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One Chiefs player has the clear lead to become the third quarterback

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One of the team’s young quarterbacks has a sizable edge over the other in the battle for the third quarterback position

NFL: Preseason-Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs will have a lot of tough decisions to make when it’s time to submit their final 53-man roster on August 31. One of those will be which of their young quarterbacks they want to keep.

Obviously Patrick Mahomes is a lock at starting quarterback — and it’s clear Chad Henne will be his backup. That leaves Chase Litton and Kyle Shurmur to fight for the third quarterback position.

After the first two preseason games, it’s pretty clear which of them has the edge.

If you listen to coach Andy Reid and his staff, you would think the two quarterbacks have been equally impressive during their two showings this preseason.

“I was very pleased with how they went out and performed,” said quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka after the preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. “[Shurmur] came out and stayed aggressive. There were a few long balls when he came out, but I loved his mentality when he came out on the sideline. Chase, I think he came back with an early interception and a touchdown drive. I love their approach and the way that they competed, and I am looking forward to them continuing to do that.”

While this seems to indicate that the competition is neck-and-neck, the numbers say otherwise.

Litton — a 2018 undrafted free agent from Marshall — has completed 20 of his 30 pass attempts, passed for 209 total yards, thrown two touchdowns to one interception and has a passer rating of 95.0 after two preseason games.

On the other hand, Shurmur — a rookie UDFA out of Vanderbilt — completed just 10 of his 24 passing attempts, passed for 106 yards, thrown one touchdown (but no interceptions) and has a passer rating of only 69.1 in those two games.

Backup QB Comparison

Player Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A TD Int Rtg
Litton 20 30 66.7 209 6.97 2 1 95.0
Shurmur 10 24 41.7 106 4.42 1 0 69.1

Statistically, Litton has a clear advantage. He has been more accurate, more efficient and has put more points on the board than Shurmur. The one interception he threw against the Bengals was pretty egregious — but except for that, he has been better in every way. Not only has he outperformed Shurmur thus far, but he is also on pace to surpass what he did during the preseason last year.

In 2018, Litton completed 24 of 41 passes, threw for 299 yards, had one touchdown and passer rating of 89.4. Litton is outdoing his competition — and showing growth during the process. That’s the best thing a young player can do.

Last season, the Chiefs kept just two quarterbacks on the active roster; Litton spent the season on the practice squad. We expect the Chiefs to do the same thing this year; it’s just a question of whether it will be Litton or Shurmur in that spot. And while Litton does appear to have the lead, that doesn’t mean Shurmur can’t make up ground in the next two exhibition games. If Litton shows more carelessness with the ball— or Shurmur makes a few amazing plays that show great potential — the gap between them could easily close.