In a two-week span, the Chiefs went from having serious questions about who they’d put on the field at the safety position to being on the verge of having an abundance of options.
Going into the Week 6 game in New England, the Chiefs had backup wide receiver Marcus Kemp practice with the defense as a worst-case scenario. Jordan Lucas, who the Chiefs acquired at the end of the preseason, started in New England despite playing his first defensive snaps of the season the previous week.
Injuries have kept All-Pro Eric Berry as well as projected starter Daniel Sorensen off the field since training camp. A core muscle injury forced rookie Armani Watts to injured reserve. Eric Murray, who stepped into a starting role in the wake of the injuries, wasn’t active against New England because of an ankle injury.
Ron Parker, Lucas and Murray each played against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night, and prior to the game Sorensen, who is eligible to return from injured reserve, ran and backpedaled on the field at Arrowhead Stadium.
“We’ll just see when he gets back,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of how Sorensen will fit into the secondary as currently constructed. “Let’s see where he’s at and how he’s moving. We know he can play. He was wearing a lot of different hats there when he was playing. He covered a lot of different areas for us, and at that time was an important ingredient to that defense.
“So let’s just when he gets back and how that rolls. It’s a good problem to have though, right. I’m not sure exactly the answer for you. I want to see how he is when he gets back in there.”
Reid said there is “a chance” Sorensen returns to practice this week.
Parker, who intercepted his second pass of the season and scored the first touchdown of his career, played 86 percent of the defensive snaps. Lucas played 85 percent of the plays, while Murray was on the field for 37 percent of the defensive snaps — including being on the field with Lucas at times.
Sorensen started next to Parker last season after Berry’s injury, but he’d also been on the field regularly in nickel or dime packages in the past.
Andrew Wylie started his first NFL game on Sunday night as he took over at right guard for Jordan Devey. Devey, who’d initially taken over at right guard for Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, started at center in place of Mitch Morse, who is in concussion protocol.
Wylie played every offensive snap (70) as well as eight on special teams. He helped the Chiefs compile 551 yards of total offense and average 7.9 yards per play. That included 198 rushing yards, a season-high for the Chiefs.
Jeff Allen, who the Chiefs re-signed last week, played two snaps on the offensive line in his first action as a member of the Chiefs since 2015.
PT for DO
Rookie linebacker Dorian O’Daniel got more playing time on defense against the Bengals than he had in the previous six games combined. The Chiefs drafted him with intentions of using him as a linebacker/safety hybrid primarily on passing downs. However, he’d played just 10 defensive snaps through the first six games. Seven of those snaps came in one game against Jacksonville.
O’Daniel played 25 defensive plays on Sunday against the Bengals. He recorded four tackles, including one tackle for loss. O’Daniel’s big jump in playing time coincided with linebacker Terrance Smith leaving the game because of a knee injury. Smith had been receiving the bulk of the playing time in passing situations when Reggie Ragland typically came off the field.
“I’m so happy for that guy, man,” Ragland said of O’Daniel. “I’m happy for him a lot. (He) just gotta keep getting better each week, keep studying, do what he do — he’ll have a significant role in this defense.”
Sammy sets a tone
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins played as many offensive snaps as any of the skill position players not named Patrick Mahomes. Watkins was on the field for 86 percent (60 snaps) of the offensive plays, the same amount as tight end Travis Kelce and eight more plays than Tyreek Hill (52).
Watkins got targeted seven times and came away with four catches for 74 yards (18.5 yards per catch), and he registered the longest pass play of the day — a 50-yard reception on the first play from scrimmage in the second half.
“It was great to see Sammy (Watkins) and how physical he was,” Reid said in his postgame press conference. “When he catches that ball, it’s unbelievable. I thought he had some tough catches for us and I thought (he) played well.”
Speaks leads the way
Rookie edge rusher/outside linebacker Breeland Speaks made his second NFL start on Sunday night, and he led the Chiefs in regard the number of defensive snaps played (57 of 59). He played 13 more snaps than outside linebacker Dee Ford, the team leader in quarterback pressures.
Speaks finished with two tackles and one quarterback hurry.
Reid was asked about his philosophy on leaving players in or taking them out late in a game that appears to have been decided. Mahomes played every snap despite the Chiefs leading 45-10 with fewer than 12 minutes remaining.
“You guys have sat here and asked me the question about being up by a lot of points and then having teams come back and get us, so think about that,” Reid said with a sly grin. “I don’t like those questions. Now, I’m getting the other end of it.
“Listen, I just go off of my gut feelings. And I have a pretty big gut.”