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Chiefs vs. Panthers Preview

Posted Aug 16, 2014

The Chiefs continue to work toward the regular season in Carolina against the Panthers

GAMETIME: 7 p.m. CT on Sunday, August 17
LOCATION: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
HOW TO WATCH: Fox | NFL Network re-air (Tuesday, 12.pm.)
HOW TO LISTEN: 101.1 The Fox
LIVEBLOG: KCChiefs.com

In the National Football League, the preseason exists so that coaches and football staff have time to figure things out before it counts. From game to game, teams hope to inch closer to the identity they wish to possess when the coin flips for the first time in Week 1—for the Chiefs, that’s on September 7 at home against the Tennessee Titans.

With one preseason game in the books, a 41-39 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Chiefs will take the field three more times, allotting them three more chances to find that identity. The first of those three is on Sunday night against the 2013 NFC South division champion Carolina Panthers.

If NFL fans didn’t know who rookie running back De’Anthony Thomas was before, they certainly do after the game against the Bengals. His 80-yard punt return touchdown highlighted an impressive scoring day for both the Chiefs special teams and defense, which together were responsible for 27 of the team’s 41 points.

“Really good start. I was really happy with the way that everything played out,” Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub said after the game. “[Thomas] showed a lot of courage catching the ball, took a good hit and still held onto the ball and didn’t go down. [He] checked his balance. Once he’s able to get in the open field, you can see how dangerous he is.”

Now that the “De’Anthony Thomas secret” is out, how the Panthers try to cover him will be something to keep an eye on.

With 27 of 41 Chiefs points coming from defense and special teams, more was left to be desired by the Chiefs offense, whose quarterback Alex Smith admitted needs to be better.

“You look at two third-and-shorts that we didn’t convert, one on the run play and the last on the pass play – miscommunication there with the receivers,” he said after watching the game tape. “You just can’t have it.”

Against the Panthers, Andy Reid said he is 90 percent certain that Smith will play for the entire first half, giving the veteran quarterback an opportunity to work against two of the league’s elite defensive players—defensive lineman Greg Hardy (No. 76) and linebacker Luke Kuechly (No. 59).

Nicknamed “the Kracken,” Greg Hardy has compiled 81 tackles and 26 sacks in the last two regular seasons combined. How Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher handles Hardy will correspond with how much time Alex Smith has to get rid of the football.

If Smith gets the time he needs, he’ll have to deal with 23-year-old Luke Kuechly, who last year was named the youngest AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in history. Over his short, two-year career, Kuechly has compiled 199 tackles and six interceptions. This past offseason, he was named as the 15th best player in the league by the NFL Network’s Top 100 countdown.

If Alex Smith and the first team can produce against those two defenders, who led a unit that was sixth in the NFL against passing yards last season, it will be a great sign for the Chiefs offense.

On the other side of the ball, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will see his first in-game action of 2014 against the Chiefs. Newton missed the Panthers first preseason game in order to give his surgically-repaired ankle more time.

Between passing and rushing the ball, Newton has compiled 13,331 yards in his career, the most of any NFL player across his first three seasons.

Netwon’s playmaking ability will be a test for the Chiefs first-team defensive unit led by linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.

While Hali and Houston continue in their second dress rehearsal, undrafted safety Daniel Sorensen will continue getting reps with the first team in his second audition on the same field. Sorensen filled in for regular safety Eric Berry against Cincinnati due to Berry’s heel tendinitis and will do so again.

RELATED: Player Profile: Daniel Sorensen

“It looks like he’s a solid football player. I mean, we need to see more,” Reid said of fellow BYU alum Sorensen after the first preseason game. “[It] looks like he’s a smart kid, solid player, was a good tackler in that game and did well with his coverage.”

Injuries to defensive lineman Mike DeVito and linebacker Josh Mauga will provide similar opportunities to Jaye Howard and Nico Johnson, respectively. Along with that, within the next two weeks, the Chiefs will cut 37 of the 90 players currently on the roster. The time to make an impression is now.

As for the kicking game, even though Ryan Succop didn’t practice at the beginning of the week, Andy Reid said he’s better and we should expect to see a similar rotation from the first game.

“(Ryan) Succop’s kicked the last couple of days; he’ll be ready to go,” Reid told the media on Friday. “I told you before, they kick and it’s like watching the World Cup. I love watching the competition, but they’re so close every day, it’s crazy. They’re both right there.”

As many roster questions still loom, the Chiefs hope to get closer to finding the answers they’re looking for in the second preseason game against the Panthers.

Every game means more information and for players, coaches, football staff and fans, that means one step closer to finding out the true identity of your 2014 Kansas City Chiefs.

DEPTH CHARTS: KANSAS CITY | CAROLINA

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