Kansas City’s first game of the preseason has finally arrived, here is what you should watch for during the matchup against San Francisco.
Chiefs fans rejoice! Your first real look at Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, and the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2021-22 squad is finally among us…but there are still some huge storylines that need to be watched vigorously.
Some of those storylines include the fact that Chiefs’ star safety Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu and Kansas City have still not come to an extension agreement. Or there is the newly restructured offensive line which has already had some injury hiccups and surprises so far. Not to mention the $500 million quarterback who is coming off a foot surgery he had on February 10th.
All of those major factors, and more, will be highlighted throughout the first quarter of the game when Kansas City’s starters will take the field. But those aren’t the only things that Chiefs fans should be looking for, nor is that the only quarter of the game that fans should be watching if they want to see the future of the team.
Below are some of the main aspects of Saturday night’s game that #ChiefsKingdom should focus intently on and why…
Chiefs new offensive linemen
The Chiefs drafted Creed Humphrey (#63 overall) to be their center of the future and they drafted OL Trey Smith late (#226 overall) which is looking to be the steal of the draft. These two players are going to see the field plenty during their time in Kansas City but on Saturday they will get their first snaps in the NFL which will show KC fans just why GM Brett Veach chose them over other possible O-line replacements.
Not only are the 2021 rookies on the O-line going to play but the highly anticipated right tackle from last year’s draft, Lucas Niang, is also looking to make his Chiefs debut after opting out due to COVID-19 last season.
No matter how many minutes any of these inexperienced linemen are on the field against the 49ers they will be important to watch due to the lingering injuries to older linemen like Kyle Long (knee injury) and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (below).
There are also other offensive linemen making their Chiefs debut Saturday night outside of the injured Long and Duvernay-Tardif. Former Raven Orlando Brown Jr., who allowed zero sacks at LT for Baltimore last season, is likely going to show why he was worth a first (#31), third (#94), fourth (#136), and 2022 fifth-round pick (#58).
Former Patriot Joe Thuney is also marking his first game in red-and-yellow and his three total sacks allowed over the past three seasons makes him one of the best, if not the best, offensive guards in the league.
On top of all these hyped-up young linemen and stable replacements there is the always reliable Austin Blythe which could start Saturday night, and possibly the rest of the season, considering how many consecutive starts (54) he accumulated in Los Angeles blocking for Jared Goff.
Definitely watch the new offensive line protecting Mahomes, especially the inexperience in the rookies, because most of these linemen have not had the pleasure of blocking for such a versatile, dynamic quarterback like the Super Bowl 54 MVP. All of this makes for a slew of possible mistakes and missteps, even by veterans, in order to keep up.
Who looks like RB2 and WR2?
Throughout Saturday night’s matchup there will likely be all sorts of names and numbers that most Chiefs fans are not accustomed to. Whether they be new additions like Jerick McKinnon (averaging 694.8 total scrimmage yards per season) and rookie Cornell Powell (882 rec yds & 7 TDs last season at Clemson) or practice guys of the past like Marcus Kemp and Gehrig Deiter.
There’s also a name that has popped up often during training camp, 4th string TE Jody Fortson, who has apparently made himself known amongst the pass-catchers on Kansas City’s deep bench (below). Fortson has “added on 20 pounds of muscle” which has made his transition from WR to TE a little easier, but no matter where he sits on the field he is looking to be the best at that position with his strength and size.
Then there are the players that most of #ChiefsKingdom know, like Mecole Hardman (12 total TDs in two seasons), Byron Pringle (76.5% catch rate last season), and Demarcus Robinson (averaging 11.8 yds/rec).
All of these players will be trying their hardest to make their mark on the field and make their name a household one behind the likes of Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
So who steps up big during these preseason games? Particularly, who steps up during the first half of the matchup against San Francisco with the ones and twos around them?
If Fortson, Hardman, Pringle, or Robinson truly dominate the chances given to them then they could move up in the depth chart. The same goes for McKinnon and longtime backup RBs Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams who all could benefit from more touches, even in the preseason.
Tyrann Mathieu’s supporting cast
Everybody knows that “the Honey Badger” is one of the best safeties to ever grace a Chiefs jersey but outside of Mathieu there are some serious question marks amongst the cornerback and safety position.
Outside of second-year CB L’Jarius Sneed, who easily could have won 2021 defensive rookie of the year if he did not get injured early, there are more questions than answers with the supporting cast of the secondary.
Juan Thornhill (knee) and Charvarius Ward (hand) are coming off injuries that plagued them throughout last season, and they are not alone. Former NY Giants’ first-round pick Deandre Baker, who was only on the field for Kansas City for a brief period of time last season, is still recovering from a broken femur.
Baker has not looked great so far in training camp but there is nothing but optimism by coach Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy based on what they saw in Baker while he was in New York and in practices last season.
Recent Minnesota Viking CB Mike Hughes is also one to watch Saturday night because he is likely fighting for the CB2 position on either side of the field and should appear to be one of the more complete defensive backs that Kansas City will be putting on the field this preseason.
These cornerbacks and safeties, along with second-year CB BoPete Keyes, third-year CB Rashad Fenton (3 INTs, 1 FF), and fourth-year FS Armani Watts (3 QB hits, 2 sacks) are all vying to be starters next to one of the greatest safeties in the NFL.
Who will be able to start on Kansas City’s secondary once the games begin to matter? Only time (and gameplay footage) will tell…