-Helaire this season, and the early returns look good. Mahomes still has his All-Pro future Hall of Fame tight end Travis Kelce as his top target but with new faces like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and rookie Skyy Moore in the mix, Edwards-Helaire can continue to carve himself a nice role in the receiving game as the season progresses.

In another surprising turn of events, Edwards-Helaire had two of the most impressive plays of the game in Week 2. One was when he laid the truck-stick on Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James. Edwards-Helaire got low and knocked James to the ground while also managing to pick up extra yards on the play. 

That was one of two plays in the game in which Edwards-Helaire gained 20 yards or more. 

The other play occurred in the fourth quarter when the team was looking to pick up some first downs to run some clock with a one-score lead. Edwards-Helaire took a handoff from Mahomes, covered the ball like his life depended on it, bounced to the right and took off down the sideline for 52 yards before sliding and staying in bounds to keep the clock running. It was the longest run of his career, and it came at a critical moment in the game.

It’s early in the season, but the results both on the ground and through the air look promising for the third-year running back. If Edwards-Halire can stay healthy and continue to be utilized in an effective manner, he could be a key piece to the Chiefs' offense and the team reaching their lofty goals this season.

As it’s been for the past several seasons since Mahomes took over as quarterback, it is Super Bowl-or-bust for this Chiefs team. Edwards-Helaire becoming an effective runner and efficient pass-catcher would certainly be a nice piece to the puzzle as the 2022 campaign continues to unfold.

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Chiefs Injury Updates Ahead of Week 3 Game Against Colts

Chiefs Injury Updates Ahead of Week 3 Game Against Colts

The Chiefs' picture of who will be active and inactive on Sunday is getting a bit clearer.

Heading into Week 3's matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts, neither team is serving as a model of perfect health. Both clubs are dealing with injuries to important players, and reports throughout the week have left some uncertainty surrounding who will and won't be active on Sunday afternoon.

For the Chiefs, their main trio of injured players for the week includes kicker Harrison Butker (ankle), defensive lineman Mike Danna (calf) and wide receiver Mecole Hardman (heel). Neither Butker nor Danna practiced on Wednesday or Thursday, and Hardman was limited on both days. With cornerback Trent McDuffie already on the injured reserve list and linebacker Willie Gay Jr. suspended for the next four games, Kansas City has faced the possibility of missing multiple key players all week.

As the end of the week draws near and the Chiefs' game in Indianapolis for the Colts' home opener arrives in less than 48 hours, injury-related matters are starting to crystalize just a bit more. Head coach Andy Reid took the podium on Friday afternoon following practice — one in which Butker and Danna were again not participating — and he provided some updates on Kansas City's injured players, starting with the two players expected to miss action on Sunday.

The Chiefs ruled Harrison Butker and Mike Danna out of Sunday's game at Indianapolis.

- Adam Teicher (@adamteicher) on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 at 1:07 p.m. CST

On Thursday, assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Dave Toub praised kicker Matt Ammendola — whom the Chiefs signed to serve as an insurance policy for Butker — for his ability to get the job done. Ammendola made all three of his extra point attempts and both field goals against the Los Angeles Chargers last Thursday, and Toub thinks his range heading into a game in an indoor stadium will be just fine as he kicks in a Chiefs uniform for the second game in a row.

Yeah, we’re indoors, wind’s not a factor. You know, Ammendola’s kicked – like I said in the workout – he kicked a 56-yarder. He kicked a 60-yarder at the stadium that day and yesterday he kicked a 53 in a two-minute situation. He’s got the range; he can do it. We have full confidence in him. Now he’s got a lot more reps with those guys (James Winchester and Tommy Townsend) so he’s feeling a little more comfortable.

With Danna out, the Chiefs could give Malik Herring an opportunity to see the field and take advantage of some added reps. Herring has previous experience working on the inside of the defensive line, as Danna has done thus far in 2022, and gets the nod over 2021 fourth-round pick Joshua Kaindoh. If Herring plays, it will be his first regular-season game in the NFL. 

