Chiefs vs. Jaguars: Tanoh Kpassagnon, Juan Thornhill and overlooked storylines
By Matt Conner
Let’s take a closer look at some of the smaller plot lines easily missed when looking back at the Kansas City Chiefs opening win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
On Monday morning, it’s understandable why everyone is talking about the same few points. Tyreek Hill has us all concerned about the extent of his injury and how many games he might be forced to miss. Patrick Mahomes reminded us he’s human by rolling his ankle early in the first quarter. The defense showed improvement—yet still has room for significant improvement.
But each week, there are also myriad storylines that are never discussed. Headlines dominate because they are, well, headlines. They’re not “Opening Acts” (to extend the musical analogy). But that doesn’t mean that under-the-radar developments are not important. Each team changes over the course of a season—not only due to injuries but players develop and grow, chemistry changes, coaches adapt.
Let’s take a look back at some of the overlooked storylines of the Chiefs win over the Jags on Sunday.
The third-year defensive lineman looked like a man reborn this preseason, and the Chiefs rewarded him with loads of snaps on Sunday. Kpassagnon earned 35 snaps from Steve Spagnuolo, good for 60 percent of total defensive reps. That’s only two less than Alex Okafor, starting end in the team’s base defense.
Kpassagnon didn’t show up in the box score on Sunday with a single tackle, but it’s clear the Chiefs not only liked what they saw from the Villanova product this preseason but that they trusted him to produce when it really matters. That’s not just preseason heroics—that’s a solid rotational lineman. Considering he had 14 more snaps than Emmanuel Ogbah, it’s safe to say the Chiefs believe he is due to make a significant impact.
It will be telling to watch his playing time moving forward, but Kpassagnon’s usefulness in Spags’ scheme is light years beyond how Bob Sutton viewed him.
Speaking of playing time, Juan Thornhill never once came off the field for a substitute. The Chiefs were willing to young and inexperienced in the secondary on Sunday, because he and Charvarius Ward were both on the field for 100 percent of the defensive reps.
There were missed tackles and poor angles. The learning curve will, at times, be painful, because each step taken—for better or worse—happens in front of tens of thousands (not to mention the several million viewing at home). However, the Chiefs will be a much better team for having let the kids play at season’s end.
We all were worried about the secondary—specifically the corners—from the outset, but a pass defense is also contingent on great safety play. Giving the team’s second round pick every chance to learn on the job should allow him to react instinctually sooner than later. That’s exactly what you want for such a young ballhawk.
Travis Kelce‘s targets?
Get this quick stat:
- Chiefs receivers NOT named Kelce: 22 catches on 26 targets
- Chiefs receivers named Kelce: 3 catches on 8 targets
The Chiefs pass catchers were very efficient on Sunday—not a big surprise there given how quickly Patrick Mahomes was getting passes out of the pocket after he was hobbling in the first quarter. However it’s a mark that makes Kelce’s inefficient day stand out all the more. He certainly hauled in some killer passes, especially with a strong first quarter. It’s just interesting to note his day overall.
If there’s any troubling stat I can’t seem to get over, it’s the number 8.6. That is the total yards gained per offensive play by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
The Jags were missing their left tackle Cam Robinson and started a guy who had never played a single down at left tackle in the pros before in Will Richardson (since Cedric Ogbuehi was also out). The right tackle, Jawaan Taylor, was making his NFL debut. The offensive interior isn’t exactly the most lauded unit in the NFL either.
Behind them all for more than three quarters was a quarterback taken in the sixth round of this season: Washington State’s Gardner Minshew. The rookie quarterback got the nod after Nick Foles went down with a clavicle injury early in the game.
For all the reasons why the Jags offense should have been more inept and less impressive, the Jags put up 8.6 yards/play. By comparison, that’s nearly a half yard more than the Chiefs on Sunday (8.2 yards/play)—the team being praised for their dynamic offense on Monday morning.
The Chiefs won handily and deserve all the praise they will get today, but Jacksonville’s offensive efforts were remarkable as well (sans turnovers, of course). Here’s hoping that number shrinks as the season moves on.