Chiefs place more value than usual on preseason opener
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The first preseason game tends to be a glorified practice for most NFL teams, the starters rarely playing more than a series or the first quarter before giving way to the backups and no-hopes.
There may be a little more value in Saturday’s game for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Nick Foles will get his first taste of game action a week after signing to be quarterback Alex Smith’s backup, and a slew of players who may be counted on heavily due to injuries and absences early in the season could get significant playing time against the Seattle Seahawks.
"We don’t really game-plan for our first preseason opponent," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "We try to go back and look at plays that aren’t necessarily complex plays. That way we can give the young guys a chance to go out and play at a high level without having to overthink things."
Foles isn’t exactly a young guy, but he fits in the same category.
The former third-round pick came to Kansas City with a broad understanding of Reid’s offense, having worked in it during their time together in Philadelphia. But it has evolved enough over the past three years that there has still been a steep learning curve.
Not enough to prevent Foles from quickly climbing to No. 2 on the depth chart, though.
Reid said Smith and the starters will likely play the first quarter against Seattle, but Foles will get at least the second quarter to show what he can do.
"I would say (with) about half of it he is comfortable," Reid said. "We have about 403 pass plays, so I don’t expect him to have every one of those down. That’s from OTAs on. We’ve been going at this since April and he’s only been here about a week, so it’s understandable."
The Chiefs were not actively seeking a backup quarterback, with three developmental prospects on the roster in Tyler Bray, Aaron Murray and Kevin Hogan. But with the departure of Chase Daniel in free agency, Smith was the only quarterback left who has played a meaningful snap.
The marriage between the Chiefs and Foles made perfect sense.
"I feel really good. There’s definitely still a ways to go," Foles said, "but I feel more comfortable with just getting in the huddle, saying the plays, knowing where everybody’s at, knowing the timing of everything, knowing where the routes are. And that’s just going to be a process."
One big step in the process is to face someone in a different jersey.
"That’s really the blessing of the preseason," Foles said. "To get a different look that’s an opposing team, those reps are priceless. You can’t get them any other way."
Bray is expected to play the third quarter and Murray and Hogan will split the fourth, though Reid acknowledged that his tentative plan is subject to change.
The quarterbacks aren’t the only ones looking forward to the opener.
All-Pro safety Eric Berry still hasn’t signed his franchise tender, and Tyvon Branch and Husain Abdullah left in the offseason, so Daniel Sorenson will get some extended playing time.
The same goes for the rotation of linebackers filling in for pass rushers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, both of whom are recovering from offseason knee surgery. Houston’s surgery was in February and he is not expected back until at least midway through the year.
"Whoever is out there, they have to perform at a high level," Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. "We all know every guy has different skill levels and different things they are better than the next guy, so you tilt your defense a little more in that direction.
"I think we’ll be fine and we’re looking forward to seeing where we go."
NOTES: The Chiefs did not practice Thursday and were scheduled to have a mock game Friday before playing the Seahawks. … Other players who may not play Saturday include LB Josh Mauga (groin strain) and LB Dezman Moses (glute strain). … WR Jeremy Maclin had a collision in practice Wednesday and WR Tyreek Hill had a cramp, but both are likely to be available.