Colts to be without Shaquille Leonard for critical Sunday showdown

The Colts have dealt with plenty of injuries over the first two weeks of the season, and one of their best players has yet to even take the field in an actual game this year. Despite being a full participant in practice for quite a while, linebacker Shaquille Leonard hasn't made his 2022 debut for Indianapolis after traveling with the team but also sitting out of contests against the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars. No final determination in regards to Leonard's status was made on Thursday, although he did admit that he felt more explosive and overall better than he did last week. Despite that, head coach Frank Reich announced on Friday that Leonard is out

Elsewhere, wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. was a limited participant in Thursday's practice and declined to answer questions related to his status. With that said, the standout receiver joined the likes of defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue, offensive tackle Bernhard Raimann and wide receiver Alec Pierce among those who were present on Friday. Raimann was ruled out along with the Leonard announcement, and Ngakoue is questionable heading into Sunday's game. Pittman is "ready to go," and Pierce cleared concussion protocol, per Reich. 

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Patrick Mahomes Is Poised for a Huge Game Against the Colts

Patrick Mahomes Is Poised for a Huge Game Against the Colts

Another Gus Bradley special could be just what the doctor ordered for Mahomes and KC's offense.

The Kansas City Chiefs' offense had an uncharacteristically bad start against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2, but their fortunes could be slated to turn around for the better on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.

First and foremost, a quick glance at the Colts' injury report indicates that Indianapolis will once again be less than 100% for its home opener. While players such as linebacker Shaquille Leonard and defensive tackles Grover Stewart and DeForest Buckner being full participants in practice on Thursday is a massive plus, Leonard still has yet to play a regular-season snap in 2022. He's one of the best at his position when healthy and settled in, but only one of those elements will ring true if he's active on Sunday. 

Elsewhere, pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue being downgraded from limited on Wednesday to not practicing on Thursday isn't ideal. He and other high-priced defensive linemen on the Colts haven't been very productive this season, which decreases the likelihood of being able to pressure Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes into making multiple mistakes (a path that may be required in order to secure a win). That's worth noting. 

On top of personnel and underperformance on the field, coaching must be taken into account. The Colts are in their first season under defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, whom Mahomes has squared off against seven times in the past to the tune of 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions. That level of success has only been even greater in the recent past, too:

In the 2021 season against the Las Vegas Raiders, a defensive unit led by Bradley, Mahomes flat-out shredded the opposition. Those two games were two of his better ones of the season, and Bradley's allergy to two-high coverage was a huge factor in that. That proclivity for staying away from two-high shells has bled into Bradley's time in Indianapolis thus far as well, which is something that should be music to Mahomes's ears.

Don't get it twisted: 2022's version of the Chiefs' offense is still putting the pieces together. The team's pass protection has been less than stellar, running backs are making improper reads at times and the new-look wide receiver room is still very young in its development with Mahomes chemistry-wise. This isn't a perfect offense, yet it's still managed to be one of the NFL's very best through two games. That says a lot about how good Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid are.

Against an old enemy in Bradley, the Colts could actually end up proving to be friends of Mahomes and company on Sunday. Don't be surprised if the Chiefs' superstar quarterback flexes his muscles against a Bradley-manned defense once again. It's happened plenty of times in the past, and the 56-year-old's recent comments on facing Mahomes and his tendencies early in this campaign might signal that things are aligning for an encore in Week 3.

Jake Arthur of Horseshoe Huddle joined me on Friday's Roughing the Kicker podcast to preview Sunday's Chiefs vs. Colts matchup. For more of our analysis on the Week 3 outing, including game picks, you can listen to the full episode below.

For more Kansas City Chiefs coverage and analysis, be sure to subscribe to the 'Roughing the Kicker' podcast. RTK is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you listen to your favorite programs.

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Three Biggest Questions Surrounding Chiefs Early On

Three Biggest Questions Surrounding Chiefs Early On

The Chiefs are 2-0, but that doesn't mean that it's been smooth sailing as a whole. Multiple questions still need to be answered.

The Kansas City Chiefs are probably very pleased with a 2-0 start to the season.

While that start leads to satisfying feelings within the team and the fanbase alike, there are still issues that have shown themselves over the first few weeks that need to improve if Kansas City wants to compete for a Super Bowl later this year.

The questions surrounding the Chiefs aren't new ones; they are questions that were around before the season started. There were possible answers on the roster, however the issue is that those answers have not materialized through two games. Let's take a look at three of the biggest questions that still need to be resolved. 

Will the Chiefs' offensive tackle play improve?

The Chiefs’ offensive line is strong. There's no doubt about that statement. At least 25 other teams in the NFL would trade their offensive line for the Chiefs’ offensive line.

