Chiefs v. Packers: Are there surprise cuts around the corner?
Defensive notes and players to watch
This game is uniquely important for the defense. I don’t mean that this game has any importance in terms of the 2019 season and the team’s standing as a Super Bowl competitor. I mean that, with the upheaval of the Chiefs defense this offseason, it’s imperative that the Chiefs’ front office and coaches not only solidify the starters but also the bottom of the defensive roster. Oftentimes, the teams who win Super Bowls don’t necessarily have the most stars but the deepest rosters.
The depth on defensive line is fantastic, with at least eight strong players that will make the team and possibly nine. With this depth, there are one or two players who may be looking for work after Thursday.
The first is Xavier Williams. From the outset of the defensive transition, it was difficult to see the hometown kid making the team. There’s a serious question as to whether Williams has the skillset to play nose in the teams new 4-3 under scheme, and the Chiefs’ drafted backflipping FCS phenom Khalen Saunders in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft.
These two factors, along with virtually no playing time in this preseason, seem to signal the end for Xavier Williams as a Chief. If his lack of playing time continues on Thursday, I expect he’s not long for this roster.
Another positional question mark is at safety. The Chiefs have two likely starters in Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill. The Chiefs’ defensive coaches also seem to love Dan Sorenson, making him a lock to make the roster. The question lies with Jordan Lucas and Armani Watts.
Armani Watts is a drafted player, who has shown flashes, and received a significant number of snaps this season. Jordan Lucas is an undrafted player, who showed flashes in some big games last season, who’s received a moderate number of snaps this preseason. It’s tough to see the Chiefs keeping five safeties, although it’s not impossible. If they don’t, one of these players needs to stand out on Thursday to punch their ticket on the team.
Finally, a battle of particular interest for Chiefs fans will be at corner. The Chiefs obviously have tried to address this position in the last two offseasons bringing in Kendall Fuller, Charvarius Ward, Bashaud Breeland and most recently Morris Claiborne. Unfortunately, this still looks like it might be the weakest position on the entire team.
That leaves the door open for some long shots to make the team. The first, and most likely candidate to make the squad is Herb Miller. Miller has had a strong performance this preseason, and has been rewarded with 30 or more snaps in every game. He’s made plays on the ball, something our cornerback group often struggles at, and looks surprisingly comfortable for a kid who joined the team following a standout rookie mini-camp tryout.
He looks to be competing with fellow cornerbacks Mark Fields, Rashad Fenton, and D’Montre Wade. Fields has the pedigree, coming from the national champion Clemson Tigers, but has displayed some character concerns throughout his career. Fenton was one of the team’s draft picks this year, but hasn’t made any lasting impact since he joined the team. Wade started the preseason incredibly strong, reportedly the first off the bench to replace Breeland early on, but has fizzled as of late.
Thursday’s game should be the deciding factor between the four. It’s likely two make the team, but it’s improbable they all do. Unless Miller falters, he’s likely the favorite leaving only one position up for grabs for the other three.
Chiefs Kingdom, we’ve made it. This is the end of the preseason and the beginning of the most anticipated season for the Chiefs at least since the early 1990s, and maybe ever. This last game is simply crossing the last ‘t’ and dotting the last ‘i’ in what seemed like the longest offseason and preseason ever.
A little over a week from Thursday, the Chiefs will begin their 60th season as a professional franchise and their quest for their first Super Bowl in 50 years. It’s been a long time coming, but the longer the waiting the sweeter it is.