Kansas City Chiefs

Pat’s back! Five questions for the Chiefs heading into their Saturday preseason opener

Andy Reid reveals his quarterback plan for Saturday’s preseason game

At training camp Thursday, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said, “Everybody will play in the game,” referring to Saturday’s preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead.
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At training camp Thursday, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said, “Everybody will play in the game,” referring to Saturday’s preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead.

Five questions to ponder as the Chiefs face someone besides themselves on Saturday for the first time since their AFC Championship Game loss to the Patriots.

The Cincinnati Bengals are the opponent for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Arrowhead Stadium.

What to expect from Patrick Mahomes?

Um, excellence?

Anything else from the reigning NFL MVP would be met with disappointment. That’s where we are with Mahomes.

Andy Reid said each of his quarterbacks would play a quarter. Last year, Mahomes got two series in the first quarter of the preseason opener, both ending in punts.

Let’s say he got better after that, but it wasn’t a perfect preseason. Mahomes completed a healthy 72.1% in three preseason games, but only two touchdowns and one interception for a 103.5 passer rating.

His regular-season passing rating: 113.8, built with 50 touchdowns and more than 5,000 passing yards.

“Last year, it was newer to me, trying to figure out what we’re doing with limited plays and still trying to be productive,” Mahomes said. “Now, you have that full understanding how to have success.”

Who among the rookies could stand out?

Wide receiver Mecole Hardman has steadily improved throughout training camp and perhaps he’ll get an opportunity to flash his speed. But playing at a consistent high level has been safety Juan Thornhill. He’s been the best ball-hawking defensive back during training camp.

“I think he’s right on track,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said.

What are some position battles to watch?

There aren’t many.

Wide receiver may be the team’s deepest position and the first four are locks: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and Hardman. There leaves a group of Marcus Kemp, Byron Pringle, Gehrig Dieter and Cody Thompson among others for what might be two spots.

At tight end, Deon Yelder is listed second on the depth chart and Blake Bell third. Both could make the team. But if just one is kept, Bell’s special-teams value could make the difference.

John Lovett remains an interesting option. The free agent from Princeton who was the Ivy League player of the year as a quarterback each of the past two seasons is listed on the depth chart at fullback and tight end.

At safety, Tyrann Mathieu and Dan Sorensen are the starters. But the Chiefs have run a package that includes a third safety, in Thornhill.

Who needs to make a good first impression?

Before the Chiefs signed Frank Clark or Mathieu or any other defensive player to replace a group that includes Eric Berry, Justin Houston and Dee Ford, they hired Spagnuolo to fix the defense.

Results are expected. It’s a big ask for everyone to be on the same page defensively early. But over the weeks ahead, the idea is for the Chiefs, who finished 31st in total defense last season, to gain enough improvement to push this team one game further than last year.

Will fans’ enthusiasm from camp extend into the preseason?

Punter Dustin Colquitt believes that can be the case.

“It’s been fun to see this buildup,” Colquitt said. “I’ve never been yelled at in a grocery store more in my life. ‘We can’t wait!!!. They’re ready to roll. Arrowhead is going to be crazy.”

The attendance for training camp at Missouri Western, which ends next week, is likely to top the record of about 61,000 set in the Chiefs’ first year there, in 2010. But there were two-a-day practices, so more sessions to count.

Last year’s preseason opener at Arrowhead drew an announced crowd of 58,465.

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