There is still an issue, though: the tackle play is subpar.

The Chiefs' offensive line is built strangely because the fourth and fifth-best offensive linemen are at both tackle spots. This is a counter to all conventional roster-building logic due to how important rushing the quarterback off the edge is in the modern NFL. Almost all of the best pass rushers do it from the edge.

While the Chiefs’ tackles (specifically Orlando Brown Jr.) struggling is understandable due to one game being against Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, the tackle duo is going to see that pair of edge rushers and other elite pairs more often in a stacked AFC. For example, the Bills' defensive line is also strong behind a youthful-looking Von Miller. Simply put, the Chiefs need their tackles to hold up better than what has transpired so far.

Will a secondary pass-rusher emerge as a legitimate threat?

Chris Jones has been incredible to start the year for the Chiefs in the middle of the defensive line.

Jones’s elite play was a huge reason why the Chiefs' defense could do well against the Los Angeles Chargers. However, they once again have an issue with another pass rusher not stepping up to truly complement Chris Jones.

This isn't to say that the Chiefs’ pass rush has not been better than last year, because it has. George Karlaftis does have a fair number of pressures so far this year at nine, but three of those came against Arizona Cardinal backups and Karlaftis has only turned two of those pressures into quarterback hits.

This was the big issue for the Chiefs last year. The defense actually ranked incredibly high in pressure rate last year but was 29th in sacks. While pressures are a great metric to look at because sack rates will eventually follow pressure rates, the Chiefs do need to convert these pressures into sacks eventually. Letting the likes of Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow and such escape the pocket following a pressure is not necessarily a win for the defense.

That means a player like Frank Clark, Karlaftis, Carlos Dunlap or Mike Danna needs to step up and turn pressures into sacks. It does not need to be at the rate Chris Jones has done so, but who else is capable of delivering a timely sack on a third-and-long? This is paramount against the gauntlet of quarterbacks in the AFC.

Will a consistent wide receiver please stand up?

The Chiefs' offense will probably be fine without one of the new wide receivers being a true No. 1 or "alpha." A small issue is that the early returns on the new group of wideouts are lukewarm.

There have been snaps where a few of the new wide receivers have made nice plays but the impact of the receivers as a whole has not been substantial. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a player known for his blazing field-stretching speed, has not been utilized down the field much at all. Juju Smith-Schuster has 11 targets through two games and has been solid overall but expectations were higher for the 25-year-old wide receiver. Skyy Moore has barely played in the first two games.

On the first deep ball touchdown to Valdes-Scantling, the first eight-catch game by Smith-Schuster or the first five-touch game for Moore, this doubt will subside but it will still be soothing to see the Chiefs’ investments at wide receiver show off.

Throughout the first two weeks of the season, the Chiefs have questions that need to be answered. These questions are continuations of offseason storylines that drove the team's offseason. The Chiefs have the players that could turn into answers for these questions, but that has not shown to be the case yet.

A foray against the Colts in Week 3 could be the perfect medium for answers.

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Chiefs Are Ready to Roll at Linebacker Without Willie Gay Jr.

Chiefs Are Ready to Roll at Linebacker Without Willie Gay Jr.

Not having Gay on the field is a certain loss, but KC is confident in things continuing as usual.

Earlier this week, the Kansas City Chiefs learned that they'll be without linebacker Willie Gay Jr. for the next four games as the result of an NFL personal conduct policy violation that saw the third-year man get suspended. For a team that's already down starting cornerback Trent McDuffie, this creates a less than ideal set of circumstances for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's unit.

With that said, the Chiefs don't appear to be fretting the loss of Gay too much.

Head coach Andy Reid recently spoke to the media as he and his team continue to prepare for a Sunday afternoon Week 3 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. Speculation built earlier in the week about exactly who would be stepping in for Gay in his absence, and the club's listing of Darius Harris as a starter on its unofficial depth chart appeared to be a step in the right direction. Reid confirmed that on Wednesday, praising Harris's 2022 preseason performance and saying he'll do a nice job in relief — among other things.   

“I’ll tell you, he’s smart, he’s instinctive, he’s tough," Reid said. "He’s got a good grasp of the defense and (Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) Spags does quite a few things within the scheme, so he’s got to be able to process all of that and he does a good job of that.”

