The Kansas City Chiefs pulled out a narrow victory from the jaws of defeat against the Los Angeles Chargers on the inaugural Amazon Prime Thursday Night Football Game. Which players are trending in the right direction and which players are falling out of favor?
Last night’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers was the first real test of the new year for the Chiefs and there were quite a few players who stepped up to the challenge after getting knocked around in that ugly first half. It took a couple of drives for both the offense and defense to get their footing and it was pretty evident who showed up to play and who may have left their best game on the team bus.
Two Chiefs Players Trending Up After Their Week Two Victory
Ladies and gentlemen, Clyde Edwards-Helaire has finally arrived. For those of you thinking that last week was a fluke, Edwards-Helaire proved the doubters wrong on Thursday Night. He set the tone for the offense on the very first drive, getting the ball on the first two plays with some strong running between the tackles and setting up an easy third-down conversion.
He has been running like a man possessed to start the year and you absolutely love to see it. He has not been going down on first contact like he had in the past and is now becoming more involved in the passing attack with four catches for 44 yards. He didn’t just perform in the first half, either, playing strong well into the fourth quarter. His biggest play came with under four minutes left to go in the game where he broke off the longest run of his career.
#Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire breaks off a 52-yard run in the 4th quarter. CEH now has 118 total yards on 12 touches. #ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/72ICN6mQWq — Devon Clements (@DevclemNFL) September 16, 2022
As Devon Clements mentions, CEH had 118 total yards on only 12 touches to that point and that is where he ended up. CEH has put up two big performances in the first two games of a make-or-break year for him and has solidified his station on RB1 for the rest of the year. You love to see it.
I cannot, in good conscience, write about players trending without mentioning the man who made the play of the game. Jaylen Watson, people. I shed a tear listening to that call by Mitch Holthus. Watson had his hands full with Mike Williams all night after being thrown into the lineup due to Trent McDuffie’s unfortunate hamstring injury. Watson, a seventh-round draft pick, had been showing out all preseason and earned one of the last spots on the team’s 53-man roster. He was thrown directly into the fire, having to go up against one of the best offenses in the NFL.
Jaylen Watson's pick-6 as called by @mitchholthus on the Chiefs Radio Network.@610SportsKC @wolfkansascity Video courtesy of @NFL pic.twitter.com/W1MczvfkhA — Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) September 16, 2022
He certainly took his lumps and we witnessed the growing pains, but we also witnessed that he can make the big play when his team absolutely needed it the most. The Chiefs almost certainly do not win this game without that pick-six and he can expect to be thrown out there more often as he continues to grow into a solid cornerback. The Chiefs are betting on this young secondary core to take them to the Promised Land and they may get there if Watson and the rest of his class can keep stepping up like this.
Two Chiefs Players Trending Down After Their Week Two Victory
I wrote about Smith-Schuster on last week’s edition of two-up/two-down and I got a lot of flack about it. “How can you say he’s trending down? He had six catches for 79 yards in the first half!” It doesn’t matter he wasn’t targeted in the second half because they were phasing out their starters! This game suggests that maybe Juju still is in the doghouse. Over the past six quarters, he has been targeted just three times with three catches for 10 yards. I’m old enough to remember when we brought in LeSean McCoy and how quickly he was thrown into Andy Reid’s and Patrick Mahomes doghouse.
McCoy still had plenty in the tank and broke off a couple of really nice runs while he was on the offense. Two or three big fumbles later, he was nowhere to be seen. This Chiefs team will absolutely not tolerate being careless with the ball and will find someone else to give it to. Juju may be listed as WR1 on the depth chart, but he’s going to start finding himself sliding if any of the other wide receivers start stepping up as Justin Watson did. Smith-Schuster should consider himself extremely lucky that neither Mecole Hardman nor Marquez Valdez-Scantling has performed well or else we might see Juju go the way of McCoy.
Speaking of Mecole Hardman, it has been a pretty rough go of it for the first two games of the year. Yeah, I know he got the TD against the Cardinals, but he has just not looked good in a contract year. He and CEH are in the same boat in the final guaranteed year of their contracts, and Hardman has been the complete opposite of Clyde thus far. Hardman had a drive-killing four-yard loss on a third-down run in the first drive and it really seemed to take him out of his game.
He did have a nice catch and run to convert a third down two drives later and one more in the third quarter, but he just does not look like the kind of player that the Chiefs were banking on him to be this year. Considering all of the money even semi-decent receivers got the last off-season, it seems like Hardman is fumbling the bag, as the kids would say. Hardman’s route running hasn’t been crisp, he’s made some key drops in big situations, and seems to be playing his way out of Kansas City and into obscurity if this type of performance continues.
With Juju’s struggles, there was an opportunity for Hardman to take advantage and show that he is more than slightly more talented than Dexter McCluster. So far, that’s pretty much what he’s been and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chiefs start relegating him more to a gadget player role as the season rolls on. All in all, this was a really gutsy performance by the Chiefs to pull this win out of the fire.
Being up 2-0 with a win over the Chargers puts the Chiefs firmly in the driver’s seat for the division and conference titles. It’s clear that the Chiefs aren’t firing on all cylinders quite yet, so we will see if either these players that are trending down start to turn it around or if someone else is going to step up in their place.