The Kansas City Chiefs open the preseason Friday night when they visit the New Orleans Saints in what will no doubt be a jacked up Superdome.
Saints coach Sean Payton will be returning to the sidelines after being suspended for a year following Bountygate. That extra juice in the building should give new Chiefs head coach Andy Reid the opportunity to see what his team is made of early on.
This game is the first chance for Reid to get a look at these players in a new system and the added benefit of it being as close to a real (by preseason standards) game environment with a pumped up crowd can only be seen as a bonus.
With plenty of spots on this Chiefs roster still up for grabs, there are no shortage of players needing to show what they can do. From the undrafted free agents looking to make their first team to players that have been teasing with their potential over the years, tonight is a big night.
It’s hard to narrow it down to just one player on offense, defense and special teams, but here’s our best guess on who will need to show the most under the lights in New Orleans.
Offense: Jon Baldwin
Considering the amount of eye rolling he gets every time someone gets excited about his play in training camp, you’d think he was already washed up. But the former first-round pick is just 23 and after two (not 10, which is what it feels like sometimes) disappointing seasons, does he finally “get it”?
Obviously there will be plenty of focus on first overall pick Eric Fisher at right tackle, as well as fellow-rookie Travis Kelce at tight end. But for the Chiefs passing game to really get off the ground, it’s going to need Baldwin to be a threat right out of the gate.
Defense: Dontari Poe
Speaking of being vital… the big man from Memphis has the chance to be the reason defensive coordinator Bob Sutton looks very smart this season. The Chiefs have been showing plenty of different looks, but they won’t mean much if they can’t find some push up the middle.
Poe showed flashes last season as a rookie and certainly so far in camp this summer. If he goes out tonight and starts pushing around the Saints offensive line, it’s going to be fun to watch this Kansas City defense go to work every week.
Special Teams: Dexter McCluster
Another year, another chance for McCluster to prove he can be an effective NFL punt returner. Sure, we all remember the huge TD return in the rain back in 2010 against the San Diego Chargers, but he hasn’t done much since.
New special teams coach Dave Toub has spoken highly of his abilities and seems to think he can be better than the guy that averaged just 8.9 yards per return over the last two seasons.