Reid also emphasized just how critical the play and leadership of Nick Bolton will be, citing his second-year linebacker as an important piece every week due to him controlling the defense. As Kansas City's MIKE linebacker, Bolton wears the "green dot" on his helmet and is responsible for getting calls relayed to his teammates, aligning the defense and shifting things around as needed. He's picked back up right where he left off as a rookie, continuing to play solid football and spearhead Spagnuolo and company's defensive efforts. 

Bolton also took the podium on Wednesday, speaking about the loss of Gay and how Kansas City will be forced to adjust without him. Like Reid, he spoke glowingly of Harris and reiterated that the 26-year-old veteran is up for the challenge of coming in and not seeing much of a drop-off in production. Directly replacing Gay's athleticism at linebacker is virtually impossible, but Bolton thinks Harris brings plenty of other positives to the table. 

“Going back to training camp and OTA’s – he’s been here for a while now," Bolton said. "He knows the scheme like the back part of his hand, kind of similar to me. And so, he comes in every single day and puts his heart out for our team. He executes the game plan, flies around, (and) has fun. (He) plays with great energy. Those are the things that we pride our defense on, so I have no question that he’s going to come in ready to play and make plays for us.”

With Harris in the fold and Gay out of it, the Chiefs will be trusting their depth at linebacker for games against the Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Las Vegas Raiders and Buffalo Bills. That's no easy slate of offenses to square off against, and missing one of the better athletes and cover linebackers in the league for those games will come with some challenges. Kansas City seems to be mentally prepared for it, though, and Bolton says the team will keep moving forward and be ready in four games to welcome Gay back with open arms. 

“Yeah it’s kind of just, ‘Next man up,’" Bolton said. "That’s kind of the mindset we have right now. I’ve been checking in on him (Willie Gay) as a person (and) as a father, making sure he keeps his head up and we’re going to keep moving forward. Again, we got a lot of guys that come in every single day (and) put work in since training camp to give us an opportunity for us to go out there and play (and) play our best. So, we’re going to keep stacking days and when we get Willie back, we’ll be ready to go. Again, he’ll be missed but we’ve got to keep going."

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Is the Chiefs’ Offense Conservative or Still Finding Itself?

Is the Chiefs’ Offense Conservative or Still Finding Itself?

The Chiefs' offense struggled early In Week 2. It felt like KC was playing scared, but could there be more there?

The Kansas City Chiefs won their home opener against the Los Angeles Chargers a week ago. Winning is hard and should never be taken for granted, but more questions than answers came out of Thursday's game.

The Chiefs' offense has been a well-oiled machine since Patrick Mahomes took over as the starting quarterback. Even after all the moving parts this offseason, the unit came out in Week 1 and was firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, against the Chargers, it wasn't a clean operation. The Chiefs sometimes struggled to move the ball and had a very poor offensive game plan overall.

The game plan was conservative* from the jump. For example, on the opening drive, the Chiefs' offensive plays went as the following:

*After reviewing the All-22 film, 'FB Trap' should be 'FB Inside Zone'

Only once did the Chiefs challenge the defense more than 10 yards down the field, but Mahomes checked down on that play. Comparatively, against the Arizona Cardinals, the Chiefs did it five times on their opening offensive drive. A similar pattern continued to the second offensive drive, where Kansas City played behind the line of scrimmage against Los Angeles. In their opening game, the club attacked downfield.

After the dominant performance the Chargers' defensive line had in Week 1, there was a clear emphasis from the Chiefs to minimize that level of involvement. The Chiefs were trying to force those linemen to read whether plays were runs or passes. That's why Kansas City called run plays and screens on the opening series, forcing the defensive line to not simply play a pass every down. Having a plan to slow Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack down is the correct approach, but the Chiefs let them dictate the entire offensive game plan.

Kansas City was afraid to leave its tackles on an island. Andy Reid and the rest of the staff didn't even give Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie chances to prove themselves. If Brown and Wylie were constantly getting beat throughout the first quarter, then the Chiefs decided to run those offensive plays, it would have made more sense. Instead, from the jump, they gave their offensive tackles help and catered play calls to benefit them.

Besides helping their tackles, the Chiefs also ran these short plays to force the defense out of two-high shell coverages. Last year, the two-high shells became the formula to slow down the Chiefs from hitting the "kill shot." It worked early in 2021 but eventually, they countered and regained their form. They hit the underneath routes and had a more quick-hitting passing game. While this is a solution to counter two-high looks, it can't be the only way to attack that type of defense. The safeties can cheat and shrink the playing field if Kansas City isn't attacking deep.

