The Kansas City Chiefs could be missing one or two important contributors in Week 3.
According to head coach Andy Reid, linebacker Nick Bolton and wide receiver Richie James were the only two players that did not practice on Friday, September 22. Not long after, ESPN’s Adam Teicher relayed that both would be ruled “out,” officially, versus the Chicago Bears.
James was trending toward his first “out” designation of the year after an MCL injury against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Bolton’s absence is more of a surprise, as Reid called his ankle sprain a day-to-day issue on September 20.
“They’re making progress,” the Chiefs HC said regarding Bolton and James on Friday, “they just weren’t able to practice.” As it turns out, they won’t be able to play either.
Chiefs RB Isiah Pacheco & WR Kadarius Toney Practice Ahead of Week 3 vs. Bears
With the status of Bolton and James now decided, there was some good news on Friday as running back Isiah Pacheco and wide receiver Kadarius Toney both got some work in ahead of the Week 3 matchup with the Bears.
Teicher noted that both would be listed as “questionable” to suit up on Sunday, along with linebacker Willie Gay Jr. Pacheco is dealing with a hamstring contusion, while Toney has a sprained toe and Gay suffered a quad contusion.
“I think so,” Reid responded after he was asked if Toney got through practice okay on Friday. “I mean, we just finished so I’ll see. He was good at the end there.”
Like Bolton, each of these three injuries were referred to as day-to-day ailments on Wednesday. For now, the Chiefs will keep the final status of Pacheco, Toney and Gay a mystery with one more walk-through on Saturday and practice squad elevations after that.
Drue Tranquill Expected to Spell Nick Bolton at Linebacker, With Justin Watson & Skyy Moore as Candidates to Return
Despite the Chiefs’ depth at his position, Bolton is a key absence at the heart of this defense. Not only is he a team leader, but the middle linebacker also wears the green dot and plays the “quarterback” role on his side of the football.
2023 free agent acquisition Drue Tranquill is expected to take on this role against the Bears.
“Tranquill will take Bolton’s place at linebacker,” Teicher stated confidently after Bolton was ruled out. Reid all but confirmed this during his Friday press conference.
“Yeah, I mean [Tranquill’s] been working in there anyways,” the Chiefs HC replied. “[Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s] got all these packages, so everybody has a chance to play, and he’s got all that experience.”
Reid added that Tranquill is the “most likely candidate” to spell Bolton as the MIKE-backer in Week 3.
“The Chiefs have several candidates to replace James as the kick returner, including Skyy Moore and Justin Watson,” Teicher voiced in the same post. Arrowhead Pride media member Pete Sweeney shared the following on Watson on September 20 when James’ injury was first revealed.
“Chiefs WR Justin Watson told us that he told special teams coordinator Dave Toub he is ready to serve as the team’s returner if necessary,” he posted on X, formerly Twitter. “[Watson] jumped in when Skyy Moore was going through his issues in 2022.”
On his career, Watson has returned a total of seven punts and two kickoffs. Although Watson hasn’t been very explosive in this role — with 7.8 yards per punt return and a lowly 9.5-yard average on kicks — he has generally profiled as a safe and reliable pair of hands.
Of course, either Moore or Toney would be the more dynamic option. Both had critical punt returns during the Super Bowl that helped KC win, but they’ve also made more mistakes in the past and in Toney’s case, have a much greater risk of injury.