Week one versus the New Orleans Saints gave Chiefs fans a glimpse of what lies ahead. The first team, despite a brief outing, showed much potential, with the regular season now starting in under a month. But what can we expect to see versus the 49ers in game two of the pre-season?
Over the past week, Head Coach Andy Reid has hinted that the first team offense will be in the game for at least two drives this week, rather than only one like in last week’s outing to New Orleans. This indicates that while Reid has expressed his pleasure with the first team’s performance in week one, he would like to see a repeat of this success against a more challenging opponent, the Super Bowl runner-up San Francisco 49ers.
As well as the offense as a whole, a number of individual players will be looking to impress in order to earn a roster spot or to prove themselves. One of these playing trying to prove themselves is Wide Receiver Jon Baldwin. Even after having a very productive training camp in 2012, Baldwin did not manage to translate that success to the 2012 regular season. As this year’s training camp draws to a close, Baldwin has not been nearly as productive as he was in previous camps. Baldwin also did not participate in game one versus the Saints. Baldwin must begin making a name for himself beginning with this game versus the 49ers if he is going to shake the “bust” label that he has been labelled with over the past two years. The fact that the Chiefs do not have a definitive second wide receiver works in Baldwin’s favour, but this upcoming game is crucial for Baldwin in determining where he lands on the depth chart by week one of the regular season.
The quarterback group battles will also be a must-see versus the 49ers. First of all, Alex Smith, no that he is in any danger of losing his starting role, but seeing whether or not he can duplicate his encouraging performance from week one will be interesting. Just below him, Chase Daniel, the 2nd stinger, will be trying to redeem himself from last week’s disappointing performance. Again, Daniel does not seem to be in any danger of losing his position on the depth chart considering how much the front office paid him, but if he continues to struggle, the two remaining quarterbacks on the roster will begin to enter the conversation for the job of 2nd string quarterback. Further down the depth chart we have 3rd string quarterback and rookie Tyler Bray, and 4th string quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Bray and Stanzi will both be competing for the 3rd string spot at the quarterback position in possibly the most intriguing position battle this week. The winner of this position battle will likely be the last quarterback on the team to make the final cut when the coaches trim the roster to 53 players. This only makes the situation more fascinating.
The other main position battle currently underway is at tight end. 4th Year tight end Tony Moeaki has lost significant ground in the battle for 1st string tight end, mainly due to injuries being almost routine for Moeaki. Former Miami Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano is currently listed as the starting tight end, followed by rookie Travis Kelce. Despite Kelce dropping a potential touchdown pass from rookie Tyler Bray, he still has managed to retain his back-up role to Anthony Fasano, which only further emphasises the coaches’’ concerns over Moeaki’s not being able to stay healthy. By no means is this tight end depth situation set in stone, and could may well turn over by the regular season, but it is most definitely an indicator of that the coaches are thinking.
Obviously, along with these ‘up in the air’ positions, there are also players that are set as the starter at their respective positions, such as Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe. Players like Charles and Bowe, as indicated by Head Coach Andy Reid, will be playing at least two series along with the rest of the first team, but the main objective for these dominant players (among others) is to simply avoid injury.
The defense is much more set in stone than the offense is. Cornerback Brandon Flowers, linebackers Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston are all established players who will start the regular as the starter at their respective positions. However, like the offense, there are a number of intriguing players to watch during this upcoming pre-season matchup.
Former Miami Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith has reportedly had an incredible training camp, his quick transition from one team to another has the fans and coaches excited as to what Smith will be able to do at the second cornerback role. Like the first teamers on offense in week one, the first team defense was also taken off the field due to their immediate success versus the Saints offense, which in-turn meant that Smith also had a limited showing. Head Coach Andy Reid hinting at more playing time for the offense would also likely mean more playing time for the first team defense as well, which again, means we will likely see an increase in playing time for Smith. Sean Smith has showed significant potential for success since the moment he was acquired by the Chiefs earlier this year, week two versus the 49ers will only increase the sample size the coaches have to go on while determine what role Smith will play during the regular season. Smith’s encouraging play could not have come at a better time, as 4th year cornerback Jalil Brown and former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Vince Agnew have, so far, had fairly disappointing pre-seasons, despite going up against the Saints’ 3rd and 4th string offense. This only increases the importance of Sean Smith following through on his recent success.
At present, this defense may not have the same quantity of position battles going on, but there is one position that has been up for grabs for quite some time now, Free Safety. 4th year safety Kendrick Lewis is currently listed as the starter, however the recent signing of former Minnesota Vikings safety Husain Abdullah has meant that Lewis now has to compete for his job as the starter at free safety.
Though not a significant position battle, the entire defensive line has noticeably improved this off-season with the addition of former New York Jets lineman Mike DeVito and the improved play of 2nd year lineman Dontari Poe. Poe showed significant development in last week’s matchup versus the Saints by displaying an increase in his strength (if that was even possible) when he continuously managed to penetrate the pocket on passing plays and disrupt the quarterback. If Poe can continue to develop the way he has been, where he was taken in the draft may very well become justified.
Despite not having as many starting positions up for grabs as the offense does, the defense will still be fascinating to watch in week two due to the improvements the new front office has made this off-season.
As per usual, kicker Ryan Succop, punter Dustin Colquitt and long snapper Thomas Gafford have all retained their roles as the starters on special teams. The only positions that may have a switch as to whether who will be the first string player, is punt/kick returner. Slot wide receiver Dexter McCluster is currently listed as the main kick and punt returner, however McCluster will likely be splitting playing time with fellow wide receivers Devon Wylie and (former Indianapolis Colts) Donnie Avery.
In contrast to the offense and defense, the special teams are already relatively set in stone and will likely stay identical heading into the regular season.