Chiefs vs. Seahawks: What to watch for tonight


Feels good to have football back, doesn’t it? With the preseason kicking off for the Kansas City Chiefs last Saturday, training camp all wrapped up, and the regular season less than a month away, everything is starting to feel right in the world once again. The next step on the march towards the regular season? A rematch with our 2014 Week 11 opponents, the Seattle Seahawks (easily one of my favorite games from the past season). 

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Last week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals brought with it a few things: panic-inducing injuries (three of them!), backups lighting it up (looking at you, Chase Daniel), and bubble players making plays (Justin March and Dezman Moses). So after a pretty eventful start to the preseason, here’s what I’ll have my eye on when the Chiefs take the field tonight:

1) Offensive Line Depth

One of the aforementioned panic-inducing injuries suffered against the Arizona Cardinals was Jeff Allen – a probable starter at some position on the right side of the line. Follow that up with Eric Fisher’s high-ankle sprain, and we are going to get an early look at what kind of depth we have along our o-line. If recent training camp combinations provide any insight: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Paul Fanaika, and Donald Stephenson, are all players to watch closely.

Stephenson will get a shot at protecting Smith’s (and maybe Daniel’s) blindside after spending his whole career on the right side. For the sake of our quarterbacks, I pray he’s a quick learner. LDT and Fanaika on the other hand,  are both guys who haven’t spent much time with the one’s this training camp, (Fanaika even struggling to get a spot with the two’s at points), so it will be interesting to see the chemistry this combination shows. I’ll especially have an eye on how this makeshift right side fares picking up any stunts and twists the Seahawks throw at them. 

2) The Backfield Battle

If you had asked me who would be the number two running back for the 2015 Chiefs, I would’ve said Knile Davis, without hesitation. Ask me that same question after the Cardinals game, and there is now a brief pause. Charcandrick (no last name needed), the 2014 undrafted free agent, turned in a performance that opened my eyes. On his way to racking up over 100 yards of offense on nine touches, Charcandrick showed speed, elusiveness, and soft hands; the latter two traits being common criticisms of Knile Davis.

Now I’m not declaring this a full-scale position battle, especially when Knile has shown he can carry a full workload in regular season games, but I am saying that Charcandrick has definitely started a conversation that few people thought we’d be having, and deserves a further look.

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3) Ramik Wilson Stepping Up

Throughout the offseason and training camp, it was widely accepted that the ILB spot beside Derrick Johnson was one of the few things that could prevent this defense from being elite (the other mainly being an injury to Justin Houston and/or Dontari Poe – sigh). While Josh Mauga filled in admirably for DJ last season, his inconsistency week-to-week raised more questions than answers on if he was part of the long-term solution. Ramik Wilson was taken in the fourth round of this year’s draft, and was met with a whole lot of indifference.

However, that indifference is slowly turning into optimism after Wilson played some inspired football against the Cardinals, leading the team with five tackles and coming away with an interception (something the Chiefs sorely need more of this season). Now, Wilson comes into tonight with every opportunity to strengthen his bid for a starting spot; Mauga will miss tonight’s game with a heel injury, and undrafted rookie Justin March, who showed tremendous flashes last week, tore his meniscus I’ll be interested to see if Wilson does indeed step-up his play tonight.

4) Smith and Maclin’s Chemistry

Reports out of training camp have Chiefs fans everywhere excited that Smith and Jeremy Maclin are developing that kind of chemistry that will lead to a less risk-averse passing attack in 2015. If the first offensive play of the Cardinals game is any indicator, this is exactly what we will see come September 13th in Houston. Against the Seahawks, I’ll be looking for some more downfield shots headed in #19’s direction. But the deep ball is only half of the story with these two, the other half is seeing how much Smith trusts Maclin against tight coverage.

Lucky for us,it just so happens that Maclin will be lining up against one of the premier cover corners in the game – Richard Sherman. I’m extremely curious to see: a) How Maclin fares getting open against Sherman, and b) What Alex Smith determines to be an acceptable window to throw it Maclin’s way.

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5) Eric Berry

Let’s be honest, Eric Berry is, and will continue to be the best part of the 2015 Chiefs. Everything about his journey these past eight months has been the definition of inspiring. Last week against the Cardinals, in his emotional return to game action, Berry saw eight snaps. Tonight, I’m hoping to see if Berry’s body, and the coaches, will allow him to be on the field for at least a double that number.

While the human side of the story is obvious, the football side is intriguing. The Chiefs have two solid starters in Husain Abdullah and Ron Parker, and having a quality player like Tyvon Branch as depth must make Bob Sutton pretty happy. So seeing where Berry fits into the rotation, and how Sutton deploys him in various defensive looks, will be something to watch for.