GAMETIME: 12 p.m. CT on Sunday, September 7
LOCATION: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
HOW TO WATCH: CBS | NFL Network Game Rewind (Monday, 10:30 p.m.)
HOW TO LISTEN: 101.1 The FoxLIVEBLOG:KCChiefs.com
Ken Whisenhunt's 2014 Tennessee Titans can relate to the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs.
"We know they are good team. They have a new coaching staff," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of the Titans earlier this week. "They're in a similar situation to what we came into last year as a team."
Like Reid in Kansas City last year, Whisenhunt took over the Titans with previous head coaching experience. Before spending 2013 with the San Diego Chargers as an offensive coordinator, he spent six years as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, where in 2008 he brought the Cardinals to the Super Bowl.
Now, joining Whisenhunt in Tennessee is defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who filled the same role with him during 2011 and 2012 in Arizona.
Horton, who is known for his aggressive style that historically has featured high-pressure zone blitzes, has many weapons at his disposal, including fourth-year defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (No. 99). With Casey's ability to push the pocket as ensuing pressure tails behind, Chiefs center Rodney Hudson knows how important it will be to neutralize him.
"He is definitely one of the better defensive players and he does a lot of things on the field well," Hudson said of Casey. "We as a group need to make sure we do our jobs, know where he is and know how we're trying to get the plays accomplished and get it done."
If Hudson and the rest of the offensive line can take care of their assignments, life will be easier for both quarterback Alex Smith and running back Jamaal Charles, who is eager to return to the field. Charles enters the 2014 season with 5,823 career yards, just 247 yards short of the all-time Chiefs rushing record. Well aware of the possibility that lies before him, it's safe to say that he is ready to get things going.
"I'm excited to get back on the field and start making more history," he said earlier this week. "I have more records to break."
When the Chiefs aren't rushing with Charles, it will be up to Alex Smith to move the ball through the air. On Sunday, he will be without wide receiver Dwayne Bowe due to a one-game suspension.
Without Bowe, the Chiefs will turn to veteran Donnie Avery as the team's top threat through the air. When asked what he will have to do to fill the void, Reid put it simply.
"Just to be Donnie," Reid said. "That's all he has to be. He doesn't have to be anything other than that."
In the Titans secondary, the Chiefs hope that both cornerback Jason McCourty (No. 30) and former Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard (No. 31) will have their hands full with not only Avery, but also receivers Frankie Hammond Jr. and Junior Hemingway.
On defense, one of the main objectives for the Chiefs will be containing mobile quarterback Jake Locker (No. 10). Last year, in the Chiefs' 26-17 win over the Titans during Week 5, Ryan Fitzpatrick started in Locker's place due to his sprained right hip.
But this year, with the Chiefs catching the Titans on opening day, Locker will be fresh and in the lineup.
"Anytime you have a mobile quarterback, it presents some challenges on the defense," Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said of Locker. "You have to be more aware of your rush lanes. You got to be ready to do a couple things to help out—somebody spying him and somebody helping."
Sutton added the key to it all.
"The number one thing is you need to still maintain your aggressiveness because you don't want to not rush this guy," he said.
Mike DeVito, who will be back after dealing with a hand injury throughout the preseason, will play a large part in the aggressiveness Sutton has preached.
The team takes the practice field with a few guys in new numbers.
"Rush lanes are always huge. They're always important, especially when you have a guy that can threaten you running the ball," he said. "It doesn't slow you down. You're still rushing. You're still rushing hard, but you just have to be aware of where you are."
The Chiefs hope that their rushing of the passer will keep the ball out of the hands of the talented Tennessee wide receiving trio of Nate Washington (No. 85), Kendall Wright (No. 13) and Justin Hunter (No. 15).
On the ground, Tennessee will rush with veteran back Shonn Greene (No. 23) while former Chief Dexter McCluster (No. 22) will see time in time in specialized packages.
In special teams, Chiefs running back De'Anthony Thomas is doubtful to play, so wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. will returns punts for Kansas City. Rookie kicker Cairo Santos will play in his first ever regular season game in a familiar situation—up against Ryan Succop (No. 8) who was released by the Chiefs just one week ago.
In their first game for the Titans, both Succop and McCluster will play in a place they know all too well—Arrowhead Stadium.
As those players reach for a tough win on the road against their former team, the Chiefs will look to start their season off with a win. Last year, they accomplished that, and what followed was eight more in a row like it, leading to an eventual playoff birth.
But to get to 11, you first need to get to one, and although Andy Reid can't guarantee that, he knows what he can assuredly expect.
"I know I'll see great effort. This crew here, they play hard and they are tough kids," he said Friday. "Like every team, they've got to come together through games.
"There's a certain unity that you feel and that has to happen through games, where you have good times and bad times in a game. You have to stay consistent through the good and work through the bad ones.
"I look forward to seeing that."