Players To Watch: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It doesn’t quite seem real yet, but on Friday night we will once again be able to watch Kansas City Chiefs football when they open the preseason against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arrowhead in front of a national TV audience.

With the lack of any official offseason workouts and veteran free agents unable to practice the first week of training camp thanks to the lockout, there’s no telling which players will hit the field or for how long.  The Chiefs have only held one “takedown” practice during camp so there is likely to be plenty of sloppy play.

Here are the three players (offense, defense and special teams) from each team to keep your eyes on Friday night.

Chiefs

Offense: Ricky Stanzi

It’s super early, but so far the fifth-round pick has not been impressive, which isn’t too much of a surprise considering the lack of time spent with the playbook.  He did, however, play in a pro-style offense at Iowa and will be expected to advance quickly.

If Stanzi — and fellow-backup Tyler Palko — fail to impress against Tampa Bay, GM Scott Pioli could be in the market for a veteran signal caller to hold the clipboard for Matt Cassel.

Defense: Cameron Sheffield

I know I’ll be holding my breath when Sheffield delivers that first hit.  That’s because the last time we saw the linebacker from Troy on the field, he was being carted off after a helmet-to-helmet hit on Philadelphia Eagles RB Mike Bell during last year’s preseason.

By all accounts he won’t be under any restrictions, but this game still represents a huge hurdle for the young linebacker’s career.

Sheffield’s ability to step up and play is important for a Chiefs linebacking corps looking for depth.  He transitioned from college defensive end to NFL outside linebacker last year and he was starting to impress before heading to IR for the season.

Special Teams: Ryan Succop

Don’t fret Chiefs fans, the signing of free agent kicker Todd Carter is not a negative reflection on Succop.  His job is one of the most secure in camp.  That doesn’t mean Friday and the rest of the preseason isn’t important for the Chiefs kicker.

There are new kickoff rules that start this season, which includes moving the ball from the 30 to the 35-yard line.  Succop only had eight touchbacks in 2010 (19th in the league) and should be able to show how the new rules will benefit him with an increased touchback percentage.

Buccaneers

Offense: LeGarrette Blount

He’s the starter entering the season, but Blount wants to prove he can be an every down back.  Part of that process will be to show that he can block and catch the ball out of the backfield, something he will try to do on third down against the Chiefs on Friday.

Blount will also present quite a challenge out of the chute for a defense that surrendered 142 yards on the ground in their playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens in January.  The second-year running back put up 1,007 yards in just 13 games as a rookie, including a 164-yard effort in the season’s final weeks.

Defense: Da’Quan Bowers

After falling from the top of the first round of April’s NFL Draft to the Bucs with the 51st pick in the second round due to concerns about his knee, Bowers will be looking to show he’s ready to play in his professional debut.

Despite being monitored closely thanks to surgery on that knee in January, head coach Raheem Morris said Bowers will play between 12 and 15 snaps against the Chiefs.

Special Teams: Micheal Spurlock

The veteran wide receiver had the Bucs first touchdown kickoff return in franchise history last season and currently sits atop their depth chart as the primary punt and kick returner.  Spurlock could, however, face a numbers crunch during the preseason, meaning he might need a big showing in the return game to make the 53-man roster.

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