For the first time since the Kansas City Chiefs walked victoriously off of the field at State Farm Stadium — the site of Super Bowl LVII — the defending world champions will return to game action in their first preseason contest with the New Orleans Saints.
Next Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs will begin what they hope will be a successful title defense campaign. The team has one objective for their August slate of exhibition games: to determine which 37 players they will cut to arrive at a 53-man roster. Let's be clear, 45 spots on this roster are likely already accounted for. There are probably fewer than 10 spots actually up for grabs. Week 1 of the NFL preseason for KC will add another dimension for this coaching staff to make what could prove to be a few difficult decisions.
Multiple players, on both sides of the football, have a unique opportunity approaching. The platform to "play your way onto the roster" is reserved almost exclusively for young players; however, there are a few veterans also on the bubble. When Kansas City lines it up on Sunday, here's a sextet of players I'll be keeping a close eye on to see if their success in training camp translates onto the field. It will also be a chance to change perceptions which may have developed in Phase Four of the Chiefs' offseason program.
QB Blaine Gabbert
Since coming to Kansas City in 2013, it has been clear that head coach Andy Reid has a type when it comes to backup quarterbacks. Chase Daniel, Nick Foles, Matt Moore, and Chad Henne all have one thing in common: they were veteran players with an average of 6.5 years of NFL service time.
I won’t make a roster prediction in this article, but this is largely why I suspect Blaine Gabbert will be QB2 for the Chiefs in 2023. I would venture to guess that Gabbert will take a significant share of the offensive snaps on Sunday, so I am excited to see if he has a real command of the offense.
Kansas City, despite their championship fortunes over the past four seasons, has had to rely on their backup quarterback on various occasions.
RB Deneric Prince
Earlier in the offseason, I shared my thoughts on Deneric Prince, an undrafted running back the Chiefs signed out of Tulsa. With Isiah Pacheco recovering from injuries, Prince has been afforded additional reps in camp. He's honored the coaching staff's good faith by maximizing those opportunities. During camp, he's shown himself to be a sure-handed receiver with some explosive traits as a runner.
Prince has also earned an opportunity to contribute to Kansas City's special teams. Coordinator Dave Toub announced in an August 5th presser that he would be the team's starting kick returner on Sunday. The former Golden Hurricane was not asked to be a returner at the University of Tulsa so this will be an interesting experiment to watch.
"Deneric Prince, I want to see him. He'll start off as a kick returner for us. I want to see him with live bullets, guys coming down the field, how he sets up the blocks, and how he hits it. Everything that I've seen in practice, I think I'm going to see in a game, but you've still got to see it."
WR Justyn Ross
Perhaps no player on the Chiefs' current roster of 90 players is more highly-anticipated than former Clemson standout wide receiver Justyn Ross. He's arguably been the story of Chiefs training camp turning in what seems to be one highlight play after another. Whether by happenstance or the design of Kansas City's media team, he's had an eye-popping highlight on a daily basis.
Ross was originally signed as an undrafted free agent in late July last offseason. The second-year man redshirted his rookie season recovering from foot surgery. The extended layover may have served him well. He's integrated into the offense at this point and his clean bill of health could land him a spot on the roster this go around. Sunday, he'll have a shot to put the separation and contested-catch ability back on display under preseason lights.
With roughly a month left until the Chiefs open the regular season on Banner Night at Arrowhead Stadium, these three players would do well to have a strong showing on Sunday afternoon. Fortunately for them, I believe they'll have sufficient playing time to do just that. Next time, we'll take a look at three defensive players who can put themselves in better position with quality performances in the first preseason game.