The Chiefs have only been trying to hit the deep ball when the defense is not playing in those shells. They need to adjust this. Again, it goes back to letting the defense dictate what you do. There shouldn't be anyone to be afraid of for an offense with Mahomes at quarterback. By showing opponents that the Chiefs are still willing to attack deep against two-high, it'll stretch the field and open up intermediate routes. This doesn't mean Kansas City should run four verticals every play, but there need to be times when Marquez Valdes-Scantling or Mecole Hardman gets a look on a vertical route. Using them in every facet of the game, including as field-stretchers, will open up plays for JuJu Smith-Schuster and Travis Kelce.

Smith-Schuster saw his average depth of target (ADOT) decrease from a little above 10 yards in Week 1 to less than two yards in Week 2. That's a failure by the coaching staff. Smith-Schuster was brought in this offseason to be the receiver who could beat man coverage and win over the middle of the field. He ran multiple intermediate routes in Week 1, leading to six catches for 79 yards. Against Los Angeles, he saw very few targets and they were all near the line of scrimmage. For Smith-Schuster to prosper in this offense, the Chiefs need to use him to attack the intermediate areas of the field.

Another player who has the skill set to win against man coverage is Skyy Moore. Moore was drafted in the second round this year and has mostly played as a punt returner. He has logged 15 total snaps on offense through two weeks, but only two of them were against the Chargers. Perhaps it's because Moore is a rookie on a short week, but he needs to see more snaps in the coming games. He can help the offense with his well-rounded game.

Could many of these concerns be chalked up to the Chiefs trying to learn how to use their new personnel in game situations? Could it be just one weird game against a divisional opponent that always plays tough? Absolutely, but it's still something that Kansas City should be aware of.

Sep 11, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid arrives on the field before facing the Arizona Cardinals in the season opener at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-Arizona Republic Nfl Kansas City Chiefs At Arizona Cardinals

The Chiefs have scored the second-most points in the league through the season's first two weeks. They still have Reid, and the second half of last week's game was smoother than the first. By no means should the alarm bells be ringing, as this is just something to keep in mind moving forward. With an upcoming stretch where the defense will be missing two key contributors, the offense might need to carry the load. In an ideal world, the Chiefs can get back to the high-flying offense everyone knows and loves this weekend in Indianapolis while continuing to improve throughout the season.

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It Isn’t Time to Worry About the Chiefs’ Pass Protection Yet

It Isn’t Time to Worry About the Chiefs’ Pass Protection Yet

There may come a time when hitting the panic button is reasonable, but it isn't right now.

The Kansas City Chiefs' offensive line is an interesting group.

Following the conclusion of the 2020-21 campaign, one that saw quarterback Patrick Mahomes single-handedly attempt to stave off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive front in the Super Bowl, general manager Brett Veach made changes. He got to work immediately and by the time the following season began, Kansas City had a new offensive line featuring the likes of Orlando Brown Jr. (trade), Joe Thuney (free agency), Creed Humphrey (draft) and Trey Smith (draft). Players such as Mike Remmers, Lucas Niang and Andrew Wylie also filtered in throughout the season.

By the end of the year, once the group had some time to build chemistry with Mahomes, the Chiefs' offensive front was viewed as one of the best in the league. Heck, heading into Week 3 of this season, it checks in at No. 2 on Pro Football Focus' offensive line power rankings. The Chiefs have been one of the best — if not the best — run-blocking units in the entire NFL. Pass protection, on the other hand, has been a different story.

As Ben Baldwin (contributor to The Athletic) points out, ESPN's measure for pass protection may leave some room for interpretation. Even if that's the case, however, Kansas City's PFF pass protection grade also ranks among the poorest in the league. There's no working around that, as major outlets and the eye test alike indicate that the group responsible for keeping Mahomes clean has failed to do that to at least some extent through two games. For a great offensive line, that's a flaw. 

With that said, a two-game sample size doesn't doom the Chiefs' season. It's far too early to throw in the towel and declare that offensive line a bad pass-blocking unit. That's just one reason to pump the brakes on the narrative that the time to worry is here and now. 

