After being able to sit back and rest during Week 12, the Kansas City Chiefs are back at it this week and have a Sunday Night Football matchup with the Denver Broncos quickly approaching. It's been a while since Andy Reid's squad has taken the field, so let's check in on some of the team's key players and note which ones stand out — for both good and bad reasons — and which ones are worth watching moving forward.
Somehow, Jones continues to trend upward. The Chiefs' star defensive lineman may not be 100% healthy (he's battling a wrist injury), but he's been remarkably effective nonetheless. Not only did he record three and a half sacks against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11, but he did so while getting eight pressures overall. Is that level of complete and utter dominance sustainable? Of course not. With that said, some rest likely helped Jones more than just about any other Chiefs player. If that means he'll be even the tiniest bit healed up and recharged for the team's stretch run, that's a scary sight for the rest of the NFL.
Speaking of star pass-rushers for the Chiefs, is it time to consider Clark as that level of player again? That's probably premature, but not many defensive ends have been as productive as him over the last month or so. Clark is finally healthy and locked in, and that's a huge plus for the Chiefs. He had five pressures against the Cowboys and is working well with Jones and trade acquisition Melvin Ingram to form quite the formidable pass-rush trio. Clark is still trending in a positive direction, which didn't seem like something anyone would see just a few short months ago. He deserves a ton of credit.
After having a rough first few snaps against the Cowboys, Ward was nothing short of excellent. He's had an up-and-down tenure with the Chiefs but his performance against Dallas reminded everyone of why he's praised so often. Ward has the length and athleticism to stick with opposing receivers and challenge them down the field, and that's exactly what he's thrived at as of late. It remains to be seen if he can sustain this level of play but with confidence and health seemingly on his side at long last, perhaps he can live up to his reputation as a mostly reliable starting cornerback.
As receivers like Byron Pringle continue to separate themselves from the pack just a bit and the Chiefs attempt to give opportunities to Josh Gordon, Hardman's stock has been hit the most. The team came into the season hoping he'd emerge as a bona fide No. 2 receiver but instead, he's essentially been relegated back to his "gadget" role that consists of jet sweeps and other plays specifically designed to get him in space. There's nothing wrong with that, but Hardman's decrease in snaps will be worth watching moving forward. The Chiefs may finally be coming to terms with that his ultimate role is as a player.
I was tempted to put Gordon in the "Stocks to Watch" section due to him not having much room to trend in a negative direction, but his drop and lack of overall impact against the Cowboys lands him here. Although there's still some time for the 30-year-old to find his footing in Reid's offense and develop some chemistry with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, time is ticking. Gordon has been on the active roster for nearly two months now. His snaps have been at 40% or higher in three of his last four games, so perhaps he can parlay that into more than one reception on a pair of targets in his next outing.
With Clyde Edwards-Helaire back from the injured reserve list and seeing a healthy diet of reps against Dallas, it only makes sense to expect his role to be back to normal this week as the Chiefs face the Broncos. Naturally, that means a decrease in snaps and overall production for Darrel Williams. It was bound to happen at some point and despite Williams doing a solid job filling in while Edwards-Helaire was out, he now finds himself trending down by no fault of his own. This is just how the NFL works.
Stocks to Watch
Not only is Pringle seeing the field more than any Chiefs wide receiver not named Tyreek Hill, but he's putting together what is easily the best season of his career. With that said, he'll need to display a little more consistency before officially trending up. In his last four games, Pringle's catch totals have been five, one, four and one, respectively. If that trend continues, he may be in line for somewhat of a breakout game vs. Denver. Even if that isn't the case, the veteran wideout from Kansas State has been a very interesting player to follow this season.
Pro Football Focus loves Rashad Fenton, and rightfully so. He's played some of the better football in the NFL among all defensive backs this year. With Ward also playing at a high level in recent weeks and L'Jarius Sneed breaking out again, though, it's worth watching to see if Fenton can keep impressing on the field. The third-year man is a sticky corner who is solid at just about everything, which gives him a high floor as a defensive back. He's flashing his ceiling right now and was trending up for weeks, so that's certainly something to follow as the home stretch of the season commences for the Chiefs.