It was a hot Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium as the Kansas City Chiefs’ first offense and defense looked dominant again in a 24-14 win over the Washington Commanders. But unlike the team’s 19-14 loss to the Chicago Bears a week ago, the team’s reserve players also made enough moves to secure a win for the season — for whatever that’s worth.
There were many stars on both sides of the ball. While some players competed for spots on the roster, others showed that they are not only the linchpins of the roster, but can also make a difference in the regular season.
Here are a few that caught our eye on Saturday.
Remark: The labeling of “winners” and “losers” is not intended to be a judgment on the talent or character of any of these players. It’s just a simple way to rate their performance in one game. No disrespect is intended.
Jody Forson: Who else would you expect to lead this list? #FortsonSZN is in full force, as he scored both of the first team touchdowns. In recent years, his back-shoulder throw and contested catching ability have been something sorely lacking in these Chiefs’ offense. As far as he can stay healthy, he will be a huge difference maker.
George Karlaftis: Two professional matches – and two sacks for the promising rookie pass rusher. Is anyone still concerned about whether Karlaftis’ skills will translate to the NFL? He still doesn’t have the dominant one-on-one speed-capturing ability that teams traditionally value. But he does what he does best – and it works. If he is able to keep fighting and make his way to a sack in every regular season game, he will become the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Oh… and him improved his pocket celebrationat.
Khalen Saunders: Locked in a battle for his job, Saunders responds with a strong preseason. On Saturday, he had a sack and another quarterback hit to go along with an impressive tackle for loss a week ago. For guys who are on the roster bubble, making splash plays every week is a great way to get noticed.
Jaylen Watson: Watson is arguably the one player who has benefited the most from the team’s youth movement—and arguably the biggest reason the Chiefs felt comfortable moving on with Lonnie Johnson. He continued to prove himself with another strong overall performance. Sticky in cover and physical as a tackler, Watson was a standout in extended action. His pass break in the end zone – and a tackle after being cleared from a blocker – were two of Saturday’s better defensive plays.
Justin Watson: The other Watson also continued to stand out. He again led the team in receiving yards. To be 39-yard win on a third-and-10 (while a free blitzer hit Patrick Mahomes) made it clear that he has not only landed a spot on the list, but also bonded with his quarterback.
Chris Lammons: With many predictions from 53 on the roster, Lammons was a special team star, but until Saturday he didn’t really stand out in defense. His break-up in the second half prevented a huge game and forced a punt – and then… collected the team’s first interception of the preseason. Expect to hear fans and media members say his name more often.
Patrick Mahomes: In two preseason games, the superstar quarterback was nearly clear. The newly inducted member of the Texas Tech Ring of Honor spreads the ball around (eight receivers on Saturday, six a week ago) and scored touchdowns on every drive. With Mahomes playing as the MVP version of himself, the new look offensive is buzzing. It’s going to be a good season.
Dicaprio Bootle: The second year defensive back followed Cam Sims into cover, leading to an easy touchdown. We can’t judge him based on just one game, but over two weeks of preseason play, it looks like he’s been less than impressive.
Geron Christian: For two weeks, most of the attacking backers have struggled, so it may be unfair to single Christian out. But when he was handily beaten on a speed storm against the commanders, the game stood out. He is likely still the leader in the team’s quest for a swing offensive tackle – but it could be that if selections continue throughout the league, that quest will continue.
Zayn Anderson: It was a quiet off-season process for the 2021 UDFA safety, who likely expected to play a more defined role this season. Anderson had to watch as the Chiefs invested heavily in the secondary – and so far he doesn’t seem to be able to rise above the competition. Against Washington, I noticed Anderson missed an open field tackle that led to a big play. Maybe he’s hoping for a job with the practice squad again.
The running game: The Chiefs’ ground attack didn’t get off to a good start. Against Washington, it averaged less than two yards per carry—and the longest run without a quarterback was just six yards. Over the past few seasons, teams have challenged the Chiefs to run. We are all hopeful that the team can capitalize on these opportunities this season. But for all the excitement about what Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco could do, the results just weren’t there.