On the eve of their Week 3 matchup with the Chicago Bears, the Kansas City Chiefs made three roster moves — each of which was revealed on the NFL transaction wire and confirmed by A-to-Z Sports Chiefs correspondent Charles Goldman.
The headliner was wide receiver Richie James being transferred to the injured reserve after his MCL injury in Week 2. The depth pass-catcher and starting returner will now miss a minimum of four games, with the Bears outing being the first.
So, who will take over his special teams role in the meantime? Enter wide receiver/returner Montrell Washington, who was elevated from the practice squad on September 23. Linebacker and special teams contributor Cole Christiansen was also elevated against Chicago.
Montrell Washington Expected to Audition for Chiefs Returner Role With Richie James Sidelined
Earlier this week, fans and analysts of Chiefs Kingdom debated whether Justin Watson or Skyy Moore would take over as the lead returner with James injured. In the end, it could be Washington that gets first dibs on the job.
“The Chiefs’ solution to this [returner] problem was found on the practice squad,” Goldman voiced with A-to-Z Sports. “Washington played kick and punt returner for the Denver Broncos in 2022. He’s currently the team’s most experienced player with 32 punt returns for 271 yards and 18 kick returns for 340 yards last season.”
It’s true, and going one step further, Washington was an absolutely dominant returner in college. At Samford, he averaged a ridiculous 20.2 yards per punt return in 2019 (one touchdown) with 22.1 yards per kick return. Then in 2020 and 2021, he registered another four combined touchdowns as a returner with highs of 23.5 (KR) and 17.4 (PR) for his average yardage.
“Despite Dave Toub naming players like Justin Watson, Skyy Moore, Isiah Pacheco and Rashee Rice as options, expect Washington to handle kick return duties moving forward,” Goldman predicted confidently.
The Samford star is set to audition versus the Bears. If he’s successful, it’s possible that he’ll claim James’ spot on the 53-man roster until the veteran returns — unless the Chiefs choose to elevate him three straight weeks before considering a promotion to the active roster.
Cole Christiansen Chiefs Elevation Bodes Well for Isiah Pacheco in Week 3, But Not for Willie Gay Jr.
Reading into the second practice squad elevation of Week 3, Christiansen’s one-day promotion bodes well for the availability of starting running back Isiah Pacheco.
With only Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon on the roster behind Pacheco, the Chiefs would have most likely elevated La’Mical Perine — for the second straight week — or undrafted rookie Deneric Prince if Pacheco’s status was in serious doubt. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler labeled the ball-carrier a “game-time decision” on September 23 before noting that “there’s optimism he could be able to go, per sources.”
As positive as Christiansen’s elevation is for Pacheco, it’s negative for linebacker Willie Gay Jr. — at least, on paper. Gay has been dealing with a quad contusion, and Christiansen gives KC more linebacker depth should he miss Week 3 or log fewer snaps than usual.
Of course, with star linebacker Nick Bolton already ruled out, Christiansen could simply be replacing Bolton rather than Gay. Both Pacheco and Gay are officially listed as “questionable” against the Bears, along with key wide receiver Kadarius Toney.
The Chiefs are still currently getting 12.5 points at home on FanDuel Sportsbook despite all of these injuries.