The Kansas City Chiefs are undefeated in preseason and will try to stay that way when they take on the Tennessee Titans Friday night at Arrowhead Stadium. Even though these games don’t count, they do matter and the hope for fans at least, is that the team will get a small measure of revenge for last season’s most disappointing performance, a 26-10 loss in Week One that ultimately cost Kansas City a spot in the playoffs. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. and the game will be televised locally on CBS (KCTV5) and broadcast on the Chiefs Radio Network. It will also be replayed on NFL Network Rewind on Saturday at 8:00 a.m. CST.
Head Coach Andy Reid said Wednesday that the starters will play into the third quarter and the second string will play the fourth quarter. Because this is the third preseason game, it is “kind of the final tune up” for the season opener in Houston on September 13 as Reid called it in his press conference. As such, it is imperative that the first-string offense – and quarterback Alex Smith in particular – play better than it has so far.
Here are four questions the Chiefs will hope to get answered Friday. I did four because every NFL writer in the world does a “5 things to watch” and you already know about the Chiefs offensive line, so why bother mentioning it?
Can Alex Smith play better than Chase Daniel for once?
Honestly, it hasn’t been close. Daniel “ranks” sixth in the NFL and has completed 25 of 33 passes for 271 yards for an NFL-high 4 touchdowns in preseason. Smith is 55th in the league, having completed 17 of 28 passes for 123 yards and one touchdown. Well, two if you count the pick-six he threw last week to Seattle. Don’t concern yourself too much with preseason rankings. Peyton Manning is 84th and Tom Brady 98th, so take it with a huge grain of salt.
Still, Daniel’s performance is a terrific thing for the Chiefs backup quarterback concerns, but Smith’s is terrible for the confidence of the first-string offense. No one outside of Missouri Tiger fans actually believe Daniel will replace Smith, but even non-Black-and-Gold fans are getting impatient for Smith to not to throw crucial interceptions deep in his own territory, like what has happened in the first two games.
Tennessee employs former Steelers defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau, and is running his style of zone blitz defense out of a base 3-4 defensive scheme. Once they get it down, they will be a terrific defense, but it is not the easiest scheme in the world to run, so they will probably make mistakes in the first half and Smith must take advantage. He should be very familiar with the defense as he has played Pittsburgh just last year in Week 16. With the offensive line still a bit … broken … look for Reid to shorten the passing game back to where Smith is comfortable to ease the defensive pass rush on him. Judging by some of the monster hits Smith has taken in the first two games trying to throw deep downfield, they may save that as a work in progress until injured starters Eric Fisher and Jeff Allen return.
Can the pass rush get pressure on mobile rookie QB, Marcus Mariota?
Back during the days just before May’s NFL Draft, Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt asked his good friend, Andy Reid, his opinion of the two rookie quarterbacks expected to go at the top of the draft. There was a lot of debate between Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota about who was better and had a higher ceiling for the NFL game. Reportedly, Reid told Whisenhunt, that if he had the first pick of the draft, he would take Mariota because he was one of the best college quarterbacks Reid had ever seen. The Titans took Mariota with the second pick and in their first two preseason games, Mariota has shown flashes of what Reid liked. Mariota has shown nice touch, accuracy, and even a stronger arm than what most scout thought he had. He has also flashed fantastic mobility – something that has bedeviled Chiefs defenses in the past.
However, the Chiefs have never had the kind of speed Justin Houston and Dee Ford bring from the edge in a pass rush. It will be important for Ford to rein in his pass rush just a bit, as he has overrun a couple of sack opportunities already in preseason. Mariota is quick enough and fast enough to sidestep a defender and take off around the edge for a big gain. Even in preseason, Chiefs coaches will hate seeing that.
Who will make enough of an impression to stick around past the first roster cuts on Tuesday?
Rosters have to be cut down from the current size of 90 players to 75 by 3:00 p.m. CST on Tuesday. While many of the cuts will be to players you wouldn’t recognize if they were standing in front of you with their jerseys on, there are always one or two surprise cuts in the first go-round. The same goes for Tennessee so the fourth quarter could be especially interesting as more than a few of the second-string players might be feeling some heat under their collars.
A nice by-product of the work Reid and General Manager John Dorsey have done in their two years here is that the team seemingly is much deeper at almost every spot on the roster. That means some good players will be cut over the next 10 days, though the best will survive this week’s cuts so they can play in the final exhibition game next Thursday against the St. Louis Rams.
If the Titans sit their first-string at halftime, how will the Chiefs first string respond?
While the Chiefs have had a full week off since their game against Seattle last Friday, the Titans played a night game last Sunday and have had a short turnaround (plus travel) for this week’s match-up with KC. Then they will play a Thursday game next week, like all the other NFL teams will. That is three NFL games in 11 days, a lot to expect from even the best players. Whisenhunt has indicated this week that his starters will probably not play into the second half against the Chiefs, despite this being the all-important “THIRD PRESEASON GAME”! (Cue the bass drums … dum, dum, duuuuuuuuuuum!)
While it is understandable that the Chiefs starting offense struggled against the powerhouse starting Seattle defensive unit, one would hope they wouldn’t struggle so much against Tennessee. Should the starters for Tennessee sit down after halftime, one would hope the Chiefs starting offense would not falter against the Titan’s second- or possibly third-string. One – that being Reid – would hope the starting offensive line (whoever is out there) would give Smith enough time to sit in the pocket for more than 1.5 seconds so that Jeremy Maclin and Albert Wilson could get further downfield than 8 or 10 yards to catch a pass. One would hope ….
The Chiefs are reminding fans that the parking lot gates will open at 2:30 p.m. Friday and the stadium gates will open at 5:30. Due to rush hour traffic, they recommend fans get to the stadium as early as possible to avoid delays so you can be in your seats by the 7:00 p.m. kickoff. It is recommended you read the parking and tailgating rules here before heading out to the stadium.