It’s a few days to Labor Day, when starters rest and general managers sweat. Starting with a visit to the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night, the focus shifts to the bottom half of the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster, the underbelly and the understudies. And the tail end of what’s been one of the more competitive preseasons — good depth, tough choices — along Lancer Lane in recent memory.
“I would rather have it that way,” offered wideout Frankie Hammond, one of the bubble candidates who might be in a position to clinch — or cough up — one of those aforementioned roster spots. “That way, it brings the best out of everybody. Of course, potentially down the line, of course, all of us can’t stay here, but somebody else is looking.”
Closer than ever, you’d have to feel. In the late summer of 2013, the Chiefs were culling the leftovers of the Seattles and San Franciscos of the world, the cream of the NFC at the time, to help rebuild and reshape the locker room in the post-Pioli Era. But the consensus now is that the tables have turned a bit, and that other clubs might be looking to the Andy Gang’s extra bodies to help patch up any unseen early-September holes.
“It’s awesome; it’s great,” Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel said. “You want everybody playing well in the preseason — not just quarterbacks, but in general, just the whole team. You want good film and you want to make coaches’ decisions hard.”
And these guys have made a hard week for general manager John Dorsey and his band of merry men even harder:
FIVE (ISH) CHIEFS WITH MOST TO GAIN (OR LOSE) IN PRESEASON WEEK 4
1. Da’Ron Brown, WR. Dude looks like a natural slot man — crafty, quick and sure-handed. But the rookie out of Northern Illinois is up against the typical late-August conundrum for NFL newbies: He’s a late-round draft pick (seventh) at a position where there could be a numbers crunch. The Chicago native hasn’t received significant offensive snaps since his 32 in Arizona during Week 1 of the preseason, and he wasn’t bad: four catches, 30 yards and a touchdown grab. But wily vets Hammond (74 snaps, +0.3 ProFootballFocus grade) and Fred Williams (73 snaps, +5.4) have looked better, or at least looked better while Chase Daniel has been directing traffic. Plus, Hammond’s comfort — and trust from the coaching staff — in the return game probably pushes him closer to the “safe” zone.
2. Ryan Taylor, TE. The Chiefs look more dangerous with multiple tights on the field. Alex Smith looks more dangerous with multiple tights on the field. The only debate is which guy — Taylor (PFF grade: -0.3), Richard Gordon (PFF: +0.8) or oft-injured project Demetrius Harris — sticks as the third man at the position. Harris’ health (again) could play a factor here, although Taylor seems the most capable pass-catcher of the three.
3. Sanders Commings, S. For the first time in a long time, we’ve been able to see at least a little of what the former Georgia standout — and to call him ‘oft-injured’ would be like calling Miley Cyrus ‘subtle’ — can do. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been that, well, spectacular (PFF: -2.1 overall, -2.2 in pass coverage in 30 snaps). Cornerback Sean Smith’s suspension gums up the works a bit as far as secondary projections go, but the return of Eric Berry and the special-teams creds of Kelcie McCary and Daniel Sorensen likely have Commings in a pickle.
4. Nick Williams, DL. The second-year man out of Samford has logged the most preseason snaps (101, unofficially) of any Chiefs defender, and looked all right doing it, for the most part (one sack, one hurry, PFF: -2.5). So either the brass like what he’s giving them with the reserves, or they’ve been serving him a heck of a springboard to a roster spot somewhere else.
5a. Jarrod Pughsley, OL. Meet the anti-Williams. Pughsley has played a lot (95 August snaps) but hasn’t impressed; His -4.6 PFF grade (-4.1 as a run blocker) is the third-lowest of any Chiefs lineman with at least 40 preseason snaps behind Paul Fanaika (-5.4) and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (-7.0).
5b. Zach Fulton, OL. Someone’s going to be Mitch Morse’s backup/insurance. Will Fulton look good enough at center against live competition to make Eric Kush, one of the stars of the spring/OTA period, seem redundant? It’s a cruel league, boys and girls. And this week is among the cruelest of ‘em all.