This is the moment that the Kansas City Chiefs’ kingdom has been waiting for since January 20. Almost eight months ago, the Chiefs’ season ended in the AFC Championship Game at the hands of the New England Patriots.
What an offseason it has been in Kansas City. There has been plenty of positive news. Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes has taken over Kansas City. Travis Kelce is fully recovered from offseason ankle surgery. Most importantly, Tyreek Hill will be on the field for the first regular season game since the NFL decided not to suspend him. On the other hand, the Chiefs have suffered injuries in camp just like any other team. Keith Reaser will miss the entire 2019 campaign with a torn Achilles. Damien Williams has missed practice time due to an injury, but seem to be improving.
There is no perfect offseason, but the Chiefs have come pretty close. Football returns to Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday night. There is plenty for fans to be excited about, but here are five players to keep a close eye on in the team’s first action.
1. Darwin Thompson, RB
There are plenty of reasons to be excited over Darwin Thompson. Taken in the sixth round of April’s draft, Thompson brings speed and the ability to catch out of the backfield. He is an undersized back at 5’8, but that has worked in the NFL over recent years. Players like Tarik Cohen and Phillip Lindsay have been successful despite size.
Thompson is currently third on the Chiefs’ depth chart behind Williams and Carlos Hyde. This means that we will see a lot of Thompson in the preseason. In Andy Reid’s offense, he has the chance to shine. In one season at Utah State, Thompson ran for 1,044 yards and 14 touchdowns. He added 351 yards and two touchdowns on the receiving end.
He has been talked about as a major fantasy sleeper. He can turn into a big piece on an already stacked Chiefs’ offense.
2. Kendall Fuller, CB
Kendall Fuller came to Kansas City from Washington in the Alex Smith trade. This part of the deal kept Redskins’ fans up at night. Fuller was viewed in D.C. as a young, talented corner who could be a staple in their defense for quite some time. He was even called the best slot corner in the game.
Fuller is now in Kansas City, and will be a starter at some position. Whether it is on the outside or in the slot, Fuller will be on the field. He is not a player to watch because of his spot on the depth chart. Fuller needs to be watched on Saturday because of a possible injury. The Chiefs have not diagnosed Fuller officially, but defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo hinted that Fuller is banged up. He had writ surgery near the end of last season.
“Kendall has been fine,” Spagnuolo said. “He’s battling a little bit of a tweak here and there.”
Will Fuller play? Will he sit? If he plays, will the possible injury get worse or will he silence rumors? There are a lot of questions that will be answered this weekend.
3. Gehrig Dieter, WR
Gehrig Dieter played in just four games last season. He contributed one catch for 22 yards. Dieter went undrafted out of Alabama and spent much of last season on the practice squad. Heading into 2019, Dieter has a legitimate chance to make the Chiefs’ roster.
The wide receiving core in Kansas City is extremely strong. Hill is the clear No. 1 with Sammy Watkins behind him as the second receiver. Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman will be up next on the depth chart. This does not even include the Chiefs’ best pass catcher at tight end. Dieter will be one of three receivers fighting for that final spot, and Dieter looks to be in the lead.
He has missed practice time in the beginning of camp due to an injury. When fighting for a roster spot, this is not the best idea. Come Saturday, Dieter will have to be on the field to showcase what he can do.
4. Juan Thornhill, S
This is one rookie who is on pace to start in Kansas City. All signs have pointed to that, but interestingly enough, there has been no official word.
Thornhill was drafted in the second round of April’s draft. Since entering camp, he has impressed. Thornhill leads the team in interceptions in camp so far. This includes one impressive pick against Mahomes while guarding Hill. Thornhill was viewed as a first round talent in the draft. He did not go in the first round and almost fell out of the second. The Chiefs finally took Thornhill with the 63rd pick.
“No expectations in that regard,” Spagnuolo said after one practice. “I just want him to go out and do his job and do it really well. That’s really the expectation for me.”
Thornhill is in line to start for the Chiefs, but they might be waiting to see how he does in live game action before making that official.
5. Nick Allegretti, G
This could be the Cinderella story for the Chiefs this season. Nick Allegretti was selected with the Chiefs’ final pick in the draft. He was a seventh round selection who has the chance to get some real time on the offensive line.
Allegretti is a guard out of Illinois, but he has experience at center as well. Versatility is important on an offensive line because of the high chance of injury. The Chiefs currently have Austin Rieter listed as their starting center. This does not mean that Allegretti is buried. He is currently second on the depth chart. He will have a chance to show what he can do on Saturday night. Heading into 2019, expect Allegretti to see some time at both center and right guard.