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Chiefs still seeking balance on offense

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Sunday, August 25, 2013, at 9:03 p.m.

With one preseason game to go, the Chiefs are still looking for some offensive balance.

They threw the ball efficiently in Saturday night’s 26-20 overtime win at Pittsburgh, but the running game disappeared.

Quarterbacks Alex Smith and Chase Daniel combined to throw for 310 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 96.7 passer rating.

But they also were the Chiefs’ two leading rushers — Daniel scrambled five times for 45 yards, and Smith once for 38 yards, the team’s biggest offensive play in three preseason games.

Take away the quarterbacks’ 83 rushing yards, and the Chiefs managed just 33 yards in 18 carries, or 1.83 yards per carry. Running back Jamaal Charles, in his first game back after missing the San Francisco game because of a foot strain, carried seven times for 10 yards.

“Certain teams you’re going to be able to do both (run and pass) against,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Some teams you’re going to be able to do the pass game, certain teams you’ll be able to do the run game.”

Despite the imbalance in the offense, Reid was pleased with the performance of the offensive line, which lost right guard Jon Asamoah because of a calf injury early in the game. That pressed veteran backup Geoff Schwartz into double duty.

Schwartz played right guard with the starters in the first half and right tackle with the reserves in the second half. He participated in 71 of the Chiefs’ 77 offensive snaps.

“I thought overall the offensive line did a nice job, from the first and the second group of protecting … and played good physical football,” Reid said. “Geoff played well in those positions. It was good to get (backup left tackle) Donald Stephenson back in there. I thought he did a nice job, too. I appreciated their effort, and I thought they improved.”

Rookie right tackle Eric Fisher, the club’s first-round draft pick, also bounced back after struggling against the 49ers. Fisher, lined up most of the time against Pittsburgh veteran outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, kept Woodley away from Smith and held him to two tackles.

“I’ve been happy with his progress,” Reid said of Fisher. “He’s been banged up a little bit with the hand and shoulder, so he’s worked through that. … Other guys wouldn’t be able to push themselves through that mentally, and he’s done that, and continued to get better at the same time. He came out good against what I consider a good defensive front and played very well.”

Reid said Asamoah and rookie linebacker Nico Johnson, who suffered an ankle sprain, won’t practice today, which makes their availability questionable for Thursday’s final preseason game against Green Bay.

Also oft-injured tight end Tony Moeaki suffered a shoulder injury, backup cornerback Jalil Brown suffered a knee contusion, and wide receiver Dexter McCluster is still battling the effects of an illness. Their statuses will be re-evaluated today, as well as that of rookie tight end Travis Kelce, who missed the Pittsburgh game because of a knee bruise.

Reid also said newly acquired wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, who participated in 19 plays Saturday night at Pittsburgh, is picking up the offense quickly. Jenkins, who was acquired last week in a trade with San Francisco for Jon Baldwin, was targeted once without a catch, but still made a contribution.

“Jenkins picked up more than I thought he knew,” Reid said. “You don’t want to put a kid in a bad position by sticking him out there when he doesn’t know the plays, but we were able to get him in on a few things that he felt comfortable with. The pass plays rolled to his direction. He had one nice block on a safety. … I’m excited to get him in there when he’s got it all down.”

Stanzi, Wilson among cuts — The Chiefs released 14 players on Sunday night, including longtime special teams ace and backup wide receiver Terrance Copper, quarterback Ricky Stanzi and fullback Braden Wilson, a sixth-round pick from Kansas State.

The Chiefs still need to release one more player by 3 p.m. Tuesday to reach the 75-man roster limit for the fourth preseason game.

Copper, 31, is a 10-year veteran who joined the Chiefs in 2009. He has been a special teams regular in the preseason and was part of the unit that helped spring Quintin Demps for a 104-yard kickoff return and Knile Davis for a 109-yard return.

Wilson was running second team behind veteran Anthony Sherman, but another rookie, Toben Opurum, has played a bigger role on special teams.

Stanzi, a fifth-round draft pick from Iowa in 2011, has failed to get into a regular-season game in two years and was playing behind rookie free agent Tyler Bray.

Also released were defensive backs Neiko Thorpe, Otha Foster III; Kamaal McIlwain and Vince Agnew; defensive end Miguel Chavis; offensive linemen A.J. Hawkins, Ryan Durand and Hutch Erickson; defensive lineman Rob Lohr; wide receiver Tyler Shoemaker and running back Jordan Roberts.

Some of the rookies and first-year players like Wilson would be eligible for the eight-man practice squad if they clear waivers next week. The final cutdown to 53 players will be Saturday evening.

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