What to Watch as Chiefs visit the Rams

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Nick Foles lined up with the offense at Arrowhead Stadium in a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks on Aug. 13, 2016. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Nick Foles lined up with the offense at Arrowhead Stadium in a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks on Aug. 13, 2016. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A year ago this game meant a battle for the Governor’s Cup, but now it’s a California adventure against the Los Angeles Rams in the historic Los Angeles Coliseum.

The second preseason game should be a bit different than last week’s meeting with Seattle. The starters expect to play a bit more, perhaps the entire first half. The second and third teams will get their moments in the second half.

Alex Smith will open the game at quarterback, followed by Nick Foles, Aaron Murray and possibly Kevin Hogan. Tyler Bray is nursing a neck injury and will not play.

Here’s a rundown of what else to watch in this week’s matchup.

The game formerly known as the Missouri Governor’s Cup is for now the Nick Foles Bowl. The new Chiefs backup quarterback will matchup against his former teammates, and there could be plenty to prove on both sides.

Facing a former team following a mess departure is familiar ground for Alex Smith, who faced played against San Francisco in 2014. Smith struggled in the 22-17 loss to the 49ers, finishing 16-30 passing for 158 yards with a touchdown an interception.

“I’m sure he’ll be pumped up,” Smith said. “You want to go out and show up in front of those guys. There’s a lot of emotions you go through. The nice thing here is that it’s just a preseason game.”

Foles is slated to play the third quarter with the second-team offense, but don’t be surprised if he sees action in the first half with the first-team offense, especially if Smith and the ones are efficient and score a touchdown early.

Travis Kelce is a bona fide star, but the battle behind him at tight end is as competitive as any positional battle in camp. The Chiefs have tight ends who can catch, but are searching for a tight end who can block effectively as well.

Against Seattle last Saturday and during goal-line drills at camp the Chiefs have used offensive lineman Zach Fulton as a tackle-eligible blocker in place of a tight end.

Tight ends coach Tom Melvin this week said the blocking of Demetrius Harris has impressed him the most in camp.

“He got really good at it last year for the first time because he had been hurt coming in to it,” Melvin said. “For what he’s doing on the line of scrimmage, is just awesome. I love to see it, and I’m very proud of the kid for doing what he did and got himself in that position.”

Jeremy Maclin is the No. 1 receiver, but may see less playing time Saturday night after missing a practice Wednesday with a groin injury. That’s not a problem for the Chiefs, who have a plethora of wide receivers to evaluate.

Chris Conley has been a mainstay with the first team. Albert Wilson is the usual third receiver, but he has shared reps with others including Rod Streater. Tyreek Hill, Frankie Hammond Jr., De’Anthony Thomas and Mike Williams also see action with the first team.

The Chiefs feel comfortable mixing and matching in the passing game to find the best opportunities. Watching who plays in the first half should be a good indication of which receivers the team currently holds the most confidence.

The Chiefs committed zero penalties in the first half against Seattle last week, but a flurry of seven second-half mistakes did not please head coach Andy Reid.

“The offsides and the penalties, you can’t have those,” Reid “It’s good for these good guys to learn that. They get to see firsthand that when you do that in the National Football League, it costs you games.”

Four penalties on the offense slowed the Chiefs momentum in the second half, and two defensive penalties provided first downs for the Seahawks. The flag for 12-men on the field following a timeout on the game’s final play – a successful two-point conversion try for Seattle – was the most damaging.

The Chiefs do not want to make mistakes. Penalties are a sure way for players on the bubble to fall out of favor.

Jamaal Charles is back at practice, but Reid does not expect him to play against the Rams. Charles has yet to participate in full live team drills, and the team will certainly take precautions with the All-Pro as he works his way back to full form.

QB Tyler Bray (neck), LB Josh Mauga (groin) and Charcandrick West (elbow) did not practice Thursday and are not expected to play. LB Dezman Moses (glute) also missed practice Thursday but Reid said he may see action. Jeremy Maclin (groin) practiced Thursday and will play.

LB Tamba Hali and LB Justin Houston remain the team’s physically unable to perform list and will not play. Neither will S Eric Berry, who is yet to report to camp.

Matt Derrick is the associate editor for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.