Well, here we are Chiefs Kingdom back at Arrowhead Stadium. The final game of the preseason is Saturday. With less than two weeks from the regular season opener against the Detroit Lions, let’s take a look at the final tune-up game between the Cleveland Browns and the Kansas City Chiefs.
This one would be more interesting but Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach, Andy Reid is typically risk-averse in running the ones for the last preseason game. Yet, I believe we may see a few of them, specifically Isaiah Pacheco, now that he’s been cleared for contact. Reid says he ‘may play’ so with that in mind, let’s take a look at the matchups.
The second and third teams will likely spend the majority of the game in action. The ‘roster bubble’ guys will get a chance to show what they can bring to the team to pad their resumes. Expect a good dose of La’Mical Perine and Deneric Prince running the ball for the Chiefs. Both kids have shown promise during training camp with Perine being the late bloomer. I expect to see a couple of hungry guys take the field fighting for a roster spot.
I know, what about Clyde Edwards-Helaire? Andy Reid likes guys who will stick it out, regardless of the end result. CEH may have a shot but if Perine or Prince can show a better upside, CEH will either get cut or be the subject of a long-shot trade. The Colts might need a running back.
As far as the Blaine Gabbert/Shane Buechele competition, here is what I think. They’re both locks to make the 53-man roster. Reid needs his assurance that a vet brings to the position but he also knows he has a baller in Buechele. Personally, I’m not a particular fan of Gabbert but he’s been part of some good games. Will this give the number two tilt toward him? Possibly but look at Buechele’s performance on the field. This kid has learned quite a lot under Patrick Mahomes’ tutelage and it shows.
Offensive line play is another animal that needs to be shored up. Donovan Smith has shown some strong abilities and appears to be healthy, but the Browns pass rush is the best he’s seen to date with the Chiefs. I’d like to see a series or two out of him just to be convinced he’s the answer at left tackle. Jawaan Taylor in his natural position can be that guy on the right for the foreseeable future. Wanya Morris is the wild card. This guy is a mountain of a man. If he can capture pro technique like I think he’s capable of, he may be on a fast track to protect Mahomes’ blind side long term.
The receiver questions will be answered on Saturday. Justyn Ross will make the roster. I expect Rashee Rice, Justin Watson, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who likely is fighting for the last wide receiver spot to play their tails off. Training camp darling, Nikko Remigio is out with a shoulder injury. I had thought he had an inside track to a roster spot but after dislocating his shoulder, he’ll likely be placed on the practice squad with an injury designation.
Looking at the defense side of the ball, Danny Shelton is my man! As a middle-of-the-line run stuffer and a general wrecking ball of a player, he will likely show up again on Saturday. His first step over the center or either tackle can lead to disruption and general chaos on any play he can get that step on.
Chris Jones’ situation notwithstanding, the defensive line play has to advance. I think Steve Spagnuolo may have his hands full in generating the necessary push at the point of attack, but I have a feeling we haven’t seen all that this line and secondary are capable of. Okay, I may be a ‘glass half full’ kind of optimist but Joe Cullen has a way of coaching guys up.
I don’t know how much of Felix Anudike-Uzomah we’ll see but if Spags plays him, this kid has to make a statement that he’ll be a next-level disruptor. Keondre Coburn needs to ball out for this game, as well. Understandably, the line is the key to the season. Without the superior line play of Chris Jones, the rest of the boys need to hike up their britches and play big boy ball.
As for the Browns, they have a number of questions that need to be answered. I think their backup quarterback race is a three-headed monster. While Deshaun Watson is the undisputed starter, Joshua Dobbs, Kellen Mound, and Dorian Thompson-Robinson are in the mix to be his understudy. DTR played well against the Eagles and quite possibly placed him as the QB of the future in Cleveland. Kevin Stefanski and Alex Van Pelt can make a statement with DTR but only time will tell. He’s a tough kid and could make a play for more time Saturday.
I think the running backs are not an issue with Nick Chubb still atop the depth chart. The unfortunate injury to Jerome Ford will give opportunities to the bubble guys like John Kelly, Jr., Hassan Hall, and Jordan Wilkins. Personally, Demetric Felton showing up on special teams will strengthen his case.
As to the Browns receivers, Austin Watkins definitely raised his stock with his showing against the Eagles. His seven receptions for 139 yards and a score. Even though the Browns have 12 receivers on the 90-man roster, Watkins may well have taken his stock up to the 53-man with his continued stellar play.
Line play on the defensive side of the ball is not a real question. Coaches, Jim Schwartz, and Ben Bloom have ballers in Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith and the line has decent depth. So, I don’t expect any surprises here we’ll just have to see who steps up.
Same thing in the linebacker’s room. Sione Takitaki and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah are pretty much locks but rookie Mohamoud Diabate is pushing for the roster with his play.
Our old friend Juan Thornhill leads the safeties and will be the starting FS although Schwartz won’t play him for this exhibition. There is depth in this secondary with D’Anthony Bell and Rodney McLeod who should get some reps on Saturday.
All in all, I expect this game to be somewhat of a snoozer but still exciting enough from the perspective of seeing the Chiefs overall depth.
For the first time during the Reid era, he has considerable depth at every position outside of the defensive line. In this game, he has to hope everyone gets out of it healthy. Should untimely injuries occur on Saturday, the quartet of Andy Reid, Matt Nagy, Steve Spagnuolo, and Dave Toub will bring the very best of this team as they get ready for the Detroit Lions a week from Thursday.
My Prediction: Chiefs 36 – Browns 28