KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The glorious smell of barbecue a mile away from Arrowhead Stadium will fill the air Thursday evening.
Indeed, football returns or at least the preseason version when the Chiefs host the Cincinnati Bengals.
Still, preseason games are the ultimate tease to the regular season.
Established starters see limited action outside of the third preseason game, which is often viewed as the dress rehearsal to the real thing. And play calling during the preseason is drastically scaled back.
But four exhibition games will offer a view to what the coaching staff is thinking with position battles.
Here are some areas to monitor for the first preseason game.
Offensive line rotation
The initial depth chart is always fluid, and that’s important to keep in mind as the Chiefs rotate players throughout the game.
Rookie Zach Fulton is currently atop the chart at the right guard position, but the Chiefs are still looking at Rishaw Johnson and Ricky Henry, who saw first-team repetitions during 11-on-11 drills on Monday.
The Chiefs will also give a hard look at offensive tackles J’Marcus Webb and Ryan Harris in an attempt to identify the swing tackle. Both have filled in at left and right tackle during training camp with the second-team unit or spelled starters Eric Fisher and Donald Stephenson.
Other players to monitor as the game progresses are Jeff Linkenbach, Ryan McKee, Otis Hudson and rookie Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff.
While drafted as an offensive tackle, Duvernay-Tardif has lined up mostly at left guard since the second day of rookie minicamp in late May.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said quarterbacks Alex Smith, Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray and Aaron Murray will each play a quarter Thursday night.
Smith, obviously, is the starter and isn’t in danger of losing his job to any of the backups minus a major injury. It would actually surprise if Smith plays a full quarter against the Bengals.
Daniel has the head start to maintain his status as Smith’s primary backup given six years of NFL experience. He’ll likely get more snaps than Smith.
The intriguing battle surrounds the No. 3 spot if the Chiefs choose to not keep four quarterbacks after final cuts.
Bray arguably has the strongest arm of all four signal callers, but Murray’s accuracy is a perfect fit for the Chiefs’ version of the West Coast offense.
Former CFL star Weston Dressler made a splash during rookie minicamp and organized team activities (OTAs), but the previous attention-grabbing receptions are mostly absent during training camp.
For more on Dressler’s current situation, here’s a TV interview via Skype conducted with CTV in Regina, Canada.
As mentioned during the on-air interview, Dressler is currently buried on the initial depth chart among the 13 wide receivers currently in training camp.
And gaining ground won’t be easy given the emergence of wide receivers Albert Wilson and Frankie Hammond.
Dressler’s training camp repetitions at wide receiver have come with the second- or third-team offense. He’s also currently third on the depth chart as a punt returner behind De’Anthony Thomas and Hammond.
But time hasn’t run out, as noted in the video.
The Chiefs have six training camp practices remaining and three preseason games before the first roster cuts from 90 to 73 on Aug. 26. The final roster cuts from 73 to 53 occur on Aug. 30 following the fourth preseason game on Aug. 28.
Training camp is considered a grind, and battles can be won at the end of the marathon. A good Thursday night performance could kick start Dressler’s attempt to make the roster.
Translating practice to game action
The Chiefs have plenty of emerging players on defense, such as free safety Malcolm Bronson and linebacker Josh Mauga.
But rookie safety Daniel Sorensen grabbed attention Monday with two interceptions and a pass breakup during team-related drills.
Sorensen has been consistent during training camp, and he’s receiving time with the second-team defense during 11-on-11 drills. He’s also experienced repetitions with the first-team defensive linemen and linebackers during run-related 9-on-9 drills, which are conducted without cornerbacks and wide receivers.
Watching how the former Brigham Young University star does in live action on defense and special teams will go a long way in establishing his place in the pecking order at strong safety.
All-Pro Eric Berry is currently first on the depth chart, followed by Jerron McMillian, Sorensen and Steve Gregory, whom the Chiefs signed after Sanders Commings ankle and fractured fibula injuries.
The Chiefs list cornerbacks Ron Parker and Marcus Cooper as the starters, with Chris Owens the top choice at nickel.
And that’s how it’s been since the final week of OTAs. There’s a switch of positions, however, as Parker and Cooper have swapped sides in recent practices. Parker now mans the right cornerback position with Cooper moving back to the left.
Sean Smith, last year’s starter at right cornerback, remains with the second-team defense. The Chiefs will also give cornerbacks DeMarcus Van Dyke and rookie Phillip Gaines a good look.
Keep an eye on special personnel groupings when the Chiefs go to nickel or dime package. Smith saw time at his normal spot with the first-team defense on Monday, with Cooper manning the left and Parker at single-high safety.
Parker is a converted college free safety, so he’s comfortable on the back end.
New parking procedures
A big one for anyone attending Thursday night’s game.
The Chiefs implemented new parking procedures for the 2014 season, as detailed in full glory with 1,813 words, video and charts.
The full script of dos and don’ts reads like tax law, so get familiar with what’s expected.