Don't Kill The Mellinger

Columnist Sam Mellinger's thoughts on sports and other important stuff

The only thing that matters for Chiefs tonight, and other things to watch

08/09/2013 9:13 PM

08/09/2013 9:13 PM

OMG THE CHIEFS PLAY TONIGHT YOU GUYS!!!

Well, at least, kind of.

We’re all adults here, so we understand the significance of NFL preseason games, and why the

NFL is seriously considering changes

to how this whole thing looks. But the way it looks tonight is the Chiefs play in New Orleans, site of one of their two wins from last year. The major story locally, of course, is Sean Payton’s return to coaching but in Kansas City we don’t care so much about that.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on (check out

Randy’s list, and Teicher’s) as you flip back and forth between the Chiefs and the hot-fire Royals

:

Injuries:

This is really all that matters. If there is a major injury, this game will be big step back for the Chiefs. If there is not, the Chiefs will have made progress. That’s an oversimplification, but barely.

Tyler Bray: He’s today’s column

, because he’s impressed everyone inside of the organization and these four preseason games are his biggest chance to make it more than a good first impression. So far, he’s shown humility, hard work, self-awareness and a tendency to take shots downfield. Preseason games – especially the first preseason games – are irrelevant for most of the guys fans care about. Bray is a 6-foot-6, strong-armed exception. He’ll start the second half.

Eric Berry: This sets up as a season Berry could solidly establish himself as an elite player. Randy wrote about this the other day

, but new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton – for some reason it makes me giggle a little bit when the players refer to him as "Coach Bob" – is going to have Berry all over the field. He’s still the strong safety, but it sounds like he’ll blitz more and play linebacker in the dime. This is a good match for both Berry’s skillset and style. He’s strong, athletic, smart, diligent, and has always been very physical, especially for a safety. He might be the biggest beneficiary of the coaching change on defense.

Eric Fisher

: He had a rough start to training camp, especially for a No. 1 overall pick. Nobody’s expecting him to be Anthony Munoz right away, but it would be a bad look for the Chiefs’ new leadership if their No. 1 pick struggles too much. We are miles and miles away from the time for real concern. If nothing else, it will be good for him to go through a "real" routine of NFL gameday, play in an NFL stadium, against other NFL players.

Dontari Poe: There are other guys on defense worth your eye, but I’m picking Poe because the watered-down, vanilla sort of plays we’re likely to see tonight shouldn’t effect whether we can judge him. His job is to win the battle at the line of scrimmage, collapse the pocket if he can, and that doesn’t change much whether they’re in a soft zone or blitz. NFL conventional wisdom is that defensive linemen often make a jump from year one to two. This is his first chance.

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