Kansas City Chiefs’ preseason opener is Saturday: Here are 5 things (plus 1) to watch

·3 min read
Tammy Ljungblad/tljungblad@kcstar.com

The Chiefs open their three-game preseason slate at the Chicago Bears on Saturday at Soldier Field.

Chiefs Andy Reid said each of the four quarterbacks will be expected to play a quarter. Kickoff is slated for noon, and the game will be televised on Channel 41 in Kansas City.

Here are five things to watch.

1. First NFL action for 10 draft picks (ten!)

The Chiefs will be getting long looks at several new players, including the draft class that produced 10 newcomers. Cornerback Trent McDuffie is expected to start. So, too, could defensive end George Karlaftis. Among other rookies listed on the two-deep are safety Bryan Cook, wide receiver Skyy Moore, linebacker Leo Chenal and cornerback Joshua Williams.

“I tell them to study as much as they can,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said when asked what advice he’s had for his rookie teammates. “Then, when the get to the game, just go out there and play like you’ve been doing your whole life. You’re in this position for a reason. Let your talent show.”

2. Who becomes the newly favored WR target(s)?

Not only has Tyreek Hill moved, on but so have Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle.

They were three of the Chiefs’ top six leaders in receptions last season. In their place are JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Moore. Smith-Schuster has been the most consistent of the group in training camp, but Moore has excelled in getting off the line.

3. The running back competition is heated

Five running backs are getting the majority of reps at camp, and the order after Clyde Edwards-Helarie has changed throughout the Chiefs’ ongoing stay at Missouri Western.

Lately, Jerick McKinnon has run with the second team and rookie Isiah Pacheco has been getting attempts ahead of veteran newcomer Ronald Jones and veteran holdover Derrick Gore.

It’s possible that the Chiefs, who typically carry a fullback on their roster, will keep as few as three running backs.

4. Linebackers looking strong

Flying somewhat under the radar in training camp has been the play of linebackers Nick Bolton and Willie Gay Jr.

It’s difficult to evaluate positions like linebacker during a mostly non-contact training camp. But Bolton and Gay have flashed a level of speed that the Chiefs haven’t enjoyed at the position in years. And Gay has been a ball hawk.

When the Chiefs add another linebacker to the mix during camp-practice sessions, it’s often been former Kansas State and Blue Springs High star Elijah Lee.

5. Working in Carlos Dunlap, Rashad Fenton

The Chiefs added to their defensive end rotation last week by signing free agent Carlos Dunlap. And cornerback Rashad Fenton recently returned from an injury that had kept him out of the early portion of camp.

How much will those two play? Reid said both could see action. And once the regular season arrives, Dunlap could be a critical new and needed piece for a defense that finished 29th in the NFL in sacks last season.

“I like where I fit,” Dunlap said

Bonus: Special teams factor

Special teams coordinator Dave Toub will have a say when it comes to players on the bubble for roster cuts.

For the final few roster spots, look at who is playing key roles on special teams — return specialists, gunners and players who are on multiple special teams units. The Chiefs must replace several special teams regulars from last season’s roster, and Toub’s input here will definitely inform the overall decision-making.