It was only preseason, sure, but the Chiefs’ game on Thursday was a monumental occasion for some.
More than a dozen Chiefs played their first game in an NFL uniform on Thursday, when the team opened its preseason schedule against the Texans. The Chiefs lost 17-10.
Here’s how the 2018 draft class fared...
Breeland Speaks, OLB
The Chiefs’ first selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, a second-round pick, worked some with the first-team defense. He alternated on both edges of the defensive line.
Developing versatility in his pass-rush moves remains a work in progress, and that showed some Thursday, but he did make one solo tackle in the game. Speaks played into the second half, remaining on the field with the second unit.
Derrick Nnadi, DT
A third-round pick from Florida State, Nnadi took part in warmups but sat out with an elbow injury.
Dorian O’Daniel, LB
Another third-round pick, O’Daniel also sat out with an injury. The Clemson product has been battling a thumb issue.
Armani Watts, S
Watts was the lone rookie in the starting lineup on either side of the ball, replacing the injured Eric Berry. He played the majority of the opening quarter and had three tackles.
“He is a young guy that needs reps, so I figured we would put him in and give him as many reps as we possibly could,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I thought he had some nice plays. Again, I am sure there are some things he would like to have back, but I thought he did some nice things there.”
Tremon Smith, CB
Smith spent most of his youth and high school career with the ball in his hands before moving exclusively to the defensive secondary at Central Arkansas. The itch to score was only satisfied on special teams, where Smith was offered the chance to return punts.
He got that same opportunity in his first NFL appearance. Smith was the first player to line up as a punt returner for the Chiefs after they stopped Houston on the game’s opening drive. He returned one punt for -2 yards.
He also had one tackle on defense.
Kahlil McKenzie, OG
A defensive lineman in college, McKenzie is moving to the offensive line in the NFL, a move that is sure to require time. He received some reps Thursday with the second unit, alongside Parker Ehinger and Bryan Witzmann. McKenzie played right guard.
He was beat quickly by Marcus Hardison on his first series, but Hardison was penalized for a late hit on quarterback Matt McGloin.
The standout was Ben Niemann, a linebacker out of Iowa. Niemann led all Chiefs players with five tackles, four of them solo. He also had a fourth-down stop that gave the Chiefs a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter.
“I thought Ben had some nice plays down the stretch,” Reid said.
Quarterback Chase Litton led the Chiefs down the field on the ensuing drive, but it fell 3 yards shy of the end zone. Litton was 7 of 13 for 66 yards and also rushed twice for 7 yards.