The Kansas City Chiefs broke training camp in St. Joseph, Missouri on Wednesday and have headed home to finish up the pre-season at Arrowhead. First up is their second pre-season game against the defending NFC Champions, the Seattle Seahawks Friday night. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. and the game will be televised locally on CBS (KCTV5) and broadcast on the Chiefs Radio Network.
Kansas City had a good news/bad news night against the Arizona Cardinals last week. They won the game easily, 34-19, but the first-string offense struggled and the team lost running back Knile Davis and tackle Jeff Allen to injuries that could keep them out for much of the pre-season. On Monday, starting left tackle Eric Fisher went down with a high ankle sprain. Allen’s and Fishers injuries have complicated the offensive line situation in practice and isn’t the best scenario for the first-string offense going against the high-ranked Seahawks defense.
Head coach Andy Reid says the starters will play about a half, which will give the patchwork offensive line more snaps to see what they can do. Here are five questions the Chiefs will want to answer Friday against the Seahawks:
Can the offensive line play better this week despite the injuries?
The first string couldn’t keep Alex Smith clean in the pocket against Arizona and will face another tough test against Seattle despite it being “just” an exhibition game. Even Chase Daniel, who had a near-flawless game, was under pressure during his quarter-plus of work. The probable starting offensive line from left to right will be Stephenson, Ben Grubbs, Mitch Morse, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and Paul Fanaika.
Honestly, the offensive line situation is the only significant question left in camp as the make-up of the line has yet to be answered. The intriguing players in this scenario are Stephenson, a natural left tackle who might be better than the incumbent Fisher, and part-time football player/part time med student, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft from McGill College in Canada. At 6-5, 315-lbs (or 195.58 cm, 142.88 kg for you metrically-inclined), Duvernay-Tardif is big and athletic and coaches will want to see how he handles himself against Seattle’s line. LDT could become a sleeper for the Chiefs. He’s certainly smart enough to start as he is on the verge of gaining his doctor’s license in Canada.
Can Alex Smith take advantage of absences in the Seattle secondary through the passing game?
No question that the interception Smith threw at Arizona was a terrible pass that should not have been thrown, but some fans are acting like he ran a school bus full of nuns off the road. This week, the starting Seahawks secondary will be missing some very big names as All-Pro safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor will not play. Thomas just returned to practice this week after off-season shoulder surgery and is doubtful to play while Chancellor is holding out in a contract dispute. Taking their places are undrafted free agent Ronald Martin and second-year player Dion Bailey so look for Smith to try and jump-start his part of the passing game over the middle of the field.
How much will rookie wide receiver Chris Conley play?
Not that Chris Conley’s spot on the roster is in jeopardy, but the 2015 third-round pick has missed most of training camp and did not play against the Cardinals. Conley has the kind of measurables (6-3, 205 lbs, 4.3 40-yd dash time) that can make him a star in this league but he needs to be on the field to show it. Jason Avant and Albert Wilson are tentatively penciled in as the starters alongside Jeremy Maclin but the coaching staff would be thrilled if Conley seized control of the outside wide receiver spot opposite Maclin. Fred Williams, Frankie Hammond Jr. and Da’Ron Brown all flashed some serious skills last week so the competition is (blessedly) strong at receiver this season.
Can the defense feed off the crowd’s enthusiasm to shut down Seattle’s offense?
Everyone has bad plays – such as when the defense allowed Carson Palmer to complete a 4-yard pass that turned into a 57-yard gain last week on the opening drive. As bad as that series was for the defense, they held Arizona to a field goal after Alex Smith’s interception deep on the Chiefs side of the field. Then the defense shut out the Cardinals for the rest of the game until a last-minute touchdown made the score a little less lopsided. Seattle played OK on offense last week but their line gave up seven sacks, which is bad even for an exhibition game. The crowd will be loud at Arrowhead Friday and the defense needs to make a statement against mobile quarterback Russell Martin and Seattle’s first-string offense.
Can the young players show consistency in their level of play?
The young wide receivers, linebacker Ramik Wilson, running back Charcandrick West and a few other youngsters had productive games last week. The key to young players getting on the field for Andy Reid’s team is to show consistency from week to week. Actually, many of them need to show consistency from series to series during a game, much less from week to week (we’re looking at you, Sanders Cummings). With Week 3 of the exhibition season being the dry run for the starters to play around three quarters, the rookies, first- and second-year players have tonight to make a statement. By the time it gets to the Week 4 exhibition game, 99% of personnel decisions will have been made by the Chiefs and even jobs on other teams can be sparse. This is their time to show Reid and the coaching staff that they can be counted on to be key members of the team, and possibly take starting jobs from veterans.
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 kickoff. It is recommended you read the parking and tailgating rules here before heading out to the stadium.