The Kansas City Chiefs face their final real test before the regular season Friday night at The New Arrowhead when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the always important third preseason game. With the starters on both sides of the ball expected to play well into the third quarter, this game should give us the best view yet of just how far along the Chiefs are in their “process”.
Here are three players from each team to keep your eyes on.
Offense: Tony Moeaki
Look familiar? The rookie tight end was in this spot last week after returning from an injury. Unfortunately he was invisible all night in Tampa, meaning we still don’t know if Moeaki is in any sort of position to help the Chiefs in 2010. He has shown plenty of potential at times during training camp, but potential doesn’t catch passes on Sundays.
Veteran Leonard Pope looks every bit the starter, but has no proven player behind him on the depth chart. Moeaki was drafted to quickly become the Chiefs best option at tight end and doesn’t need to show much to give Pope a run for his money. So far he hasn’t shown anything, so there isn’t anywhere for the Moeaki to go but up.
Defense: Tyson Jackson
Don’t look now, but the third overall pick in the 2009 draft could soon be one of the highest paid backups in all of football. Jackson was seen as a given to start opposite Glenn Dorsey, but a lackluster camp combined with the emergence of Wallace Gilberry has a target squarely on his back.
Todd Haley has continued to preach that a contract will not determine who plays and who sits. If Jackson doesn’t turn some heads this weekend, Gilberry is going to put Haley in a situation to follow through on that promise.
Special Teams: Quinten Lawrence
There is no question that Javier Arenas is the unquestioned returner for the Chiefs. However, with Dexter McCluster looking more like mostly an offensive weapon, Lawrence has a chance to finally show he can provide a little help in the return game behind Arenas. It’s something that he has struggled with throughout his short career, but he might have to turn it on here really quick or he could find himself on the unemployment line.
Offense: DeSean Jackson
It would make sense that Jackson had two goals to accomplish before wrapping up the preseason: To become more comfortable with new quarterback Kevin Kolb and to get paid. So far so good when it comes to Kolb, as he has been the first target in each of the Eagles first two preseason games and last week caught four passes for 74 yards in a half of play. As for getting paid… not so much. The game-breaking receiver is still sitting on his rookie contract that will pay him just over $800k this season.
Coming out and performing against the Chiefs Friday night isn’t going to get him a new contract before the regular season starts, but it will ease the Eagle’s mind regarding a recently barking hamstring.
Defense: Brandon Graham
The Chiefs are likely to be without starting right tackle Ryan O’Callaghan and things are going to be difficult for Barry Richardson, Colin Brown and any other players that attempt to get the job done in his place. Graham, a rookie out of Michigan, was just promoted to the first team defense after a solid performance last week against the Bengals. Graham — reading from the book of Haley — has said he needs to keep playing at the high level that got him running with the first team, so don’t expect to see him taking it easy in Kansas City.
Graham was all over the field against Cincinnati ending the game with 3 tackles (2 for a loss), a sack and a hurry. He even spent some time inside on passing downs, meaning the Chiefs will see plenty of No. 54 Friday night.
Special Teams: Chad Hall
The Eagles know their best punt returner is Jackson, but they would prefer to find another option to let their playmaker stay fresh for offense. The 24-year old rookie from Air Force has yet to impress over the first two preseason games, but he should get a third chance Friday night on both kicks and punts.
Hall is a great story, but a long shot to make the Eagles roster and this could be his final chance to hang on as the 53rd man.