The final (41-39) result in favor of the Chiefs is utterly meaningless this time of year. Preseason is the only time when individual production is more important than the results of the team. And there were plenty of impressive feats(good and bad) in this game that featured four return touchdowns and five turnovers. So without further ado, here are your performances of note.
Cincinnati — Three Performances of Note
Michael Johnson 2.0?
He’s stronger, faster, taller, and younger than former Bengal Michael Johnson, the only problem is he’s been playing football for about half as long. Margus Hunt was drafted in the second round last year based on pure physical ability, and even though he’s already 27, he’s still considered a project. In 2013, Hunt was a deer in headlights and finished with a -7.1 overall grade in 170 snaps. Thursday night was a completely different story. The former track and field star actually started to look like a football player. Hunt recorded an effortless sack on Tyler Bray midway through the third quarter after he knocked right tackle Jeff Linkenbach flat on his backside with one arm. The defensive end finished with a career high +2.6 overall grade in just 22 snaps.
Lost in Translation
Playing on his third team in three seasons, Jason Campbell looked like he had the wrong playbook for much of yesterday’s game. The former first round draft choice threw two pick-sixes and added two more throws that could have been intercepted. Just four of Campbell’s 15 passes earned positive grades and he finished with a disastrous -5.6 overall grade before leaving the game with an apparent arm injury. Not the kind of start you want to see from a veteran backup.
Hard Knocks Life
Larry Black’s(-3.9) first preseason was well documented when Hard Knocks’ cameras filled the Bengals facilities last year. The then rookie provided one of the more tragic scenes of the show when his gruesome ankle injury derailed his dream of making the 53 man roster. Back after a year of rehab, I would have loved to have seen the Indiana product forcibly make his way to the top of a crowded interior line competition. That just wasn’t the case on Thursday. Black failed to earn a positive grade on any of his 12 snaps and didn’t even show enough agility to reign in Cyrus Gray on a play where he was completely unblocked (Q4, 7:54).
Kansas City — Three Performances of Note
As Good as Advertised
After 13th overall pick Aaron Donald, the second most impressive pass rusher at the Senior Bowl was outside linebacker Dee Ford. The Chiefs 23rd overall pick did his best to show that performance wasn’t just a fluke. Ford picked up a pass rushing grade of +3.7, and a run defense grade of -1.4 on 57 snaps against the Bengals. Those grades are eerily similar to his Senior Bowl splits. The run defense is concerning, but it was more of a discipline problem than a talent deficiency. Most of Ford’s snaps, however, came against backup tackles and it will be worth watching if he ever gets a chance to run against starters as the preseason moves on.
Good to be Back
Malcolm Bronson hadn’t played in a competitive football game since 2012, but you couldn’t have guessed that by watching him play last night. The Chiefs safety was flawless in coverage. He didn’t allow a catch on two targets and took home an interception with a lightning quick break on an out route intended for Brandon Tate early in the third quarter. It was all a long time coming for the McNeese State product that tore his ACL his senior season and spent all of 2013 rehabbing on the Chiefs practice squad. With the rave reviews from practice, and a ridiculous +2.7 grade in 29 snaps on Thursday, Bronson could be in line for serious snaps when the regular season rolls around.
Much Needed Weapons
The Chiefs offensive skill players outside of Jamaal Charles were amongst the worst in the league last season. Not a single other wide receiver, tight end or running back with significant playing time had a positive receiving or rushing grade. That is why seeing Travis Kelce(+1.1 receiving grade) and De’Anthony Thomas(+1.4 return grade) each score long touchdowns must have been a sight for sore eyes for Chiefs fans. Kelce, a third round pick in 2013, showed no signs of wear after microfracture surgery cost him his rookie year. The 6’5”, 260 pound tight end put a filthy move on Lavelle Westbrooks to get open late in the second quarter and then accelerated away from 5’10”, 205 pound Isiah Lewis for a 69 yard touchdown.
It was an impressive display of athleticism, but it wasn’t quite on DAT’s level. The Oregon rookie was hit by Dre Kirkpatrick as he caught a punt at his own 20 yard line at the end of the first quarter. The former track star, unfazed by the contact, looped towards the right sideline and blazed by multiple Chiefs in the process for an 80 touchdown return. Thomas only played three snaps from scrimmage Thursday, but I would expect that number to climb in upcoming games.
– Conner Vernon caught his first professional touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter only to find out today that he had been cut by the Bengals.
– Despite recording a flashy unblocked sack, first round pick Darqueze Dennard (36 snaps) struggled in all other facets of the game. The corner missed two tackles and yielded 20 yards on two of three targets for a -2.7 overall grade.
– 8 of the 11 backup linemen for the Chiefs finished with positive grades (Rishaw Johnson, J’Marcus Webb, and Jeff Linkenbach only negatives) and center Eric Kush led all Chiefs with a +3.5 overall grade.
PFF Game Ball
Malcolm Bronson did his best to shut down the Bengals air attack, collecting a +3.7 coverage grade in his first NFL game. For that reason he gets this game ball even though there was reason for excitement from a handful of players.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner