Aug 23, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) hands off to running back De’Anthony Thomas (1) at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Don’t blink searching for first-team players when the Chiefs play the Green Bay Packers in the preseason finale Thursday night.
“The ones,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters Tuesday, “my past history they haven’t played much.”
Reid said backup quarterback Chase Daniel will start the first quarter, and second-year pro Tyler Bray and rookie Aaron Murray will split the final three quarters.
The head coach’s decision isn’t surprising given his philosophy of allowing backups extended playing time before the final cuts to the 53-man roster arrive Saturday.
“That’s one reason I normally hold the ones so I can get a pure evaluation of these young guys and see what they can do,” Reid said. “Right now, we’ve got good competition on this team, and so you want to try and be as right as you possibly can. You give them every opportunity. If they don’t make your club, at least they have some worthy plays on tape that other teams can evaluate.”
Meanwhile, the extra week off before the start of the regular season against the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 7 allows rest for players returning from injuries, such as running back Jamaal Charles (foot) and strong safety Eric Berry (right heel).
Berry didn’t play in the previous three games, while Charles totaled three carries for 12 yards in the preseason opener before missing the last two games.
The lack of activity doesn’t concern the All-Pro running back, who enters a seventh season.
“I’ve been in the league a long time and I’ve had plenty of carries before,” Charles told reporters Tuesday. “Having three carries in the preseason doesn’t make me because those statistics don’t count. The real game counts in Week One against Tennessee and that’s all I’m worrying about.”
Still, an argument presents itself for some starters to play Thursday given the first-team offense’s struggles through three preseason games.
Quarterback Alex Smith was sacked six times in limited action behind the starting offensive line, and the Chiefs first-team offense failed to get in the end zone.
Of course, the failure to score a touchdown could be attributed to not having Charles for two exhibition games and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (quad) missing the third game.
But the offense, especially the line, has looked sluggish for the most part.
The Chiefs will start the regular season without right tackle Donald Stephenson, who will serve a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances.
Jeff Allen moved from left guard to Stephenson’s spot during the third preseason game, and Jeff Linkenbach and Ricky Henry alternated first-team repetitions at left guard.
Reid indicated he hasn’t settled on the final five starting linemen.
“I’m still working it,” Reid said. “I’m going to keep it rolling it here.”
For his part, Smith reinforced a comfort level heading into the regular season despite the preseason struggles.
“I feel confident in what we’re doing,” Smith told reporters Tuesday. “Preseason is a great tool for things like that. I think this is the last one, No. 4, and we’re going to kind of round out this team and see what we got heading into the regular season.”
Charles agreed, citing Reid’s ability to prepare for the regular season.
“He hasn’t really called a game yet,” Charles said. “The way he goes into meetings and puts people in places to make plays, puts people in strong points and comfortable positions to make plays, it’s just crazy.
“When you see the real game plan and what really goes on, and then that’s when you really can start worrying about when we get in the middle of the season. Right now it’s just preseason. The stats that you see right now don’t even count.”
HAMMOND LIKELY STARTER
Second-year wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. is the likely starter in Week One with Dwayne Bowe serving a one-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
“Frankie can do it,” Reid said. “He did a nice job for us, a pretty good football player.”
The player responsible for passing the football to Hammond agreed.
“Frankie had a great camp and a great offseason,” Smith said. “So it certainly wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities.”
Hammond started the third preseason game and totaled two catches for 23 yards on four targets. The 6-1, 184-pound former Florida Gator has six catches for 90 yards through three preseason games.
Reid said Junior Hemingway, who suffered a hip injury in the second preseason game, would be a candidate to start if the third-year pro was healthy.
CATAPANO UNDERGOING TESTS
Defensive end Mike Catapano (illness) missed another day of practice Tuesday, marking the 13th day of practice he’s missed since July 30.
“We’re getting tests done on him just to see what it is,” Reid said, “make sure he’s OK. That’s what (head athletic training) Rick (Burkholder) does and our doctors do, so they’re as thorough as can be with him and find out what’s wrong there.”
The second-year pro missed nine training camp practices in St. Joseph, Mo., and four days since the Chiefs returned to Kansas City.
Catapano hasn’t played in the three preseason games.
Outside linebacker Tamba Hali did not practice Tuesday after experiencing swelling in his knee following Monday’s practice.
“I think he’s going to be OK,” Reid said of Hali. “He probably won’t travel (to Green Bay) or play in this game.”
Reid said wide receiver Mark Harrison was nauseated and sick Monday, adding Harrison should be “OK” for Thursday night’s preseason finale.
Reid indicated wide receivers Dwayne Bowe (quad) and Junior Hemingway (hip), and inside linebacker Joe Mays, who recently underwent wrist surgery to repair ligament damage, are “making progress.”
Left tackle Eric Fisher missed a second straight of practice with the flu.
“That’s what he’s got,” Reid said of Fisher. “Sick, sore throat and all that bit.”