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Five and Five

Posted Aug 13, 2010

Five things to watch (and not to watch) vs. the Falcons

Five Things to Watch

1)      Poise and Leadership

Leaders began to emerge in the Chiefs locker room this off-season. Matt Cassel put in countless hours of extra work in the film room, Mike Vrabel re-signed, Thomas Jones was acquired and Chris Chambers opted to return as well. There was a sense of complete bye-in to the organizational goals set forth by head coach Todd Haley.

Tonight offers a chance to show fans a distinct difference from 2009; even if it’s only for a handful of offensive and defensive sets.

2)      Front Seven

The Chiefs made player development a priority to help fix a lot of issues from 2009. One of those issues was run defense. There may be times tonight when four former first-round picks make up the Chiefs front seven. Position battles excluded, this is the first opportunity for a handful of young defensive linemen and linebackers to show what progress they’ve made this off-season.

3)      Key The Tackles

If Falcons right defensive end John Abraham and his 89.5 career sacks are able to go head-to-head with Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert for a few series, the matchup will offer a good first test in protecting Matt Cassel’s blind side. Although Albert and right tackle Ryan O’Callaghan are expected to start, focusing on their backups is worth a look as well.

The Chiefs are giving two young players with minimal gameday snaps an opportunity to seize key backup positions along the offensive front. How will Barry Richardson and Colin Brown respond?

4)      Gun The Gunners

With heavy competition for reserve roster spots in the defensive backfield and in the receiving ranks, the ability to effectively gun on punt coverage could help write the Final 53. For gunners, there is more than being fast and flying down the sideline. Getting a clean release off the line of scrimmage, finding the football and throttling down in the open field are all essentials; not to mention tackling.

Keep an eye out as to who runs with the first group at gunner and who fills in behind them. Quinten Lawrence and Maurice Leggett have received a lot of reps at the position during training camp, though there are many vying to put gunner on their preseason resume.

5)      The Draft Picks

Tonight is the first opportunity to see Kansas City’s 2010 Draft Class in game action. All are expected to play, with the exception of third-round pick Tony Moeaki. Moeaki missed all of practice this past week after suffering an injury during Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage.

Five Not to Watch?

1)      The Depth Chart (Part I) –Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles

Who starts?

Does it really matter?

The fact that Charles opened up as the number two runner on the Chiefs first depth chart has generating plenty of press, but the debate as to who should be the Chiefs number one runner is a short-sighted view to say the least. It’s a guarantee that Charles and Jones will pair to carry major offensive role for the Chiefs in 2010. Both players have taken plenty of reps with the first team throughout training camp.

2)      The Depth Chart (Part II) – The rotation at inside linebacker

The four-man rotation at inside linebacker between Jovan Belcher, Derrick Johnson, Corey Mays and Demorrio Williams has been in constant motion since May. The battle isn’t likely to be decided after one preseason game either.

There’s no doubt that the competition at inside linebacker is one of training camp’s biggest stories, but who draws the starting nod tonight isn’t necessarily an indication of who will start on September 13th. How each player seizes their on-field opportunities tonight is much more important than which players are on the field for the game’s opening snap.

3)      The Depth Chart (Part III) – The depth chart in general

Catch the theme here? The preseason depth chart always yields plenty of conversation despite the fact that it’s always changing. If you’re a “depth chart person” that’s perfectly fine, but just know you’re likely in for a wild ride over the next month. With the competition that’s spread throughout the Chiefs roster, this is a sheet of paper that is bound to carry plenty of changes between now and Opening Day.

4)      Individual Stats

We all want the Chiefs to show us something tonight; particularly involving high-profile positions in the stat book. But keep in mind that the Chiefs will likely only tear a few pages out of the offensive and defensive playbook this evening. At this time of year, it can be pretty bland on both sides of the football as teams work to perfect their base sets while not showing too much on tape for regular season opponents.

5)      Gonzalez vs. Chiefs  

This is the first time that the Chiefs will square off against Tony Gonzalez since the club traded him to Atlanta in April of 2009. It will be strange for Chiefs fans to see #88 lining up on the opposite side of the football, but so much has changed since Gonzalez’s departure.

The franchise, from top-to-bottom is merely a shell of itself from when Gonzalez last called Kansas City home. Plus, this is an exhibition game; particularly for an established veteran like Gonzalez who often let his feelings towards the preseason be known while he was in Kansas City.

If there is an awkward feeling there, it shouldn’t last long. Gonzalez likely won’t play more than a few offensive series at most.

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