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Chiefs preseason: 8 things we’re watching for against the Bengals

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As the Kansas City Chiefs leave training camp and prepare to face the Bengals in their season preseason game, the roster appears to be coming into focus. This week, we’ll potentially get a longer look at the starters, along with Patrick Mahomes and the second team.

Below are a few things we’ll be watching for. As always, feel free to add yours in the comments.

Where in the defense is Tanoh Kpassagnon?

Kpass working as an outside linebacker and covering backs down the field is absurd - especially if it works! With his size and athleticism he should be a force against the run who can develop as a pass rusher as a five technique. If he’s lining up as an outside linebacker, he should be able to destroy the outside running game and overpower tackles. The tools are scary, let’s see if and how he can put it all together.

Where are the holes for the running backs?

Run blocking might be a concern for this team. Outside of the Spencer Ware touchdown, which was beautifully executed, the Chiefs backs found tough sledding against the 49ers (31 total rushing yards, 2.2 yards per play). There could be a legitimate competition on the running back depth chart, but it’s hard to evaluate these guys if they don’t have lanes to run through.

Speaking of the running backs ....

CJ Spiller is getting some press, is his roster spot becoming secure? If so, is Charcandrick West playing with the threes and staying on the field late into the game? It feels like it’s time to see some substantial plays from the running backs with the first or second teams in order to solidify the depth chart. The Chiefs mentioned that they’ll focus on the run game more this week -- watch to see if they can deliver results.

Is Albert Wilson the the key to the WR group?

We know Tyreek Hill will be the featured guy, and that Chris Conley will have an expanded role. We think we know that DAT and Jehu Chesson will make the squad and be featured on special teams. We believe the Chiefs like the upside in Demarcus Robinson.

What we’ve seen is Seantavius Jones (and to a lesser extent, Marcus Kemp) making a strong case to make the roster. We haven’t seen or heard much out of Albert Wilson. He didn’t log a stat in 11 snaps last week. Will his experience be enough to keep him on the roster? Perhaps. But, logically, it’d be harder for the team to justify keeping Wilson if Jones and Kemp continue to outshine him in the preseason.

Is Orson Charles the key to the tight end group?

I’ve mentioned him a few times, but Orson Charles continues to be an intriguing player for the Chiefs this preseason. He’s a tight end who has been working with the running back group as well. He’s known as an h-back type, which is a bit different from what the Chiefs have at the position.

After Travis Kelce, they have Demetrius Harris who they ask to block more than catch. The next guys on the depth chart today are Gavin Escobar and Ross Travis, both of whom are almost purely receiving targets. Could those two be competing for one roster spot?

If I were putting this team together, I might have Kelce, Harris, Escobar and Charles on the roster to have two receivers and two blockers. As we know, I don’t make the decisions. I will be watching to see if Charles can convince the Chiefs that his versatility and blocking ability can outweigh the receiving ability of Travis or Escobar.

Is Josh Mauga on the roster bubble?

We can assume Mauga was signed by GM Brett Veach as an insurance policy because the inside linebacker position was filled with young players that hadn’t emerged yet. Ukeme Eligwe and Kevin Pierre-Louis seem to be impressing Chiefs coaches with their athleticism and special teams ability. Both appear to be near-locks to make the roster, along with DJ and Ramik Wilson (who are the likely starters).

It feels like Mauga, along with Justin March-Lillard, are on the roster bubble. Watch to see if they are playing deep into the fourth quarter (or if they don’t play much at all). Do Chiefs feel strongly enough about their young inside linebackers to let their insurance policy lapse by letting Mauga go?

Watch the defensive line ... because it’s fun

I’m not sure there are position battles along the Chiefs defensive line. There is, however, a (literal) TON of talent there. Allen Bailey is back with a vengeance. RNR is bigger, stronger and better. Chris Jones is healthy again and continues to be a monster. Roy Miller and Bennie Logan will really solidify the middle of the run defense. Tanoh Kpassagnon is a freak who should get better each week. Watch the Chiefs defensive line because they have a real chance to be absolutely dominant.

I don’t have to remind you to watch Patrick Mahomes

I can’t leave him off this list, but it almost goes without saying that all eyes will be on his development. We’re looking for steady improvement in his ability to read defenses and execute the offense. We’ll watch to see if he can limit the mistakes. I think we know that he’ll make plays. No, he’s not competing to start Week 1, but he can single-handedly transform ordinary preseason games into must see TV.