Both injuries and matchup context must be taken into account here. In Week 1, on top of the entire Chiefs offense simply getting its feet wet again for the first time in a regular-season setting, Mahomes suffered a left wrist injury that left him favoring the ailment throughout the game. A less-than-stellar performance in pass protection there can possibly be (partially) attributed to everyone shaking off some more rust, Mahomes's injury impacting his pocket presence and also right guard Trey Smith suffering an ankle injury that required him to leave the outing. 

In Week 2, Smith was active but also continued to deal with the ankle injury. Despite having a good game overall, the interior of the Chiefs' offensive line had a few uncharacteristically bad reps. On the outside, Brown and Wylie going against elite talents such as Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa led to Mahomes being pressured 36% of the time. Neither Brown nor Wylie is a world-beater against normal competition, let alone two of the better edge rushers in the NFL. 

When factoring in sample size noise, injuries and a rough second game against amazing defensive ends, it makes sense that the statistics don't hold the Chiefs' pass protection in high regard thus far. There will undoubtedly be additional tests down the road that also lead to failing grades in the eyes of major analytics branches. That doesn't mean it's time to slam a hand on the panic button, though. Simply put, there are too many factors at play to make a firm determination in regard to Kansas City's pass blocking. It's been underwhelming thus far, but don't write off the entire unit just yet. Give it a few more weeks instead. 

Conner Christopherson of Arrowhead Report joined me on Wednesday's Roughing the Kicker podcast to answer mailbag questions from listeners on Twitter. To hear our full conversation on the Chiefs' offensive line and more, check out the full episode below.

For more Kansas City Chiefs coverage and analysis, be sure to subscribe to the 'Roughing the Kicker' podcast. RTK is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you listen to your favorite programs.

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Chiefs CB Jaylen Watson Named AFC Defensive Player of the Week

Chiefs CB Jaylen Watson Named AFC Defensive Player of the Week

Watson gets his first DPOW award following the best game of his professional career.

The Kansas City Chiefs have played two games thus far in the 2022 season, and they've already had a pair of players get named as a conference Player of the Week. After quarterback Patrick Mahomes took the honors of being the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for Week 1, rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson joins some notable names as the first-year standout is Week 2's AFC Defensive Player of the Week.

Players of the Week - Week 2

Offense: QB Tua Tagovailoa, MIA
Defense: CB Jaylen Watson, KC
Special teams: P Braden Mann, NYJ

Offense: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, DET
Defense: CB Darius Slay, PHI
Special teams: K Graham Gano, NYG

- Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022 at 7:38 a.m. CST

Watson, a seventh-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, battled throughout the offseason, training camp and the preseason to make Kansas City's initial 53-man roster. Once first-round cornerback Trent McDuffie went down in Week 1's win over the Arizona Cardinals with a hamstring injury, Watson's name was called and he answered by recording a pass broken up while playing 51% of the team's possible defensive snaps. The Chiefs named him a starter the following day, and Watson had big shoes to fill against the Los Angeles Chargers last Thursday. He embraced the challenge. 

Playing 51 snaps, 68% of those available on defense, Watson had a very productive second game as a pro. In addition to recording four total tackles (three solo, one assisted), the former Washington State Cougar had a pass broken up and also picked off a Justin Herbert pass in the fourth quarter and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown.

Watson described the play as a "surreal feeling" but also something that he expected heading into the game. His interception return flipped the momentum back to Kansas City's side and ultimately led to the club pulling off a 27-24 win against a bitter division rival. Watson, somewhat unexpectedly, has played a massive role in the Chiefs getting out to a 2-0 start this season. 

Read More: How the Chiefs Can Best Replace Willie Gay Jr.

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Andy Reid on Chiefs’ Solid Start: ‘Always Room to Improve'

Andy Reid on Chiefs’ Solid Start: ‘Always Room to Improve'

Despite KC Being 2-0, Reid has several things in mind that he and his team can get better at.

The Kansas City Chiefs' new-look team is off to a 2-0 start, but things are far from perfect for head coach Andy Reid's squad.

In the club's opening week win over the Arizona Cardinals, just about everything was going right for Kansas City. Offensively, quarterback Patrick Mahomes tossed five touchdowns and was spreading the love to just about every pass-catcher he could find. On the other side of the ball, Steve Spagnuolo's unit allowed just seven points heading into the fourth quarter. It was a thorough domination by the Chiefs.

