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Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2008

Chiefs have much to sort out in exhibitions

August 16, 2008

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— At a time when most NFL teams are making final decisions on their reserves, the Kansas City Chiefs still have several vital starting positions up for grabs.

Who'll be their place kicker? Their second wide receiver? Who'll start at linebacker with Derrick Johnson? How will the offensive line finally take shape?

Coach Herm Edwards says the Chiefs' 22-day stay at their training camp in River Falls, Wis., accomplished much. But there's still much to do, beginning with tonight's preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals.

It'll also be a homecoming for the Chiefs, who just concluded their 18th straight camp in the woods of western Wisconsin.

"You always wish you had more, but I think we accomplished a lot of things with a bunch of young guys," said coach Herm Edwards. "I think the thing that I realized in practice when I watch these guys is they're going to play physically. We've still got a long way to go. We built the foundation of what we want to do offensively, defensively and special teams. Now we have to continue to play in the preseason and start evaluating these guys and pick the best 53 players."

The Chiefs (1-0) are coming off a 24-20 victory at the Chicago Bears, their first preseason win in more than a year. The Cardinals (0-1) opened last week with a 24-10 loss to New Orleans. Some decisions still to be made, but their roster is much more set than Kansas City's.

"I think we need to perform better on the road as a team," said Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt. "Obviously, that's a good opportunity this week to see if we made any progress with that. Not just our young guys, but our whole team needs to get better at that. It's something we've talked about and know we have to get better at."

The 7 p.m. CDT kickoff will be the Chiefs' first appearance in Arrowhead Stadium since they concluded a 4-12 2007 season with a nine-game losing streak.

"It will be a new environment for the new guys and you always are evaluating them on how they respond to that," Whisenhunt said. "It will be a good test, but some of these guys have played in big environments before and it won't be as big of an adjustment for them."

One of the tightest competitions in Kansas City's camp has been between place kickers Connor Barth, a rookie, and Nick Novak. There's hardly been a sliver of daylight separating the two all summer.

"I think that right now it's an even match," Barth said. "It doesn't really matter who has the game experience or whatever."

Both have been a bit disappointing in the distance they've managed on kickoffs, which could ultimately be the deciding factor.

"As of today, I'd say they're pretty darn close if not tied in kickoffs as well," said special teams coach Mike Priefer.

"I would like to see more out of kickoffs on Saturday night that will be a telling sign. I expect them both to make their field goals. Hopefully we'll get some more opportunities to kick some more field goals. I would like to be able to challenge them a bit and see who can rise to the challenge and make the field goals."

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