Preseason Game 1: Saturday’s keys for the Chiefs

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1. De’Anthony Thomas looking comfortable in his new assignment.

Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It didn’t take long for Thomas to make his presence felt last August. In the first preseason tilt against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2014, Thomas took a punt back 80 yards for a touchdown. His value as a special teams player is widely known around the NFL, but he’s recently been re-assigned offensively (as a wide receiver). If the reports are true, Thomas has made quite the splash in his new role, proving to be quite difficult to cover, even by some of the most talented young cornerbacks on the roster. The second-year man, affectionately known as “Black Mamba”, has the kind of speed and quickness that make him a nightmare to cover.

A number of practice videos, circulating on the web, show Thomas getting the best of Chiefs’ cornerbacks. The most infamous of the two, captured an embarrassing moment for Phillip Gaines. In the footage, Thomas obliterated Gaines on a dig route that made a jumbled mess of Gaines’ feet and sent him somersaulting down the field. In another video, formerly posted to YouTube — but since removed — Thomas made short work of rookie Marcus Peters on a combination route. I’m curious to see if this translates in the heat of preseason battle. If he can prove as troublesome to the Cardinals secondary, it might be reason to think the Chiefs passing offense can expect a lift, in the slot, when the real bullets start flying.

2. Time to throw for Alex Smith (specifically, from the left side).

There may be a national spotlight on the issue with Kansas City’s receiving corps — due largely to the statistic-that-won’t-go-away — but anyone actively following the team might cite the offensive line as the team’s most problematic child. For the second consecutive offseason, the team lost one of its top offensive line talents to free agency. Kansas City acquired two players in free agency (guards Paul Fanaika and Ben Grubbs) and drafted former Missouri Tiger Mitch Morse to help stop the bleeding. The results thus far have been mixed. Recently, head coach Andy Reid’s been shuffling pieces around and it might be an indication that he’s not happy with how the line’s progressing.

Ben Grubbs and Eric Fisher are the only sure bets as starters along the offensive line. The other three spots have been platooned since the beginning of training camp. I’m looking forward to seeing what Smith can expect from his blindside protection moving forward. In 2014, he was constantly under duress with a struggling Eric Fisher and a God-awful Mike McGlynn patrolling his left side. Fisher’s reportedly bigger and stronger, and Grubbs is as stable a veteran guard as you’ll find in the NFL. Keeping Alex Smith comfortable is a priority this season and seeing early signs that there’s been improvement there will be reassuring to fans, to Smith, and the Chiefs coaching staff.

Next: Continuing with the defensive side...