The Kansas City Chiefs opened 2012 on a high note Friday night with a 27-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals at Arrowhead Stadium. If it seems like it’s been a while since the Chiefs won a preseason game, it’s because it has: September 2, 2010!
Obviously wins and losses aren’t the most important thing for a team this time of year, but the Chiefs still came out on top when it comes to what does matter. Not only did Kansas City get through the game without any major injuries, but the first team offense and defense both looked crisp while they were on the field.
Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki and Jamaal Charles got back into action after each recovering from ACL surgery, giving Chiefs fans the ability to exhale after waiting a year to see them all on the field in the same game again.
One preseason game doesn’t make a season, but there was a lot to like from Matt Cassel, who looked smooth and confident in his short time in the game. If Kansas City has any hopes of getting back to the top of the division, Cassel will need to make sure he doesn’t look anything like the guy who stunk up the joint last season.
Here are the three players most deserving of game balls from an impressive start to the preseason.
Offense: Steve Maneri
I’d have no issue with handing this to Charles for showing the burst we all hoped he would still have after his surgery. You could also make an argument for Cassel (5/6, 67 yards 1 TD) or Peyton Hillis (4 carries, 41 yards, 1 receiving TD), but both of those players are guaranteed to not only roster spots, but plenty of snaps to get into their rhythm.
Maneri is a guy that is fighting to be the third tight end for the Chiefs behind Moeaki and Kevin Boss. He’s also re-learning how to be a tight end after spending his first two seasons in the NFL as an offensive tackle. Now back at the position he played while at Temple, Maneri looked like he never left, hauling in a game-high three catches and 65 yards.
If offensive coordinator Brian Daboll can get Maneri to keep improving throughout the preseason, he could really enter mad scientist mode. There aren’t a lot of teams in the league that can roll out a third string tight end with the moves Maneri showed Friday night.
Defense: Cameron Sheffield
Other than Dontari Poe, there wasn’t much to dislike about the Chiefs defense against the Cardinals. However, it was the play of Sheffield that caught my eye.
Sheffield had his rookie season end before it began due to a neck injury in the preseason after being selected in the fifth-round of the 2010 draft. He was able to come all the way back and play in all 16 games last season, though was mostly a non-factor on defense.
He still wasn’t perfect Friday night, but Sheffield showed nice quickness off the edge and could provide another pass rusher at linebacker for a defense looking for help beyond Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.
Special Teams: Devon Wylie
This is who we wanted to see something from before the game and he delivered. Sure, it was only one return, but Wylie quickly turned up field on a punt and raced 32 yards to pump up the Arrowhead crowd. Even more impressive, Wylie had his face mask tugged on near the end of his return and he not only stayed on his feet, but picked up extra yardage before being taken down.
The rookie will need to do more to lock down the job as the Chiefs punt returner and he should get that opportunity next week against the St. Louis Rams.