KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Records mean very little in the preseason, but it’s meaningful the Chiefs get to their mettle versus the Seattle Seahawks in the opening preseason game Saturday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Seahawks are a returning playoff team and have two Super Bowl appearances and one title in the last three seasons. It’s a good opportunity for the Chiefs to evaluate where the team stands in its bid for a championship.
Head coach Andy Reid said the first team offense will play the first quarter, with newly acquired quarterback Nick Foles and the second team offense playing the second quarter. Tyler Bray will serve as third string, followed by Aaron Murray and Kevin Hogan.
But make no mistake, the first preseason game is about evaluating players and not the end result, Reid said.
“We don’t really ‘game plan’ for our first preseason opponent,” Reid said. “We try to go back and look at plays that aren’t necessarily complex plays. That way we can give the younger guys a chance to go out and play at a high level without having to overthink things while they’re on the field. That gives us a better evaluation of them as players.”
There are four notable players fans will not see against the Seahawks. Linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali and running Jamaal Charles remain on the team’s physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Safety Eric Berry has yet to report to camp.
Here are five other areas to watch Saturday afternoon.
Watching special teams is the key to scouting some of the most intense position battles and deciphering the team’s more difficult roster decisions.
Special teams coordinator Dave Toub hopes to see his group on the field as much as possible.
“Preseason games are the most important thing for us to evaluate special teams,” Toub said. “We don’t do any live situations. We don’t do any live tackling in our drills during training cam, it’s all during the preseason game. That’s where we get most of our evaluations. Those games are really, really important.”
Special teams value is particularly important for running back Knile Davis and wide receivers Frankie Hammond Jr. and De’Anthony Thomas. Their ability to make the team’s final 53-man roster will likely be tied closely to their special teams performance.
Young players fighting for roster speeds need to play special teams with intensity while assignment sound.
“If you’re not going down there full speed, you could get lit up,” Toub said. “A lot of these guys, it’s going to be a defining moment.”
SPEED OF TYREEK HILL
That star of training camp thus far has been wide receiver Tyreek Hill beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Now it’s time to see if Hill can translate that performance from the practice field to the turf of Arrowhead, according to co-offensive coordinator Brad Childress.
“Well, that’s what we are about to find out,” Childress said. “I know Dave [Toub] is anxious to watch him return, and we’re anxious to see him play as a receiver, and that’s what these preseason games are for.”
The 5-foot-10, Hill has been omnipresent on offense and special teams. The fourth-round draft pick has found space to get open, and every quarterback on the roster has had no trouble finding him.
RUNNING BACKS IN THE PASSING GAME
The Chiefs have placed an emphasis on screen plays in camp practices. The team has also utilized their running backs downfield in the passing game.
Chiefs running backs caught just 51 passes a year ago. That pales in comparison to the reception numbers put up by some of Reid’s best Eagles teams led by Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy.
Davis has proven very effective in the downfield passing game in camp. The preseason is also an opportunity for Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware to test their abilities in the absence of Charles.
YOUNG DEFENSIVE BACKS
The Chiefs have 18 defensive backs on the roster, and it’s among the youngest position groups on the team.
Daniel Sorenson is starting at strong safety in place of Berry. Marcus Cooper, Jamell Fleming and rookie Eric Murray are among former cornerbacks experimenting with the safety and nickle back positions.
Third-round draft pick KeiVarae Russell has performed well in camp so far and worth watching.