Red Zone

Will the Chiefs keep four running backs? Maybe, plus more Chiefs-Bengals analysis

A quartet of notes on the Chiefs’ running backs, Patrick Mahomes and more following Kansas City’s 30-12 win over Cincinnati in exhibition game No. 2.

▪ You won’t find a player on the Chiefs’ roster who is more well-liked than running back Charcandrick West; his upbeat personality and megawatt smile make him a favorite of coaches, teammates and reporters alike. Perhaps that’s why West, who ripped off 113 yards on a mere seven carries, received so many well-wishes from teammates in the locker room after the game (according to my partner on the beat, Blair Kerkhoff).

Absolutely no one wants to see West go, and the man is locked into a potential battle for a roster spot because of the emergence of rookie Kareem Hunt – who looked fantastic Saturday – and the revival of veteran C.J. Spiller, who looks like his old, blazing-fast self.

The Chiefs could keep four running backs at the 53-man roster deadline, but probably would have to do so at the expense of a receiver, where they’d probably only be able to keep five instead of the six they broke camp with last year. Maybe the Chiefs do that if they think their backup running backs – like Spiller and West – can play some slot receiver in a pinch and be good special-teams contributors.

Regardless, Andy Reid expressed a personal fondness for West after the game, which does help his chances (though I don’t have to tell you how ruthless the NFL can be). West is an energy-giver and someone whose presence makes the locker room better, two traits Reid does care about.

“Yeah, Charcandrick is one of my favorite guys,” Reid said. “He comes to work every day with a smile on his face and loves to play. It was good to see him get out there and work. He played last year through a high ankle sprain, and that kind of slowed him down a bit.”

▪ Saturday’s game marked a homecoming of sorts for Chiefs starting running back Spencer Ware, who starred at Cincinnati’s Princeton High School eight years ago. Ware didn’t make much of an impact on the game – Reid said afterward they wanted to get a very long look at Hunt – and Ware only got one carry for 3 yards. But afterward, Ware was asked what it was like to return to the city where he used to star.

“It feels good – I had many friends and family in the stands,” Ware said. “Some of my former mentors and teachers from Princeton showed up too. Also, a number of guys that I used to play with there. It was cool.

“I always enjoy coming home. I make it back as much as I can in the offseason, and I do my best to keep up with Princeton throughout the football season. I wish them success this upcoming season.”

▪ Finally, I’m sure you guys are Pat Mahomes-ed out by now – just kidding, the Corporate Champ knows you all can’t get enough of it – but the hype is real. Your boy Sam Mellinger did a nice job summing up Mahomes’ performance on Saturday in his game column, but if that didn’t convince you, allow Bengals defensive end Chris Smith do so. After the game, Smith was asked if Mahomes – who spent the evening scampering away from Bengals and making absurd throws – is frustrating to chase after.

“Oh man – c’mon,” Smith said with a laugh. “I hit him once and said, ‘Why won’t you just fall?’ But he’s an elusive quarterback. He’s the 10th pick. That’s why he went (10th), because he was moving and stuff like that. That’s one thing about it – we tried to get after him.”

Mahomes finished the game 10 of 14 for 88 yards and two touchdowns.

▪ Speaking of Mahomes, his selection might have vaulted the Chiefs into uncharted territory (for Chiefs fans) as one of the teams with the league’s best quarterback situations. Between Alex Smith and Mahomes, the Chiefs have two guys they could throw in at any point of the season and probably be OK for multiple games. And even Tyler Bray, the No. 3 quarterback, shows flashes of being more than a one- or two-game stopgap at times, as his 18-yard touchdown strike to Seantavius Jones was thing of beauty.

Tight end Travis Kelce was honest after the game about his thoughts on the quarterback situation.

“Our quarterback play is as good as it gets,” Kelce said. “We have a veteran in Alex, and we like the play of Patrick too. It doesn't matter who's in the game because they both can deliver the football. (Mahomes) has made a couple plays where he threw from his back foot and still put the ball where it was supposed to go. Those types of plays are ones that you cannot teach. He does a lot of things very well.”

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