The first of the Kansas City Chiefs' seven primetime games this season is on Thursday Night Football on September 7th. With such a short window between now and then, the injuries lingering on the Chiefs' roster are starting to look a bit more concerning.
Kansas City was fortunate to escape the preseason with just one player on the injured reserve, but there are other key players on the shelf for the short term. From roster hopefuls and hopefully improved role players to seasoned veterans and key depth pieces, the week one injury report could be detrimental in a number of ways.
Here are the top-five injury concerns for the Chiefs ahead of next Thursday's season opener.
5. Leo Chenal: Hip pointer
After pouncing on a fumble last week, the Chiefs' second year linebacker left the game with an apparent hip injury. He never returned, and is currently carrying a questionable status. The linebacker room looks as capable as it has in recent memory with the addition of Drue Tranquill this offseason, but Chenal's situation slims the group rapidly.
Behind Chenal and Tranquill on the depth chart lay sophomore Jack Cochrane and rookie Cam Jones—neither of which boast a resume worthy of the Week 1 rotation. The hip injury seems minimal, and Leo Chenal's return—potentially as early as next Thursday—is plausible. However, hip pointers have been known to linger, and Chenal's game is all about, in his own estimation, violence and physicality. He is more likely to make that impact with a full bill of health.
4. Jody Fortson: Shoulder
Fortson is the one player who fell to Injured Reserve this preseason. It is the third straight season that he will spend on IR, and the future for him is officially bleak—at least with the Chiefs.
Fortson has long been considered the most athletic member of the Chiefs' usual tight end quartet of Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell and himself. Unfortunately, his athleticism has mostly survived in a dream state for The Kingdom as his history has been riddled with serious injuries.
After the Chiefs made their final cuts on Tuesday, the image of the offense became much more clear. Gone are the ideas of a pseudo-jumbo offense or much 12 personnel at all. KC will carry seven wide receivers this season, and the tight end duties will lay all but exclusively in Kelce's hands. This isn't much of a concern in theory, but—knocking on wood—87 is aging, and having a freaky athlete behind him on the depth chart would have felt a lot better.
3. Nic Jones: Fractured fingers
The rookie cornerback from Ball State tested out averagely at the NFL Combine but had 2 interceptions and defended 12 passes as a senior. A hot start at camp seemed to open up a path to his involvement in this defense. Unfortunately, he fractured multiple fingers in a collision during Week 1 of the preseason, and he has no clear timetable for return.
This is a moderate concern, given the youthful, albeit successful, nature of the Chiefs' secondary. That's not to suggest that the 2022 campaign was lightning in a bottle for this group, but depth and experience are key and the Chiefs don't have much of either. Jones's role will be waiting for him when his hand heals, but again, there has yet to be an update on when that may be.
2. Kadarius Toney: Knee
For the first time in Andy Reid's tenure as the head coach in Kansas City, the Chiefs will be carrying seven wide receivers on the 53-man roster.
Hopes are high for Kadarius Toney to live up to his draft stock from 2021. Taken as the 20th overall player off the board by the Giants, Toney was up and down with injuries through the first two years of his career.
While he did make a notable impact down the stretch for the Chiefs last year, fans still got a taste of his injury woes. He was on the shelf before the first official rep of camp was taken this year, but there is some good in that reality. The procedure he had done on his knee was mostly preventative, and it was taken care of early. Coach Reid mentioned that Toney may be back at practice before Week 1, and he will play a big role if he's healthy. His most recent injury is a top-two concern for the fact that the "if" that preludes his health has defined his career to this point.
1. L'Jarius Sneed: Knee
Not having a timetable for return for L'Jarius Sneed's nagging knee injury is of the utmost concern, particularly given the aforementioned nature of the cornerback room. Sneed is not just the most tenured corner on the roster, but he is a leader on this defense. His absence will undoubtedly be noticed, and all we can hope is that this isn't a lingering knee.
The Chiefs drafted Chamarri Conner out of Virginia Tech in the fourth round this year—seemingly to mitigate the looming contract negotiations with Sneed. 2023 is a contract year for the vet, and Conner's play style is similar in that Spagnuolo could deploy him in Sneed's role.
For both the success of the defense in the early part of the season, and for the sake of Sneed earning the contract he deserves for next year, he will need to get healthy ASAP.