The Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans Thursday night in their first preseason game of 2018.
Here are eight important items to remember:
1) Don’t let anyone tell you preseason games are meaningless.
For the Chiefs’ offensive and defensive coaching staff, it’s an opportunity to try out some plays, formations and personnel combinations that they may or may not use in the regular season. For Dave Toub and the Chiefs’ special teams, it’s an opportunity to build their core-four units and shape the bottom of the roster.
For the experienced players, especially those coming off of injuries, it’s a chance to get back into game shape and work on their chemistry.
For many of the players, this could be their only chance to get on an NFL field. The young, bubble players will be playing their hearts out, trying to continue their dream. It means the world to them. It’s also fun to watch guys going all out, with nothing but potential, trying to make their mark.
2) That being said, don’t overreact to what you see in the preseason.
It happens every single year. There are preseason All-Pros that take advantage of their matchups against the other team’s second and third-string players and make believers out of fans. Call it the Jon Baldwin effect.
Many of those same players will disappear when the regular season starts, as teams game plan and play their starters.
The opposite is true as well. Players who have a bad game Thursday night can go on to have great seasons. In some ways, we hope they are getting all of the bad plays out of the way, as the team works itself into regular-season form. So, don’t call for someone to be cut or assume they will be cut when they fumble, miss a tackle or get burned deep tonight.
3) Young guys will win themselves jobs.
I’d argue that the Chiefs personnel department and coaching staff already have about 50 of the initial 53 man roster identified. For those players on the bubble, competing for one of the final roster spots, they can win a job with a strong preseason game or two.
4) Veteran players can really only lose their jobs.
The side effect to a young player winning a roster spot is that the job often comes at the expense of a veteran that hasn’t done anything wrong. For example, Frank Zombo has played his heart out for the Chiefs over the past few seasons. He’s done everything asked of him to the best of his ability. Nothing he can do in a preseason game will win or lose him a job on the roster. However, he might lose his job if a younger, cheaper, more athletic guy steps up and impresses the Chiefs.
5) Guys will do everything and still not make it.
If my theory is correct, and 50 of the 53 jobs are already decided, there are some players who simply can’t win a job, no matter what they do in preseason games.
Many, especially the undrafted free agents, are competing at a position that’s already stacked. Having a great preseason isn’t going to convince the Chiefs to keep a rookie over Mitchell Schwartz, Eric Berry or Justin Houston.
I cringe at the label camp body because I think it’s disrespectful to those young players who are living out their NFL dreams. But, unfortunately, for some of these guys, their dream is going to end when camp ends, regardless of how they play.
6) Guys aren’t just playing for a Chiefs job.
However, their dream doesn’t have to end when the Chiefs release them. Preseason is audition time for the entire league. Each NFL team is scouting the preseason games of every other team. A player can win themselves a job on a team that has more of a need at their position.
7) It’s the first time we’ll see the new Chiefs on the field.
There’s an entire draft class that we’ll see in their initial game action. We’ll see how they match up with other NFL talent and how they have picked up the Chiefs playbook. We’re really just looking for flashes of potential with these guys as well. Sure, we expect that most if not all of them will be on the roster, but the preseason is the first time we can start to see what Chiefs general manager Brett Veach saw in them.
8) Thursday night is the first true unveiling of the 2018 Chiefs team.
That might seem like an obvious statement, but it’s a concept we need to wrap our minds around... this isn’t the same team from last year.
There might be 10 new starters on the field, mostly on defense. There is a new quarterback that changes everything. That quarterback is finally going to be playing with the other offensive starters in live game action. Essentially, nothing we knew about the 2017 Chiefs is guaranteed (or even likely) to be the same this year.
And that’s why we’ll be watching.