The Chicago Bears are terrible. I mean, really terrible. Like, the team is like bad as the field they play on. That’s my first takeaway after the Kansas City Chiefs lost 19-14 Saturday in Chicago.
Still, it’s a good way to fool yourself if you try to get too much out of a preseason game. Years ago, I thought guys like Bobby Sippio and Casey Printers would be superstars based on their preseason performances. The two ended up with…umm…a combined nine games with NFL experience.
That’s not to say there’s nothing to be gained from what we saw on Saturday. In fact, it was the exact opposite. Saturday’s game was about learning what the Chiefs are trying to do, which players fit their goals and how to win – both individually and as a team.
So let’s take a look at some of the underlying messages from the Chiefs’ first preseason performance of 2022.
1. The Chiefs have a plan for Isiah Pacheco
The seventh round pick was the second running back the Chiefs put on the field — after only Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Interestingly, he saw action as the Chiefs got into a third-down pass situation on the first drive of the game — and again as the team smashed into the red zone.
Pacheco’s first highlight in a Chiefs uniform came on a first-and-goal play from the 10-yard line. Pacheco lined up to the right of quarterback Patrick Mahomes in a shotgun set. He shot straight to the right flat and looked back at the ball. The options in the middle of the field were well defended, so Mahomes worked on his right. Pacheco caught the ball neatly and held on as Bear’s defensive back Lamar Jackson tried to get his legs out from under him.
That’s where it got interesting.
Holding up with very impressive contact balance, Pacheco put his hand on the ground and accelerated another six meters to the 4-yard line. He was pushed out of bounds, but never went down on the game.
Pacheco didn’t play much on Saturday. His stat line has two carries for six yards and one reception for five yards. That is not noticeable – but its use did.
Pacheco was deployed as if he were a starter. At the start of the second quarter, he was sidelined with Mahomes, Edwards-Helaire and tight end Travis Kelce. For a late-round rookie running back, that’s extremely unusual.
A team tells us more with their actions than with words. Since the start of training camp, the Chiefs’ actions have indicated that Pacheco is – at worst – the team’s third decline. He has the potential to make the early work more of a timeshare with Edwards-Helaire than I initially expected.
2. Skyy Moore is used in every way imaginable
Looking back, I’m not sure if any Kansas City player had a more impressive individual moment during Saturday’s game than Moore. His catch on the sidelines late in the second quarter was a beauty. A rookie who has the presence of mind to get two feet inside the bounds after having only needed one foot down his entire football career to complete the catch? Those are next level things.
But Moore’s game was more than just a single highlight. The Chiefs used him in every way imaginable – something that should be a sign of things to come. He set the ball in motion with a jet sweep, got into the slot to win through the middle and lined up outside to create a deep parting.
The Chiefs have the deepest wide receiver corps I can remember. They go four deep with legitimate Entry level NFL wide receivers. Moore is probably fourth on that list, but if he keeps putting these reruns on film, he won’t stay there. Head coach Andy Reid is going to find ways to get the ball in his hands – simply because Moore is too talented to deny Reid those opportunities.
3. Justin Watson secured fifth wide receiver spot
Sorry, Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon: Watson has taken your place on the list.
It’s not hard to see why “Good Morning Football” Peter Schrager hyped Watson at every turn. Watson spent the first four years of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he didn’t have much production: just 23 receptions for 250 yards.
I was surprisingly impressed with Justin Watson. I think he has a place on the list. He’s pretty obviously WR5 for this group and I think we’ll see him make some big plays this year. pic.twitter.com/qHggXHJfSg
— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) August 15, 2022
But on Saturday, he looked like a solid depth-wide receiver. While known for being a deep threat, he also won on cross-center and near the line of scrimmage routes. Don’t expect Watson to rack up a lot of yardage this season — but if there are injuries to the wide receivers, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he’s giving the team some key snaps.
4. George Karlaftis’s game translates to the next level
Have you ever met someone who precisely what you expected them to be? Maybe it was a celebrity, a friend of a friend, or a person you met through a dating app. Well… that’s Karlaftis. In college, he won with power and a relentless engine that never stopped.
Guess what he did on Saturday? He won with power and a relentless engine that never stopped.
Of course… the attack line of Chicago stinks. But regardless of the opponent, it was very encouraging to see the rookie’s defensive end translated to the next level. If their pass-rushing unit is going to improve on last season’s performance, the Chiefs will need Karlaftis to see the field early and often.
Karlaftis may never be the bendy edge rusher some Chiefs fans have longed for, but his effort alone could earn him five sacks annually.
Along with veteran defensive side Carlos Dunlap, Karlaftis’ addition of Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo allows him to be creative with his line of defense, using more of his “NASCAR” packs where a defensive side shoots in. On Saturday, that player was Mike Danna – but it could also be Karlaftis or Dunlap; there are plenty of stunts that the Chiefs of that group up front could use. The strength and commitment of Karlaftis is a big part of what makes that possible.
5. Joshua Williams is a project, but there’s plenty to love
I’m not sure any Chiefs rookie has had more training camp hype than Williams. Considering he spent most of his time in the first team defense as Rashad Fenton worked his way back from injury, that’s understandable.
So he was high on the list of players I wanted to see on Saturday. What I saw was a mixed bag of results.
Joshua Williams has some early Charvarius Ward in his game. He’s tall and he’s holding up well with the receivers, but the next thing to focus on will be improving his ball skills. pic.twitter.com/WPyLhbAH6E
— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) August 15, 2022
The good: Williams always seems to stick with his defender like white on rice. Along with that coverage, his height helps narrow the quarterback’s throwing window. Early and often he will play some by simply being in the right place at the right time.
The bad: His ball skills will take some work. At several points in the game Williams struggled to locate the ball, as we have seen in training camps.
All this means that Williams is a project. After all, that’s what you’d expect from a fourth-round Fayetteville State. What you do not that project is expected to have enough talent to come in and play right away. William’s current skills are similar to Charvarius Ward’s during his rookie year: even though he struggles in one area, he’s good enough to play now. That makes him a useful player – someone who will see a lot of snaps in 2022.
BONUS TAKE OUT: Frank Clark secretly looked fast
When we spoke to Ron Hughley and Steven Serda on last week’s “Show & BK on the Chiefs” podcast, we noticed that we should be able to tell right away if the slimmed-down version of the defense end is working as intended; Clark has said he wants to become a faster and more explosive version of himself — and that should jump off the screen.
Well… it did – on one piece in particular.
Frank Clark closing this piece looks better than he’s done in a while and Bolton also quickly takes the TE in the flat. The new theme of this defense is speed pic.twitter.com/SZ0qlX22T1
— Daniel Harms (@InHarmsWay19) August 14, 2022
It’s not easy to close so quickly to Bears quarterbacks Justin Fields. He is one of the fastest quarterbacks in the league, with a 4.44 40-yard dash. In what seemed like a nanosecond, Fields went from a lot of time to pressure.
This is the kind of play we all wanted to see Clark make. In order for him to earn the money he owes, we’ll have to see that consistently – but this was a great start.