Notebook: Nunez-Roches shines in starting role

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches, thrust into the starting lineup following an injury to Chris Jones, justified the faith of head coach Andy Reid with a stellar performance in Kansas City’s preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers.

The Kansas City Chiefs defense lines up against the San Francisco 49ers offense during the a preseason game at Arrowhead Stadium Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo courtesy Chiefs PR, Chiefs.com)

“He’s had a good camp and it carried over into the game,” Reid said. “I was kind of curious to see how that worked.”

Nunez-Roches picked up four total tackles in 26 defensive snaps. Three of his tackles went for no gain by the 49ers. That included an impressive goal-line stand when the defensive tackle exploded through the line keeping running back Matt Breida out of the end zone.

The third-year defensive lineman, a 2015 sixth-round pick from Southern Mississippi, brought a bigger and bulkier look to training camp this year. Reid said Nunez-Roches appears to have found his ideal playing weight in his third season.

“With guys coming in, when they’re in the league for a couple years, they figure out exactly what that prime weight is,” Reid said. “He’s put on some real good weight.”

Nunez-Roches showcased his growing prowess against the run against the 49ers, according to Reid.

“Before he was more of a pass rush guy,” the coach said. “Now he’s got that run thing going and pass. That was good to see.”

DEFENSE IN THE MIX

Most of the first-team defense played relative few snaps, which Marcus Peters, Justin Houston, Dee Ford and Ron Parker exiting after one series.

But Reid delighted in having his pass-rush duo of Houston and Ford back on the field together.

“I thought Dee had a couple of nice rushes in there,” Reid said. “Nice inside move on one of the plays.”

The defensive lineman logged the most snaps. The team dressed just eight defensive linemen due to a spate of injuries. Rookie Tanoh Kpassagnon played 49 snaps, followed by David King and Jarvis Jenkins with 37 each. Newly acquired defensive tackle Maurice Swain played 22 snaps.

Starting linebacker Derrick Johnson played 22 snaps, which was more than his head coach planned for the veteran.

“He didn’t want to come out,” Reid said. “He kept sneaking back in I think. He played a little bit longer than I wanted him to. But again he had some nice reps for us.”

BACKUP QBS GET WORK

The quick scoring drive led by Alex Smith allowed backups Tyler Bray and Patrick Mahomes to enter the game earlier than planned.

“It was good to get Tyler some work in there with the ones and Mahomes some work in there with the twos,” Reid said.

Mahomes felt the adrenaline pumping during his stint on the field.

“You are living out a dream,” Mahomes said. “You are doing something you were imagining in back yards since when you were a little kid. You definitely were excited.”

Center Mitch Morse enjoyed the opportunity work Bray into the first-team offense. He says Bray’s easy-going style puts the offense at comfort.

“Ty’s a great guy,” Morse said. “He’s here to build you up and not to break you down.”

BIG PLAY WIPED OUT

The game’s momentum changer came midway through the first quarter when Bray entered the game and immediately connected with wide receiver Chris Conley on an 83-yard touchdown bomb.

But officials called offensive pass interference on Conley, erasing a huge play and keeping the 49ers in the game.

“He beat the guy off the ball,” Bray said. “They were kind of fighting back and fourth and he made a great catch.”

Reid did not believe the hand checking warranted a flag.

“That’s a questionable call because they were kind of hand battling there,” Reid said. “I thought that kind of took a touchdown away from us.”

Reid had no problems with Conley fighting to get open in that situation.

“We talk about being aggressive,” Reid said. “I think during the season they probably let that go because it was duel between the two of them.”

WR ROSTER BATTLE

The Chiefs completed just 18 passes for 170 yards to 13 different targets, so the numbers don’t tell much of a story about the receivers fighting for roster spots.

But Reid still saw many things he needed to observe from his young wideouts. He particularly praised veterans De’Anthony Thomas and Albert Wilson.

“Wilson I thought was solid, really did a pretty nice job in there,” Reid said. “He’s had a good camp too.”

Demarcus Robinson caught one pass for seven yards and Seantavius Jones hauled in two catches for 13 yards. The two young receivers continue battling for a roster spot as well

“I just think play time for those two is the big thing,” Reid said. “They just got to get in and play, and as the play more it will become even faster and faster for them.”

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Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.

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