KANSAS CITY -- The Kansas City Chiefs expect to have wide receiver Kadarius Toney and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed available Thursday night when they play the Detroit Lions to kick off the NFL’s regular season.
Toney missed almost all of training camp after tearing the meniscus in his knee during a special teams drill July 23. He had surgery two days later and did not return to practice until last week, though offensive coordinator Matt Nagy and special teams coach Dave Toub both said the speedy wide receiver had looked good since returning the field.
Sneed, who is expected to start alongside Trent McDuffie at cornerback, dealt with swelling in his knee late last season, and it flared up again during the summer. He wound up missing 12 practices during training camp along with all three preseason games.
“We’ll take it day by day,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “but right now I’d tell you they’re good to go.”
Both of them are important players for Kansas City.
The Chiefs paid a steep price to get the injury-prone Toney from the New York Giants, sending third- and sixth-round picks midway through last season. And he proved to be dynamic in Reid’s creative offense, both running and catching the ball, but he continued to be slowed by a hamstring injury, missing three games in November and December.
Toney was available throughout the postseason, though, catching five passes in the divisional round against Jacksonville and scoring a touchdown on a short throw in the Super Bowl to help Kansas City win its second title in four years.
“I think he’s looked really good coming back here. He looks like he’s in shape and he stayed locked in with the playbook,” Nagy said before Monday’s practice.
“We’ll just kind of let the flow of the game dictate, you know, how we use him and what we do with him. When you have seven guys, it enables you to do different things. He’s certainly going to be part of that.”
Indeed, the Chiefs are exceptionally deep at wide receiver, despite having no bona fide stars on the roster, and Nagy said there’s a possibility that all seven of them are active on game day.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore will get the most run along with Justin Watson and second-round pick Rashee Rice, who dealt with some drops in the preseason. Richie James will be available to handle punt and kickoff returns along with some work in the slot, and Justyn Ross provides Kansas City with a big red zone target they otherwise would be lacking.
“You just want to see now when you have these guys, what are their strengths? You don’t know,” Nagy said. “Whatever they decide to do every week with the active wide receivers, we’ve got to make sure we have a plan.”
That is a big challenge but not dissimilar from the one that faces Steve Spagnuolo, the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator.
He is already poised to enter Week 1 without All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones, who’s in the midst of a holdout. But losing any of his cornerbacks, and especially Sneed given his experience in an otherwise young secondary, would cause significant problems for Spagnuolo and a team that could struggle to put much pressure on Lions quarterback Jared Goff.
Also like Nagy, there is some depth in the defensive backfield.
Trent McDuffie is coming off a strong rookie season and will start alongside Sneed on the outside, while Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson will rotate in as the third cornerback. The Chiefs also have Nic Jones, who fractured fingers during the Chiefs’ first preseason game but stayed off injured reserve, and Darius Rush, who was claimed off waivers last week.
“Hopefully we can play as a unit,” Spagnuolo said, “and our best players play really good, and all our other guys can play rock solid. I think (the Lions) can force you to make mistakes if you’re undisciplined, especially with younger guys. And if we don’t do that, it gives us a fighting chance.”