When they take the field Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, both the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars hope to have different starting quarterbacks than in their most recent game.
For the Chiefs (5-2), they will go with backup quarterback Nick Foles in the starter’s seat, stepping in for Alex Smith, who is being held out of the game because "something" happened last Sunday in Kansas City’s victory over Indianapolis. More on that later.
With the Jaguars (2-5), they will have the same quarterback in the huddle. But coming off the Jags last game, Blake Bortles hopes to be a more finely tuned passer after spending time in Jacksonville with his throwing guru from the west coast.
It’s a noon CST kickoff for the game where the Chiefs are a heavy favorite and carry a three-game winning streak into the afternoon. The Jaguars have lost their last two and are 1-2 on the road this season.
Andy Reid’s team has been hit with a rash of injuries in recent weeks. Running back Jamaal Charles was placed on the injured reserve list after a second surgery on a bulky right knee. The offensive engine in the first half of the 2016 season has been running back Spencer Ware, but he’s out after suffering a concussion. Starting left guard Parker Ehinger is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
And watching on the sidelines will be Smith, who twice left last Sunday’s game in Indianapolis after taking blows to the head. However, tests under the NFL concussion protocols during the game and the next day indicated that Smith did not suffer a concussion.
"Nope," was Smith’s answer when asked if he felt like he suffered a concussion against the Colts. "But certainly something happened. Don’t know what it was, don’t know what you want to call it."
Despite passing all the tests, the Chiefs made the decision to sit Smith for this game and go with the 27-year old Foles, who is making his 37th NFL start in regular and postseason play. But it’s his first with the Chiefs after signing with the team in early August.
"I feel great in this offense; I’ve always liked playing for Coach Reid and this offense," said Foles, who was drafted by Reid in 2012 when the coach was in Philadelphia. "From week to week, you change things up, but I feel good about where I’m at."
Bortles hopes that he can feel good about his mechanics after getting extra work with Adam Dedeaux, who is part of the 3DQB Academy in southern California that’s run by former major league pitcher and now-quarterback guru Tom House. Concerns about mechanics for the third-year player prompted the call for help.
"Hopefully, we’ll tighten some things up and get back to where I was throwing the ball with efficiency," said Bortles. "When you struggle with what you’re supposed to do all the time, you try to fix it as quickly as possible rather than let it get worse."
View from the sidelines: college football cheerleaders 2016.
Jags head coach Gus Bradley decided he needed something different in his offense and fired coordinator Greg Olson two days after taking a 36-22 thumping from Tennessee in a Thursday night game on Oct. 27. Olson was replaced by quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett, the son of former Chiefs offensive coordinator Paul Hackett.
"I just felt like the offense needed to be stimulated more in certain areas," said Bradley, who is 14-41 as head coach of the Jaguars. His teams are 5-22 on the road, winning just twice in the last three seasons away from Jacksonville. "I looked at it and said, ‘You know what? Offensively, I’m not sure what’s going to change next week. I just didn’t feel where we were going. I just couldn’t grasp in my mind that the results were going to change if we continue going in this direction."
The Chiefs enter the game with a very fluid situation at running back. Coming back from a torn ACL in his right knee, Charles never really caught fire in the offense. Ware has been the offensive engine for the Kansas City offense, producing yards as a runner and receiver, but he is already ruled out. Just two weeks ago, they traded running back Knile Davis to Green Bay. So Charcandrick West will carry most of the load, something he’s done before. Just last week against the Colts, he had 60 yards on 16 touches after Ware went down with his concussion near halftime.
The team also added running back Bishop Sankey, a former second-round choice of the Tennessee Titans (2014) who was sitting on the New England practice squad.