Le’Veon Bell’s debut among key storylines for Chiefs vs. Broncos
By Matt Conner
Khalen Saunders is back
The Chiefs have lost a number of defensive linemen in the last couple weeks to injuries, which is thinning out the ranks along the defensive front—one of the team’s deepest overall positions. Fortunately, defensive tackle Khalen Saunders is back on Sunday.
Saunders’ return is important for two reasons. First, the Chiefs placed Alex Okafor on injured reserve this week, which removes the first primary reserve at defensive end from the rotation behind Tanoh Kpassagnon. He joins rookie defensive end Mike Danna on IR, who was himself earning more reps before he was lost for a few games with a hamstring injury in Week 4.
Not only have Okafor and Danna been placed on IR, but pass rusher Taco Charlton was designated as “out” for the Chiefs vs. Broncos. That’s three key rotational bodies out for the Chiefs, leaving Demone Harris as the lone reserve at end. Of course, the Chiefs will slide Chris Jones outside given his versatility and that means Saunders can help plug the middle.
The other important reason for Saunders’ return is his own development. Saunders entered the NFL as a developmental prospect. Sure, he was able to flash true promise during his rookie year, but he was the team’s third round selection out of Western Illinois for the projected ceiling he was going to bring with his rare blend of size, strength, and athleticism.
With one full year in the Chiefs system, this was the year in which Saunders could make a great leap forward. Instead, an elbow injury in Week 1 cost him nearly the first half of the year. Hopefully he can make up for lost time against Denver.