Last Thursday, however, things took a bit of a different turn. The Chiefs' high-powered offense came out flat against the Los Angeles Chargers, failing to string together plays in succession and extend drives. On third downs, specifically, Kansas City went 4-for-12 in those situations. Short-yardage miscues by either play-caller, running back, quarterback or some combination of that assortment plagued Reid's offense. On Monday, he dove into those struggles. 

“Yeah, you try to see what went wrong first of all, whether it’s the call, whether I sent in the wrong thing at the wrong time or whether there’s a mistake somewhere," Reid said. "We had a couple of mistakes in there and then one of them where we did have a mistake, the defense still had a pretty good leverage on it. Although, we’ve had a lot of success with the one play so got to tighten that part up. We’ve got to tighten up the mental errors on it. Every once in a while, the defense is going to have an overload somewhere that you didn’t think they would. You’ve got to sort that out and make better with it, but you know a couple of those we just didn’t handle it right and that’s normally not the case. We can do better in that area.”

With new pieces working their way in at running back and wide receiver, this year's Chiefs team wasn't expected to get off to a blazing start. Plenty of games like the Chargers outing were — and possibly still are — expected. A two-game sample size is difficult to draw major conclusions from, so pointing to the Chiefs' league rankings as concrete declarations about this year would be premature. With that said, even with such a slow start against Los Angeles, Kansas City's offense ranks third in Football Outsiders' Offensive DVOA statistic, has accumulated the fifth-most yards per game in the NFL and is 10th in overall third-down efficiency. 

The 2021 campaign, one that saw the Chiefs face a great deal of adversity, could best be summed up in one word: respond. As the Chiefs attempted to continue torching opposing defenses with their three-headed monster of Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, coordinators throughout the league responded by demanding that Kansas City dial things back and "dink-and-dunk" its way to points against two-high coverage shells. The Chiefs caught fire near the end of the season but then promptly flamed out in the AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals. When asked about the 2022 Chiefs' next steps on offense and how both the team and the opposition will respond, Reid said there's room for growth. 

“Yeah so, it’s doing okay," Reid said. "Always room to improve, but I think Pat’s done a nice job with what he’s been given. We ran the ball a little bit more early than what we did the week before for various reasons and kind of moved the pocket around a little bit more for various reasons. So, I think we’re doing okay. Listen, as long as you have more points than they have, it’s a good thing. Like I said, there’s a lot of parity in this baby right now. And for whatever reason, which is great for the fans, this rivalry thing we got going with the Chargers, is always close. You almost come to expect that it’s going to come right down to the wire and it’s very exciting. I wish there was a bigger difference there, but both teams are good football teams.”

Much was made leading up to the season of the Chiefs' brutal 2022 schedule, and tests against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills over the next four weeks will be legitimate. On the other hand, Kansas City has already passed its first test by taking down a 2021 playoff team in the NFC and its own division rival in consecutive weeks. In fact, the Chiefs accomplished that in a matter of just five days. Given things to work on and time to put in the effort, Reid and his team are looking straight ahead. 

"Yeah listen, it’s one of those things that the league gives you," Reid said. "It’s a little bit of a scramble drill getting everything together, but we try to work with it before we get to that point and have somewhat of a plan of what direction we’re going to go unless that team that you’re playing on Thursday night completely changed in the first game from what you’ve anticipated. 

"But it’s workable, it’s nice to have the couple days off for our players to get a little of the soreness out from the beginning of the season, training camp, all (of) that, so I think that’s a plus. The mini-bye – I guess (that’s what) we’re calling them now – it’s good to have a mini-bye and get ourselves back on the road. We don’t have another Thursday game, so it’s behind us now and you move forward with what we’ve got.”

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How the Chiefs Can Best Replace Willie Gay Jr.

How the Chiefs Can Best Replace Willie Gay Jr.

There's no direct replacement for Gay, but the Chiefs will have some options moving forward.

The Kansas City Chiefs are off to a 2-0 start this season, and a large reason why is because their defense has seemed to come along quicker than many expected. Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. has been a big part of that development, but the third-year man is now slated to miss the team's next four games as the result of a suspension due to a personal conduct policy violation.

Because of the league suspending Gay stemming from a January incident in Overland Park, Kansas, the Chiefs will be without their second-leading linebacker in terms of snaps for upcoming games against the Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Las Vegas Raiders and Buffalo Bills. That slate contains a couple of daunting outings and even a pair of games against other playoff hopefuls, so there will be no easy going for Kansas City without Gay.

