There are mini-milestones between the NFL Draft and the regular season that keep fans mildly entertained. The rookie minicamps right after the draft give you first reports on what the new players look like. OTAs might bring a new name or two some attention that you weren’t expecting. The first day of training camp. The first preseason game.
All those are past us, and being tempted with sort-of football loses it’s luster quick. There are still three weeks to go before the regular season starts. There are still 37 days until the next time Chiefs fans will get to see second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes play at Arrowhead Stadium.
I’m to the point where I’m just ready for game one against the Chargers. But alas, we still have three meaningless games, and of those, only about five quarters of the starters playing remain. Two of those quarters will happen Friday night. Here’s what I’m looking for from the first units as well as the rest of the team.
1. Explosive plays from the first-team offense
It was a vanilla, uninspiring performance last week for the Mahomes-led unit. As Matt Lane pointed out in his great article Thursday, the Chiefs didn’t utilize vertical concepts all too much last week. I expect that to change Friday night.
Andy Reid said game one was about getting Mahomes some live contact and back into the swing of things. Friday night should be about trying to rev the engine up. Let’s see what this offense if capable of a little bit. I expect the Chiefs to be intentional about creating some explosive plays Friday night. No better way than to let Mahomes air it out.
2. Who gets targets with the first team offense?
Demarcus Robinson and Marcus Kemp have both emerged as contenders for opportunities with the first-team offense. Robinson was excellent in the first preseason game, and Kemp has taken advantage of the plays he’s been given with the first unit in camp. Does it carry over into the first half in Atlanta?
I’m curious to see how might get a look with Mahomes and who makes the most out of them. Kemp has flashed with some plays downfield, and Robinson has shown more consistency and ran some impressive routes. The both could be intriguing pieces to complement the wealth of talent on the offensive side of the football.
Great catch by Marcus Kemp from Mahomes. pic.twitter.com/XDjKRYCw4K— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) August 11, 2018
3. How many hits does Mahomes take Friday night?
If last week was about getting Mahomes some live contact, the Chiefs succeeded. Reid was not thrilled after watching the performance up front. Of the five pass plays that weren’t quick throws, Mahomes was hit on four of them. The lone sack was his fault. The other three hits were avoidable.
Cameron Erving struggled to anchor, Eric Fisher was inconsistent and Mitchell Schwartz had some uncharacteristic snaps in protection, getting beat on an inside spin move for a hit and then later getting beat around the edge, leading to another hit on a screen play (before anyone asks, Schwartz was not releasing, he was locked on to the defensive end).
Both quarterback and line have plenty of teaching moments from their first live action together. Hopefully, they’ve learned from them and we see a cleaner game that sees less live contact on the young signal-caller. I expect them to bounce back,
4. What young safety steps up?
It’s been an interesting season so far for the safety group. Daniel Sorensen is likely not going to be ready to start the season after suffering a tibial plateau fracture, Eric Berry has missed several practices with a heel injury and Robert Golden asked for and was granted his release.
If Eric Berry sits out, the oldest safety on the field will be 24 years old. I would imagine rookie Armani Watts will get a majority of the reps, but the window has opened for Leon McQuay and Jordan Sterns to make roster cuts more difficult. Who seizes the opportunity?
5. What undrafted free agent builds off game number one?
If you read Matt Lane’s breakdown of linebacker Ben Niemann last week, you’ll know he showed promise in his first chance to impress against an opponent. Both running back Darrel Williams and quarterback Chase Litton had impressive debuts as well. Can any of them repeat their success?
Niemann and Williams will have to show some ability on special teams to stick. That will likely be the majority of their snaps early in their career. They’ve shown enough to be in consideration for the final 53 to this point, and another good showing will certainly help their case.
Litton has a very real chance to beat out Matt McGloin for the third spot on the depth and be the backup of the future (what a title).