The Chiefs open their slate of three preseason games on Saturday when they take on the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
While it’s an exhibition game, Chiefs coach Andy Reid indicated Thursday that each of the quarterbacks on the roster will see action.
“We’ll go quarters for the quarterbacks — there are four quarterbacks, each one will get a quarter — and their group will follow along with that,” Reid said. “Try to get the young guys the majority of the reps as we go and make sure they get enough work.”
Star quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the Chiefs’ starting offense could be in line to play the full first quarter. But then again, don’t be surprised if Mahomes and Co. don’t play beyond the Chiefs’ first or second offensive series.
Last year, Mahomes played a total of four snaps in the Chiefs’ preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers. There were no preseason games in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Mahomes only played eight snaps in the Chiefs’ preseason opener in 2019 and nine in 2018. The rest of the starters on offense also saw limited action.
The moral of the story here? Don’t get caught sleeping if you want to see Mahomes in action Saturday, because the odds of the Chiefs’ starters seeing extensive action in Chicago projects to be low.
Saturday’s game is about getting more inexperienced players the opportunity to play meaningful snaps in a game situation, even if the play-calls are somewhat scaled back.
“There’s a balance there of letting the ones get a little bit of work and the guys that are going to play in the game,” Reid said. “And still have the competition at certain positions, and then most of all get the young guys a look, so that when we have to make these cuts it’s as hard as can be on (general manager) Brett (Veach) and myself.”
The Chiefs will need to make those sorts of decisions in the coming weeks before establishing their initial 53-player roster on Aug. 30. Before that date, the team must pare the roster from 90 to 85 men on Aug. 16, followed by the next trim from 85 to 80 on Aug. 23.
And there are plenty of players still jockeying for position on the depth chart. Unsettled position battles continue at running back and linebacker, as well as on the offensive line and in the defensive secondary.
With so much to either gain or lose, veteran safety Justin Reid had a simple message for young teammates hoping to catch the coaching staff’s eye and earn a roster spot.
“Go,” Reid, one of the Chiefs’ offseason acquisitions, said. “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The game plan will be simple, their (Bears) game plan will be simple, ours will be simple. You’re going to know what to do. Go out and show what you’ve got. Go make a play.”
After Saturday, the Chiefs will have two more preseason games to go before opening the regular season with a road game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 11.
Even if the starters on both sides of the football aren’t likely to break too much of a sweat on Saturday, Reid, the Chiefs head coach, believes there is a benefit to getting the first-team defense seeing some reps in a game.
“I think it’s good to kind of getting the juices going, get yourself out there even if it’s a limited amount of plays,” he said. “Prepare yourself, prepare yourself mentally to go play. I think that’s something you can get out of it.”
For Mahomes, it’s about getting some live action against a real opponent.
“I like to get in there and I like to get hit one time,” Mahomes said. “Once you get hit one time, you kind of see what it is to get hit again as a quarterback. I feel like after that, you’re good to go.”
Safety Zayne Anderson (shoulder) and receiver Gary Jennings (concussion) did not practice. Defensive end Frank Clark also was out, with Chiefs coach Andy Reid saying after practice that Clark was sick.
Tight end Jody Fortson returned to drills after missing eight straight practices with a quad injury. Defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth (knee) and receiver Daurice Fountain (groin) also came back after missing time.
Receiver Omar Bayless went to the medical tent Thursday then left the practice fields on a cart with a lower-back ailment. Tackle Lucas Niang (knee) remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
With cornerback Rashad Fenton still being eased back into practices following his return from a shoulder injury, rookie Jaylen Watson took his reps with the first-team defense. Watson and fellow rookie Joshua Williams have taken most of those snaps with the 1s in camp when Fenton has been out.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco were the first three running backs that took reps with the first-team offense.
Rookie Nazeeh Johnson had an interception during 7-on-7s while working with the 2s.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes continued his camp-long connection with new receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, hitting him on a pass over the middle and also a separate deep throw along the sideline.
Jesse Newell contributed to this report.