Chiefs vs. Saints Preview: Five to Watch

TE Tony Moaeki

With the first exhibition game set for tonight, the Kansas City Chiefs under new head coach, Andy Reid, are about to show the fan base how vastly different this team has become since he took the job in January. But wins count most, so here's five players to keep an eye on against the New Orleans Saints.

1. QB Alex Smith - Ok this is an obvious no-brainer. But you can't expect me to be on top of my game in the first exhibition game. When Smith arrived in Kansas CIty he came with expectations, a big chip on his shoulder and a golden opportunity to prove that he's not a castoff but a pro bowl calibre quarterback.

On Friday night against the New Orleans Saints, Smith comes to the Big Easy with a new team and under the tutelage of Andy Reid. Thus Smith is armed with a solid offense and has all the tools for success to rise above expectations this season.

Still tonight against an average Saints defense, Smith has to be sharp in his one quarter of play. It's critical that the Chiefs don't go three and out in his first series and getting points (hopefully 7 of them) so he can gain confidence in KC's offense.

2. DE Tyson Jackson - The riskiest Chiefs first round pick in recent memory has to show something tonight. In fact, the next four weeks are critical for TJ's future with the Chiefs. I'm not sure what's he's capable of these days but the former LSU standout must grow into his role as a first round pick.

In the weeks ahead, his maturation could prove to be a difference maker for the Chiefs defense. New Defensive Coordinator, Bob Sutton, has a solid defense behind his front line. And in training camp thus far, he's experimented a bit with all his able bodies trying to find three players that can anchor the front line.

For me, if TJ can hold down the left side of the defensive line and Dontari Poe can slide to right end, third year man, Jerrell Powe, (a massive space eater) could anchor the middle and ultimately become a formidable trio.

And that might be KC's best bet, to get TJ from the depths of draft bust to solid contributor.

3. WR Jon Baldwin - Out of respect or coddling, Andy Reid, has put the third year wide receiver running with the first unit offense. That might be a stretch because some believe he may not make the final 53-man roster.
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I happen to think he has a world of talent. But to say he's an underachiever thus far in his NFL career, would be anything but absolute truth.

Tonight in the Big Easy Baldwin, who had one of his better games a season ago against the Saints, needs to become that third down receiver who can extend drives or better yet become a formidable Red Zone player. And with that, I bet Reid is going to design some plays tonight to do nothing more than put Baldwin in position to make plays.

What he does with those chances will be interesting to see.

4. QB Tyler Bray - Mark my words. The rookie quarterback from Tennessee has the strongest arm of any Chiefs quarterback. He also has the most potential. Though he's clearly cemented as the Chiefs #3 quarterback, Bray has enough talent he could challenge, Chase Daniel, for the #2 gig in Kansas City.

Though Daniel, who is returning the NFL city that he spent the last four years with, has shown significant improvement the last week in camp. Still the jury is out on his true abilities in the Big Show.

Bray likely will play most of the second half for the Chiefs. And that means, he'll get an opportunity to show off his enormous talents. It also means, he's going to be playing with a group of guys who are either back end of the roster players or candidates to get cut when the Turk arrives the next few weeks.

But Bray can overcome those roster question marks. The goal tonight is to how off his skills and abilities, because at some point in 2014 or 2015, he could ultimately become the Chiefs first home grown franchise - Quarterback of the Future.

5. TE Tony Moeaki - It's understandable why Reid has Moeaki listed third on the depth chart behind free agent signee, Anthony Fasano and 2013 draft pick, Travis Kelce. But is his motive for the demotion for last years starter based on pushing his talented tight end to elevate his game? Or does Reid really believe he's the teams third best tight end?

We may just find that out against the Saints. Moeaki likely will play a lot in the second half against lesser talent. And if the Chiefs throw the ball in quarters three and four, he could be the best hands guy on the field for KC.

There's no question the former Iowa Hawkeye can help the Chiefs, or any other NFL team for that matter, win games. But can he stay healthy, remains his biggest mystery.


WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
Which of these five players will shine tonight against the Saints?


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