What We Saw: Preseason Week 2

Commanders @ Chiefs

Final Score: Chiefs 24, Commanders 14

Writer: Mike Miklius ( @SIRL0INofBEEF on Twitter)

 

The Washington Commanders came to Kansas City for their week 2 matchup, and there was plenty to learn from this contest. In Washington, we want to know who the starting running back would be. Antonio Gibson is still going in the 4th round while Brian Robinson has an ADP in the 13th. As for Kansas City, the question remains who will fill Tyreek Hill’s shoes? The top contenders are Juju Smith-Schuster (7th round), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (12th round), Skyy Moore (11th round), and even Justin Watson (undrafted). As for the game itself, Kansas City rolled early to a 14-0 lead thanks to a pair of Patrick Mahomes touchdowns – both to Jody Fortson. Washington answered before halftime on a Taylor Heinecke pass to Cam Sims and came within three – ultimately falling 24-14. Here’s everything I saw today.

 

Washington Commanders

| Preseason Week 1 |

 

Quarterback

 

Carson Wentz: 6/9, 64 yards, 1 Sack

Taylor Heinicke: 9/12, 83 yards, TD

Sam Howell: 10/18, 122 yards, INT, 2 Sacks | 2 carries, 13 yards

 

Carson Wentz looked good as the Commanders’ starter today, completing two-thirds of his passes and taking a couple of deep shots as Washington worked hard to establish the run. Wentz completed a few short passes right away before looking deep for Curtis Samuel on 3rd and 6. Wentz threw a good ball that hit Samuel’s hands, but excellent coverage broke it up. Wentz later missed on a pass to Antonio Gibson, who had room for a chain-moving catch. Wentz threw another nice ball to Curtis Samuel on the next play, but Samuel couldn’t bring it in. I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw from Wentz, and I am not afraid to draft Washington’s wide receivers.

Sam Howell came in midway through the third quarter and played well with his snaps. Washington eased him in, starting with two quick throws to set up a third-and-short. After a run to pick it up, Howell was sacked when his protection quickly broke down up the middle. Howell threw a really nice deep ball that was broken up by an even-nicer defensive play. On Howell’s second drive, the team started run heavy, and Howell again looked accurate when called to pass. It’s always tough to translate play against third-stringers to real-NFL potential, but Washington fans should be optimistic based on what I saw today. Let’s see what Howell gives us next week.

 

Running Back

 

Brian Robinson: 8 carries, 31 yards

Antonio Gibson: 2 carries, 3 yards | 4 targets, 3 receptions, 37 yards

Jonathan Williams: 4 carries, 12 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, 9 yards

Jaret Patterson: 2 carries, 1 yard

Reggie Bonnafon: 1 carry, 1 yard | 2 targets, 1 reception, 10 yards

 

Brian Robinson started in the backfield, carrying the ball on three of Washington’s first four plays. Robinson is not an explosive athlete, but he runs well with the ball and was good at picking up tough yards. On his second run, he hit a small hole hard and blasted through for nine yards. If Robinson had hesitated to hit the tight gap, there was a defender left and another right both ready to make a play on the back for a loss. On the next play, Robinson ran it forward on second and one and was stopped at the line of scrimmage. Robinson kept his feet, fought through the first tackler, and managed to convert the play for a first down. Robinson’s one carry on the second drive saw him make a cut and push forward for five yards. Robinson is a good back and one I expect to see a lot of work this season – especially in short-yardage situations. He also came out of the game with Wentz and the other first-team weapons.

Antonio Gibson returned the opening kickoff and then came in for one carry on the first drive. He saw a pass attempt on the next drive and was in position to make a chain-moving catch if not for an errant throw by Carson Wentz. That was it for first-team reps. Gibson did his damage with Taylor Heinicke. He made a great catch running out of the backfield with 1:30 left in the first half. Gibson found open space in the middle of the field, made a smooth catch, and quickly shrugged off the first defender who was quickly approaching. He ran well in open space, shaking the next tackler before going down. It was a 22-yard gain and it helped set up a touchdown on the drive. Gibson is a great pass-catcher and should be seeing more work in this area. If I was to draw a conclusion about Washington’s backfield from just this outing, it’s that Robinson looks like the primary ball carrier. He was the better runner, saw more carries, and was trusted to grab tough yards in short-yardage situations. Robinson also left the game with Wentz and McLaurin while Gibson was asked to play until halftime. For the Gibson fans, I think his best hope is to take the passing-game work and spell Robinson. He could clean up in this role.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Terry McLaurin: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 27 yards

