Starters expected to play one quarter in Chiefs’ preseason opener

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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – The Chiefs open the preseason Saturday night with a road contest against the Arizona Cardinals.

Aug. 9, 2015; St. Joseph, MO; Chiefs head coach Andy Reid directs the action during a training camp practice. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Aug. 9, 2015; St. Joseph, MO; Chiefs head coach Andy Reid directs the action during a training camp practice. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Don’t blink, however, because the starters are set for a token appearance, a norm for NFL exhibition games.

“The ones will go for a quarter,” coach Andy Reid said Wednesday. “The twos will go for the second quarter and half of the third, and then the threes will finish up the game. Again, it could change, but right now that’s what it is.”

Quarterback Alex Smith barely broke a sweat in the 2014 preseason opener, playing 11 total snaps and completing 3-of-5 passes for 19 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Running back Jamaal Charles saw action on nine plays – 17 percent of total offensive plays – and had 12 yards rushing on three attempts.

Smith, however, sees value in the preseason with the first-team offense despite limited repetitions.

“Getting into a rhythm,” Smith said, “hopefully sustain some drives and score some points, especially from these first ones. That’s what you’re looking for as the first group – go out there, let’s move some chains, get into some rhythm, get a sustained drive and hopefully score some points and be a good teammate after that.”

Starting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who returned to practice Wednesday after missing the two previous days with a neck strain, declared himself ready to go if needed.

Maclin also hopes to use the preseason to continue developing rapport with Smith.

“I think now, more so than ever, just getting the timing down with Alex and I,” Maclin said, “just getting the feel of the offense and everybody getting in there together. Although we do go live here sometimes in practice, it’s a little different in the games. I’m excited about it.”

Nevertheless, the starters aren’t likely to experience extended action until the third exhibition game.

The Chiefs’ starters played a supporting role during the 2014 preseason opener, as the second- and third-team units provided entertainment in a 41-39 shootout win over the Bengals.

Backup quarterback Chase Daniel, who led the signal callers with 19 snaps, accounted for a touchdown pass, the defense recorded two pick-six interceptions and then-rookie De’Anthony Thomas electrified on an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Preseason, after all, is mostly about evaluating personnel outside of established starters, so expect plenty of Daniel and third-string quarterback Aaron Murray leading the offense. The Chiefs should also give a hard look at rookie linebackers Ramik Wilson and Justin March, among others, on defense.

The exhibition games allow the Chiefs to keep starters fresh while limiting exposure to potential injuries before the start of the regular season.

But even a two-time All Pro is aware his number could be called.

“Whatever coach wants to do,” Charles said. “I’ve been playing football all of my life, and in pro I’m going on my eighth year. I know how to catch the ball, I know how to run and I know how to see the holes. So, I have no reason about playing in the preseason, but if Coach wants to play me in the preseason – hey, that’s my job.”

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Herbie Teope is the lead beat writer and reporter for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.

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