The Morning After

The Morning After

Kansas City, MO - It’s hard to gauge what can be gleamed from the first exhibition game but the Kansas City Chiefs 41-39 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals did offer some promise that 2014 might be more entertaining than we originally thought. So who stood out and who didn’t?

1. RB DeAnthony Thomas - If he’s the not the second coming of Noland Smith, I’m truly missing something. Forget the comparison to former Chief, Dexter McCluster, because Thomas is far more advanced at this stage of his NFL career than the man who recently departed for the free agent riches in Tennessee. And that gap, isn’t even close.

Thomas’s 80-yard punt return was a thing of beauty. He took an initial blow, changed course and ramped untouched to the end zone. It was the kind of play that should have Chiefs fans excited this young man, small in size, has big play abilities in him that will make him a fan favorite in no time.

2. QB Alex Smith - I don’t want to make excuses about his poor play on Thursday night, nor ponder how they might be related to his limbo contract situation, but he looked preoccupied to me. His throws were off and the fact he didn’t ever settle his feet in the pocket, may have had something to do with those other things scrambling in his brain.

Granted to the detriment of his performance, the first team offensive line wasn’t very good. Add that with the fact, the lack of separation his receivers failed to when he threw the ball, didn’t help much either. I’m hoping my take on his overall performance has more to do with the rust in his game rather than the contract situation that needs to get settled sooner rather than later.

I had heard his agent, Tom Condon, was invited to Arrowhead Thursday night so let’s hope he and General Manager, John Dorsey, (if that meeting actually occurred), set in motion the parameters for a new contract extension.

3. TE Travis Kelce - You know Dorsey was jumping up and down in his private box when Kecle scampered 69 yards to the end zone late in the second half Thursday night. Some criticized the Chiefs General Manager a year ago for taking Kelce. Making matters worse, the things he saw in this young man in college, didn’t show up until last nights big play.

Next to Running Back, Jamaal Charles and Smith, this offense might not have a more dynamic performer than the former Cincinnati Bearcat. Kelce has solid hands, quick feet and knows what to do in open spaces. I can’t wait to see his game evolve over the rest of the summer.

4. CB Sean Smith - If the Chiefs are going to find salvation in their secondary this season, the man in the bowels of Andy Reid’s doghouse, made a statement last night, he doesn’t like being a back-up player. His pick six should move him ahead of Ron Parker, who was torched in his first half of work. That one play should give Smith a legitimate shot to become the opening day starter opposite, Marcus Cooper.

To be fair, Smith’s off the field issues probably had something to do with his second team status. But his high stepping vault into the end zone last night, reminded Chiefs fans why Dorsey coveted his services a year ago in free agency. Smith is relevant to the Chiefs chances to reclaim some dignity on defense and last night was a good starting point for that to occur.

5. RB Cyrus Gray - Even after back-up running back, Knile Davis, made some nice plays in the second quarter, it was his back-up that ran the best Thursday night. Gray led the Chiefs in rushing with 55 yards. He also pushed across what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.

I really didn’t think Gray had much of a chance to make this roster but I’m rethinking my stance a bit. Then again, he did the same thing a year ago in the exhibition season. If the Chiefs use Thomas more as a receiver, something I believe they should do, Gray would be a solid third string running back to have in the Chiefs back pocket down the road.

6. QB Chase Daniel & Tyler Bray - Outside of the touchdown pass to Kelce, Daniel didn’t have a very good game for the Chiefs. Yes I know he completed eight of his ten passes but on the difficulty meter, only a pair of them required much skill. That said, he had difficulty seeing over the line of scrimmage and his floater in the second half resulted in a Bengals pick six. After this performance I’m not sold he’s going to be KC’s back-up.

On the flip side, Bray didn’t have a very good game either. Before the game Reid told last nights local broadcasting crew he felt Bray was the most improved player on the roster from a year ago. If that’s the case, Bray must have a solid game a week from Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, to prove those words are indeed factual.

7. DE Jaye Howard - Throughout the last week the more people I spoke with kept telling me that Jaye Howard was a player the Chiefs could count on in 2014. With injuries to Mike Devito and Mike Catapano, Howard played some outstanding minutes for KC’s defense last night.

In fact, his play was so solid, I would not be shocked if he pushed for starting minutes, especially if DeVito is out longer than initially feared. Either way it’s good to see the Chiefs develop another rotation guy that could ultimately become a spot starter at a position of great need for this defense.

Chiefs Post Game Quotes:
QB Alex Smith - “Not what we were looking for especially for first team offense. Good to be out there playing football, real, live football for me. It’s the first opportunities as QBs. Even when we go live at this point in training camp, we’re not really live. First real experience back into real bullets and getting hit.”

Head Coach Andy Reid - “Sean Smith did a nice job. The pick-six was a beautiful play. He played physical. He had the one penalty, but he had a huge play and that’s a good thing. He’s been working his tail off.”

LB Joe Mays - “Some things you need to work on. Tackles, we need to stop giving up the big plays, and we just need to be more consistent out there on the field. So it’s a couple of things – minor things – but I think we will be able to accomplish that.”

LB Dee Ford - “It felt good; I was introduced to the NFL. It was a great atmosphere, not the complete atmosphere that I will see in the regular season but it was an awesome atmosphere.”

Photos: Justin Olson Warpaint Illustrated (1) Travis Kelce (2) DeAnthony Thomas.

Which Chiefs stood out for you on Thursday Night?

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