Jahan Dotson: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 23 yards

Curtis Samuel: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 10 yards

Alex Erickson: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 44 yards | 1 carry, 8 yards

Dax Milne: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 37 yards

Eli Wolf: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 25 yards

Cam Sims: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 23 yards, TD

Armani Rogers: 1 target, 1 reception, 15 yards

Dyami Brown: 6 targets, 2 receptions, 9 yards

Marken Michel: 3 targets

Kyric McGowan: 2 targets

 

Terry McLaurin played limited snaps but made a nice pair of catches on his two targets. McLaurin is an excellent receiver, and he should benefit from Carson Wentz’s tendency to “let it rip” downfield.

Jahan Dotson also saw two targets and he also caught them both. The first came early on a WR screen with Dotson lined up outside. He pulled in the catch and used an excellent initial block to run free for a 12-yard gain. Dotson wasn’t asked to do much on the play, but he looked good running in space with the ball. On his second catch, Dotson was running a slant and was left wide open after his tight end picked off the linebacker covering him. Dotson made a good catch and ran free to the sideline – stopping the clock with 1:54 left in the half. Given the limited sample size, it’s hard to say exactly what Dotson’s role will be, but this was a promising outing and hopefully, a sign that the Commanders will help create touches for their promising rookie receiver.

Curtis Samuel played with the first team and he had a mixed day. On the first drive, he caught a five-yard pass but just missed a deep shot that would have put Washington near the red zone. The defender made a great play on the ball, but Samuel did get two hands on it. On the next drive, Samuel again was targeted on third down and again couldn’t haul it in. The defender once again played it well, but Samuel needs to make these kinds of catches if he wants to stay relevant.

 

Kansas City Chiefs

| Preseason Week 1 |

 

Quarterback

 

Patrick Mahomes: 12/19, 162 yards, 2 TD

Shane Buechele: 8/15, 70 yards, 2 sacks | 5 carries, 35 yards

Dustin Crum: 3/3, 27 yards, 1 sack | 2 carries, -2 yards

 

Patrick Mahomes saw some extended work today, and I’m guessing the Chiefs view this as their final big tune-up before the regular season. Mahomes attempted 19 passes, which feels like a lot when compared to Aaron Rodgers (0), Matthew Stafford (0), Josh Allen (3), Tom Brady (0), and Justin Herbert (0). Mahomes looked mostly excellent on the day. Both touchdown throws were fit into tight windows, and both were placed where only the receiver could make the play. Mahomes also has a knack for rolling out and knowing exactly how much room he has. With 13:30 left in the second quarter, Mahomes was rolling out to his right. Despite a defender giving chase, he casually jogged towards the sideline while keeping his eyes downfield – looking for a play. The result was an incomplete pass as coverage locked everything down, but this type of play is a perfect example of what makes Mahomes so great. Even when “flustered,” he is ready to attack.

All this being said, Mahomes definitely missed a couple of throws. With just under ten minutes left in the first quarter, Marquez Valdes-Scantling broke free and had two steps on his defender deep. Mahomes air-mailed him and immediately tapped his pads to signal he knew it was on him. It looked like maybe the two weren’t completely on the same page as far as what route was supposed to be run. Mahomes later had Skyy Moore with a half step on his defender deep and underthrew the ball. If he had put more air under it, Moore would have had a touchdown – and everyone would be talking about him this morning. Mahomes is still developing a connection with his new-look WR corps, but this offense remains one of the best in the league.

