Five to Watch: Chiefs vs. Texans

Saturday the Kansas City Chiefs enter a new era of football in a partially renovated Arrowhead stadium against the Houston Texans. The Chiefs debut a new head coach, new starting quarterback, a switch in defensive philosophies and a setting where a rabid fan base is hoping for an unexpected playoff berth.

There isn't any question that Todd Haley's River Falls boot camp has been a good thing for the Chiefs. The players are working more than they have over the last decade. Not since Marty Schottenheimer left Kansas City has life been this hard for the players. We still have no idea what kind of coach Haley will become, but clearly he's going to do things his way. Right now he has the players' attention.

If this newfound way of practicing has truly rubbed off on the players we'll see it Saturday night, and we might see some new wrinkles that could lead to optimism for the regular season.

But in order for that to happen, the Chiefs must win Saturday's game. Sure, it's the preseason, but it's so important for this franchise to get off to a good start this year. I'm not sure how long the starters will play but if I'm Haley, as hard as he's been working these players, the first team goes into the second quarter.

I think Haley has a pretty good idea who his starters will be on both sides of the ball despite the fact his depth chart changes with each practice. That's not a bad thing, because he still wants his players to earn their spots.

This game is special for Haley. It will be his first time inside Arrowhead Stadium as KC's coach. Win or lose, this game won't tell us much, but this team needs to learn how to win. After six wins in two seasons, the losing is getting old for the fans.


Five to Watch

QB Matt Cassel - The Chiefs' new starting quarterback is ready to lead his team into a new era. He's been slinging the ball around River Falls like he was meant to lead this team, but there's some pressure on him after leaving New England, where he guided a more talented offensive team to an 11-5 record last season. But that's in the past and his ability to find open receivers, check off routes and make good decisions will determine his success or failure in Kansas City. The talent around him has something to do with it, but all he has to do is make plays and be efficient. He's the real deal and there isn't any doubt that he's this team's signature player on offense.

WR Dwayne Bowe - He began the offseason workouts as a solid starter but has been in the Haley doghouse recently, running the stairs between starter and backup. If KC's offense is going to take a step forward, Bowe has to be the man that can be counted on to catch over 100 balls, score 10 touchdowns and break the 1,000-yard receiving barrier. If not, the Chiefs will have problems. Haley has been hard on Bowe, who has shed the "Show" image of a year ago. It's a new way of doing things and to this point Bowe understands that some of his bad habits need to disappear. There's no better way for him to show that than to catch a couple of first-quarter passes from Cassel.

DE Alex Magee - From all accounts he's been a stud in River Falls. He almost seems forgotten with the contract holdout of first-round pick Tyson Jackson, but KC's defense needs Magee to use his impressive motor and get into the action early on this preseason. I think he and Jackson will start the opener together in Baltimore in a month.

OLB Tamba Hali - No one player has more to prove in the Chiefs' new defense than Hali. Haley told the media this week that for the first time, he believes his converted defensive lineman is finally looking like an outside linebacker. If Hali can make that adjustment and can reach the quarterback, this defense is going to be much better in the long run. He is still KC's most experienced pass rusher outside of fellow linebacker Mike Vrabel. This game is important for Hali because he needs to gain confidence in his new role.

FB Boomer Grigsby - He was ecstatic about the opportunity to sign with the Texans. With a fresh attitude and a new team, he'll see some playing time Saturday night. Granted, he's not a lock to make the roster, but he should get time at fullback and on special teams against his old teammates. I was hoping the Chiefs would give him a shot because he is exactly the type of overachiever they need. With the Chiefs focusing on special teams this offseason, a player like Grigsby may still end up back in Kansas City. It's not the same watching him in any other uniform.

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