Thursday, October 22, 2020
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Chiefs look for rookie contributions in hopes to repeat as champions

The Kansas City Chiefs went into the offseason as defending champions for the first time in 50 years. 

Throughout the offseason, many teams across the league went through changes in coaching staff and personnel. The Chiefs were not one of them. 

Kansas City is returning 20 of 22 starters from last year’s team, only losing cornerback Kendall Fuller and guard Stefen Wisniewski in free agency. In an offseason where there are so many uncertainties with coronavirus and teams not being able to practice or play in preseason games, the Chiefs are going into the season with a leg up on the rest of the league. Although the Chiefs are the defending Super Bowl Champions, there was always room to improve in the draft.

The 2020 draft was absolutely loaded with talent all over the board. Many people thought the Chiefs would target a defensive player when their first-round pick rolled around, especially since the Chiefs were widely considered to have the best offense in the league. Well, when your coach is Andy Reid, you always have to be prepared for the offensive genius to add more pieces to his mastermind puzzle. The Chiefs went with the unorthodox pick for their situation and selected LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The LSU product was viewed as one of the top running back prospects in the draft, but something that was not at the top of the Chiefs’ needs heading into the offseason. However, Head Coach Andy Reid and Offensive Coordinator Eric Bienemy felt that Edwards-Helaire could be a piece that would take the offensive production to another level. Damien Williams is a fine running back for the Chiefs’ system, but Edwards-Helaire offers so much more in between the tackles, and is reliable as a pass-catching back. Damien Williams was most likely the starting running back entering this season, but when he opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns, the doors had opened for Edwards-Helaire to impact the Chiefs offense right away.

The 5-foot-7-inch, 207-pound, elusive running back made the Chiefs look even more frightening with his power and vision through running holes. The potential superstar running back fit right into Kansas City’s offense and gave them another offensive gear when he made his first career start against the Houston Texans in week one. Edwards-Helaire dominated the Chiefs backfield, securing 25 carries for 138 yards. One of those carries was a 27-yard touchdown run that sent Texans safety Justin Reid into last week with a nasty juke. 

For the 63rd overall pick in the second round of the draft, the Chiefs selected linebacker Willie Gay Jr. out of Mississippi State, a player that can make an impact early in the season for Kansas City’s defense. Gay Jr. is a high upside, hyper-athletic player that can help the Chiefs tremendously in pass coverage. 

Kansas City used their third round pick (96th overall) on TCU offensive tackle Lucas Niang.  Many regarded this pick for the Chiefs as a bargain, and a piece that could have come in right away and competed for snaps at the guard spot. However, Niang chose to opt out of the 2020 NFL season due to COVID concerns. Niang will not play this year, but look for the highly talented offensive lineman to be in the starting lineup in the 2021 NFL season.

Fourth-round pick cornerback L’Jarius Sneed seems to be a player that the Chiefs expect to produce right out of the gate. Sneed seemed ready to play in week one against the Houston Texans. He made plays that many did not expect from a rookie, especially against the Texans speedy wide receiver corps. Sneed recorded two pass breakups and one interception in the Chiefs 34-20 rout of the Texans. Sneed will continue to have his number called and possibly more responsibility, as cornerback Charvarius Ward fractured his left hand in the game against Houston.

Chiefs’ fifth round pick, defensive end Mike Danna, and seventh round pick, cornerback Thakarius Keyes, did not play, but both are expected to possibly get snaps down the line if need be. 

In addition to Ward, the Chiefs have injuries to the defensive line with Khalen Saunders (dislocated elbow) and Alex Okafor (hamstring). 

If Kansas City wants to repeat as champions, they must have contributions from everyone who can have their name called. No team has won back-to-back Super Bowls since the New England Patriots in 2003 and 2004. With the talent they’ve locked up, the Chiefs continue to chase the goal of dynasty.

laldpy@mail.umkc.edu

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