KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Stats are groovy and all, but unless you’re in some kind of bizarro preseason NFL fantasy league — and if such a beast exists, Lord help us all — August doesn’t count.
So yes, Alex Smith (7-of-8 passing, 68 yards) was sharper than a throwing star. Yes, Jamaal Charles (one rushing touchdown, three receptions for 27 yards) is still a one man chain-moving machine. Yes, the special teams (a 79-yard kick return by Knile Davis; a 55-yard punt return by Dexter McCluster; Dustin Colquitt in general) could be straight nasty, once guru Dave Toub and his posse work out the kinks.
But the best thing, really, to come out of the first preseason tilt of the Andy Reid Era — a 17-13 Chiefs loss to the New Orleans Saints — is that Eric Fisher’s left thumb is in one piece. Allegedly.
Restating the obvious here, but the smart NFL teams have two goals coming out of exhibitions:
1. Rake in as much stinking cash as possible
2. Keep your key 22 healthy going into Week 1
And everything else, really, is gravy. Yours for $9.00 in a 32-ounce souvenir cup.
So when word came late in the second quarter at the Superdome that Fisher, the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft and debuting as the Chiefs’ new right tackle, had been taken into the locker room for further examination, well … see goal No. 2. There’s a reason the stars spend most of the month styling the baseball caps on the sideline.
Fortunately, X-rays came back negative. Which is good. And Reid said late Friday night that he didn’t think it was an issue. Even better.
Stiil, it’s a red flag, officially, from now until the lid-lifter down in Jacksonville on September 8. Especially when you lump in the ESPN report from last week that the rookie out of Central Michigan had, during his first practice at training camp, apparently injured two fingers in his right hand. And that, a few days later, he reportedly did the same to his left. And that the man among the most likely to spell Fisher in a pinch, backup tackle Donald Stephenson, is still recovering from recent surgery to fix a problem with his finger.
In August, Reid doesn’t have to win the day. But caution does.
The more bodies upright, the merrier. Because if the initial drive of the first-teamers was any indication, this offense just might have the goods to back up the pundits who like the Chiefs as a sleeper AFC playoff pick.
Even if it was vanilla, the attack was quick, it was varied, it was crisp, and — more to the point — it didn’t mess around.
Smith drove the visitors 80 yards down the field on Kansas City’s first drive of the night, a 14-play jaunt that ended on a Charles touchdown run right up Fisher’s side of the line. The rapport Smith showed with tight end Anthony Fasano, another import, looked every bit as real against live opposition as it has since practice sessions in April.
Of the 13 first-half completions by Chiefs signal-callers, eight were to backs, three were to wideouts, two were to tight ends, and none were to Jon Baldwin.
Hey, nothing’s perfect.
And Team Andy wasn’t either: Rookie tailback Knile Davis may possess wiggles to make even a broken play interesting, but the former Arkansas standout still doesn’t look natural catching the ball. First-year quarterback Tyler Bray’s arm was as advertised. And the pocket awareness was, too — as evident by the sack-strip-fumble with 6:31 left in the third quarter that gave the rock back to the Saints. Cornerback Vince Agnew? Oy vey.
But that’s preseason in the NFL: A lot of sound, a lot of fury, all signifying pretty much nothing. Over the last 10 seasons, Reid has posted a .500 record in exhibitions four times, a losing record four times and a winning record twice.
This month, the scoreboard is window dressing. The important thing is progress, forward momentum, one dog day at a time. That and health. So when Fisher says he feels all right, you exhale and cross your fingers. Gingerly.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com