Take Five: Chiefs vs. Cardinals

Posted Aug 10, 2012

Five things to watch in the Chiefs preseason opener against Arizona

Football is finally upon us with the Chiefs set to kickoff the 2012 schedule against Arizona Friday night at Arrowhead Stadium.

The game marks the start of a new football era in Kansas City under head coach Romeo Crennel and features the return of three prominent players who missed all or most of the 2011 season because of injury.

Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki are all expected to play tonight in the Chiefs preseason opener.

Kansas City’s preseason opener also marks the debuts of new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, first-round draft pick Dontari Poe and key free agent additions Eric Winston, Peyton Hillis, Stanford Routt and Kevin Boss.

Let’s get to it and “Take Five”…

1. Return of the “ACL Team”

We don’t know how long they’ll play, but we know they’ll play.

Aside from resting Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki when the team practices on an artificial surface, none of Kansas City’s big three have shown any signs of an injury setback in training camp. Berry and Charles are each expected to start Friday night with Moeaki working alongside Kevin Boss.

“I think it’s important for them to get reps in the game to begin to find out where they are, how they feel, and how those injuries are recovering for them,” Crennel said. “We’ll give them some time and see how it goes.”

Whether it’s for two plays or two quarters, the on-field return of Kansas City’s “ACL Team” represents a big step forward.

“I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been looking forward to this moment,” Moeaki said after practice earlier this week. “Everyone will be a little rusty, and maybe we’ll have a little bit more rust (as formerly injured players). But that’s what these preseason games are for.”

2. QB Snaps and Rotation

Veteran Brady Quinn is expected to get the second-team snaps behind starting quarterback Matt Cassel Friday night with second-year pro Ricky Stanzi working with the third unit.

Quinn and Stanzi rotated second-team snaps throughout the offseason program and that trend has continued into training camp. Both signal callers have received near-even reps throughout camp as well.

“I think that’s a great competition,” quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn said. “Right now I see both guys taking pride in the position and seeing the importance of getting better. They are fighting it out. They really are, they are duking it out. There is no clear number two yet.”

Preseason game performance should go a long way in determining who the primary backup to Cassel will be.

“The plan is to evaluate them and see who can take a step forward,” Crennel said. “And then if a guy takes a step forward and we feel like he’s going to continue to go forward then you continue with him.”

3. Dontari Poe’s Role

In many ways Dontari Poe is trying to learn two defenses. There’s the familiar get-going and wreak havoc role the first-round pick played at Memphis and there’s the intricacies of lining up over center and swallowing up two gaps in the Chiefs base defense.

Expect to see a lot of Poe in passing situations. He’s paired with Allen Bailey as an interior sub-package rusher throughout training camp and will work with the first-team defense in nickel situations. In the Chiefs sub-package scheme, Poe is playing his familiar college technique.

“He needs to work on technique; he needs to work on understanding the system,” Romeo Crennel said. “He needs to get the calls correct all the time. He’s got a ways to go.”

In base sets, Anthony Toribio will get the call as Kansas City’s first-team nose tackle. Toribio has been one of the standouts of training camp thus far, drawing high praise from Crennel as a “technician” in the Chiefs two-gap scheme.

4. Core Four Special Teamers

Who is running with the first unit on the Chiefs kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return units? It’s an annual cheat sheet each preseason to see who has an inside track at making the 53-man roster.

With tight races for roster spots at running back, wide receiver, linebacker and defensive back, the final players kept at each position will need to excel on special teams. New special teams coach Tom McMahon has used a heavy rotation of special teams players throughout camp, but we’ll get our first taste of who might be impressing during the preseason opener.

5. Red Zone Scoring

Say what you want about preseason statistics, but the Chiefs struggled with red zone scoring during last year’s exhibition contests and that trend carried into the regular season.

New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll placed an emphasis on red zone offense during the team’s offseason program and Romeo Crennel has continued to script a heavy dose of red zone snaps into practice scripts throughout training camp.

The Chiefs finished 2011 ranked 32nd in Red Zone scoring at just 3.58 points per Red Zone trip.