The 2022 Kansas City Chiefs tight end room is likely identical to last year’s iteration, a year in which the team surprised fans by carrying four tight ends with their own skills and story. Franchise legend Travis Kelce was the offensive glue for head coach Andy Reid. Blake Bell was the wily, blocking vet with some interesting option plays. Noah Gray was the rookie, looking for a sophomore jump. Then Jody Fortson, the preseason fan favorite, finally made the team.
The team’s “T-Rex” package took football back to a different age, giving Reid more looks to confuse opposing defenses. Carrying four tight ends into 2021 was very different for Kansas City, and fans love something different. However, a lot was left on the field for this team. Kelce still had a stellar year, and Bell did what he does. However, Gray’s rookie year was quiet and Fortson lost most of the year due to injury.
The Chiefs cobbled an array of tight ends to fill the practice squad and game-day depth in 2021. So far, they might face a similar situation in 2022.
The Kansas City Chiefs entered 2022 with the tight end room pretty set. However, how will injuries affect preseason moves affecting the position?
The Chiefs started the 2022 preseason against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field and did not leave unscathed. The most notable injury was Bell’s, suffered after the Chiefs’ first touchdown. That is after Fortson suffered a quad injury in late July, which kept him inactive for the Bears game. While Fortson returned to padded practice on Aug. 11 and more team drills on Aug. 16, the injury looms over his preseason outlook.
So, for much of Saturday’s game, the Chiefs lacked two of their top four tight ends. That may not have affected the game’s result, but causes concern for the positional depth. The team has Matt Bushman and Jordan Franks on the 85-man roster, but could one or both remain with the team after the final roster cuts?
Franks saw the most snaps at tight end again the Bears, playing in 27 snaps. He recorded two receptions on four targets for 12 yards. Fans likely saw Franks’ name linked to quarterback Shane Buechele’s interception, where he was targeting Franks.
On the other hand, Bushman did not see any targets on Saturday but played in 15 offensive snaps. He is a solid receiver, but his blocking style and size might be more ready to replace Bell in the short term.
Bell’s injury severity is likely the deciding factor. Reid called the injury “unusual” during his press availability on Aug. 15. Any injury with that designator should raise some eyebrows. Hip flexor strains carry a 3-6 week recovery time under usual circumstances. Now unusual? Well, that is unknown.
Bushman and Franks were long shots to make the 53-man roster this time last week. Both are decent prospects for the team’s practice squad, and will likely land there during 2022. However, if Bell’s recovery does not go precisely to plan, or if Fortson’s quad injury flares up, Franks or Bushman should make the initial 53-man roster. Watch for their playing time this Saturday against the Washington Commanders. If they are playing with the first- or second-string offense, that likely points to Bell’s status.