Chiefs vs. Browns: What we learned from K.C.'s preseason finale

There's nothing official about the Chiefs vs. Browns game, but there were some substantive takeaways all the same.
Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs
Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs / David Eulitt/GettyImages

The final preseason game is mostly a game to get through for the Kansas City Chiefs in recent years. Head coach Andy Reid refuses to play his starters and instead uses it as an exhibition for those players likely on the outside looking in of the active roster to at least make their case to get picked up by someone else—or on the team's practice squad. After all, the Chiefs want to avoid injury more than anything else heading into the regular season.

That said, it's not as if there was nothing on the line for the Chiefs as they hosted the Cleveland Browns in the preseason finale for both franchises. As they took to the field for the only exhibition at Arrowhead this summer, there were still a few lessons to be learned on Saturday for both sides.

While the final score of 33-32 in favor of K.C. doesn't matter to anyone but the Baltimore Ravens (who like to keep track of their consecutive wins when it doesn't count for anything), here's what we are taking away from the Chiefs' perspective from Saturday afternoon.

Arizona makes everyone look good

Looking back a week ago, it felt like every single player on the Chiefs 90-man roster was deserving of a place on the active roster. That's overstating it, of course, but last Saturday's domination of the Arizona Cardinals made every offensive unit look like Patrick Mahomes was at the helm and the defense like a juggernaut.

While it was a nice game and the Cardinals are still a professional franchise, the truth is that Arizona's roster is the least talented top to bottom in the NFL and the Chiefs took advantage. Against a deeper opponent, such as the Browns on Saturday, it was a reminder that young players are going to make mistakes and not every Chiefs QB could win the MVP.

In the end, it was a less fun game, but the rise in competition actually helped sort some things out, which brings us to our second point.

Roster battles clear up

Coming into the afternoon, there were several spots on the roster where it felt quite unclear what the Chiefs might do going forward. And while that's still true in a few cases, the roster battles in some other spots also became one-sided, which is important for a coaching staff and front office trying their best to make the right decisions.

After training camp, it looked as if Deneric Prince had the edge over La'Mical Perine in the backfield for that final spot on the depth chart. After two preseason games, it felt like it was even with maybe even Perine taking a slim yet meaningless lead. Against the Browns, Perine looked like the logical choice here to slide behind Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

The same could be said about the backup quarterback contest. Coming in, it felt like Blaine Gabbert would hold the QB2 job due to his experience, but Shane Buechele looked like he'd taken a significant leap forward from last year and showed a readiness for more responsibility through two games. Then came the Browns game in which Gabbert, who'd kept in step with Buechele in previous games, was the one who was clearly the safer choice behind Patrick Mahomes.

Will Perine hold the job after Tuesday (roster cuts deadline)? Will Gabbert stay at QB2? The Chiefs will make these calls with the bigger picture in mind but Perine and Gabbert have been the better players against real competition.

Major injuries avoided

While Andy Reid was careful to even make his most valuable performers available for this game (or not), it was also important for the Chiefs to come through this game healthy after playing another four quarters in the preseason.

There are some concerns with a hip injury suffered early in the game by linebacker Leo Chenal and then another linebacker Cam Jones was taken into the blue tent in the fourth quarter after being slow to get up. We certainly hope both players are okay there, but beyond that, the Chiefs came out okay which is nice to see after suffering some key injuries earlier in the offseason that are still concerning heading into the regular season.

Some cuts will hurt

As the Chiefs watched another strong effort by wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette against Cleveland on Saturday, it became clear that roster cuts are going to force K.C. to watch some talented players head elsewhere when they're undoubtedly claimed on the waiver wire.

It's quite possible the Chiefs shock everyone by making room for Smith-Marsette, but the truth is that the position is already loaded enough and a team as deep as Kansas City has to be ready to wave goodbye to such players knowing they have more talent than other teams in the league.

Smith-Marsette is hardly the only one. Nikko Remigio is a similarly impressive wide receiver who has been sitting due to injury. Matt Bushman is a tight end who should draw attention if the Chiefs don't keep him around. Ekow Boye-Doe, Kahlef Hailassie, and Reese Taylor are all cornerbacks who merit an opportunity in a secondary that's brimming with so much young talent.

Maybe the Chiefs can flip a piece or two for some draft assets or other needs, but some cuts will just hurt. There's no way around it.