The Chiefs will square off against Chicago in their third preseason game at noon Saturday at Soldier Field in Chicago. Here are five things to keep an eye on.
1. Can the run defense step up?
The Chiefs’ first string defense has given up 141 yards on 25 carries in the first two preseason games. That’s an average of nearly 6 yards per carry, and that’s way, way, way too high. Linebacker Derrick Johnson said after their most recent loss, a 21-20 defeat to the Los Angeles Rams, that the Chiefs were allowing too many 6- and 7-yard runs that should be 2- and 3-yard runs. The return of Eric Berry — who will report to the Chiefs on Sunday — will help, but it would be nice to see the first-stringers improve their gap discipline, run fits and tackling on Saturday.
2. Who will line up across from Marcus Peters?
The Chiefs’ No. 2 cornerback job is up for grabs, and no one has completely taken hold of it. Second-year pro Steven Nelson started the first preseason game, while rookie D.J. White started the second game. Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Phillip Gaines, who is the odds-on favorite to win the job but has been recovering from knee surgery, will likely play this weekend, so perhaps it’s him.
3. Who will line up next to Ron Parker?
Berry will be back soon enough, but rookie Eric Murray — not previous starter Daniel Sorensen — got the nod in the Chiefs’ last game. Sorensen is a hitter who will likely have a defensive role when Berry comes back; perhaps the Chiefs wanted to get a good look at Murray to see what they have, and whether he could contribute as a fourth safety. Perhaps the team's decision to release Stevie Brown this week means the answer might be yes.
4. Can the first-string offense keep rolling?
Quarterback Alex Smith and the rest of the starters have been very sharp this preseason, scoring 27 points in only three quarters of work. Smith, in particular, has been very good, completing 12 of 16 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. One thing to keep an eye on is the offensive line, though. The young group struggled against the Rams’ very good front seven a week ago, and needs to continue to jell in hopes of keeping Smith upright.
5. Who will get the nod at inside linebacker?
Derrick Johnson is entrenched at the weakside position, but youngsters Justin March and Ramik Wilson continue to battle it out for playing time due to Josh Mauga’s absence. Wilson started Game 1, while March got the nod in the last game. Whichever player starts Saturday’s game has to be considered the favorite to either start during the regular season or be the top backup behind Johnson and Mauga.