Chiefs’ evaluation phase ends in 34-14 loss to Packers

Aug 28, 2014; Green Bay, WI; Chiefs running back Joe McKnight (30) carries the ball against Packers linebacker Andy Mulumba (55) and defensive back Tanner Miller (40) at Lambeau Field. Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 28, 2014; Green Bay, WI; Chiefs running back Joe McKnight (30) carries the ball against Packers linebacker Andy Mulumba (55) and defensive back Tanner Miller (40) at Lambeau Field. Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Forget the final score from Thursday night’s preseason game because this was about evaluation.

Was the 34-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers ugly? Of course, but the contest was devoid of starters for the most part, especially on offense.

A win is always nice, but the goal entering the preseason finale was to allow the coaching staff a look at mostly backups before finalizing the 53-man roster.

“We had an opportunity to play a lot of young guys today,” coach Andy Reid told reporters after the game, “which is one of the positives (of the preseason) because you get a chance to evaluate some of the young players and go from there.”

Here are a few who stood out for good and bad reasons:

• Running back Joe McKnight, who is locked in battle for a roster spot with Cyrus Gray, totaled 50 yards rushing and a touchdown on 10 carries. He displayed toughness on four straight carries from Green Bay’s 12-yard line, capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run. Gray, who leads the team in preseason rushing, finished the night with 27 yards rushing on four carries.

• Left inside linebacker Josh Mauga missed the last two preseason game with a groin injury, but got the start and was very active around the ball. One play where he showed recognition occurred in the first quarter and he shot the gap to hold up a Packers running back. The player broke out of Mauga’s tackle, but right into the waiting arms of rookie strong safety Daniel Sorensen, who dropped the running back behind the line of scrimmage for a loss. Mauga gave way to Nico Johnson before the end of the first half, but not before recording three tackles (one solo). Johnson, who is battling Mauga, finished with six tackles (five solo) before leaving with a quad injury

• Defensive end Jaye Howard missed out on his third sack of the preseason when it was wiped out by a penalty on rookie strong safety Daniel Sorensen down the field. Howard finished with three tackles (two solo).

• Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke was active in the first half and defended very well against the pass. Van Dyke, who is battling for the fifth cornerback position, recorded a tackle, two pass defensed and a forced fumble. He later suffered an ankle injury.

• Quarterback Tyler Bray led the three backups by completing 8-of-15 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown against an interception. He also threw the pass of the night by completing a 45-yard bomb to wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, who made a gorgeous diving reception. Chase Daniel finished the night completing 4-of-7 passes for 34 yards, while rookie Aaron Murray completed 5-of-10 passes for 39 yards.

• Safety Kelcie McCray, whom the Chiefs acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for guard Rishaw Johnson on Aug. 21, led the team with six solo tackles. McCray was penalized on a questionable late hit down the left sideline in the third quarter.

• Rookie wide receiver Albert Wilson totaled 60 yards on three kickoff returns. The undrafted free agent out of Georgia State finished the preseason leading the Chiefs with kick returns for 138 yards (27.6 yards per attempt). Wilson chipped in Thursday night with four catches for 39 yards on four targets.

• Rookie cornerback Phillip Gaines, the team’s third-round draft pick, had a night to forget. Gaines was beaten for a touchdown and drew penalties for defensive holding, illegal contact and pass interference.

• Tight end Demetrius Harris didn’t make the most of his opportunities, making one catch for 10 yards on a whopping seven targets. While there were a few out of his reach or a low throw at his ankles from quarterback Chase Daniel, Harris had two catchable passes go through his hands.

• Right tackle Donald Stephenson got some action in before he serves a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing substances. Stephenson had two back-to-back forgettable plays, the first getting called for a holding penalty immediately followed by allowing a sack.

• The Chiefs were penalized a preseason-high 14 times Thursday night for 131 yards, which tied the second preseason game’s penalized yards. The Chiefs were penalized seven times in the first preseason contest, 13 times in the second and twice in the third game.

• The offensive line allowed two sacks Thursday night, one each to Tyler Bray and Chase Daniel, giving the Chiefs 16 allowed in four preseason games. The first-team unit allowed six sacks to starting quarterback Alex Smith through the first three games in limited action.

• The Chiefs dropped a third straight preseason game and were outscored 131-83 to finish the exhibition season at 1-3. But before pushing panic buttons, realize the offense ran mostly vanilla schemes and were without running back Jamaal Charles for three games and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (quad) for two. Charles didn’t play the second preseason game with a foot injury. He dressed for the third and fourth game, but didn’t see the field.

• The Chiefs didn’t avoid the injury bug, as wide receiver Kyle Williams suffered a shoulder injury, wide receiver A.J. Jenkins sustained a concussion, inside linebacker Nico Johnson injured a quad, defensive lineman Vance Walker suffered a hand injury and cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke sustained an ankle injury.

• The kicker battle was a push, as Ryan Succop and rookie Cairo Santos were both 1-of-1 on PAT attempts. The Chiefs apparently weren’t a kicking mood, electing to go for it on fourth down three times.

With the preseason in the books, the Chiefs have until 4 p.m. ET on Saturday to meet the mandatory 53-man roster.

The 10-man practice squad can be set starting at noon ET on Sunday.

The Chiefs open the regular season against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 7.