With the Chiefs’ first preseason game kicking off this Saturday, it’s time to take a deep look at the state of the 53-man roster. Starting on offense, which players are on the bubble entering Saturday’s matchup?
With the Chiefs’ first preseason game of 2022 right around the corner, we’re putting together a preview of what each position group looks like on the 53-man roster ahead of the season. The NFL allows teams to have up to 90 players on their roster at the onset of training camp. Over the course of camp and preseason, that number must be whittled down to just 53 players before the start of the season.
The deadline for these moves is as follows:
August 16, 2022: Teams must carry no more than 85 players on their active roster by 4 pm EST
August 23, 2022: Teams must carry no more than 80 players on their active roster by 4 pm EST
August 30, 2022: Teams must carry no more than 53 players on their active roster by 4 pm EST
As a result of the tiered deadlines implemented by the NFL, a player’s status on the 53-man roster can fluctuate as the preseason progresses. It creates time for players to make their mark if they don’t start out in the favor of coaches. Whichever players are on the bubble today could cement their place on the roster in the coming preseason games or weeks of practice.
Here’s a look at the current state of the 53-man roster heading into the team’s first preseason game, this Saturday against the Chicago Bears, starting with the offense.
The Chiefs Quarterbacks Group Should Be Stable Entering 2022
Locks: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
Practice Squad Candidates: Shane Buechele, Dustin Crum
News to no one, Patrick Mahomes is going to lead the Chiefs’ quarterback room to start the 2022 season. He has cemented himself as the very best quarterback in the game today, or at least top-three depending on who you ask. As Mahomes starts his quest for a second Super Bowl, it will be worth watching how he manages his new look offense against a tough slate of games.
As for Henne, he’s owed $3.25 million this season and a release would incur the same amount in dead cap. Henne knows the offense and he’s a veteran with more than 50 career starts under his belt. He’s already stepped in for Mahomes before, following the MVP’s knee injury in the 2019 season. With the complexity of the offense he plays in and the money he’s owed this season, it’s hard to imagine Henne isn’t the team’s backup quarterback once again in 2022. It should be his last, however, as he’s a free agent after this year’s age-37 campaign.
Both Buechele and Crum will look to make their mark in camp in order to land on the team’s practice squad. Buechele was a four-star recruit out of high school and eventually committed to play quarterback for the Texas Longhorns. His NCAA career didn’t take off until his transfer to SMU but he went undrafted in the 2021 draft. He’s a good candidate to replace Henne as the team’s backup in 2023.
Dustin Crum was an undrafted free agent by the Chiefs following this year’s draft and will be competing with Buechele for a spot on the team’s practice squad. In five seasons at Kent State, he finished with 7,420 passing yards, 55 touchdowns, and just 12 interceptions.
Chiefs Tail Backs Leave Many Questions Unanswered So Far
Locks: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Isiah Pacheco, Michael Burton
On the Bubble: Ronald Jones II, Jerick McKinnon, Derrick Gore
Practice Squad Candidates: Jerrion Ealy, Tayon Fleet-Davis
Despite there being just three locks to make the Chiefs roster as we enter the first week of the preseason, there will certainly be more than three backs rostered this season. Clyde Edwards-Helaire has looked impressive in camp so far and, despite what many might say, he isn’t likely to be traded and certainly isn’t likely to be cut before the season. Running backs take time in the Reid offense and a true breakout for “Glyde” could be in the cards if he can finally stay healthy.
Pachecho and Burton are the only other locks for the roster so far. Burton, who became the team’s fullback last season after Anthony Sherman retired, looked good in limited action. He should fill the same role this season as the Chiefs continue to be one of the few teams that still utilizes a fullback within their offense.
Pacheco is a lock so far based simply on his Special Teams role. All signs point to Pachecho becoming the team’s full-time kick returner. His blazing speed and outstanding size will take him a long way, but some of the hype at camp has gotten out of hand for the seventh-round rookie.
Outside of those locks, the questions get tougher to answer. At least one of Jones, McKinnon, and Gore figures to make the team’s roster out of camp. They’ll definitely roster at least three running backs. If they choose to roster four as we saw last season, then two of the three could earn a spot. As a result of extra depth at tight end and wide receiver (and needing to make room for that depth), I anticipate the Chiefs will roster just three running backs this season. Right now, that would likely leave Gore and McKinnon on the outside looking in.
Ealy and Fleet-Davis, both undrafted free agents after this year’s draft, will likely land on the team’s practice squad after the preseason concludes. This provides added depth, as should there be an injury to one of the three backs on the active roster, one of these two backs could easily be elevated to the active roster.
Chiefs Wide Receiver Group Is Mostly Set; Only Two Spots To Go
Locks: Juju Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore
On the Bubble: Josh Gordon, Cornell Powell, Daurice Fountain, Justin Watson
Depending on the injury situation with Jody Forston, who has now missed a week worth of practice, the Chiefs are likely to roster six wide receivers to start the 2022 season. If Forston hits Injured Reserve, that could open the door for a seventh wideout to kick off the campaign. The locks at the top of the list shouldn’t surprise anyone. None of the four are a surprise and the only thing left to see now is how the pecking order will shake out.
