After their nine point ‘rout' of the Packers last Monday Night in Canton, the Chiefs play their first exhibition game of the season at Arrowhead on Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers.
All kidding aside, the storm-shortened game on Monday showed us some things and left us wanting more. There was the scary injury to tackle Willie Jones, but we did see Priest Holmes run the ball and the first defensive unit was outstanding, at least compared to last year's 32nd ranked defense.
The Chiefs hope to follow up on the good things they saw last Monday. Safety Greg Wesley looked as if he was playing a regular season game as he was all over the field. Eric Hicks played great and so did Vonnie Holliday. The emergence of rookie end Jimmy Wilkerson was nice to witness and he has been one of the big surprises in camp.
He played with the first team defenders and held his own. The Chiefs, in particular head coach Dick Vermeil, were very impressed with his performance on Monday Night.
As for Priest Holmes, nothing too flashy but he showed a burst of speed and his $10 million smile on the sidelines during the game. But the Chiefs need to see Holmes carry the ball more often. Vermeil told reporters yesterday that Holmes will probably see about the same number of touches tonight as he did on Monday.
The other offensive ‘concern', if there can be such a thing during pre-season games, is the fact that Tony Gonzalez was not involved in the game at all. Green and Gonzalez are getting it done in practice but I think the Chiefs would like to call his number a couple of times this week.
A major disappointment was the performance of rookie running back Larry Johnson. He was running scared on Monday and that's to be expected in his first NFL game. Fans have to remember that he was hardly running behind a stellar offensive line so it's really hard to judge his performance.
But there is no doubt that he needs to change his running style. If he continues to run straight up and does not learn to run lower to the ground, he'll see less and less reps behind Derrick Blaylock and Jarmar Julien. He already seems to be falling out of favor with Vermeil, who wanted to draft defense with that first round pick the Chiefs used on Johnson.
Two players to watch out for this week are defensive end R-Kal Truluck and linebacker Monty Biesel. Biesel was expected to play more, but with the rain shortened game he did not get his reps. As for Truluck, the Chiefs are hoping he will be a third down pass rushing specialist. He's done great at camp lining up against all world tackle Willie Roaf.
Vermeil has already indicated that quarterback Jonathan Quinn will get to play significantly in the second half or as early as the second quarter. No one has had more zip on the ball in Training Camp than Quinn. Even though Todd Collins is a solid second-string quarterback, don't count out Quinn from moving ahead of him. He throws the ball downfield with more accuracy than Collins.
The 49ers will be playing this game without starting quarterback Jeff Garcia who is suffering from a back injury. New head coach Dennis Erickson is not concerned, or so he says, but Garcia has not responded well to treatment and is not even making the trip with his teammates.
It's also doubtful that starting running back Garrison Hearst will play. He has a strained groin and even though he's expected to make the trip, it's not likely he'll see any action.
That leaves the pressure of the offense in the hands of quarterbacks Tim Rattay and Brandon Doman to get the ball into the hands of wide receivers Terrell Owens and Tai Streets. With Hearst out, Kevin Barlow will get some much-needed work.
As with any pre-season game, the Chiefs are hoping to solidify and fortify some positions that are causing them some concern.
They need to find someone to step up on the offensive line. Rookie lineman Brett Williams and Jordan Black should get significant time at the tackle slots. Black was touted as a guard in college at Notre Dame but he'll move to tackle. As was reported in The Kansas City Star, the Chiefs were counting on Marcus Spears to step up but he's not adjusted to being a back-up performer.
The Chiefs need for another tackle to develop is paramount this pre-season with the expected retirement of Willie Jones because of his neck problems and the fact that John Tait will be a free agent after this year. Tait is hardly a lock to re-sign with the Chiefs so they need either Williams or Black to develop a possible starter in 2004.
The Chiefs are playing for this year but they have to look ahead. As it sits now, if Tait or Roaf goes down, the Chiefs offense will not be as good. It's possible for someone will develop over the exhibition season to become a viable backup at tackle, but the Chiefs don't have the luxury of hoping that happens; it has to happen.
KC has four more games to find out if they have anyone on the roster to fill that bill, otherwise they will be scouring the waiver wires.