Here are five questions and answers from the Chiefs’ final preseason game, on Thursday night at the Edward Jones Dome, where the Chiefs beat the Rams 24-17 and finished the preseason 4-0.
1. Who was the most interesting inactive player on Thursday?
Perhaps Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a second-year guard who is long on tools but short on experience. He seems like a guy who can use as many reps as possible, so the coaching staff’s decision to sit him with the rest of the established starters was interesting, to say the least. Perhaps it was an indication they like what they’ve seen and consider him a possible starter this year. On the other hand, the staff sat just about every player who ran with the first team in the third preseason game, so they are just being uniform. Either way, it’s interesting.
2. How about Zach Fulton starting at center? What brought that on?
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Chiefs coach Andy Reid has consistently noted the importance of versatility, and Fulton’s action at center Thursday — the first time he’s appeared in a game there, even dating back to college — likely was born out of that thinking. Fulton was a 16-game starter at right guard last year as a rookie, but he was replaced with the first-team unit after the first preseason game this year by Duvernay-Tardif. If Fulton isn’t going to start, he needs to be able to help in multiple spots, and it was important for him to show he could. If the staff was pleased with what it saw Thursday — Fulton had zero errant snaps and showed some power on his combo blocks and double teams — it will be interesting to see what the Chiefs do with backup center Eric Kush, a three-year veteran who lost his starting job to Mitch Morse early in camp and has not worked at other positions this preseason.
3. Can the Chiefs keep seven receivers?
It’s tough; many teams don’t do it. But you have to figure that Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson, Chris Conley and De’Anthony Thomas are locks, and Jason Avant — one of the team’s best route runners — should be. That leaves three guys — Frankie Hammond, Fred Williams and rookie Da’Ron Brown — for one spot. Hammond can do more on special teams but Williams has looked better at receiver, which might come in handy with Wilson (shoulder sprain) and Avant (hip) a little banged up. With final cuts coming by 3 p.m. Saturday, it will be interesting to see what the Chiefs do.
4. Will the Chiefs keep four tight ends?
The slightly sprained ankle to Travis Kelce might complicate things. The return of Demetrius Harris, who logged some snaps in the first half, could too. Given how many three-tight end sets Reid has liked to mix into his offense, it might make sense to keep four instead of three. Fifth-round rookie James O’Shaughnessy and fifth-year veterans Ryan Taylor and Richard Gordon are the players in the backup mix behind Kelce.
5. OK, the preseason is wrapping up. What’s the most likely outcome for this season?
I predicted the Chiefs would go 9-7 this year in The Star’s annual football special section, with one caveat; if they get a few breaks, they could easily reach double-digit wins and take the division. But 9-7 is a safe estimate. This is a talented team, and as long as the injury bug doesn’t strike — and the offensive line is adequate, at least — this could be the best overall season of Reid and general manager John Dorsey’s three-year tenure. But after missing the playoffs a year ago, they will need some breaks along the way to get there. And Denver and San Diego, two solid clubs in their own right, won’t make things easy.