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What to look for in Chiefs-Panthers preseason matchup

Aug 7, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Chiefs cornerback Phillip Gaines (23) in the preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals half at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 7, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Chiefs cornerback Phillip Gaines (23) in the preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals half at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs’ exciting preseason opening win against the Cincinnati Bengals was an anomaly despite the entertainment value.

Don’t expect a 41-39 final score repeat Sunday night when the Chiefs face the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium because this is preseason football, after all.

A short week awaits the Chiefs after Sunday night before the team returns to the playing field on Aug. 23 for the third preseason game, a contest virtually all NFL teams treat as a dress rehearsal for the regular season.

The Chiefs will use the next two weeks to primarily evaluate players battling for a roster spot before the first cuts from 90 to 75 on Aug. 26, less than two weeks away.

Meanwhile, here are areas to observe Sunday night.

THREE-MAN BATTLE

The Chiefs came out of the preseason opener with a question at cornerback. Ron Parker, who started at right cornerback, was beat on a 53-yard pass play, a 9-yard touchdown pass and flagged for illegal contact.

Sean Smith made an impact with a pick-6, but he was also penalized for defensive holding.

Parker ran with the first-team defense on the first day back to practice, but the Chiefs began a rotation between Parker, Smith and Marcus Cooper to close training camp.

Of note on Wednesday, the day before the final practice and the last day the Chiefs were in full pads, Smith ran with the first-team at right cornerback on all three 11-on-11 drills. Parker was at left cornerback on the first 11-on-11 drills before Cooper closed out the last two rounds at that spot.

Sunday night should offer a preview of what the Chiefs will do in the third preseason game with projected starters.

The fifth cornerback position between top candidates DeMarcus Van Dyke and rookie Phillip Gaines, the team’s third-round pick, also warrants attention.

WIDE RECEIVER PLAY

Dwayne Bowe’s one-game suspension to start the regular season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy signals the Chiefs must give a hard look beyond Bowe, Donnie Avery, Junior Hemingway and A.J. Jenkins.

And it makes perfect sense to limit Bowe’s playing time given he’s been battling a finger injury, which didn’t cause him to miss a training camp practice.

The Chiefs could rotate Kyle Williams, Albert Wilson and Frankie Hammond with the first-team offense before the second- and third-team offenses take the field.

QUARTERBACK DISTRIBUTION

The Chiefs are expected to give the first half to starter Alex Smith, and then spread out the final half between Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray and Aaron Murray.

It’s a given Smith will make the final roster, but the battle rages at the backup position.

Daniel played 19 snaps in the preseason opener, while Bray played 17 snaps and Murray took five.

Daniel completed 8-of-10 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown and an interception against the Bengals. All were team highs, including a 112.5 quarterback rating.

Bray completed 2-of-3 passes for 37 yards and lost a fumble.

Murray didn’t attempt a pass.

BACKUP OFFENSIVE LINE

The Chiefs quarterbacks were sacked six times in the preseason opener, alarming even for an exhibition game setting. Smith went down once, backup Daniel three times and third-team signal caller Bray twice.

Five sacks allowed by the backup offensive linemen won’t contribute to job security if there’s no improvement Sunday night.

The Chiefs are giving guard Ricky Henry a hard look, and it’s important to watch how the potential swing tackles, namely tackles Ryan Harris, J’Marcus Webb, Ryan McKee and Otis Hudson, perform.

Jeff Linkenbach must also hold off rookie Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, so their respective performances deserve scrutiny.

KICKER WAR

Kicker Ryan Succop missed four days of practice with a groin injury before making the final two practices. He took all the kicks on Wednesday and looked good kicking field goals from various distances, including from 50-plus yards.

The Chiefs are expected to have Succop kick Sunday night and he’ll have to show he’s 100 percent healthy. Succop is currently locked in a heated battle against rookie Cairo Santos, who enjoyed a strong training camp.

Succop and Santos made their only field goal attempts in the preseason opener, both kicks coming from less than 30 yards. They were also perfect on PATs. Succop went 3-of-3, while Santos went 2-of-2.

MAKING THE MOST OF OPPORTUNITY

Starting strong safety Eric Berry (right heel), starting defensive end Mike DeVito (hand) and backup inside linebacker Josh Mauga (groin) won’t play Sunday.

Berry’s absence likely means another shot for rookie Daniel Sorensen, who started the preseason opener and lined up with the first-team defense in Berry’s absence to close training camp. The Chiefs will rotate Jerron McMillian.

Defensive tackle Jaye Howard, who recorded four tackles (three solo) and a sack in the preseason opener in place on DeVito, ran with the first-team defense the last week of training camp. He’s expected to get the first shot on defense Sunday night.

Nico Johnson, a fourth-round pick last season, should see more time behind starter Joe Mays at left inside linebacker. Johnson, in particular, must make the most of his chances considering Mauga is currently listed ahead of him on the depth chart.