What to watch for in Titans-Chiefs preseason game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Don’t get caught up in preseason records when the Chiefs (2-0) host the Tennessee Titans (1-1) at Arrowhead Stadium on Friday night.

A win is nice, of course, but the biggest takeaway from the preseason surrounds the annual reminder the four exhibition games are for evaluation purposes.

And none are more important than the third game because starters are expected to play into the second half as a final tune-up for the regular season.

Friday night’s game also starts the clock for the first wave of transactions to trim the roster from 90 to 75 players by 3 p.m. CT on Tuesday.

Here are five areas to monitor Friday night.

Aug. 21, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs rookie linebacker Ramik Wilson (53) warms up before the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at Arrowhead Stadium. (Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Aug. 21, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs rookie linebacker Ramik Wilson (53) warms up before the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at Arrowhead Stadium. (Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

MAKING MOST OF SNAPS

Rookie inside linebacker Ramik Wilson has quietly taken full advantage of his playing opportunity with the first-team defense during the absence of Josh Mauga, who missed the first two preseason games with a heel injury.

The 6-2, 237-pound Wilson enters Friday night leading the team in preseason tackles with nine* (eight solo).

And the Chiefs are getting a long look at Wilson considering he logged 36 defensive snaps against the Seattle Seahawks in the second exhibition game and 26 snaps against the Arizona Cardinals in the preseason opener.

Wilson also contributed on special teams, recording eight snaps against the Cardinals and nine snaps against the Seahawks.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest questions about Wilson following his selection in the fourth-round in May’s NFL draft surrounded his ability to defend the pass as an inside linebacker.

The former Georgia Bulldog has answered it with two passes defensed and an interception.

While Mauga returned to practice earlier in the week and projects as the starter alongside Derrick Johnson, Wilson can make a case for playing time with another strong showing.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Were there issues in the second preseason game with a first-team unit featuring Donald Stephenson at left tackle, Ben Grubbs at left guard, rookie Mitch Morse at center, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif at right guard and Paul Fanaika at right tackle?

Absolutely, especially on the right side of the line during the offense’s first two series.

But come off the ledge and remember the game marked the first time Fanaika, a fifth-year pro, played right tackle in live action since college. Additionally, Duvernay-Tardif, a second-year pro, is still developing after playing college football in Canada.

The line settled down on the third series, evidenced by an impressive 14-play, 83-yard touchdown drive that took 7:14 off the clock.

The Chiefs will likely run with the same unit in the third preseason contest because starting left tackle Eric Fisher (high-ankle sprain) and projected starting right guard Jeff Allen (knee) are out recovering from their respective injuries.

“I don’t think you can really read a whole lot into it because of our injury situation at the offensive line position,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “But it’s just another chance for us to evaluate the guys and see who eventually will be our best five going into Houston.”

Bottom line: Resist the urge to push the panic button if there are struggles on the right side of the offensive line against the Titans.

CONLEY UNLEASHED?

Rookie wide receiver Chris Conley, the Chiefs’ first of two third-round picks during May’s NFL Draft, logged 33 snaps in the second preseason contest, which marked his debut after missing the preseason opener.

The 6-3, 205-pound Conley, who missed a large chunk of training camp with a knee injury, didn’t record a catch while working with the first- and second-team units.

But he was active as a returner, totaling 46 yards on two kickoff returns and 5 yards on a punt return.

“With the length of injury that he had through camp and he missed some time, just getting his legs back last week,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “We wanted to get him back out there and just kind of get a couple of snaps.”

With a game under his belt, the Chiefs are expected to work Conley against the Titans.

“His play will increase this week,” Pederson said. “He’s a guy that’s in the mix and we need to have a lot of reps on tape to evaluate him properly and see where he fits in our scheme.”

ARROW POINTS UP

Second-year outside linebacker Dee Ford logged 27 snaps in the second preseason game, a week after seeing action on seven snaps in the opener.

Ford started in place of Tamba Hali, totaling three tackles before leaving with a rib injury.

“I think I did well,” Ford said of his performance. “Of course, there’s a lot of things to clean up and preseason is the time to do that. I felt well and I had fun.”

Ford, who suffered a bruised rib, practiced earlier in the week and is expected to play.

And defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is pleased with what Ford has done since training camp.

“We’ve been happy with the way he’s attacked this camp,” Sutton said, “and I think the better he can become as an all-around player – we all know he has some unique rush skills – but the better he can become as an all-around player, the better off he is going to be. That’s where he’s really made some strides, I think.”

Sutton complimented Ford’s ability to set the edge against the run and believes the best is yet to come.

“As long as he keeps improving, that arrow is really pointing up for Dee,” Sutton said. “We’re excited about where he’s at.”

Ford could be a good weapon to have on the field at the same time with outside linebacker Justin Houston and Tamba Hali to keep Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is a threat as a runner out of the pocket, in check.

FAMILY REUNION

The Chiefs will look across the field to the opposing sideline Friday night and find numerous former teammates.

Running back Dexter McCluster (2010-13) headlines a list that includes tight ends Anthony Fasano (2013-14) and Phillip Supernaw (2014), kicker Ryan Succop (2009-13), defensive lineman Ropati Pitoitua (2012), linebacker Andy Studebaker (2008-12), quarterback Alex Tanney (undrafted free agent out of Monmouth in 2012) and wide receiver Rico Richardson (undrafted free agent out of Jackson State in 2013)

There is also a local feel for attending fans with former Missouri Tigers wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, tight end Chase Coffman and long snapper Beau Brinkley.

The MIAA is represented by tight end Delanie Walker, who played at Central Missouri.

* NOTE: The original published version had Ramik Wilson with 10 total tackles. The sentence is revised to reflect the correct nine total tackles.

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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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