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Chiefs-Browns rapid reaction: Legitimate takeaways from a wild third preseason game

The veteran took the lead in the battle for QB2 behind Patrick Mahomes.

Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

In their third preseason game, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Cleveland Browns 33-32 (that is 65 total points!)

And just like that, the preseason is over — Kansas City finishes 2-1 and now looks ahead to a banner night on Thursday, September 7, against the Detroit Lions.

General manager Brett Veach and his staff will gather his staff in the coming days to cut down the roster from 90 to 53 players. The deadline is this Tuesday, August 29, at 3 p.m. Arrowhead Time

Let’s get to my reactions from Kansas City’s preseason finale:

The Chiefs were selective in which starters took the field.

NFL Network’s James Palmer had a report on key Chiefs players being held out for the final preseason game — and the information was spot on. Tight end Travis Kelce, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and linebacker Nick Bolton sat out.

This was the right call by head coach Andy Reid. On the first play of the game, it was easy to see why: Cleveland kick returner Jakeem Grant was carted off with an injury. All four Chiefs who sat out the game can be considered team leaders. The snaps they received in the previous two preseason games were more than enough to prepare them for the real thing.

The rest of what Kansas City considers the first-team offense — the offensive line, running backs Isiah Pacheco, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jerick McKinnon, wide receivers Skyy Moore, Justin Watson and Richie James — and tight end Noah Gray — all had limited reps.

If there were any questions about players such as Edwards-Helaire and Watson making the team, this final look suggests there shouldn’t be.

Advantage... veteran?

While working primarily with second-teamers against the Browns’ first-teamers, quarterback Shane Buechele could not repeat the 10-for-10 magic we witnessed against the Arizona Cardinals last week.

After last week’s game, head coach Andy Reid proclaimed that the competition between Buechele and Blaine Gabbert was “close,” indicating there was a battle for the backup quarterback job.

Buechele looked... out of sorts against the Browns. His worst moment came when he did not see safety Juan Thornhill breaking toward his target. Thornhill picked Buechele’s pass, running it back 34 yards for an easy touchdown (On a side note, Thornhill’s touchdown celebration was a chop followed by a heart motion with his hands — a tribute to his time in Kansas City).

Buechele would later throw a questionable pass to wide receiver Cornell Powell, who was immediately met by contact. Powell popped the ball up into the hands of another Browns defender. The lone bright spot was a beautifully thrown end-zone fade to wide receiver Justyn Ross, who came down with the touchdown reception.

To be fair, I didn’t think that Blaine Gabbert was particularly spectacular — but he finished 10 for 18 for 169 yards and two touchdowns — and a pick that wasn’t his fault. His 13 years of veteran experience proved safe, which may be what Reid ultimately decides he wants in his backup. His 43-yard score to wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette certainly didn’t hurt, either.

While I still believe that the Chiefs keep three on the roster because of the new emergency quarterback rule, Gabbert pulled back ahead on Saturday.

A couple more things I noticed...

Wide receiver Rashee Rice had a few drops, but for good reason, I don’t think it’s time to panic — at least not yet. Here is a quick list of some other legitimate takeaways:

  • Rookie defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah was especially impressive on the Browns’ fourth drive, going up against starting left tackle Jedrick Willis Jr. He registered a pressure and a hit of quarterback Deshaun Watson on the drive. He also had a second-half tackle for loss.
  • Replacement defensive tackle Daniel Wise registered an impressive tackle for loss on running back Demetric Felton Jr. To be clear: Chris Jones is irreplaceable. But if they have to, perhaps Kansas City could piecemeal the defensive line until Week 8. Frame of reference? 2018 — when Kansas City had the 27th-best defense in the league and made it to the AFC championship game.
  • I noticed center Mike Caliendo on special teams with the first-team field-goal unit early in the game. Given the shoulder injury to utility interior man Nick Allegretti, it’s beginning to look like he makes the team in one of those coveted final roster spots.
  • Running back La’Mical Perine went from the third and fourth-team reps early on in training camp to forcing the club to keep him on the initial roster. Perine had a couple of explosive plays in this game, but his 20-yard touchdown run that he manufactured likely seals it for the 2020 fourth-round pick.
  • Wide receiver Justyn Ross on a fade feels like a damn cheat code — and much like the Chiefs keeping four running backs, they have to keep at least seven receivers...
  • ...and I use at least because did anyone improve his 53-man-roster stock more than Smith-Marsette this preseason? He had 90-plus yards for the second consecutive preseason game — and on Saturday afternoon, he led the team with 101 yards and a touchdown. Veach can’t keep eight receivers... can he? Can he!?

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