The most intriguing training camp battle in Kansas City this summer might be at the wide receiver position. Tyreek Hill is gone and the majority of the unit was not on the roster last season.
Most assume four roster locks based on status and ability: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Skyy Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Mecole Hardman. The other one or two spots are totally up for grabs.
A couple will no doubt return to the practice squad but some will pursue other opportunities. That makes this a very difficult decision for head coach Andy Reid and this Chiefs coaching staff, although two leaders may be separating themselves from the rest of the pack.
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Watson, Fountain Receive ST Boost
When deciding on the final few roster spots, special teams impact is often a major factor in who stays and who goes. That’s why it stood out when long-time ST coordinator Dave Toub singled out two WR bubble candidates during his press conference on August 2.
“[Justin] Watson is a guy who might able to take [Marcus] Kemp’s spot in a lot of things,” voiced Toub. “And he’s doing well on offense, which is important.”
The coordinator noted that he lost somewhere around six key contributors on special teams this offseason. “We gotta replace them,” Toub stated. “It’s going to be tough.”
That makes a returning special teamer like Daurice Fountain all the more important.
“Fountain’s a guy that we’re going to rely on,” Toub admitted. “Him and [Noah] Gray, these are carry-over guys.”
Toub went as far as to say that “there’s a battle at special teams,” and Watson and Fountain could be two of the players competing for one final role. At the same time, both could easily make the roster if six wide receivers are chosen.
They certainly appear to have the leg up on challengers — Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, Cornell Powell, Omar Bayless, Gary Jennings and Aaron Parker — at this time.
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Watson Hype Is Growing
Toub had some high praise for Watson in particular. He continued later:
“You can tell he’s a leader. He’s not a vocal leader but a leader by example. He knows how important special teams is for him as a player. He’s not going to be a No. 1 or No. 2 guy, but he knows how important it is to be a guy on special teams… He can do a lot of things. He can catch punts, but he’s not a guy that we want to rely on to take it the distance. He’s more of a blocker-type guy for us.”
All this special teams hype — not to mention some solid play at wide receiver — led Arrowhead Pride’s Pete Sweeney to make a bold statement on Watson.
“I think the Chiefs will keep six wide receivers,” Sweeney tweeted on August 3, “and I think one of them will no doubt be Justin Watson.”
The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout has really settled in with KC since day one. Patrick Mahomes talked him up during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and then Good Morning Football’s Peter Schrager gave him a shout-out on national TV. Now it’s Toub, and this seems like too much positivity about one player to be nothing but smoke.
“You never wanted to play Kansas City when you’re playing special teams,” Watson told reporters on August 3. “This is always a premier unit for sure. To play for Coach Toub… you can feel that it’s important. It doesn’t even need to be said. You can just tell by how much time we put into it and the effort we put into it. So I love that. It’s always been something that’s been important to me — and you can feel it with a lot of the other guys — so it’s cool after practice, we already see a lot of guys working with each other, competing, knowing that those last couple of spots on the roster are going to be decided by special teams.”
Setback for Fountain
Speaking of Fountain, the wide receiver/special teamer missed practice today on August 4. Later, the Chiefs organization told the media that he has a groin issue. Sweeney relayed the information to fans.
That can be a scary body part to injure in the football world, so this will be something to monitor with Fountain over the weekend. The hope is that it’s nothing serious.