With Gay now out of the picture for the immediate future, how can the Chiefs make their best attempt at replacing him? The Arrowhead Report crew has a few ideas in mind. 

Joshua Brisco: You could make an argument that Willie Gay Jr. is one of the Chiefs' most irreplaceable defenders, and he's certainly one of their most unique ones. There's no "poor man's Willie Gay" on this roster, so defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will have to get creative. Rookie Leo Chenal probably isn't ready for the spotlight in coverage, and Darius Harris seems to be KC's backup MIKE behind Nick Bolton. While Elijah Lee may be the most logical plug-and-play option, the Chiefs haven't put him on the field in meaningful spots so far this year. 

As suggested by Nate Taylor of The Athletic in the latest edition of Time's Ours, perhaps Bolton could move back to WILL and allow Harris to start in the middle, while Bolton continues to call the defense. In passing situations, rookie safety Bryan Cook may be the team's best bet as a pseudo-linebacker, but regardless of how they adjust, the Chiefs will be scrambling to fill in for Gay during his suspension.

Jordan Foote: Simply put, there's no direct way to replace Gay. The Chiefs are definitely going to miss him and in his absence, the team's depth at linebacker (and potentially other positions) is undoubtedly going to be tested. Elijah Lee, in this writer's mind, appears to be the most logical replacement for Gay due to his experience. Darius Harris could also factor into the equation, as could rookie safety Bryan Cook. Steve Spagnuolo is known for being creative with some of the blitz packages he throws at opposing defenses, but that creativity will now be put to the test in another area as well. Kansas City will be worse off without Gay, but something tells me that they'll stay afloat for the next month even without their über-athletic linebacker.  

Mark Van Sickle: It will be difficult to replicate exactly what Willie Gay Jr. brings to the table. The Chiefs could use rookie Leo Chenal to fill on on a majority of the snaps Gay would typically receive and that would make sense. Maybe some out-of-the-box thinking would be to add rookie Bryan Cook into some of those snaps. He could see more playing time if they want help covering running backs or tight ends in certain packages.

The most logical move would be to see Darius Harris and Elijah Lee get expanded roles. Both looked solid during training camp and preseason and are veterans. They don't bring the athleticism that Gay possesses but can play the run and get out in coverage. Hopefully whatever the patchwork plan there is, whether by rookie or veteran, can get the Chiefs through a quarter of the season without too much of a hiccup. 

Conner Christopherson: The Chiefs do not have a proven replacement for Gay's exact role on the roster. If they want to continue to have ample pass defenders on the field while still playing base defense or nickel defense, a player will have to step up in Gay's absence to fill that role. This could be where rookies Bryan Cook (safety) and Jack Cochrane (linebacker) fill in, providing projectable box play while still being good athletes.

The more likely outcome of the Chiefs losing Gay for four games will be that Elijah Lee becomes the nickel linebacker and the Chiefs will live out of nickel for the next handful of games. Lee is not the athlete Gay is, but he should be able to operate near the line of scrimmage in the run game at the least. The Chiefs will need to come up with creative ideas to not have their two linebackers in these sets exposed in the passing game, however, there's a reason why Gay was a key piece of this young defense.

Zack Eisen: Gay's stock has only been rising since around midway through last season. The Chiefs losing him is a big hit to their defense, as he is their best coverage linebacker and has improved his run fits this season. Trying to pinpoint exactly how to replace him is hard because he does so many things well and is always around the football. The best guess would be every linebacker moves a spot up the depth chart. People immediately jump to rookie Leo Chenal filling the role, but I don’t think his coverage ability is good enough yet to be an every-down player. 

Darius Harris makes a ton of sense as a guy who has been in the organization for multiple years and has flashed during his time in Kansas City. While that may be the most logical replacement, the Chiefs can get creative here. Spagnuolo played a lot of three-safety looks during his first three years in Kansas City. With Gay absent, could it make a return? Second-round pick Bryan Cook hasn’t seen the field much on defense yet but he has the physicality and athleticism to play in the box. Justin Reid is another option that can play near the line of scrimmage. These dime package looks would allow the Chiefs to keep a similar level of coverage ability and athleticism that Gay brings while he is out these next four weeks.

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