We are back with the Winners and Losers series.
We are back with my favorite segment… The winners and losers of preseason game 1 of 2023. The defending world champion Chiefs might have fallen to the New Orleans Saints 26-24 but again, this is preseason football and there were a lot of positives to take away from this game including the not-so-good ones. Patrick Mahomes continued to prove his worth with a new and improved offensive line, but the Chiefs’ defense could be the deciding factor during a possible title defense run this year after showing a fight in the 2nd half until the last play of the game. With that in mind, here are the winners and two losers from Sunday’s game.
Richie James (17), Wide Receiver:
James was the best receiver for the Giants last season, setting career-highs in receptions (57), receiving yards (569), and touchdowns (four) while being Daniel Jones’ most reliable receiver. Now he’s going to be with Patrick Mahomes and the NFL was on alert with that after witnessing James in limited capacity explode right out of the gate. James hauled in the sweet over-the-shoulder catch for 43 yards from Blaine Gabbert, then made an impressive grab to put the Chiefs on the board for the first time all game in the 2nd quarter. James finished the game catching those two of those three targets for 44 yards and a touchdown. The 27-year-old made his mark in the second quarter, beating Saints cornerback Alontae Taylor for a 43-yard reception on a well-placed deep ball by Gabbert. James is already solidifying his role replacing Mecole Hardman as the team’s WR3 and return specialist. Veach got another great bargain at receiver in James.
A 43-yard connection from Gabbert to Richie James 🎯
— NFL (@NFL) August 13, 2023
Justyn Ross (8), Wide Receiver:
I could mention Rashee Rice and Nikko Remigio who both stood out but our guy Justyn Ross is back in his Clemson form. As this article is being published, Ross will be fine regardless of being carted out at the end of the practice. The former Clemson star went undrafted in 2022 due to his injury history and missed his rookie season after undergoing foot surgery, but he justified the training camp hype surrounding him on Sunday. Ross caught two of his five targets, one for a score, in his first NFL game action. Ross looked like the 2018-19 Ross from Clemson. He displayed great yard-after-the-catch ability and beat his man one on one to get open using his play speed. Mahomes has so many weapons at his disposal and Ross is definitely going to be one of them. Ross showed me has the ability like Sammy Watkins who made excellent adjustments, breaking up the field to the space left by opposing defenders. It’s something about them Clemson receivers.
Justyn Ross in for 6️⃣
— NFL (@NFL) August 13, 2023
Leo Chenal (54), Linebacker:
Although he played only 13 snaps, linebacker Leo Chenal did 3 tackles, a couple of run stops and allowed just two receiving yards on two targets into his coverage according to PFF. Chenal came on strong and received more and more playing time down the stretch of last season, and he continued that success on Sunday. The second-year man also got a pressure on the game’s opening drive and was a very active contributor in run support as well. Despite Drue Tranquill’s presence, Chenal should be a solid depth piece behind Nick Bolton and get more looks in the dime package this season.
Leo Chenal (#54) fighting through the puller on a toss play and making the tackle.
Chenal really came into his own at the end of last season. He has all the makings of being a valuable contributor this season, especially when offenses want to put out heavier personnel. pic.twitter.com/vUauWukePN
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) August 14, 2023
Kahlef Hailassie (12), Cornerback:
Brett Veach is such a wizard that he will find undrafted players that nobody has paid too much attention to that they’ll become instant impact players like Charavirus Ward, Byron Pringle, Tershawn Wharton, and Deneric Prince. Could Kahlef Hailassie be the next one? At Western Kentucky, Hailassie played a lot of off-man coverage, where he could attack the football. He showed that ability on Sunday with a highlight reel/AND-1 Mixtape interception that put the Chiefs back into the game. That ability to use his length reminded me a lot of Charvarius Ward and if Hailassie continues to make plays like that, he’ll easily find his way on the roster on possibility practice squad with the chance of being active for Sundays.
Kahlef the THIEF ❌ pic.twitter.com/JPiT8jo0sT
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) August 13, 2023
Justin Reid (20), Safety:
Justin, if you’re reading this, I don’t mean this in a bad way. Reid struggled in coverage and wasn’t great at tackling including the first TD given up on the first drive. Reid looked a bit lost but I can see that Reid is playing more of the free safety role including playing alongside Bryan Cook. Being in KC for your second season also takes time to get used to and Reid wasn’t the only person that had struggles I believe that with film and looking at the mistakes will make find the grit he showed down the stretch last season and I’d like to see Reid and Mike Edwards in the backfield together because I believe Reid would be more comfortable in his role like last season while Edwards plays the single-high safety role that Juan Thornhill played for the last 4 seasons. Remember it’s just preseason. Reid will be better.
Carr finds Keith Kirkwood in the back of the endzone for SIX!
— NFL (@NFL) August 13, 2023
Chris Oladokun (6), Quarterback (That last decision):
The Chiefs had the ball at their own 31-yard line with a minute and 13 seconds remaining. They ran the ball on back-to-back occasions, forcing New Orleans to spend their final timeouts. On third-and-8 with a chance to ice the game, the team inexplicably ran a screen pass. Fourth-string QB Chris Oladokun was intercepted on the play.
“You just can’t finish with a mistake,” Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid told reporters after the game. “I mean, that’s a terrible way to end the thing.” Not only is that a terrible way to end a game but for a preseason game, that could be a killer for a player trying to make the roster. Everyone makes mistakes but some may argue that in your second year with the team learning behind Patrick Mahomes and learning from Andy Reid and Matt Nagy, you should know a thing or two about protecting the football and a simple mistake like that could cost a team everything. Oladokun will bounce back from this but he will need to prove his doubters wrong. Before the game icing INT, Oladokun was fulfilling a great day for all of the Chiefs’ QBs.
— More Important Issues (@More_Issues) August 13, 2023