Beyond those four, there are plenty of good options to fill the final two spots. Daurice Fountain seems to have a leg up on one of those two spots after landing in Dave Toub’s good graces last week. According to the team’s Special Teams coach, Fountain will be a solid contributor to Special Teams which would lock up one of the two remaining roster spots for him.
Gordon, Powell, and Watson each have their own solid case for one of the remaining roster spots. Powell had high hopes as a fifth-rounder out of Clemson in the 2021 draft. He failed to make a mark last season but spent the season on the practice squad. Perhaps a full year in the system will help him to carve out a role in this year’s preseason games.
Many of those same things can be said for Gordon, who of course wasn’t a rookie last year but instead was a returning veteran who hadn’t played much in the NFL in the years leading up to his reinstatement and signing with the Chiefs. With a full offseason under his belt, it’s possible that Gordon can make a name for himself in the wide receiver corps. The coaches seem to want him to succeed but there have been whispers of drops at camp.
Watson, who has just 23 career catches in four seasons with Tampa Bay, was seen by many as a long shot to make the roster when he signed but he’s received rave reviews from Patrick Mahomes and the coaching staff to this point. Tampa had a stacked wide receiver group which may have limited Watson. Now 26, he’s hoping to make a name for himself in Kansas City.
Chiefs Have A Deep Tight End Group With Serious Upside
Locks: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell
On the Bubble: Jody Fortson
There’s not a lot to iron out in the tight end room for 2022. It’s unlikely that any of the three atop the depth chart fails to make the roster. Kelce is set in his traditional role and Blake Bell should be the team’s second tight end in two tight-end sets. He’s been a solid blocker and is a good addition to run-downs. As for Gray, he failed to do much in his rookie campaign. He finished with just seven catches and one touchdown. However, Gray was a solid prospect entering the NFL Draft and has a good chance for an expanded receiving role moving forward.
Jody Fortson likely enters the preseason on the bubble but I view him more as an IR candidate than anything. He’s missed a full week of camp now with an injury after missing most of last season. He’s proven effective when healthy, especially in the RedZone. He even made a phenomenal catch over the top last season.
The Jody Fortson catch 😍 pic.twitter.com/IhKvFwFpeN — Chiefs Core (@ChiefsCore) October 17, 2021
If Fortson can get healthy, he’s got a very good shot at making the roster. if not, it’s likely he starts the season on the PUP and opens up a roster spot for a fourth running back or seventh wide receiver to start the 2022 season. It’s hard to envision the Chiefs prioritizing a fourth tight end but Fortson is more of a receiver than a tight end anyways.
Chiefs’ Offensive Line Is Deep And One Of The League’s Very Best
Locks: Orlando Brown Jr., Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith, Darian Kinnard, Austin Reiter, Andrew Wylie
Depth: Geron Christian, Lucas Niang, Roderick Johnson
On the Bubble: Nick Allegretti, Prince Tega Wanogho
Despite a ton of players “on the bubble” there aren’t many offensive linemen that should be concerned about losing a roster spot entering the season. We saw the team carry ten linemen to start last season and it figures to be the same entering 2022. That leaves two men left out in the cold, unfortunately, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be cut entirely.
The starting five is mostly set, with the right tackle the only remaining question mark. That should be ironed out over the coming weeks between Andrew Wylie, Geron Christian, Roderick Johnson, and Darian Kinnard. Entering the first preseason game, Wylie certainly has the leg up on his competition in that regard.
Both Prince Tega Wanogho and Lucas Niang are candidates to start the season on the PUP. Both are currently on the PUP but can be activated and join camp at any time. There have been limited updates on their injury status thus far, but that should change in the coming days and weeks. One of the two will likely start the season on the PUP which will mean just one of the team’s 12 offensive linemen risks being cut as Training Camp wraps up.
If healthy, Tega Wanogho is the most likely to receive his walking papers. The team has a plethora of options at tackle behind Brown and Wylie. Both Johnson and Christian have lined up there so far in Camp and Kinnard was a four-year starter at right tackle for Kentucky. If the performance of any of those tackle options falls into question for the Chiefs, they could opt to keep an extra tackle and instead look to part ways with Nick Allegretti instead.
Allegretti is a fine depth piece as a guard but doesn’t figure to get many starting reps unless we see an injury to Joe Thuney or Trey Smith. With the versatile Kinnard able to play inside or outside, and Wylie able to do the same, Allegretti is at risk of becoming the odd man out once camp wraps up.
Follow Chiefs Training Camp Updates For Updated 53-Man News
As camp progresses, we’re keeping up with all the major storylines and news from St. Joseph. With each passing week, that means an updated 53-man roster projection.
Latest #Chiefs 53-man prediction. Daurice Fountain is in, after Toub's comments on his special teams usage. That means Josh Gordon is likely out, with Cornell Powell back to the PS. pic.twitter.com/pjoncTaBd8 — Chiefs Edge (@ChiefsEdge) August 6, 2022
On the offense, there are likely 26 spots open for the taking: Quarterbacks (2), Tail Backs, RB/FB (4), Wide Receivers (6), Tight Ends (4), and Offensive Line (10). Keep an eye on this week’s preseason game to see how those players on the bubble fare and whether they make their case to make the team’s roster.
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