Tim Crone: Chiefs have depth to make another AFC title run
The 2021 high school football season looks like it will be highly competitive. There were some outstanding games the first week and the season will have several teams to watch.
The last preseason game was played last Friday, and the starters looked superior. The first two drives showed just how dominant the Chiefs offense can be.
I sat by an NFL guru from Chicago who was acting as a substitute for the local NFL guy. He had never seen the Chiefs play in person with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. After the first two offensive drives he told me he had never seen a team so quick in every position on every play. This guy has been working home Chicago Bears games for the past 10 years.
I shared with him that the offense was operating with the third, fourth and fifth running backs. He just shook his head and said, “Oh my.”
The positive to be taken out of the last preseason game is just how much quality depth Brett Veach and his staff have built up over the past five years. The building job of the new offensive line is just incredible. The starters on the offensive line include three players in their first NFL year.
Center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith are STUDS! Right tackle Lucas Niang didn’t play last year due to COVID-19, but he looks quick and strong. On the left side Orlando Brown wants to be the best left tackle in football and he will get better every week in this offense. Left guard Joe Thuney is an All-Pro talent.
Past starters Andrew Wylie, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Mike Remmers, Nick Allegretti and Austin Blythe are possible backups. That, my friends, is versatile depth.
The tight end position is the same with Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, Noah Gray and Jody Fortson. All four should be on the 2021 roster. The receiver position is the highest competitive position on the team. Aside of the familiar faces in the receiving core, the play of guys like Marcus Kemp and Daurice Fountain will only make the team deeper and add great speed to the special teams.
On the defensive side of the ball, we now have for the first time in the Andy Reid’s era better depth at the linebacker position. Willie Gay, if healthy, is a difference maker. He can flat run from sideline to sideline. Anthony Hitchens is playing more like a leader on defense. Rookie Nick Bolton will add speed and depth to both the defense and special teams. Ben Niemann has gotten better every year and has become a good third-down passing situation linebacker.
In the secondary the Chiefs are much better. L’Jarius Sneed is a star in the making at corner. Cornerback Mike Hughes, acquired from Minnesota, is a big upgrade over Bashaud Breeland. Charvarious Ward is getting better and has come light years against the run. DeAndre Baker looked like a No. 1 draft choice in the preseason. Rashad Fenton continues to improve.
The safeties are strong with veterans Daniel Sorensen and All-Pro Tyrann Mathieu. Juan Thornhill looks great after a tough injury two years ago. Armani Watts should be a good backup and a key player on special teams.
The defensive line with the move of Chris Jones to defensive end and the addition of Jarran Reed at the defensive tackle position will only improve the team both in the run and pass rush situations. Frank Clark is the one guy who needs to play up to his paycheck. He has been hurt like Derrick Nnadi, but both have the potential to make the front a very solid NFL front. Mike Danna has had a very good preseason. Khalen Saunders, Alex Okafor and Tershawn Wharton are solid.
The running back position and the kicking game is solid and the depth at running back looks strong in preseason. This year’s schedule is brutal. When you play in the last two Super Bowl games it is what you expect.
• The quote of the week comes from former NFL running back George Rogers: “There are guys on the team who have said in the huddle, ‘Don’t call my play’ or ‘Don’t give me the ball.’ But that’s exactly the time that I want it, when the tension and the pressure are the highest.”
Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.