The Kansas City Chiefs look to find their stride Friday night when they travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens in a preseason matchup.
Win-loss records don’t mean a thing in the preseason, but the Chiefs do need to show a whole lot more than they did in their 25-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Head coach Todd Haley held out most of his impact players last week, so letting them play more in Baltimore will obviously provide a better product and give us all a better read on where the team is at this point in the preseason.
Don’t expect the sharpest of outings, but things will be better than last week. Here are the three players (offense, defense and special teams) from each team to keep your eyes on Friday night.
Offense: Keary Colbert
Other than Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston, you could probably put any Chiefs receiver here. With the uncertainty surrounding rookie Jonathan Baldwin and the lack of any sort of air attack last week, it could open up the door for Colbert.
In his short time in camp, the former second-round pick has left a good impression. Will it be enough for him to jump young players like Verran Tucker and Jeremy Horne for the final spot at wide receiver?
Defense: Quinten Lawrence
After two years of riding the shuttle between the active roster and practice squad as a wide receiver, could Lawrence really have a shot at making this team at corner? It seems like things are headed that way.
Against the Bucs he was far from perfect, but recorded seven tackles and looked anything but a player learning a new position without the benefit of a full offseason. Going up against the improved receiving corps in Baltimore, thanks to the acquisition of Lee Evans from the Buffalo Bills, Lawrence should be in for quite the test.
Another good effort and Lawrence will need to be seriously considered for the final cornerback slot.
Special Teams: Ryan Succop
Due to a lack of any offense from the Chiefs, we never did get much evidence about how Succop will adjust to the new kickoff rules against Tampa Bay. His only kickoff was a touchback, but after he only had eight all season it will be interesting to see if he will continue the league-wide trend or start coming up short.
However, Succop also said Kansas City special teams would mix things up with directional and hanging kicks. Assuming they get more than one kickoff, look for more than just shooting for the end zone from Succop.
Offense: Torrey Smith
The Chiefs aren’t the only team here trying to sort out what to do with their wide receivers. The Ravens have Anquan Boldin and traded for Evans but they will need someone else to step up without Todd Heap and Derrick Mason to serve as QB Joe Flacco’s safety valve.
Smith is a second-round pick with blazing speed, but he didn’t catch a pass in the first preseason game and is battling it out with fellow-rookie Tandon Smith to serve as the Ravens third wide receiver.
Defense: Jameel McClain
Expect plenty of big hits coming from the Ravens inside linebackers on Friday night, but it won’t be Ray Lewis going the extra mile to knock someone into next week with rest on tap him. Instead, it will be “the other” McClain and Dannell Ellerbe looking to earn the right to start next to the All-Pro linebacker.
McClain started 15 games and had 71 tackles last season for the Ravens, but Ellerbe is fighting to take that starting spot away from him in camp.
Special Teams: Billy Cundiff
The league-leader in touchbacks is just going to launch the ball a few times and call it a night, right?
Not so fast, says Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh. Knowing that his team needs to practice covering kicks, Harbaugh plans on having Cundiff send the ball short so he can guarantee his coverage unit something to actually cover.
“We’re not going to go through the whole season kicking touchbacks,” he said.
With Cundiff’s leg, I’m not so sure about that statement, but it should be interesting to see how often they go out of their way to give the Chiefs something to return.