Chiefs Protect QB, LB on Practice Squad Ahead of MNF vs. Giants

Getty Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Shane Buechele.

Due to the Kansas City Chiefs coaching staff giving no clarity on veteran linebacker Anthony Hitchens’ recovery timetable after injuring his elbow in Week 6, we’ve been looking for any breadcrumbs left around the team that could give us more intel. The defending AFC champions dropped a couple on Wednesday, October 27 by protecting some of their practice squad players.

The Chiefs protected quarterback Shane Buechele and linebacker Darius Harris, according to the NFL’s transaction wire.

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Harris’ Protection Means Hitchens Out Week 8

In Week 7, Kansas City promoted Harris to the 53-man roster on game day in order to replace Hitchens — who was inactive versus the Tennessee Titans — on the roster. Because of that, Harris being protected on the practice squad tin Week 8 likely means the Chiefs want to guarantee he is available come Monday, November 1 for the team’s game against the New York Giants, which hints at Hitchens missing his second straight game.

During Hitchens’ absence in Week 7, Harris didn’t earn any reps on defense, and instead was used primarily as a special teams body. Hitchens’ snaps were instead absorbed by linebackers Willie Gay, Ben Niemann and rookie Nick Bolton. Bolton made the most of the extra opportunities, as he recorded a season-high nine solo tackles and four tackles for loss, per Pro Football Reference.


Buechele an Interesting Protection

Harris being protected makes plenty of sense given the state of Hitchens. However, the Chiefs protecting Buechele is a bit interesting.

As a team that rarely uses its four practice squad protections each week, Kansas City has now shown a commitment to keeping Buechele around in consecutive weeks after protecting him in Week 7 as well. Buechele entered the NFL in 2021 as an undrafted rookie out of SMU. He played well enough during the preseason for Kansas City — completing 37 of 55 passes for 422 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, per Fox Sports — to have him on the practice squad for the duration of the regular season thus far. Protecting him for the last two weeks ensures he can’t be offered a deal to sign to another team’s active roster.

It’s uncertain why the defending AFC champions want to protect Buechele, however. Despite getting banged up in Week 7, Patrick Mahomes is seemingly healthy heading into Week 8, as is backup quarterback Chad Henne. So there isn’t necessarily an injury-related reason to protect Buechele. Though a case can be made that protecting Buechele ensures if one of the team’s other two quarterbacks were injured they will still have Buechele around, who is familiar with the system.

The other connection that can be made here is Henne’s contract situation. Henne is in the final year of the two-year, $3.25 million deal he signed with the Chiefs last year, per Spotrac. So, that makes him a free agent in 2022. If the Chiefs really like Buechele, then keeping him around until next year would make sense if they wish to not re-sign Henne and instead want to make Buechele their new backup QB to Mahomes.

For whatever the reason may be, protecting Buechele shows the progress he’s made early on in his NFL career.

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