In just a few short hours, the Kansas City Chiefs will play their final preseason game of 2014, lining up against the Packers of Green Bay. The last time these teams met in the regular season, the undefeated Packers were sent back to Green Bay with their tails between their legs, and in last year’s final preseason game, Tyler Bray threw 3 touchdowns en route to a nice 30-8 victory at Arrowhead. Coach Andy Reid has already announced that the starters will not play, meaning that this game will mostly be about the backups fighting for a roster spot. Below are some positions and players to watch for tonight:
Offensive Line: Kansas City fans are well aware of the OL’s struggles in the preseason so far. They have given up 14 sacks in just 3 games, Eric Fisher has looked overmatched at times, Donald Stephenson will be suspended for the first 4 games of the season, etc. It is tough for any team to overcome the loss of 3 starters on the OL, plus those additional issues. Andy Reid has said that the starting OL is not set yet, so tonight’s game will be a chance for some of the new and young players to stand out. The Chiefs signed veteran guard Mike McGlynn this past week, and it is unknown if he will play tonight. Ricky Henry and Jeff Linkenbach will need to show who is better between them tonight. I am hoping for a solid performance to pave the way for the season opener.
Wide Receiver: What was already considered a weak spot on the roster got weaker when it was announced that #1 receiver Dwayne Bowe would be suspended for the first game of the season. To make matters worse, Junior Hemingway, projected to be the third WR, has been nursing injuries throughout training camp, so it remains to be seen who will step up (at least for the first game) to fill Bowe’s shoes. Coach Reid has said Frankie Hammond is a strong candidate, so watch for how well he plays tonight. A strong game means Hammond could crack the starting lineup on September 7 when the Chiefs take on the Tennessee Titans. Also in the mix are undrafted free agent Albert Wilson, AJ Jenkins, and Kyle Williams, who will all see plenty of playing time tonight. This is a good chance for all of them to stand out.
Secondary: Along with the OL, the Chiefs’ secondary has been pretty weak over the preseason, and hasn’t even been tested by the likes of Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers yet. It could be a very long season if they don’t fix their issues with penalties and letting receivers get behind them. While Ron Parker played better last week, and likely won’t play tonight, rookie CB Philip Gaines is still learning the ropes and the loss of Sanders Commings to injury again could be problematic. Despite the problems in the backfield, Eric Berry has yet to play a snap in the preseason and will make a difference once the regular season starts. This will be an important position to keep an eye on, especially if for some reason Berry is not fully healed by Sep. 7.
Kicker: Chiefs fans know the story: the returning veteran facing off against the brazen rookie, with neither having a clear edge. Ryan Succop costs the Chiefs more money, but has certainly earned his place on the roster; Cairos Santos would come cheap but is unproven. It is pretty well-agreed upon that Santos will be kicking in the NFL and will be picked up if the Chiefs cut him. Both kickers need to be perfect tonight, assuming Succop plays.
3rd-string RB and QB: The backups are pretty much set, with Knile Davis and Chase Daniel appearing to be sure locks on the 53-man roster; however, it is not clear which running back between Cyrus Gray and Joe McKnight will remain on the team, and whether Tyler Bray or Aaron Murray have done enough to merit the third-string QB position. Gray has had a good preseason while McKnight was hampered by injuries. Both should be striving for a solid game tonight. Neither Bray or Murray has distanced themselves and the Chiefs will probably cut one. Both need to have solid games to protect their chance at a roster spot.
While many believe that preseason games are meaningless, it is clear that tonight’s game will affect the futures of many players and should be a competitive game. I am excited to see who steps up and ensures that they get a spot on the 2014 Kansas City Chiefs. Let’s go KC!