5 key players to watch in the Chiefs first preseason game

NFL training camp is about assembling as many talented players as possible and letting them fight it out for one of the 53 roster spots on the team. With that in mind, I thought we would take a look at five players who are heading into Saturday’s matchup against the Chicago Bears with something to prove.

These players are either trying to take another grown man’s job — or fighting to hold onto the one they already have.


1. Defensive end Mike Danna

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At 6 feet 2 and 255 pounds, Danna lacks the prototypical size and length that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo typically likes in his edge rushers — but the Chiefs saw something in Danna coming out of Michigan that led them to invest a fifth-round draft pick in him.

To his credit, Danna has provided Kansas City with some productivity coming off the bench as part of the Chiefs’ pass rush rotation over the past two seasons. Entering his third year with the Chiefs — Danna has started seven games and compiled 5.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits. He has set the goal for himself to have five or six sacks in this season alone.

With newly signed Carlos Dunlap in the fold, and rookie George Karlaftis performing well in camp, Danna needs to show the team that he is ready to take the next step forward to remain as one of the first names called off the bench.

To his credit, Danna has been working out alongside Karlaftis after practice, under the tutelage of Frank Clark, who has been offering the young pass rushers pointers on getting home to the quarterback. Danna should get plenty of snaps against the Bears to show the coaching staff the progress he has made.


2. Wide receiver Justin Watson

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The moment Patrick Mahomes said he called Chiefs general manager Brett Veach and asked him how fast Justin Watson was, Chiefs Kingdom was set ablaze with hype over the mostly unknown wide receiver.

Since then, every bit of news that has come out of camp about Watson has been positive. Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub went as far as to say he might be the next Marcus Kemp-type player on special teams, which is high praise if you know how much Toub adored Kemp.

“Watson is a guy who might able to take Kemp’s spot in a lot of things,” he explained. “He’s doing well on offense, which is important.

“You can tell he’s a leader. He’s not a vocal leader, but a leader by example. He knows how important special teams is for him as a player. He’s not going to be a No. 1 or No. 2 guy, but he knows how important it is to be a guy. He can do a lot of things. He can catch punts, but he’s not a guy that we want to rely on to take it the distance. He’s more of a blocker-type guy for us.”

The big unknown about Watson is everything. He only caught 23 balls for 258 yards combined in his three years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Watson has yet to play a down in a Chiefs uniform. As a bottom-of-the-roster guy who is fighting for a spot, Saturday should be a good opportunity for him to show us what all of the hype is about.


3. Defensive back Chris Lammons

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As noted by my esteemed colleague Kristian Gumminger, the Chiefs generally keep 10 defensive backs on their roster.

The Chiefs have historically kept 10 defensive backs on the active roster. After the offseason roster churn, only three from last year are locks to make the team this year in safety Juan Thornhill and corners L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton. Four other locks include the Chiefs’ marquee free-agent acquisition, safety Justin Reid, and rookie draft picks Trent McDuffie, Bryan Cook and Joshua Williams.

If you do the math, that leaves three open roster spots up for grabs at defensive back. In the past, the Chiefs have split the count down the middle, carrying five safeties and five cornerbacks each. Last season, Lammons was listed as a safety on the Chiefs’ depth chart. However, this year, he has moved over to cornerback, so the Chiefs may view him as a hybrid and choose to use him as both.

The Chiefs like him enough that they decided to resign him this offseason, despite Lammons facing a possible suspension in connection with a February arrest where Lammons and New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara allegedly assaulted a man outside a Las Vegas nightclub.

Given the offfield situation and the influx of young talent in the secondary, Lammons will have to outperform his teammates to ensure he is not on the chopping block during the final round of cuts.

The Chiefs desperately need special teams talent, and Lammons does fit that bill, having played special teams last season, so it should be interesting to see how it all pans out.


4. Offensive lineman Geron Christian

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The Chiefs caught a lot of people’s attention this week when they trotted the fifth-year veteran tackle out with the first team offense during practice.

A half a dozen plays later, Andy Reid brought Wylie back onto the field and sent Orlando Bown Jr. to the sideline — shifting Christian over to the left tackle spot.

Christian has also been getting lots of work with the second team unit in camp, which leads me to believe that he is the leading candidate for the third (swing) tackle spot, to come in and pinch hit in case of injury.

With Lucas Niang on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, the Chiefs will also be keeping their eye on how Roderick Johnson, Prince Tega Wanogho and rookie Darian Kinnard perform.

This is Christian’s moment to solidify his position as the backup tackle on the roster and possibly push Andrew Wylie for the starting job. If he has a strong outing, he could force the coaches into giving him more first-team reps.


5. QB Shane Buechele

Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals

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The second-year quarterback spent his entire first season on the Chiefs practice squad. However, if you remember, Buechele had some bright moments last preseason, namely in the third preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings. He completed 20 of 33 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns in limited work.

In November of last season, when the Arizona Cardinals attempted to poach Buechele off the Chiefs’ practice squad, the Chiefs responded by promoting Buechele to the active 53-man roster.

The truth is that Chiefs incumbent backup quarterback Chad Henne is 37 years old and in the twilight of his career. Andy Reid likes to have a veteran he can trust to manage the game if his star quarterback goes down, but if Buechele lights up the scoreboard this weekend, Big Red could be pressed to make a move for the future and keep the younger player as a backup.


What Chiefs players are you most looking forward to watching against the Bears? Weigh in below and tell us why.



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