Former Chiefs Draft Pick Signs With AFC Contender

Getty Indianapolis Colts defensive back Thakarius (Bopete) Keyes.

A 2020 draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs has found a new home. Defensive back Thakarius “Bopete” Keyes has signed to the New England Patriots practice squad, according to the NFL’s official transaction report.

Keyes, a 2020 seventh-round pick of the Chiefs, played 14% of Kansas City’s total defensive snaps in 2020, per Pro Sports Reference. In eight games played he registered seven tackles.

The Chiefs had a very deep and talented depth chart on the defensive side of the ball entering the 2021 regular season, which is why Keyes was waived ahead of September and was claimed by the Indianapolis Colts. The second-year defender played in four games and was mainly a special teamer for Indy.

Chiefs Made Moves Coming Out of Bye

The defending AFC champions made several roster moves coming out of the bye week. They activated veteran offensive lineman Kyle Long from the Physically Unable to Perform list, and placed running back Jerick McKinnon and defensive tackle Khalen Saunders on injured reserve, per the NFL’s official transaction report on Tuesday, November 30.

Kansas City had designated Long to return from the PUP back on November 10, which opened the practice window for his return. He will now be active for the first time this season in Week 13.

Back in June, Long suffered a lower-leg injury, with the belief that he could be ready by Week 1 of the 2021 season, according to NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero. That recovery timetable was believed to be “wishful thinking,” however, according to Sam McDowell of the Kansas City Star, which turned out to be the case, as Long hasn’t been healthy enough to return to action until now.

McKinnon’s season-ending injury likely stemmed from the hamstring injury he suffered in Kansas City’s Week 11 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

During his first season in Kansas City, McKinnon, 29, played in 11 games, and had seven rushes for 38 yards, along with 10 receptions on 17 targets for 81 yards, per Pro Football Reference. His contributions — although rather minimal — were helpful to a Chiefs offense that is just beginning to find its footing three months into the season.

Saunders, a 2019 third-round pick, has been a rotational piece of the defense, playing 31% of the team’s defensive snaps in seven games played this season, per Pro Football Reference.

Having Long in the lineup will be added reinforcements to an interior offensive line that is one of the best in the NFL this season. McKinnon and Saunders’ solid depth presence will be missed.

Chiefs Have Meaningful Stretch Coming

The defending AFC champions are set to play their first game out of their bye against the Denver Broncos, who kept their playoff hopes alive with a win over the divisional-rival Los Angeles Chargers in Week 12.

The game was originally supposed to happen during the day, however, the NFL decided to flex it to Sunday Night Football. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid spoke about how having a Sunday night game changes a team’s preparation.

“There’s not really anything you have to change that’s immediate in the process,” Reid explained during his presser on Monday, November 29. “Normally you try to get a jump later in the week on the following team because you’re not going to have any time. It’s a late night and you have a relatively early morning without any sleep, so you try to get a jump on the team coming up. At least some coaches do that, but other than that everything is the same.”

With four divisional games left to play this season, the Chiefs need to come out of their bye with a sense of urgency. Despite being in first place in the AFC West with a chance to claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC, losing to the Broncos in Week 13 could cause the Chiefs to drop to third place in the division, depending on how the Chargers’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13 turns out.

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