Chiefs' head coach Herm Edwards hopes to learn a few things about his football team. The Texans game will give him an idea if what he's been doing since OTAs began in April is working.
In recent days at River Falls, his mood has changed. Edwards' attention during the last several days has been on the offense. First, he criticized their lack of focus and work ethic. He's also been on them about clock management. He wants them in and out of the huddle as fast as possible. He wants his offense to eat up time in the game when his team has the lead. He wants the ‘four minute' offense to be a staple late in games when his team needs to burn the clock.
Edwards might not get a good look at those things until game two or three of the exhibition season, because most of the starters will not be on the field for more than a dozen plays.
Tonight is about getting the rust off, staying healthy and discovering a few hidden gems that might have escaped the watchful eyes of the coaching staff. Almost every year, some young player or veteran steps up and makes the team based on their play in the opening exhibition game.
Here are six players to keep an eye on Saturday night in Houston.
CB Alphonso Hodge After missing the first 10 days of training camp, the second-year cornerback returned to the practice field on Monday. His return allowed the Chiefs to end the Julian Battle experiment. Hodge has tools and talent. He needs to show them, because Kansas City might not carry five cornerbacks. Ty Law, Patrick Surtain, Benny Sapp and Lenny Walls are a lock to make this team. That means Hodge and Chris Johnson will battle for the fifth spot.
WR Jeris McIntyre The Auburn standout has been impressive in training camp. He's done all the little things well, like catch the ball, run solid routes and make the most of his chances on the practice field. Despite that, it'll be tough for him to crack the final roster unless he forces the Chiefs' hand this month. Eddie Kennison, Samie Parker, Dante Hall and Jeff Webb are locks. Craphonso Thorpe has been injured and Nate Curry has had problems catching the ball.
DT Ron Edwards He came to the Chiefs with little fanfare but he's made an impact on the defensive line. Edwards is a strong man who has the ability to plug the middle and shoot the gaps. He's played quite a bit in recent days with the starters, so don't be surprised if he gets lots of reps tonight. He's certainly pushing to make the roster and earn significant minutes during the regular season. Ryan Sims, Lional Dalton, Jimmy Wilkerson and James Reed are locks to make the team. Edwards wants a steady flow of players in the middle of the defense. Kansas City will probably carry six defensive tackles, and that bodes well for Edwards.
RB Derrick Ross The unknown running back from Tarleton State has been impressive since his workout for the Chiefs back in April. He runs low to the ground, knows where the holes are and has a knack for finding the seam and accelerating through it like a veteran. Despite that, he's a long shot to make the team, especially since the Chiefs acquired Michael Bennett last week. But Bennett is injured, and that means if Kansas City carries three running backs, Ross could find himself on the roster. Dee Brown and Quentin Griffin are both older and I doubt the Chiefs want to expose Ross to waivers, especially after what happened with Sam Gado last year.
TE Kris Wilson This is Wilson's make-or-break season. Two years ago, he was the talk of camp, and he's the talk of camp again this year. Wilson has bounced around from tight end to H-back to fullback. The Chiefs want to get him involved in the passing game this year and hope to use him more in the flats and over the middle of the field, catching passes in third-and-five situations. He has tremendous hands, but he needs to learn how to block better. He's a lock to make this team, as Kansas City will only carry three tight ends. Tony Gonzalez and Jason Dunn are ahead of him, but if either are injured, Wilson will have to assume receiving and blocking duties.
QB Casey Printers After one standout CFL season, Printers will get the chance to shake his "running quarterback" label. He's not fond of that characterization, and he's eager to show fans that he can pass. He'll play two-plus quarters against the Texans. With Damon Huard injured, he has a legitimate shot at being Trent Green's back-up.
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