The Kansas City Chiefs travel to the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona to play the Arizona Cardinals Saturday night in their first pre-season game. They’ll kick off at 8:00 p.m. CST and the game will be televised locally on CBS (KCTV5) and broadcast on the Chiefs Radio Network.
Head Coach Andy Reid said Thursday the starters will play the first quarter with the second-string taking over in the second quarter and playing into the third. Then the third and fourth-string back-ups will play the last quarter and a half.
Here are five questions that the coaches want answered during the game:
- How does the right side of the offensive line look?
The left side of the line is set with tackle Eric Fisher lining up next to guard Ben Grubbs, but the right three players have been switched since the start of training camp. When camp started center Eric Kush, guard Jeff Allen and tackle Donald Stephenson were running with the first string. Earlier this week, rookie Mitch Morse took over at center with Zach Fulton taking over at right guard and Allen moving to right tackle. This is probably the line-up you’ll see when the team kicks off the season in Houston on September 13.
- Can Alex Smith utilize his new receivers by throwing deep downfield?
Probably not, but that’s because free agent Jeremy Maclin is nursing a sore neck and it remains to be seen if he’ll even suit up Saturday. In addition, rookie wideout Chris Conley has missed most of training camp with a knee injury and it is highly unlikely he’ll be on the field with Smith in the first quarter. Throughout camp, Smith has made an effort to go deeper with his passes and has thrown more interceptions in practice than fans want to see, but it’s all in the name of building up chemistry with his receivers. Saturday, Smith will probably toss a few passes over the middle to Jason Avant and tight end Travis Kelce and then call it a day.
- How do Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito look coming back from season-ending injury?
Johnson and DeVito need to show that they have overcome the season-ending injuries both suffered last year in the home opener against Tennessee. So far in camp, both players have looked good, but game speed is much different than practice speed and the Chiefs need both players back to form if they want to improve their leaky run defense (ranked 28th in 2014).
- Will the young corners play well?
Maybe the most impressive player in camp has been second-year cornerback Phillip Gaines. Gaines had his up and down moments last year, making him a bit of a question mark for the team coming into 2015. However, starting with the OTAs and into camp, Gaines has shown marked improvement that has gotten coaches singing his praises. First-round pick, Marcus Peters, has had a show-stopping training camp at times – witness his three-interception day the first time the team practiced in full pads – and other times when he looked like … well … a rookie. With Sean Smith having to take a three-game suspension from the league to start the season, both Gaines and Peters will have to hold the fort down when the Chiefs go up against Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively.
- What player will come out of nowhere to make a statement?
Every pre-season, one player no one has talked about gets into game situations and makes a big splash when the lights are bright. Who will it be this year? Candidates this year are receiver Frankie Hammond, tight end James O’Shaughnessy, running back Charcandrick West, and linebacker Ramik Wilson. Reid and his staff hope everyone will be talking positively about all of them Sunday morning, however.
The Chiefs will return to training camp for their last three public practices in St. Joseph on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before breaking camp and returning to Arrowhead Stadium for the rest of the pre-season. Once they return to Arrowhead, practices will be closed to the public.