3 in the Kee: As injuries and doubts pile up, Chiefs might need to seek outside answers
Injured players. Suspended players. Team-wide breakdowns. With questions and doubts all across the Chiefs' roster, is it time to start scouring the waiver wire for reinforcements?
Alex Smith and the Chiefs' first-team offense have been ineffective this preseason.
John Rieger / USA TODAY Sports
By Sean Keeler
KANSAS CITY, Mo. --What the #*@% was THAT?
The Kansas City Chiefs' 30-12 sleepwalk of a loss to Minnesota in their home preseason finale raised all kinds of questions, most of them accompanied by salty language. Coach Andy Reid reiterated early this week that he'd like to rest his starters -- or most of 'em, anyway -- for Thursday's fourth and final August exhibition in Green Bay, but Chiefs fans probably wouldn't mind seeing more first-teamers logging more than a few minutes than usual, you feel, just for some reassurance that the train-off-the-skids performance at Arrowhead Stadium isn't some kind of dang harbinger of what's to come.
Especially up front. With starting right tackle Donald Stephenson forced to miss the first four regular-season contests because of a PED suspension, Reid trotted out a new-look offensive line against the Vikings, and they played, for the most part, like total strangers.
"We're in this to win games, preseason or not," guard Jeff Linkenbach said after the tilt. "To say that we weren't ready, I don't think that's necessarily the case. It's just -- I guess it just wasn't our night."
No kidding. And the doubts linger on ...
THREE LINGERING QUESTIONS FROM VIKINGS 30, CHIEFS 12
:03 ... How soon will Eric Berry be back? What about Joe Mays?
First, the good news. And by good, we mean less bad. Reid told reporters Sunday that he's getting some of the walking wounded back on the field this week -- including, possibly, Berry, sidelined for most of the last two weeks because of a recurring heel issue.
It's a whirlwind stretch until Sept. 1, a short week leading into a Thursday night game -- rosters have to be down to 75 by Tuesday and to 53 by Saturday, which means a Labor Day weekend of more roster tweaking. Remember: Chiefs general manager John Dorsey found a handful of solid contributors to the Cinderella rise of 2013 via the waiver wire right after the preseason ended -- that's when Marcus Cooper, Ron Parker and the now-departed/former-cult-hero Sean McGrath were brought aboard before getting thrown into the mix fairly quickly.
But while Berry seems a better than 65 percent bet to make the opener against Tennessee on Sept. 7, the word on Mays was significantly less encouraging. Some reports have pegged the inside linebacker's return as at least a month away, and even Reid, a notorious avoider of negative details, said flat-out that he doesn't "think it'll be short period of time here, fellas."
:02 ... So that's zero touchdown drives in 16 tries for the first-team offense so far, right? How does THAT number not keep me up nights?
No, seriously, it's been borderline brutal, especially Alex Smith's two interceptions Saturday night while deep in the Vikings' red zone. Turn those into touchdowns, perhaps a 10-5 deficit at the half for The Andy Gang becomes a 19-10 halftime lead for the starters. Or a touchdown and a field goal, and you're talking 15-10, Chiefs, at the break.
If nothing else, the inability to finish on those drives only underscores the value -- and importance -- of tailback Jamaal Charles, both as a runner and a pass-catcher near the end zone. You don't know what kind of hammer you've got in No. 25 -- who led all NFL tailbacks in touchdowns rushing and receiving last year with 19 -- until he's gone.
"Is it something that I feel that we can turn on?" left guard Jeff Allen asked. "That's something you wouldn't want to have to; you have to have that sense of a certain urgency. It's a small margin of error in the NFL: You can't turn the ball over. You can't have negative plays. You can't have miscommunications. That kills you. So (we've) got to take advantage of the opportunities we have to put points on the board and put pressure on the other team."
:01 ... Is there anyone on the waiver wire to keep an eye on? And is there time to turn it around?
The obvious potholes created by injury or player discipline are at offensive tackle, wideout, safety and inside linebacker. Is former Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson, cut by the Bears, worth a flyer? Or offensive lineman Winston Justice, a Broncos casualty? The most damning (and surprising) thing -- given the faith and trust that the Reid/Dorsey regime built up in such a short time -- from Saturday night's debacle was how damn complete it was, on so many levels. Blocking? Fail. Separation and catching? Fail. Smith's throws in the red zone? Fail. Special teams coverage? Fail. As bad days at the office go, it was a bad day for most of the units.