 

Running Back

 

Clyde Edwards-Helaire: 2 carries, 4 yards

Jerick McKinnon: 1 target, 1 reception, 14 yards

Isiah Pacheco: 4 carries, 8 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 16 yards

Ronald Jones: 1 target, 1 reception, 3 yards

Derrick Gore: 5 carries, 11 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 1 yard

Tayon Fleet-Davis: 5 carries, 5 yards, TD

Michael Burton: 1 carry, 2 yards

 

I’d be lying if I said I had a grand takeaway from the Chiefs’ running back room – other than none of them sticking out much to me. Clyde Edwards-Helaire played most of the first series, with Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco making brief appearances. CEH only had two carries and didn’t have much to show, but he was the first one in the game. He was pulled after the first series and didn’t return. McKinnon was next in, though his work on the day was a single catch. McKinnon started as a blocker before peeling out, making a nice grab, and running it down the sideline for 14. Given McKinnon’s injury history, I expected him to see limited work. Pacheco was the third back to appear, and he had the most work. His biggest play on the day was a 12-yard catch out of the backfield. He looked smooth at the catch point and ran hard into first contact. I don’t see a clear winner here, and my approach is probably to take the cheapest back available of these three. I don’t see anything close to a workhorse emerging, but rather a hot-hand backfield amongst these three. Ronald Jones does not appear to be a factor in this backfield, and I am comfortable ignoring him – barring a run of injuries to everyone ahead of him.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Travis Kelce: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 23 yards

Marquez Valdes-Scantling: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 14 yards

Skyy Moore: 1 target

Justin Watson: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 53 yards

Cornell Powell: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 35 yards

Noah Gray: 1 target, 1 reception, 30 yards

Daurice Fountain: 2 targets, 1 reception, 27 yards

Jody Fortson: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 19 yards, 2 TD

Corey Coleman: 3 targets, 1 reception, 14 yards

Josh Gordon: 2 targets, 1 reception, 10 yards

 

With Juju Smith-Schuster out this week, the rest of the Chiefs’ wide receivers had a chance to make their case as the Tyreek Hill replacement. So how did they all do? Travis Kelce made a couple of catches in the first quarter and was done for the day. Needless to say, he is the TE1 and nothing has changed. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was acting as the WR1 for Kansas City today, and he was the only one in on the first play: a heavy set involving multiple tight ends and a fullback that resulted in an 11-yard pass to Valdes-Scantling. MVS almost pulled in a huge touchdown a few plays later. He was lined up in the slot and made a move outside, leaving his defender in the dust. Mahomes overthrew what would have been a 67-yard touchdown. Justin Watson was the team’s starting WR2, and he once again looked the part. His big play on the day was a 39-yard catch that helped set up the team’s first touchdown. Watson was lined up in the slot and had a free release at the line. He created a step of space, made a good catch, and ran through the first attempted tackle before tumbling down. Watson has been having an excellent preseason so far, and I would keep an eye on him as we move forward. Just realize he is a deep sleeper with Travis Kelce, MVS, Skyy Moore, and Juju Smith-Schuster likely ahead of him in the pecking order.

Speaking of Skyy Moore, he was the WR3 today, and he finished his day with two targets – one of which was called back due to offsetting penalties. Moore almost had a long touchdown (deja vu), but Mahomes underthrew him on the play. Moore was lined up outside playing against off-coverage, and he ran a post route that gave him a half-step of space. If the ball had been thrown towards the back of the endzone, I think Moore would have had it. Instead, it goes down as incomplete and nobody notices.

So, what are my takeaways for the Chiefs’ wide receivers? We have to understand that Juju has not been seen with the first-team offense yet, and this leaves us with some big questions. We don’t know how he will fit in exactly, and any guesses would be just that. Ignoring him, I would put Marquez Valdes-Scantling as the top receiver based on what I’ve seen. He has shown me the most and should be the top target at least early on. He will have the chance at a couple of big plays each game but doesn’t look like a target hog. Behind MVS, I see Watson right now. Watson has shown well in two straight games, and it looks like the team trusts him. I think there is a chance that Watson is the fill-in for Juju and he disappears once Juju returns. Watson’s big catch came from the slot – a position Juju primarily plays from. Skyy Moore falls in as the number three, but he is someone who should see a growing role, as well as a growing workload. If you draft him, you might need patience. Moore is the best bet, however, to reach the lofty height of true WR1.

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