ST. LOUIS, MO- The Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs wrap up their preseason schedules Thursday night with a 7 pm kickoff from Lambeau Field, live on FOX2.
Like everyone else in the NFL, teams are hoping to avoid injuries to key players ahead of the start of the regular season next week. The Chiefs lost backup QB Chad Henne to ankle surgery last week and the timetable for his return in uncertain.
FOX2 checked in with Matt Derrick, publisher and beat writer at Chiefs Digest, for some help answering remaining questions for Kansas City, including a progress check on a pair of St. Louis area high school products on the roster.
Q: Traditionally, starters don’t see much action in the last NFL preseason game, so will the game help answer any remaining position battles?
A: The No. 3 quarterback battle takes the spotlight, even if the winner eventually lands on the practice squad. Kyle Shurmur, the former Vanderbilt quarterback whose father Pat (former St. Louis Rams Offensive Coordinator) is head coach of the New York Giants and has known Andy Reid virtually his entire life, appears to own the lead over Chase Litton. Those two quarterbacks should each play a half against the Packers.
This game should also serve as a high-profile test for the team’s young secondary. Cornerbacks D’Montre Wade, Herb Miller and Mark Fields remain battling for probably one spot on the 53-man roster. All three have had highlights and struggles during training camp and the preseason, but this game serves as a final extended opportunity to prove they can handle a larger role in the defense.
Also keep an eye on the Chiefs’ wide receivers and defensive line. Those position groups are loaded, and could provide currency for a waiver-wire trade deal. Wide receivers Cody Thompson and Rashard Davis, along with defensive linemen Justin Hamilton and Joey Ivie might not crack the Chiefs’ active roster in Week 1, but all four can play in the NFL right now.
Q: The Chiefs can’t keep Patrick Mahomes in bubble wrap….is Matt Moore really the answer as the backup QB with Chad Henne injured?
A: If Mahomes does down for any extended period of time, the Chiefs offense changes drastically and it doesn’t matter if Moore, Henne or one of the young quarterback lines up behind center. In Moore the Chiefs feel they have a reliable performer who can keep the curtain up for a period of time without making too many mistakes. But just as importantly, head coach Andy Reid likes having a veteran in the quarterback room with whom Mahomes can break down film, analyze opponents for weaknesses and serve as a sounding board. It’s Moore’s decade in the league that has value to the Chiefs, regardless of whether he ever takes a snap. But at age 35 and coming off a season away from football, Moore must answer questions if he still possesses the physical tools necessary to run a high-octane offense.
Q: What kind of impression has Parkway Central grad Khalen Saunders made?
C L E A R. E Y E. V I E W.
— Khalen Saunders (@khalenNOTkaylen) July 26, 2019
A: Saunders absolutely possesses tremendous physical tools, but the defensive staff feels he’s labored at times to maintain consistent and reliable production. He’s making a big leap from FCS-level Western Illinois to the NFL, and catching up with the speed of the NFL requires an adjustment. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo this week said he thought Saunders struggled at first last week against San Francisco but improved as the game progressed. Yet the coaching staff still believes by the end of the season Saunders should find himself in a position to contribute off the bench. He’s in a great position to learn from both second-team All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones and new defensive line coach Brendan Daly, who joined the Chiefs this offseason after five years with New England.
Q: Ladue grad Jack Fox would seem to have an uphill road to beating Dustin Colquitt out, but does he look like an NFL punter?
A: Fox also struggled at first with consistency during offseason work outs and early in camp. He’s received opportunities as both a punter and kickoff specialist, and continues showing improvement. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub says Fox absolutely has an NFL leg, but he just needs to develop a more reliable routine. He’s averaging a robust 46.7 yards per punt during the preseason with a net of 41.3 yards, matching the veteran Colquitt. It’s hard to see him unseating the 37-year-old punter this season, but it wouldn’t surprise if the Chiefs kept Fox on the practice squad as a future prospect.
Q: What’s the game they’re circling on the calendar this season and why (Can’t pick week one)
A: The Week 5 Sunday night showdown at Arrowhead against Indianapolis lost its luster with Andrew Luck’s stunning retirement, which leaves one game standing alone on the calendar: the Week 14 trip to New England. The game could have huge implications for playoff seeding as well as serving as an appetizer for a potential postseason showdown. The Chiefs know the road to the Super Bowl goes through the Patriots. One of the only missing items on the resume of Mahomes is a marquee win over the AFC’s juggernaut franchise.