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Chiefs top 5 position battles to watch against the Bengals

The Kansas City Chiefs travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals in their second preseason matchup of the season this Saturday at 6 p.m. (Arrowhead Time).

In other words the perfect time to order a pizza, curl up on your couch in Kansas City and watch some position battles.

Here are the top five I’ll be watching:


Tyler Bray began training camp as the team’s backup quarterback working with the second-team offense. That was until the Chiefs’ first preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers, in which he finished 5 for 8 for 63 yards and an interception.

Patrick Mahomes, who finished 7 for 9 for 49 yards and a touchdown, was promoted to the No. 2 quarterback on Sunday at practice.

Here’s how head coach Andy Reid described the move:

“Made a change at the quarterback position,” Reid said. “We are going to give Patrick (Mahomes) a chance to work with the twos like Tyler (Bray) has had here the last couple of weeks. It is not because of Tyler’s performance in the game. I think he actually played very well and Patrick did a nice job too. It gives [Mahomes] an opportunity to step up and work with that second group and see what he can do there.”

Reid added that for this to have happened, the rookie had to prove he could handle it.

“He had to do well so he could get in there and function and be able to go,” he said. “Tyler is playing well, but Patrick has also done a nice job. In order to step up with that group, he would have had to have done that and progressed.”

Reid is never going to come out and single any of his players out (I’ve said before that this is why guys love playing for him). However, what will stand out to me is if Mahomes continues to get the second-team reps following this game. Then we’ll know the change has been confirmed.

If I’m making a prediction on this one based upon the first game and what I’ve seen at training camp, it’s that Mahomes doesn’t look back.

RBs 1-4

How the running back position shakes out by the end of this preseason is very, very interesting to me and perhaps even overlooked when it comes to an all-out battle.

I’m not convinced Spencer Ware will finish the preseason as RB1.

Though Ware started with Alex Smith and the first team at nearly every training camp practice, rookie Kareem Hunt has seen increased work with the first team as time has carried on this summer.

Read these comments from running backs coach Eric Bieniemy very carefully:

“No. 32 (Spencer Ware), he is obviously a workhorse,” Bieniemy said. “He is what he is. It is not anything special, he is just a consistent professional player.”

Now, his quotes on Hunt:

“We have young Kareem Hunt who has been doing an outstanding job picking up the offense, doing a great job of running the football, doing a great job of learning how to protect the proper way. Also, he is doing a great job of catching the football.”

Am I crazy here? Look at those two quotes. I really think not, but of course, there’s this:

Interested to see what happens at the position in game two. All that said, no matter how the RB1 battle shakes out, I do think the floor for both Ware and Hunt is RB2.

As for the battle for RB3, CJ Spiller has been making a strong case. More from Bieniemy:

C.J. Spiller has been an unbelievable surprise,” Bieniemy said. “He has been healthy. If you haven’t noticed, he is pretty fast. He is pretty fast, pretty explosive. He does a great job in the run game. He has been doing a great job picking up the offense and I cannot complain.”

Spiller, who hasn’t had more than 80 carries since 2013, is vying with Charcandrick West for that third position. Spiller could have an edge due to the fact he has shown a knack throughout training camp for being able to catch the football out of the backfield and he has returned kicks in the past. That could be valuable as Tyreek Hill moves away from that part of his game.

It’s worth noting that last game was a poor showing for all the running backs, who combined for 12 carries and just 21 yards.

WR5, WR6

The wide receiver position gets more interesting by the day. Right now, here are my locks to make the team: Hill, Chris Conley, De’Anthony Thomas and Jehu Chesson.

My probablys (yup, new word): Demarcus Robinson and Albert Wilson.

And my making-a-cases: Seantavius Jones, Marcus Kemp

To me, Hill and Conley are your obvious WR1 and WR2. Conley has improved as camp has gone on and caught two really nice balls from Bray during the last game (the first throw, a touchdown, was called back).

Earlier in camp, special teams coordinator Dave Toub called Thomas the pound-for-pound toughest player on the team, and I think the Chiefs like him for starting at kickoff return.

The Chiefs selected Chesson in the fourth round of this year’s draft, and I just don't see the Chiefs risking the potential loss of him by putting him on a practice squad. He would be gobbled up rather quickly.

I think Robinson is safe because like Thomas, the Chiefs and Toub love him on special teams, and he has consistently mixed in with the first and second teams throughout camp.

Wilson has had an up-and-down camp, but as recently as Tuesday had a nice day. Now in his fourth year with Reid, he also should have one of the best handles on the playbook of all the wide receivers.

That leaves Jones and Kemp, who have each had very impressive camps, respectively.

Jones has already earned first-team reps and Toub even has seen value for him on special teams.

“Seantavius is doing a good job,” Toub said. “You know he’s a big guy that can run. We’re thinking he can be a gunner for us.”

With Mahomes’ promotion to the second team, along with him came his favorite camp receiver in Kemp. Kemp was also the recipient of Mahomes’ touchdown in the first preseason game. The one negative right now going for Kemp was his fumble, which Reid acknowledged Sunday.

“He had the one bad one in the game, but he just has to put the ball in his other hand there,” Reid said. “He has earned the right to mix in there. We are trying to mix and match everybody. Try to give everybody a shot. We do it with the offensive line too. That is just how we roll so we can get a good evaluation on people.”

When Jeremy Maclin was released, never in a million years did I believe the Chiefs would have a surplus of receivers, but here we are.


Steve Nelson (groin) and Terrance Mitchell (hamstring) have been working off to the side as of late, which has opened the door for Phillip Gaines to get some first-team reps at right cornerback.

I think by camp’s end, this will be Nelson’s job, but in his absence, Gaines has looked solid, and the question on him is of course whether or not he can remain healthy. Gaines was a bit limited last year, playing in 11 games with just five starts to his name, all stemming back to the ACL tear he suffered in 2015.

With Mitchell and Nelson out, DJ White has received more opportunity in nickel and dime sets as well, so he is another name to watch heading into Saturday’s matchup.

Rounding out the position, the Chiefs seem to also like De’Vante Bausby and Kenneth Acker.


As of now, Ramik Wilson seems to be solidifying his spot as the Chiefs’ starting inside linebacker next to veteran Derrick Johnson. We noted Wilson as one of our winners coming out of the first preseason game.

Behind Wilson and Johnson, the Chiefs have been playing Josh Mauga and Kevin Pierre-Louis, who the team acquired in a trade with Seattle a couple weeks back in exchange for DJ Alexander.

Mauga missed all of 2016 with a torn labrum in his shoulder, but had 57 tackles in 2015 and led the team with 103 tackles back in 2014.

Rookie Ukeme Eligwe had a nice game against San Francisco, and earlier in camp, Toub mentioned him among the under-the-radar players that keep showing up for him.

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