“Wide receiver Richie James, knee, he has an MCL [injury],” Reid said, listing the players that would not be practicing on Wednesday. “[Isiah] Pacheco has a hamstring contusion, he won’t practice. … [Kadarius] Toney’s got a sprained toe, and then [Nick] Bolton and Willie [Gay] have a sprained ankle and a quad contusion.”
Not to worry, Big Red clarified later that he would describe almost all of these injuries as “day-to-day” issues outside of James. “Richie might be a little bit longer,” he added on the wide receiver/returner, acknowledging that James could “possibly” miss time.
Chiefs WR Richie James Has Struggled After Strong Summer
Heading into Week 1, Chiefs Kingdom was excited about James. The shifty newcomer flashed some receiving potential during the first preseason outing with 44 yards and a touchdown.
He also won the primary returner job, beating out undrafted running back Deneric Prince and 2022 returners Skyy Moore and Toney — who were expected to take on larger roles in the offense, and have so far. Since then, it’s been mostly downhill for James.
Prior to this new injury, James had recorded only one catch for 6 yards off three targets from Patrick Mahomes II in Weeks 1 and 2 combined. Granted, he played on only 26 snaps on offense, but that number also displays a lack of trust from the coaching staff.
The Chiefs have had much more faith in James as a returner, but he’s struggled mightily in that regard. Not only did he muff and fumble away a key turnover against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but James has also averaged only 14.0 yards per kick return and 4.0 yards per punt return so far. That’s poor.
You never want to see any players get injured, but it’s possible a brief reset is just what the doctor ordered to get James’ game back on track. After all, he did shine during training camp, so there has to be some untapped potential here.
Reid didn’t give reporters any sort of expected game status for James in Week 3, so we’ll have to wait and see how this MCL ailment progresses throughout the week.
Chiefs WR Justin Watson Offers Services as Returner
Just after Reid spoke on September 20, Arrowhead Pride media member Pete Sweeney shared a private comment from fellow wide receiver Justin Watson.
“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,” Sweeney posted on X, formerly Twitter. “He jumped in when Skyy Moore was going through his issues in 2022. Toub will speak at the podium Thursday.”
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 profiled as a safe and reliable pair of hands.
The 2018 draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has fumbled only one time in his entire career. Ironically, it happened in Week 2 after a catch and strip versus the Jaguars. His longest career punt return went for 17 yards.
Of course, if the Chiefs really need an impact return, they could always turn back to Moore or Toney instead. Both are dynamic in open space, although the risk of injury or turnover could dissuade them more often than not.