Packers, Chiefs backups battle for spots in preseason finale
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Only the most ardent fans of the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers will likely care much about what transpires in their preseason game at Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday night.
Then again, the guys on the field will care very much about what happens.
The Chiefs and Packers are expected to play few, if any, starters in their fourth preseason game, turning the proceedings over to their backups instead.
And in some cases, not even the backups will see game action -- the Chiefs are resting quarterbacks Alex Smith and Nick Foles, and Aaron Rodgers and ailing Packers backup Brett Hundley will enjoy the night in a ball cap.
"Young guys will get most of the work," Chiefs coach Andy Reid acknowledged this week.
He stopped just short of saying "all of the work."
Some coaches have said they will play their starters for a series or quarter Thursday night, if only to knock off the last vestiges of rust.
But the Chiefs and Packers are content with the statuses of their veteran cores, so much so that many of players on both teams have skipped the preseason entirely.
Rodgers certainly didn't see much of the field. Chiefs pass rusher Tamba Hali and running back Jamaal Charles, both coming off knee surgery, and safety Eric Berry, who refused to sign a franchise tender before Sunday, have likewise skipped all the preseason.
As such, the guys on the fringe -- fighting for the last roster spot or to flash something for other teams in need -- will have an opportunity to shine on Thursday night.
"It's a great game for the young guys to get in and have an opportunity to show," Reid said. "You're not going to be able to keep everybody, but it gives you an opportunity as a player to get yourself on tape and if you don't make it here, you have an opportunity to make it somewhere else, and that's what this is all about."
It certainly isn't about what happens on the scoreboard.
So, who are the position battles worth watching for the Chiefs and Packers on Thursday night?
The Packers are trying to sort out their wide receiver depth behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.
Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery and Jared Abbrederis all appear safe, while Jeff Janis -- who caught the desperation pass in last season's playoff game against Arizona -- has struggled in camp.
The defensive line is also a big question mark with first-round pick Kenny Clark sidelined by an injury and Mike Pennel suspended the first four weeks of the regular season. After starters Mike Daniels and Letroy Guion, fourth-rounder Dean Lowry may need to contribute right away.
The defense offers the biggest intrigue in Kansas City, too.
The late trade with San Francisco for cornerback Kenneth Acker means competition is tight for jobs in the secondary. The Chiefs have second-year pro Steven Nelson and rookies KeiVarae Russell, Eric Murray and D.J. White along with Marcus Cooper and starters Phillip Gaines and Marcus Peters.
"I like the competition from the young guys," Chiefs safety Ron Parker said. "They do a good job of coming out here every day and competing against each other, going out there and making it hard against the offense. So that's all we're asking for young guys to do."
In the linebacker group, the absence of Justin Houston as he recovers from surgery to his ACL and the loss of Josh Mauga to season-ending hip surgery this week leave a substantial void.
Ramik Wilson, Justin March, and Dadi Nicolas are all trying to prove they have something to offer.
"We're trying to see what everybody can do," Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. "We're trying to get as many evaluations as we can on these guys and give them a chance to go against the first unit of whoever you're playing and kind of see it as close to game as you can on a more limited basis."