The Kansas City Chiefs looked decent in their first preseason game, beating the Cincinnati Bengals 41-39 in a wild affair last week. In Week 2, the Chiefs will face another postseason team from 2013 in the Carolina Panthers, this time away from Arrowhead Stadium.
Carolina poses a unique threat to Kansas City. Head coach Ron Rivera has formed one of the NFL's best defenses in 2013 led by defensive end Greg Hardy and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. The Panthers are not as frightful offensively beyond Cam Newton. The wide receivers are in upheaval with Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. all gone. In their places are rookie Kelvin Benjamin and Jerricho Cotchery.
With the setup out of the way, let's get to the five topics I'm watching:
1. Contain Cam
The Chiefs are going to face some very mobile quarterbacks this season including Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. It is important that the front seven contains Newton in the pocket, preferably without having to use Derrick Johnson as a spy. It will be a collective effort to get a pass rush while not allowing Newton to escape for ample yardage. In Bob Sutton's man-scheme, Newton will have room to roam should he run.
2. Show some o-line strength
As previously stated, the Panthers have a very good defense. The Chiefs have the youngest offensive line in football and are still coming together as a unit. This will be an excellent test with Hardy, Kuechly and Star Lotulelei coming on the rush. It would be a huge step if the line gives Alex Smith time to throw the ball, perhaps even keeping his jersey clean for the first half.
3. The 'dog' front
Kansas City has two very established pass-rushers from the outside in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. The Chiefs bolstered that position with the drafting of Dee Ford in the first round. In training camp, a potential fourth contributor has begun to emerge in Josh Martin, a second-year linebacker out of Columbia University. Sutton has created a package with all four of those linebackers on the field, along with Derrick Johnson and Dontari Poe. They call it the 'dog' front. I want to see it, a lot.
4. Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray state their case
Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray and the backup quarterback position after Alex Smith comes out. Daniel makes more money and would save cash against the cap if cut; he has consistently been the No. 2 quarterback and the Chiefs say they're happy with him. If Bray can prove he's at the same level as Daniel, the decision on who stays and who goes might become more interesting.
5. Show me again, youngsters
I was very impressed by Albert Wilson and Malcolm Bronson in the first preseason game. However, I want to see that those men can back their performances up with another solid showing. I'm not looking for Bronson to have a pick-six every game, but he needs to cover well and have good recognition. The same goes for Wilson, who has skill but has to prove consistency.
10 more things I want to see
*With help from Joel Thorman
6. How they will look without Dwayne Bowe, who has been suspended Week 1.
8. The snap count between Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray in the second half (Alex Smith playing the first half).
9. Aaron Murray throwing a pass, which he did not do last week.
10. Jamaal Charles taking a couple of snaps then hitting the bench.
11. The rotation for the third offensive tackle, led by Ryan Harris and Ryan McKee in last week's game.
12. Nico Johnson, firmly on the roster bubble, replacing Josh Mauga, who is out.
13. All the kick and punt returns. Dave Toub forever!
14. De'Anthony Thomas on offense. He had one offensive touch last week.
15. Who sees the most snaps between safeties Daniel Sorensen, Malcolm Bronson and Jerron McMillian.