Five things to watch in the Chiefs’ preseason finale against the Packers on Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium (7 p.m. on KCTV, Channel 5):
The Chiefs need to be better balanced on offense. They threw for 310 yards at Pittsburgh but their running backs gained just 33 yards in 18 carries and were unable to pick up a yard in two tries on third and fourth down. A lot will depend on how far into the game the Chiefs and Packers starters play.
What tight end will step up and replace injured Tony Moeaki, who will miss much of the season, if not all of it, because of a shoulder fracture? Anthony Fasano is a given, and the Chiefs would be wise to keep him out of harm’s way. Rookie Travis Kelce missed a week of practice and last week’s game at Pittsburgh, and he needs to show what he can do. Keep an eye on first-year player Kevin Brock, who ran alongside Fasano with the first unit in two-tight formations in practice this week, and converted college basketball player Demetrius Harris.
Who will be the special-teams hero? Three weeks ago at New Orleans, Knile Davis returned a kickoff 79 yards and Dexter McCluster returned a punt 55 yards. Against San Francisco, Quintin Demps returned a kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown. And last week, Davis went 109 yards with a kickoff return. Longtime special-teamer Terrance Copper provided key blocks on the touchdown returns, and he was released last weekend, so we’ll see how much he is missed.
The Chiefs defense needs to limit the big plays. Sometimes the aggressive nature of defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s schemes leaves the defense susceptible to the big play. The 49ers’ Frank Gore broke off a 52-yard run on San Francisco’s first play from scrimmage; and the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a 49-yard gain on Pittsburgh’s second play. The Chiefs’ backups surrendered a 34-yard TD pass at Pittsburgh, too.
It’s the last preseason game before rosters need to be pared from 75 to the regular-season limit of 53 players. Veteran Shaun Draughn and second-year man Cyrus Gray will battle for the third running back spot; there’s no guarantee the Chiefs will keep four. Brock or Harris can win a job at tight end. The fourth cornerback spot is up for grabs. Jalil Brown has his ups and downs, and the Chiefs have been using safety Husain Abdullah as their nickel back. There’s a battle for the backup jobs in the offensive line, where eight players are vying for three or possibly four spots.